Diary of an Art Star
EXCLUSIVE! AN INTERVIEW WITH HANKSY
Last Friday evening, I was slumming in my pajamas when my elusive roommate, J.P., emerged from his room.
"Have you ever heard of the artist, Hanksy?" he asked.
"Banksy?" I said, thinking he was speaking of the painfully hip street artist.
"No. Hanksy. He makes Banksy-like images with Tom Hanks' face on them."
Maybe it's a result of the years I spent watching reruns of Batman, but I love secret identities. Plus, I am a big fan of early Tom Hanks, specifically Bosom Buddies. My ears perked up.
"I actually know Hanksy," he added. "He has an art opening up the street at Krause Gallery. If you wanna go, I could introduce you to him."
"Do you think I could get a world-exclusive interview?"
Being one of the least successful writers in history, I have never had a world-exclusive interview with anyone. Thrilled with the prospect, I agreed to meet J.P. there in 20 minutes. In the meantime, I texted my boyfriend, Courtney, and his friend, Gray, who were out on a beer run and told them to meet me at 149 Orchard.
Courtney called moments later.
"I don't think you wanna bother. There's like 10 people sitting in a circle talking and one of them is a naked dude. In fact, I think it's your friend, Tommy D. Naked Man."
Turns out, Courtney and Gray had accidentally wandered into Louis B. James Gallery at 143 Orchard, where there was indeed a discussion group featuring my friend, Tommy D. Naked Man, whose moniker comes from the fact that he's a militant nudist. I had wandered into 143 a month earlier and witnessed a performance by Ann Liv Young, during which a shelf containing a bottle of urine collapsed on an unlucky spectator.
Gray and Courtney waited outside while I popped in, quickly gave Tommy a hug and left.
"I can't believe you just hugged a naked man," Courtney said, shuddering.
"He was wearing socks."
A couple doors up, we found the Hanksy opening. It was so mobbed we could barely squeeze in the door. Inside we found people milling about in Tom Hanks masks while gallery attendants served Whitman's chocolates (in homage to Forest Gump.) One mysterious gentleman wore a leather jacket emblazoned with Tom Hanks' visage. We guessed this must be Hanksy until J.P. told us Hanksy had "just left" but would meet me at the apartment later for the exclusive interview.
The art on the walls was exactly as described -- Banksy-like images of Tom Hanks. Money Pit features a maid exactly like Banksy's famous sweep-it-under-the-carpet maid image, only this maid has Tom Hanks' face. Let Them Eat Chocolate looks just like Banksy's rat, only this rat has Tom Hanks' face. Wilson Chucker is similar to Banksy's protestor throwing flowers, only it's Tom Hanks throwing a Wilson Volleyball -- a reference to Cast Away. You get the idea.
Eventually, we headed back to the apartment to await Hanksy, who arrived minutes later. An attractive young 20-something in a hoodie and jeans, he accepted a glass of beer and sat down to talk to Courtney, Gray and me. First, he apologized for what would be a brief interview since the show's after-party was about to begin.
First, I asked Hanksy how he came up with the idea. Namely, was he stoned when he thought of it?
"No drugs were involved," he answered. "I'm just a big fan of puns."
"Is Tom Hanks funding the operation?"
"No, but he did tweet about me."
"How do we know you're the real Hanksy?" Courtney asked.
Had my own roommate bamboozled me into thinking this was the real Hanksy? He claimed to be from Chicago, but Gray and Courtney thought he sounded like he was from Austria. The whole thing was getting curiouser and curiouser.
"Who was that guy in the leather jacket?" I asked.
"That guy? He was a sexy decoy. Like they have on Maury Povich. If anyone spoke to him, he was only allowed to answer in Tom Hanks quotes like 'Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop,' a line from Big."
"What's your favorite Tom Hanks movie?"
"Either The Money Pit or The 'burbs."
At this point everyone cheered, since clearly those are Tom Hanks' two greatest films. We then discussed a possible Hanksy film, "Exit through the Gump Shop," along with his future plans. He's already done pieces in Chicago, Philadelphia and the Lower East Side and is planning something "large scale," but would give us no further clues.
Finally, I asked Hanksy how he felt about his sudden success. "It's been a sharp rise to the top," he said, "for such a small yet Big pun. If a grin begins to form after someone turns a corner only to view a light-hearted mashup of Banksy versus T. Hanks, then my job is done."
REVEREND JEN is the author of Elf Girl (Simon & Schuster, 2011), which can be had on Amazon for $10.57.