ATLA — March 2012
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The Radar Art
Stephanie Davis Smith

One Manzy Show

Over Persian tea and banana nut bread, Atlanta artist Yasharel Manzy discusses art and life—with his signature frankness, of course. It’s been more than two years since Yasharel Manzy, whose work is much collected, exhibited something new. “I took time to meditate and recreate,” he says. With his latest show at TEW Galleries finally opening and running through March 31, we sat down to ask him what he’s been up to for the last 24 months. We couldn’t stop laughing, thinking too hard or being inspired. Now, the best moments of our chat revealed.

In a Persian house, you have to eat and drink when you come in. It’s the rule.

I was born in one of the oldest Jewish ghettos in the world—Isfahan in Iran.

My people go way back.

There were times when I went hungry for days when I first moved to America.

Going to work for me was total agony.

When a customer would come in to buy something, I would run and hide.

I started to truly paint at age 42. It dawned on me that I didn’t have that many years left. In less than 24 hours, I turned my office into an atelier and I painted for seven years while at work in the store I owned. When I was comfortable with commercial success, I said goodbye with nothing to show for all those years of work. I just walked out—with the great support of my wife.

That was the day I was going to do what I wanted to do—and be happy.

My wife and I were best friends for 21 years before we got married. We’ve been together 36 years. I think not having kids has helped.

What do I think about the future of painting?

We’ll have painters who will produce wonderful paintings for millennia to come, but it is very unlikely we will have ever another van Gogh.

That doesn’t mean one should stop painting.

Van Gogh is my messiah.

As an artist, I always think about why people are drawn to great works. Why do we keep going back to the museums?

Usually a great painting never resolves itself. The artist has that feeling of being haunted by it.

All that ‘I paint because I want to connect to the universe or to the world’ stuff? Nonsense.

The hat is a signature look now. Well, since I started going bald, I’ve made it my signature.

I just can’t accept the fact that things are the way they are in the world. But I have no solution and no energy to change it.

It’s very difficult to get me to walk into the studio and work. I run in and out of there for any excuse.

This life of ours... must have life of its own.