by Travis Flack
Let’s start from the beginning. The way back, the moment of inspiration that got us here.
Before paint ever touched canvas, a young Israeli kid – maybe 12 or 13 – was watching Manhattan in his room, taking it in from the vantage point of someone with a newfound budding identity. Not only was the young Ty Joseph enamored with the work and character of Woody Allen, he also did not disapprove of his costar Mariel Hemingway, as he puts it.
Manhattan and subsequent movies were a blueprint to shape Ty’s identity as an American. Woody Allen’s character (a writer, a petty crook, a self-deprecating pragmatic, a humble underdog who charms beautiful women) had an appeal for Ty. This combined with Jewish neuroticism and humor, something close to home, still fills Ty with inspiration.
So here we are, today.
Earlier this year, Ty’s girlfriend Tyler Marie-Evans reached out to Allen’s team, told them about Ty’s appreication of his work, and the resulting painting dedicated in his honor that would be displayed at the LA Art Show.
Allen responded with a personalized photograph, wishing him happy birthday and luck at the show. This was fuel to really create something out of gratitude.
The painting was prominently displayed for 4 days.
When I met with Ty to discuss this work, I had a few questions:
TF: What was your first initial idea?
TJ: Like any other painting, I start with a sketch and I just let the pen do its thing, I start with putting black of white – trying to get the initial face together, then incorporate the “L’s”. Moving stuff, around incorporating more elements and colors.
TF: I saw a Chinese character on the right side of the canvas – can you explain that?
TJ: That’s something me and Allen both have in common, we both really like Chinese food (along with the entire Jewish community of New York) I think it means “food” in Cantonese, I hope it does because I truly don’t know.
It’s also very compelling because Tyler-Marie pulled out that signed Woody Allen photo on my birthday when we were at Mr. Chows. It ties into the whole thing pretty well, don’t you think?
TF: What are top five favorite Woody Allen movies?
TJ: Midnight in Paris, Deconstructing Harry, Sleeper, Manhattan, Everyone Says I Love You. Oh boy, there so many good ones… Anything Works, Annie Hall, all of them are in my top five and probably more.
TF: What is one of your favorite interactions at the LA Art Show?
TJ: Having Ellen Van Unwerth at the opening, she was one of the artists we were sharing the space with and just a huge role model when it comes to charisma and independence as an artist.
TF: For other artists working from this sort of place of reverence, what advice do you have?
TJ: To paint what they have feelings for, whether that’s love or hate or some sort of connection, that’s where it came from, trying to combine my style and identity with Woody Allen’s identity, creating a little mesh of me and him on a canvas.
TF: Now is where I have to ask about the Woody Allen controversy, the recent documentary and books and tweets. you are truly close to him in this work and I want you to respond in your own words.
TJ: I think there are many sides to that story. You can watch the documentary and side with Mia Farrow – especially if you ignore any sense of honest investigating reporting, or read Ronan Farrow’s tweets and side with Dylan, or read Woody Allen’s book and take that side – there are so many variables to any scandal it makes it complicated. That said, it hasn’t changed anything for me – I am still influenced by his work and it made me who I am today. I think it’s a travesty that his works is currently limited in the US. Censorship in general is more dangerous to humankind than to any one individual fault. Still, of course, we don’t know if there is fault in that case. Woody Allen will always be deeply rooted into the American identity. And just like America itself, he isn’t always going to be loved by everyone; only reasonable people.
In addition to the painting, Ty created ten NFTs (non-fungible tokens), a type of new digital art quickly becoming popular with contemporary art collectors.
Woody Allen is known for being tech-averse, so creating something in the new media sphere like an NFT serves as sort of an ironic gesture of appreciation, like his humor.
Art has always been such an amazing way to communicate. Humans are naturally drawn towards things they can relate to, especially at an impressionable age where navigating the tumultuous path of identity seems daunting. According to Ty, making this work of an icon close to him was an honor and privilege, a testament to what lead him to making art in the first place.
The painting will be available at a new gallery opening in Beverly Hills by Klaus Moeller in November 2021.