There is no doubt that Gregory Siff is one of the hottest artists coming out of downtown Los Angeles. With his big, bold, expressionist-style pieces featured all over the city, his latest exhibition “Portrait of an American Ice Cream Man” is taking the LA art scene by storm.
Words by Susie Benitez
Photos by Maya Dondonyan
With select pieces included in major museum exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Whitney Museum, and the Santa Monica Museum of Art all within the last 5 years, Gregory Siff is practically unstoppable. In fact, you could say he’s actually on the fast track to legend status- even if he’s got to put in all the hard work by himself.
“You think someone’s just gonna show up and be like, “We know you’re a great artist, and we want to put you in the timeline forever?” It doesn’t work like that. You have to put yourself in the timeline.” – Gregory Siff
Gregory Siff was raised in New York City by who he eagerly describes as “the coolest parents” who encouraged his artistic pursuits and led him to his foray into the arts as an actor. His original dream was what brought him across the country to Los Angeles, California, but it was here where he wound up on a different path than he was expecting.
“It was very enchanting, and little did I know that this canvas of sunset and Hollywood would become a muse to me. I had to do the fall- not fall from grace, but the fall from a dream, but the more I painted the more I realized that whatever happens to you are seeds and are beautiful. Whether it’s the demons of the things you wish you could have, or the beautiful things that you strive to get and if you don’t get them, what you make out of them. That’s how I arrived at art.” – Gregory Siff
From the moment I first spoke to Siff, his positive energy was immediately palpable. In fact, fresh off the sale of a painting on a Thursday afternoon, the first words he said to me were, “Hi! I am having such a great day! How are you today?” It is this spirit, a spirit rooted in true human connection, that sets his work apart from that of other artists.
“[My art] comes from a natural place of, ‘I wanna tell you how I feel today! I wanna SHOW you how I feel today! I wanna paint this for you! I wanna be honest with you.’ Then the painting, even if some of them aren’t balanced and some of them are, even if some of them are beautiful and some are ugly-you still wanna look at them and you still wanna know more about them because they come from a real life. People come into a show and look at them and say, ‘I don’t know what it is about this, but I’m in love with it,’ and what you’re in love with is that there’s a real thing happening, and that’s the power of art.” – Gregory Siff
Siff quite literally immerses himself in his work. Recently, he moved into the back of his Downtown L.A. studio with only a mattress and his cat Jackson (as in Pollock) so that he can be as close to his paintings as possible- an approach that seems to be lost within today’s instant gratification-driven culture. No matter how arduous this task may be, he values the ability to go to sleep and wake up amongst his pieces which according to him, facilitates their honesty and emotional value. However, no matter the difficulty, we can’t ignore the truth in the fact that Siff succinctly explained to me– “besides, when are you ever gonna get the chance to do that again?”
“The art that I make- it makes me happy to share these things that are that important to me and to share these stories with [the viewer] and to think about [their] own story in life. Everything is there for a reason, your movie, your story, your book, your life, your novel- it’s just important as everybody else. It’s like we’re all artists, we’re all expressing ourselves in different ways, and it should be recognized that you are important in that, and on those days that you feel so shitty or that you don’t feel like that should come from a place of, “this is sacred and this is gonna be remembered.” Every action you make, and every painting you make, is going to have an effect on somebody’s life.” – Gregory Siff