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These Blokes Really Are Hung Up on Still Lifes

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It’s life imitating art. It’s art imitating life. Well, whatever it is—it’s definitely off the wall.

“In order to fully understand the nature of painting, it is necessary to become a painting.” That’s the credo performance artist Stephen Taylor Woodrow announced when last month he and three chums sprayed themselves head to toe with purple and gray paint, then had themselves bolted to a wall of the Wolverhampton Art Gallery in England. A highlight of each six-hour “Living Paintings” exhibition came when the four hangers-on were fed by assistants and generous museum goers. “They ate chicken legs and salad very, very slowly,” says Brendan Slynn, Wolverhampton’s Keeper of Fine Art. “The effect was quite reptilian. Quite grotesque.” Indeed: At one point one of the overstuffed paintings threw up. This notwithstanding, the five-day show was packed. “We had 1,200 people through in five days,” marvels Slynn. “Normally we get that many in a month.” The suspended tableau vivant will be rehung soon in London’s prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts, but Woodrow isn’t going snooty. “Anyone can hire us,” he says. “You can hang us in your living room if you like.” Uh, thanks, Woody, but most folks may prefer traditional wall hangings that you don’t have to feed.