Conversation between the artist Oliver De Lantsheere and Carmen (Ariane's mother). Oliver and Ariane were very close friends and classmates at Parsons School of Design in New York. They painting together for several years. He reminisces about their lives in Brooklyn and opens a very interesting window on the life of young artists in Brooklyn.
CARMEN: In New York at the time Ariane was there, was there a kind of artistic movement that she belong, like the French with the impressionist or something like that?
OLIVER: The defined title of an artist movement and its structure normally is written by an art historian after the time so it’s not really something that the artist figures out for themselves. It’s somebody anywhere from a few years, like 25 years later, who designates this group of artists is called X.
In New York when we were there, there were all kinds of different influences and different kind of groups, but we had a number of groups of friends, artists, and we worked with them or showed with them and otherwise we kind of did our own things as well. The French impressionists were a very big influence throughout in the way of expressing yourself in the way of painting or drawing.
Being in New York we had access to all the most interesting museums and collections and galleries and there were the influence by our peers and by people around us and then influenced by all our history. And Ariane went through a number of different things being in, in terms of going through fine art itself and she sort of had her own style and language as well.
Art is a public statement but I think for Ariane art was a lot more personal. I don’t even think she was fully aware of what the final product was. It was part of the exploration along the way and she was painting more for herself in the end than for other people.
CARMEN: Between paintings, drawings and sketches I have over 250 pieces. I know that sometimes she did some painting for somebody like she did a painting of the ocean with fishes for a woman that wanted the painting for her son’s bedroom, but I don’t have the impression that she sold too many paintings.
OLIVER: No, not so much. The reality of that is that the business of art and artists are two very different things. Like its harder for somebody who is truly very, very connected personally to each one of their pieces to put a value on that, put a cash value on that or to like make that to have a price. Once again that’s normally the relationship between the artist and the gallerist and the gallerist is the one who kind of gives the value of the art somewhere relative to where they are, who they are, and they kind of create that value.
The art seen in New York is very specific, in the same way as the art seen in Paris It’s a social game or it’s a story game. Having that many pieces, it would have been somebody else job to give that a value and to sell them. It’s really hard for an artist to say hey I’m the best artist in the world and you have to buy my work compared to somebody else. It is the gallerist, the other professionals who say this is the most amazing work in the world you have to buy this.
CARMEN: Yeah, I always was telling her why don’t you put more effort in selling your art. She was really nice and listen to me. Maybe she wanted but didn’t know how.
CARMEN: Do you think Ariane was happy in New York?
OLIVER: Yeah, I definitely think so. She found a lot of energy, influence, inspiration from all the people around her and all the experiences. Definitely like a very, very social creature and very curious about people and the fact of being in New York was really rich when it came to being influenced by people and finding influence both musically and with art and just with interactions and stories as well.
Ariane was very much about living everything, being there, being 100% this, seeing the experiences, feeling the experiences and like really truly grasping every part of everything she can. Life is relative and an experience is relative. Being an artist is the most difficult and painful job in the world, I mean there is no harder job and that’s what I say every time I have somebody who wants to be creative and who wants to do something. It’s one thing saying you are an artist and every once in a while you might draw something and there is another thing like actually trying to be an artist as a job or be creative as a job and that’s you know an artist is very hard because it’s like self-discipline, it’s your work is a product of your soul.
It’s something that you really believe in and that you really love and it’s so hard to sell compared to like well I’m just selling a product and it’s not mine and I don’t care about it than it’s very easy to sell. But if you are selling something which means you and especially with Ariane her work was so deeply personal and I see all these Archetype and what she paints. There is a female Archetype which you know one way or another I always kind of saw her there, I saw her faith and it’s kind of is like a self-portrait, but a self-portrait of her as an Archetype, as a goddess of some form.
Then the man that’s accompanying her might have like a bull’s head and that’s also very archetype based, it’s about the essence of the person versus like their bits of their reality. Somewhere I think that was always a big struggle for Ariane to find a way to make a living off of her art because her art was so personal, like stories that she creates, and she imagines and she understands, but then how do you package that and sell it to somebody else. She tried through jewelry and she made amazing things and she tried through graphic designs and made amazing things as well and it was just really a question of the right clients, the right situation to see what she really had to give.
I was talking to an actor recently. It took him so long to ever make it and he went to every audition and did all the work and he was always refused and took it really badly and in the end he wanted to quit. It was his last audition, he didn’t really take it very seriously where they had was his role and it has been his role for the last like eight or 10 years. It was really just finding the right fit. Somebody like Ariane with her kind of work, it was very much because it was so personal.
It’s not something you just kind of package this and put a little bit more red over here and then it’s sold. Ariane would be like no this color is specifically here because it needs to be here, it’s not something I will change to make it an easy to digest product. In a way it was really a question of finding the right people to see what she had to offer and not try to make her become something else and that was very difficult. I would say for me it’s a lot easier to just do functional work.
My work is just something I do and I am not personally attached and I still have a lot of problems with it but for Ariane when she painted and drew it was so deeply personal; her association and connection with color was so ridiculously deep because every color meant something specific and also it was the one she felt had to be there. It’s a very difficult kind of game to play and I think in the end a lot of frustrations because she knew that she was good, she got a lot of response from people that she was very good at what she was doing.
She also knew this is what she did the best and what she did with the most passion and so why wasn’t it working on a business sense and those are two very different things. There is a reason like musicians have managers and there is a reason that artists have gallerists and there is a reason that all those other roles exist because you can’t ask the artist to do everything. Yes, they are very good at art normally and they are not so good at all the other much more basic functional of everyday situations.
CARMEN: Yes, like marketing or...
OLIVER: Yeah I can invent anything, make anything out of images, I can’t write a simple email. Like I know that now it has taken me years and years to understand that but I’m dyslexic to write a very simple email there is a big strain for me where as to make some crazy video with like all kinds of people and animated characters and everything that’s really simple.
CARMEN: Long experience and also you love to do it. I remember the movie you were doing in Green Point that we walked down the street...
OLIVER: That was really fun. That was amazing.
CARMEN: I don’t know if I will choose to live in so run down places...
OLIVER: Well, because it’s somewhere where the artists live and we always were on that verve of the creative areas where it’s more space for less money and where other people don’t want to live. Like here I have talked to real estate people and they are talking about down town San Francisco and offering me deals that I have never heard before for 50 cents a square foot in down town San Francisco and I’m okay it sounds great, but why are you talking to us we are a group of artists? We don’t pay bills on time and we are not very good at this stuff, why us?
She explained to me very simply like that’s how a city grows the gentrification happens when artists come in and they make their studios, they have their social groups and then they open up a coffee shop and then they open up a gallery. Then other people will move in and then there will be a restaurant and then all of a sudden all the artists can’t afford it anymore and they have got to go somewhere else. Artists really have that social function is to go live where other people don’t want to go to live.
CARMEN: Yeah, well like Williamsburg.
OLIVER: Yeah it was horrible 30 years ago and then they made it into a beautiful neighborhood and the artists can’t live there anymore. They have gone over it now, when we were there it was living for it I guess, but now I get out of a subway and its all men in suits to go to a nine to five business job or they are bankers. Before, in that whole neighborhood nobody in a suit ever walked out of a subway. In this time I walked down and everybody was in a suit and there is Dunkin Donuts on the side of the corner and has nothing to do with where we used to live.
Now all my friends live out in Bushwick. I lived in parts where I was one of the first people to live out there back in the day and this was a long time ago, but now it’s become the cool place to be.
I have a friend who works in an art agency and he is going out to Bushwick and I’m wow back in the day you would have never set foot in Bushwick. I was the first of that assholes in justification back in the day I was talking to people who have lived there for generations and told me you are here, you are nice, you are the first guy who is talking with us, you are hanging out with us, you are having a drink with us but you are not going to stay here for so long. You have got places to be and you are going to bring prices up and I have been here with my mom and my grandmother and we have all lived out here for many years... Then because of people like you we wouldn’t be able to afford it anymore. I was like yeah you have got a point; unfortunately, I’m just the beginning of everything that happens after me.
CARMEN: How was the trip to Uruguay and Argentina that you did with Ariane about the documentary?
OLIVER: It was really, really a beautiful trip and we had done our first little trip by ourselves there just for the fun of it and then we kind of embarked more on to the documentary side and that was really interesting. It was really interesting to see Ariane working on something different somewhere and really worked on all like you know magic in that was connections with people and that was Ariane’s strongest points in the end it was connections with people and talking with people.
Especially creative people and artists and make them comfortable and make them open up, ask questions and she really managed to open people up to the point where there were some people who didn’t want to talk to us and we were recommended to go talk to this one artist and he was the ultimate artist. He opened the door and talked to us and he is like no I’m not interested in being part of your documentary but hang out and have some tea and let’s chat. Then we chat and they offered us dinner and then we chatted on longer and then it’s midnight or one o’clock in the morning and at that point we leave and he is like okay come back at six o’clock in the morning that he can record us then. It was really like he did a psychological test on us you know like see who we were, why we were doing this you know like are you taking advantage of artists or are you artists and would you bring the message out? That was really Ariane being so authentic in the end she was really true to herself and always was. Never did anything which wasn’t 100% Ariane’s point of view and sometimes and I think we laughed at that as well as it was sometimes maybe obnoxious and difficult but sometimes as well that really was the nature of who she is, is that there was no pushing that around.
This is Ariane, this is how she sees things and this is how she sees the world and always curious, always interested in other people’s point of views, but always so tuned and true to herself and I think that comes across a lot in her work and she doesn’t really have a style because it’s really like 100% Ariane. They are all kinds of influences there, but in the end it’s her story, it’s her color, it’s her flow, her markings and I can see any drawing of hers and recognize it in a second. She had a very like personalized touch just in the way she painted, she drew anything.
CARMEN: Yeah... I was in Washington and Ariane in New York but when I went to visit her she invited me to go with her where she was planning to go like dinner or meditation or dancing or whatever. She kind of always included me and I noticed she had with her friends sometimes very passionate discussions about politics, art, or some issues or some things going on and she was really passionate about the issues.
OLIVER: The world and everything like politics...
CARMEN: Yeah... but also she was also very affectionate like we could have a passionate discussion and she was really affectionate with me like really sweet at the same time.
OLIVER: But I think so with everybody because at the same time being very aggressively determined in her own understanding or direction with something, she was also very open to all kinds of influences and other people’s point of view, being very you know would be quite passionate in a discussion but at the same time listen to somebody else’s point of view and open up to what that looks like and feels like as well.
It wasn’t just obnoxious like this is the way and there is no other way, it was like this is the way I really believe in it, but I will listen to what you have to say and if I don’t like it I would like prove it to you why in my way it makes more sense. There was kind of duality there as well so I would say like the point we were talking with all of these artists in Uruguay and all these creators it wasn’t about her. Like she is very quickly and very naturally jumps into the role of asking questions and opening them up and like really interesting questions so that they would open up more and listen to them really intensely as well.
She didn’t interrupt or give her point of view or whatever, this was really letting people talk and I think I have seen her doing that so many times with just in discussions and see what people have to say and what their point of view is and kind of very open and very curious as well. The different ways of living, the different people and we spent a lot of time just people watching and watching people do their thing and those kinds of things so very curious.
I think that also comes back into her work as well, it’s all of those big moments and those things that were happening then kind of solely made themselves back in the pieces and if they were important moments or important times in her life, you could see something there. In the piece she was working on about what she was thinking, seeing or believing all those kinds of things.
CARMEN: I remember that one time I went to New York and you, Ariane and me we went to a manifestation against the war in Irak
OLIVER: The big one?
CARMEN: Yeah the big one and then she did some paintings that I have some here and it looked like the war probably affected her very much or she was concerned because she did several paintings.
OLIVER: That specific group of pieces was a little bit into illustrations. Some of her pieces went towards illustrations. Illustration of the mythical world within her mind and then that one specifically was talking about very specific moments in time and things that were happening right then and there. At that time, we were very heavily politically motivated and it was the first show and we did all the protests, all the manifestations, we made those huge masks with Heather as well, it was the elephant and a donkey mask and fought in the streets to make people vote.
We went out and did all the voting’s and they got people to go vote and sign them. We were very active and very determined and we did that until both of us voted in the second time and we both or I mean all the three of us were quite heavily kind of pushed in that realm and we all kind of gave up on politics at that point. It was like this doesn’t make sense. This isn’t a rational thing that we can win right now so at that point we kind of went back more into quality of life and making people happy around us instead of trying to change the world in which we live in.
The same determination and idealism somewhere as well was very strong. It’s funny because I have been thinking about that recently again and I had a younger studio manager and she was very opinionated about everything. The way that you work, the way you do things and that there is the good way and there is the bad way, it’s funny because I remember especially at that time it was very much like this is how we do it I’m much more opinionated, this is my idea of doing something right.
Now with time as I have relaxed a lot more on that I have learned from all the hard lessons and everything and in the end you never really know and you can be very opinionated but maybe you are very wrong. It’s specific in time as well and being like in early 20’s is a very idealistic age as well and yes we can change the world, yes people aren’t as damn as we think they are, all those kinds of things.
CARMEN: Ariane was always compassionate and especially she had a feeling of justice ... I guess injustice was something that bothered her very much.
OLIVER: Justice, being honest, being straight forward, being real, being authentic, being true all those things were very important and she was her toughest critic when it came to art she was the one who wasn’t happy with what was in front of her and it was beautiful and everybody else saw the beauty but her. That’s the difficulty with being an artist is that your stand is very different than those of anybody around you, you see things very differently in your own work than anybody else will.
Then when it comes to this she had very compassionate side cats, but also all people and not just the documentary but any conversation and any moments she was amazingly compassionate with people and very smooth and just welcoming and mothering and very comforting for people. I saw that with a lot of people she made them feel at ease, feel at ease with them and they didn’t have to try to be something that they weren’t and all those kinds of things were really important.
On the more of difficult side it’s a lot of what was really hard for me is that she was such a giving and loving and caring person for everyone and especially me that when she needed help afterwards I never knew. She didn’t want to ask for help and she had given help and she had given support and she had given to everyone all the time that it would have been a pleasure for me to be there for her when she needed it.
I think everyone else that she crossed paths with and I know it’s a very difficult time and situation she was very proud as well and would never want to be asking for help or needing of help or anything. She spent her life giving to everybody else really giving them time to listen to what they have to say and giving them respect for their point of view, helping them see themselves in a better light than they do. All those things that’s really what made her such an amazing person and such a loved person generally with everyone around.
CARMEN: This is also what bothered me that she was sick and I didn’t realize it. I could have noticed, pay attention or...
OLIVER: She was so proud that she didn’t really let you know and that’s a difficult situation to put people in when all they want to do is help and be there but somewhere that’s her pride. She was a very proud and very strong I think that was also a very big point of things that she believed in was being a strong and proud and independent woman and like appreciating people but never needing help, never needing anything from anyone.
That’s a beautiful thing in part but in other part that’s why we all live together for that at some point she gives and she is there for everybody else and in another point people are there for her as well. I can only say it from an outside point of view because I’m sure in her same position I would have done exactly the same thing. I can’t ask for help and I’m way too proud and I don’t want to let people see me when I’m not at my best and all of those things. Pride has two sides to it: one is, proud to create and to make amazing things and the other side is to proud just ask for help when you need it.
CARMEN: When Ariane was in Green Point you were many times in the loft and you cooked and, you painted together
OLIVER: Yeah, those were the best moments of my life. That was a really, really good time, we were creating good amount and we did all those like dinner and paint so we would bring wine and do dinner and invite friends over and paints. I mean at that point we were drawing and painting and doing stuff everyday and it was really fun.
CARMEN: Yeah I remember those paintings that you were doing in the loft, you and Ariane were always doing something, Ariane also was doing jewelry and you prepared very good food.
OLIVER: Yeah I love making food that was fun. Well I mean it was interesting as well as you know a lot of my food habits, a lot of my understanding of food and quality of food and the beauty of food and all those things were understanding that and sharing that with Ariane. It was a big hit because I heard that she was gone and it’s just it hit me in so many different times and places and ways that I was going shopping and I was just thinking all those food that I feel like eat and make now and the foods I really care about.
All those things was that you know something that we kind of developed and cared for all the time. So food is definitely something that I shared with Ariane in a very like deep way. The quality of good food was as much as us making food as going to find amazing foods somewhere and go like eat somewhere and in time it was some little Ethiopian restaurant somewhere and another time it was something completely different.
That was really part of the appeal and the food also kind of links into culture as well and Ariane’s vision of culture, of influence, of all kinds of things where everything. When it came to music one time we were off to Brazilian and next time it was voodoo and then it was club. It was every style of music, every style of food every la huge curiosity and interest in all those things and that goes back to kind of the first question about what was Ariane’s influence for art and for creation.
It really was like everything and she was really interested in unknown artists and street artists and in the market or you know whatever we don’t call them artist the crafts kind of creators. There was something about art and then art more popular kind of art as well like less of IDs this is our history, this is expensive classes, this is like the hoity toity like highbrow kind of art and there is a lot of curiosity about all the other ways of doing art. Like being inspired by a religious sculpture somewhere in a very random place or being interested in one of the classics in the middle of the match like there was always a curiosity to all the different styles.
CARMEN: Many times well I always think about that but when I went to visit Ariane we went to some restaurant she wanted to go macrobiotic or Japanese, a small Spanish restaurant ...
OLIVER: Yeah and one with an outdoor place it was always something specific somewhere you know and go and explore, go and see what they have or otherwise it was just like go grab something from the little street vendor and grab a beer and sit on the water front. It was either something special or something crazy or just like the simplest and just like the greatest as well.
CARMEN: Yeah I just think I have to go back to these coffee shops, there was one one block or two blocks from Ariane’s place that we had breakfast and coffee it was really nice.
OLIVER: Yeah, that was a really nice place; at the end of the world like it was amazing.
CARMEN: Yes, you were closer to the river.
OLIVER: Yeah very close to the river and Queens as well the very, very North corner of Brooklyn and at the time that was craziness and it was way too far away from anything and now if you go back and that’s the center of it all. Times have changed but she was definitely always ahead of the curve somewhere curious about what is new and what people are doing and go listen to different types of music and foods.
CARMEN: I used to go to Brooklyn once a month or two months for a long weekend. I usually took a train to Penn station and then took a taxi or rode the metro and I arrived sometimes late and I was afraid to walk where Ariane lived. I had to walk several blocks and I asked Ariane do you have a problem walking here because you see some characters on the street that look dangerous. Ariane. I don’t think she was concerned walking later.
OLIVER: No, she never really was. I mean I would say as well New York itself at that time especially very safe compared to like most studies even if it looked like the wrong neighborhood and what not. Also I think she just generally believed in the goodness of people and even if she didn’t you know I think somebody would try and start trouble and she would just kind of talk and woe her way out of it somewhere. She had an amazing way with people.
CARMEN: I took a taxi to go to a place she lived on the east side of Prospect Park. The taxist that was hispanic told me that he usually doesn’t take people going to that place because was dangerous but Ariane told me that she never had problems and I suppose maybe people felt something about her, that she was not afraid, and they didn’t bother her.
OLIVER: Yeah and then you aren’t the target. If you look like you are afraid ... She looked like she was ruling the world and nobody could get in her way anyway and even if they did she would just make them laugh and feel just so comfortable it would just turn to something else. I think that’s something that I learnt very early in my tires and Brussels where I would go out and I was out there all the time and I was like generally going through every situation so I knew the difference and I wasn’t scared as such.
Then my cousins would show up in that area and they were generally terrified and they always got mugged, they always got their stuff taken away from them. That’s why it completely makes sense if you are already terrified before you get started people see that it’s like animals they smell fear. I don’t think Ariane was ever fearful.
CARMEN: Yeah like she told me she never...at least she told me that some time they were some gang or Hispanic or something and you walk and no problem at all, like walk close on the street and you don’t have any problems and this happened to me she leaved some moment in a place that they were, one time the taxi driver didn’t want to take me because somewhere it was dangerous and I was taking the metro and walking and I don’t know if it was some guy or they were on the street and I was completely afraid that they are going to kill me but I didn’t have any problem.
OLIVER: New York was very safe generally speaking like I found myself in situations where I was like in any other country in the world or any other city in America I would be mugged right now. Like here I get a good evening it’s like three o’clock in the morning I’m walking down the wrong street and the wrong neighborhood and like crossing a gang and all they say is a good evening and I’m just like what? Just as the same time as well like Ariane had a way about her, the way she stood, the way she walked, like she had impact and she had the pride like really beautiful, but at the same time very solid on her own two feet. I think that’s something that people just pick up on anyway.
OLIVER: Amazing creature, really truly. Most amazing creature, I have ever met most amazing person.