Exit interview Part 2: John Bissonette

Our second interview in this series of four is with John Bissonette. While Davy’s locker may not be the perfect studio shot, well, it may be. A significant part of John’s studio practice has always been to donate paintings to bars he likes. In the spirit of Cedar Tavern or Max’s Kansas City, Davy’s Locker has come to be a nexus of artists who congregate there for their Friday Night Trivia. At present, they own two of John’s paintings; one is behind the bar, near the front door, and the other remains in their on-site storage facility and is used as a backdrop for Halloween festivities. Really.


Wikipedia offers this description of The Cedar Tavern:
The Cedar Tavern was opened in 1866 on Cedar Street. In 1933 it moved to 55 West Eight Street, and in 1945 it moved to 24 University Place. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Michael Goldberg, and others of the New York School all patronized the bar in the 1950s when they lived in Greenwich Village. Historians consider it an important incubator of the Abstract Expressionist movement. It was also popular with writers Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Frank O’Hara, and LeRoi Jones. Pollock was eventually banned from the establishment for kicking in the men’s room door, as was Kerouac, who allegedly urinated in an ashtray.

While I’ve witnessed only small amounts of kicking and no urinating in ashtrays (yet), Davy’s seems vital to our community. Support them. Here is John’s take on Vegas and what happens next.

Your original Las Vegas dream:

My initial hopes for coming to Las Vegas were to be able to pay my bills, get a cheap studio, and make some new friends. I am happy to report that I succeeded on two of those fronts. I have met some wonderful people in Las Vegas and really like my studio.

On your connections:

I’ve never considered the people I know to be connections, which may explain my career. I will admit though to regularly receiving free drinks at Toot’s Little Honky Tonk in Knoxville, Tennessee. Abby and I also get ridiculously large “shots” here at Davy’s Locker.

On casino executives and the media:

I’ve never seen a casino executive in person but I really like the photographs of them I see in magazines. Does that answer both parts of this question?

The popularity of poker:

I can’t speak to its popularity because I’ve never been interested. I also think it causes too many stupid tattoos of spades and vanity license plates. I saw one yesterday that said “P.I.M.P: Poker is my passion”. I rest my case.

What you’ll miss most about Las Vegas:

I will miss my friends more than anything, but I will also miss all of the strange and magical aspects that come with living in this city: the ambient noise from the slot machines inside a casino that I hear on my way to the movies or out to dinner, buying a bottle of Vodka at 4 AM in the grocery store, the way the color of the sky above my apartment changes nightly depending upon the casinos, being surrounded by the desert…

If you’re going to miss the Eureka, his [Dave Hickey’s] favorite neighborhood casino:

I’ve never been there. Abby and I prefer going to the Orleans for the movies and Gold Coast for bowling and bingo. We have gambled a grand total of maybe 50 dollars since 2006 and that total includes Bingo. I do like that there is such a thing as a neighborhood casino though.

What you won’t miss about Las Vegas:

Ed Hardy!

What that last class at UNLV was:

I don’t know that I can speak to this question because I am not affiliated with the university in any way. Abby is still submitting paperwork three months after she graduated, so maybe I can answer that question when she is done.

What you will be doing at the [University of Tennessee]:

I will be teaching Graduate and Undergraduate Painting and Drawing. I’ve not quite figured out exactly what I want to cover yet but I imagine that it would be hard for my experiences in Vegas not to influence what and how I teach.

If you’re ready to start over:

This implies that I would be stopping something or doing something different. In Knoxville I imagine my life will be very similar to the way it is now, just with less sunscreen and no Friday night trivia.

What kind of city you’re leaving behind:

I think this city attracts and cultivates resilient people. I have seen a lot of desperation and insecurity since I have been here but I can’t help but hold out hope that the people will find a way. The other option is…


If CityCenter was the right answer:

I don’t really know if I am qualified to answer this question, but my sense is that it is a disaster. This is also coming from a person who much prefers seeing the mystic falls at Sam’s Town and the aquarium/pool at the Golden Nugget. For people who are less attracted to sparkly things and animatronics, it might just be the ticket. I can’t help but think it would be great if there were a staged disaster that happened there every evening like at Treasure Island- something to the effect of the movie Cloverfield or Godzilla. Now that would be fun.

What’s to fear about Las Vegas in the future:

See above image.

What Las Vegas is going to miss about you:

I think that Las Vegas has bigger things to miss than me, like Prince’s old club or that giant Michael Jackson robot that was rumored to be built a few years back.

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