Another Conversation Between
Joe Bucciano and Christopher Conlon
Copyright © 2017 Joe Bucciano and Christopher Conlon
Christopher Conlon: Joe, I think I’ve told you already that "Rainbow" may be my single favorite painting of the ones you’ve done of my work so far. Why did you choose "Wonderful World" as opposed to any of my others?
Joe Bucciano: I found the story really poignant, the idea that only in death did these two poor souls find happiness. I was also excited by the idea of continuing the chain of story-painting-story that we’d started. [Note: Chris’s story "When They Came Back" inspired my painting "Fantastical Night," which inspired the aforementioned "Wonderful World."]
CC: Why a rainbow, though? There’s no rainbow in the story. What inspired that visual?
JB: It just popped into my head that way! I couldn’t help thinking of the Louis Armstrong song of the same name—there’s such a jarring contrast between the dreamy, gentle mood of the song and the grimness of the story. I loved the irony of a "wonderful world" of ghosts and guns and abuse.
CC: How did you decide what elements you would portray in the painting?
JB: Again, it just popped into my head that way. You can see in my sketch that I was going to have the girls farther apart with the hole that Juney was digging in the background between them, but before I began painting, I realized it would work better, both compositionally and emotionally, to put the girls closer together and holding hands. The hole was not really that important.
CC: What about the color scheme? Why those colors and not others?
JB: For whatever reason, I pictured the scene taking place across the street from the house I used to live in on eastern Long Island, New York. There was actually a school across the street from me, but I pictured Juney and Melissa there, lit by the sodium vapor lamps that lined the street. The rest of the scene would’ve been illuminated by the night sky.
CC: That’s funny, because when I wrote the story I was remembering the house across the street from where I grew up in California.
JB: Interesting! So we were both kind of imagining watching events unfold in front of us.
CC: What do you feel is the significance of the various objects in the picture—especially the ones in the rainbow itself?
JB: I was trying to accentuate the irony. It couldn’t be an ordinary rainbow. I tried to fill it with unpleasant things. Some of the objects are directly from the story, some aren’t. Some aren’t even objects at all—they’re just gestures, rough-looking streaks of paint in decidedly unrainbow-like colors. I wanted to create a macabre, vaguely threatening rainbow, rather than a pretty, enjoyable one.
CC: As an artist, Joe, how self-critical are you? I’ve told you I love the picture; are you happy with it?
JB: Yes! But yeah, I’m my own worst critic. When I’m done with a painting, I’ll decide whether it’s a thumbs up or a thumbs down, and if it’s the latter, I won’t hesitate to paint over it. This painting could easily have ended up a "paintover" and me saying (in the video, I mean), "Well, folks, you have your good days and your bad days!" About one in five ends up that way.
CC: Thanks for your insights, Joe. And for that marvelous picture!
See the short video "The Making of ’Rainbow’" here.