People Making Things

Joel Mesler’s Impromptu Portraiture

2 years ago by

Joel Mesler’s Impromptu Portraiture

Whether it’s in the galleries of Chelsea, the walls of the MET, or on the sidewalk, New York City is erupting with art. Artists are everywhere, even if they don’t refer to themselves as artists. A few miles east of New York City is one of the most radical up-and-coming artists of the moment, Joel Mesler.

Mesler is a painter and gallerist based in East Hampton. Formerly an art dealer with a Lower East Side gallery, Mesler is very familiar with the New York art scene having worked with artists like Henry Taylor and Rashid Johnson in their early careers.

Two years ago, Mesler attended NADA Miami and his passion for impromptu portraiture began. His gallery’s booth was empty because he had quickly sold all of the works on display. To adorn the white walls of his booth for the remaining four days of the fair, Mesler began painting portraits of fair attendees for around $100-$250 a pop. Mesler now holds portrait sessions for the public at galleries, art events, and other quirky locations.

This spring, Mesler compiled some of his impromptu portraits into a book with a blank cover, where for $100, it acted as a canvas for a bespoke watercolor portrait available on the ferry ride to Frieze New York.

A few days before, he held a portrait painting session in the lobby of the Mark Hotel on a first-come-first-serve basis. Mesler is known for disclaiming his painting skills by saying, “I can’t paint so well, so likenesses vary and I can not guarantee you will like it either. Thank you for listening,” seen via Instagram. Mesler embraces his untrained, unconventional painting style and pursues it not as a profession but merely as a passion. His goal is to make his interactive art experience and works accessible to anyone, not solely the 1%, expanding the art world to a whole new audience.

Follow Joel Mesler on Instagram to keep up with his work and get updates on upcoming portrait sessions!

Written by Florence Finkelstein
Painting: Feelings by Joel Mesler

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