Human as Canvas…or Anti-Portrait…or Splattered by Leeson

post by Michael Lagocki
photos by David Leeson, Jenice Johnson, and Dee Hill

Those of you who attended January 2009’s massive Underground show, may have seen his happen live. In the spirit of radical creativity, I allowed myself to be splattered, smothered, and covered by pulitzer prize winning photographer David Leeson as a subject in his Anti-Portrait series. I actually asked for this.


I’ll try to give you a taste of the experience. At the time (January ’09), I’m already flying high as ArtLoveMagic is really starting to show signs of life. Underground was by far our most successful show up until that point. Somewhere near 800 people crowded into SouthSide for this show. My Dad even flew into town for it. And I was just a few days into a new relationship. Life was at a magical moment. I had seen some of David’s anti-portrait work before when he showed and performed at our Vision show. When I heard he was looking for a model to perform with at Underground, I jumped at the chance.


I told very few people I was doing this. I thought it would make a cool surprise. Even Deborah, my girlfriend, didn’t know. I had only talked to David for a few moments before this, so I was placing a lot of trust in him. The process STARTS with you stripping down (waist up) and being covered with black paint. I mean hair, eyelids, nostrils, everything. David shoots you as black against a dark backdrop, so that the materials he then throws at you will tell the story.

People have asked me if it was gross. Yes. It was gross. After going all black David told me to be free with it. Ignore the crowd (dozens were watching us) and just go with the flow. No emotion was wrong as long as it was pure. With this black paint all over me, I already knew one of the emotions I was going to express was discomfort. It was too obvious.


And it begins. Wham. You’re hit in the face with a handful of paint. Wham. Your sprayed with dust. Wham. He spits (oh yes) water at you. I can hear the crwod ooohing and ahhhing, but I can’t see them as my eyes are closed tight (almost as tight as my mouth is, because a flying glob of paint in my mouth does not sound appetizing).


The coolest thing was that I really connected with the photographer. The whole time David is leaning in, screaming at me, “Don’t fuck around! Let it go!” And I do. All the discomfort and oddness of the moment expresses itself by me thrashing around, almost angrily pushing, trying to turn my unease into something worth capturing on film.


All in all, it probably lasted about fifteen minutes. Afterwards David and I embraced and talked about what an experience it was. He’s an electric personality and he’s really on fire when he has a good session.

Some art is visceral. It doesn’t make sense to the logical mind, but when you FEEL it, it speaks volumes. This was one of those experiences. Standing there, covered in paint, stuff dripping off- the description doesn’t give you and idea how alive it felt. But it was alive.

David’s cool. I’d do it again in a second.My good buddy Josh Reeves shot the whole thing on video. If you’d like to check that out it’ here.

Underground returns in the beginning of every year, usually January or February. 2012’s show is scheduled for Feb 11th. I cannot imagine what to expect.



2 Responses to “Human as Canvas…or Anti-Portrait…or Splattered by Leeson”

  1. Mike,

    I remember watching that magic unload itself on all of us as David repeatedly pulled the figurative trigger and cut our collective breaths. Sometimes people can only look back at an “opportunity”… and it will forever remain for them as nothing more than that. Fortunately, that evening you had just enough information, desire and nerve to convert that opportunity into a trust in David which yielded… a lifetime experience. It could too easily have become just another “what if” moment that you would have either talked yourself into downplaying over time or simply regretted missing out on.

    Excellent choice, Micheal.


  2. wow..looks very cool, wish i would have known about it, i’d have been there. great performance art!

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