Arts / Performing Arts

Taxi Driver Turned Artist Enjoys a Major Moment

Hanging With The Marble Faun

BY // 01.13.17

Dallas Art Fair co-founder Chris Byrne’s role as owner/director of the Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton has led to a remarkable, organic residency program. Perhaps the most notable artist in residence to date is the rediscovered Jerry, the Marble Faun, aka Jerry Torre, whose cameos as the youthful gardener in Albert Maysles and David Maysles’ 1975 documentary Grey Gardens are as touching as they are illuminating about the film’s principal subjects, Big Edie Beale and her daughter, Little Edie (aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis), who lived in East Hampton in a famously dilapidated and eccentric house.

Four decades after the film first screened, Jerry — taxi driver turned artist — has emerged from obscurity for another big debut this month: a two person show curated by Byrne at Geary Contemporary, New York, featuring the Marble Faun’s Baroque-inflected ceramics paired with abstract paintings by Charles Andresen (running through February 3); both artists enjoyed separate, informal residencies at the Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton last year.

Here, Byrne does the Q&A with Jerry, whom the Beales christened The Marble Faun, after Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th-century gothic romance novel of the same name.

Chris Byrne: Jerry, it’s nice to have you at the house and studio. What will you be working on during your stay?

Jerry Torre: I plan on carving three sculptures in alabaster and am currently nearing completion of one entitled Stagg. The catalyst for this sculpture began with the previous Faun.

Byrne: How does it feel to be back in East Hampton?

Torre: Memories of the Hamptons remain in my head from the earliest days of my youth. The last time I came out here was to attend the musical Grey Gardens in Sag Harbor (2015).

Byrne: Of course, I have to ask you about Grey Gardens — we had the chance to view it together this past week, and it was great to hear your insights. Has your response to the movie changed over the years?

Torre: I once again feel that extraordinary kinship with the filmmakers. And my enduring love and respect for the Beales are relived as well as my duty to honor the trust they granted me.

Byrne: Who gave you the name Marble Faun?

Torre: Little Edie gave me the name as soon as she glimpsed me through the front door. The film begins with that shot …

Byrne: Did you enjoy the screening at the Parrish Art Museum [during the Hamptons International Film Festival, summer 2016]? How did you gauge the audience’s reception and the interview afterwards?

Torre: The event was wonderful! Edith Beale once told me, “In your lifetime our friendship will be of interest to many.” I’ll be forever honored to have witnessed the audience’s enthusiasm and love for Mrs. Beale and her daughter Edie. Vanity Fair’s interviewer Jennifer Ash Rudick was charming. I felt very comfortable.

What’s coming up in the new year? In my studio in Manhattan, I’m rendering subjects in stone and ceramics, in addition to a series of century vases, which await my hand. The year 2017 should see the publication of Faun in the Garden, a book that takes the reader along on my unpredictable journey called Life — in which I remain fascinated.

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