Tom Slaughter passed away on October 24th. He was a gifted artist, whose work was immediate, fun, simple, and unmistakably his own. Henry Geldzahler, the first curator for 20th Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art said that, like Leger, Stuart Davis, and Roy Lichtenstein before him, Tom lived his life "in the brilliant light of imagined skies, where the time is always high noon or midnight."
But most of all he was a real human being. A funny, handsome, genuine, honest New Yorker who could charm anyone who spent a few moments with him. I became fast friends with him. The first time we met, Tom told me how "fucking hilarious" some videos were that I had made about the art world. I don't think he even mentioned he was an artist. He made it about me. He had a gift for making everyone feel special.
As the years went by, these videos about the art world became The Madness of Art, and I asked Tom to be in an episode. I suggested we do an episode about the dealer-artist relationship. Although he told me over and over again that he couldn't act, he finally relented, and he was pitch perfect. Captured on film was Tom in all his irreverence: sarcastic, biting and real. Even his romantic side showed through. (To watch Tom Slaughter perform in The Madness of Art, please click here.)
We filmed in his large Soho studio, an open space with high ceilings, art, bicycles, golf clubs, plastic balls, footballs, and a wall of polaroids he took of all his visitors over the years including family, friends, and passers by. This wall was like a work of art. Tom's history. A time capsule. Every picture telling a story. Look and they are there. Artists, the famous and the not. Singers, actors, art world curators, dealers. Everyone from old friends like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore to the UPS delivery guy and others. He pointed at one photo. "Know him, Jim?" He looked familiar, but I really wasn't sure. "He's an actor; that much I know" I said. "No, Jim. That's Adam Weinberg, head curator of MoMA. Ring a bell?" He laughed and loved the fact that his New York art dealer didn't recognize him. With that we began filming. It was one of my favorite episodes to film, and now it has become a bit of a time capsule of Tom, his studio, his art and his enduring spirit. His memorial at the New Victory Theater on Monday was overflowing, a testament to how he is already sorely missed.
CORRECTION: This post previously stated that artist Tom Slaughter died on October 25. Mr. Slaughter died on October 24.