Experiencing Peter Tunney and his art

His name is Peter Tunney, not Tooney. It rhymes with "funny" or "money" but is spelled Tunney. And if you spend time with the artist at The Peter Tunney Experience in Tribeca, you will have the experience of a lifetime.

Like when he splatter-painted my jean jacket, while I was still wearing it, over a dress I had borrowed and needed to return without white paint on it.

Tunney started doing text-based work years ago, by simply putting black words on whiteboards. That work evolved over the last 18 years and now includes newsprint and vibrant colors.

Tunney is probably best known in Manhattan for his City of Dreams billboards. He says he lives in the City of Dreams, as does everyone in New York City, and maybe any city.

These days, he thinks, the City of Dreams isn't a place, it's something you carry inside you. Tunney says he makes the billboards because not everyone can afford to buy his paintings and put them in their house, so he likes to put his message out there for everyone.

But Tunney wasn't always an artist.

In 1987 after the stock market crashed, he declared himself one. He told everyone "I'm an artist now" and left his job on Wall Street.

It was slow work at first, but these days Tunney is having a booming second career, repurposing news headlines into art. Tunney says that really started after 9/11. He became fascinated with the news feed. The news was so crazy, he says, with all sorts of things peppered in.

His favorite news source is The New York Post. Tunney says the Post is just more clever than he is. The papers come every day so he doesn't need to work that hard. He just co-opts their cleverness. The paper recently published a piece about him, Tunney says, calling him a "Post-Impressionist" because he likes to use the New York Post so much.

In December, Tunney made headlines once again at Art Basel in Miami with his Sinking of the Taj Mahal installation on the beach.

A friend of his bought the old Trump Taj Mahal Casino and said Tunney could take whatever he wanted, so he helicoptered to Atlantic City and took a little bit of everything. From golden chairs to elephants and chandeliers and even the enormous letters from the Taj Mahal sign, Tunney took it all.

The self-proclaimed movie buff says the installation was inspired by a scene from Planet of the Apes and wasn't a statement about Trump. Tunney says Trump is just one guy. He may be an important guy and the president, but Tunney says he'll come and go.

In the meantime, Tunney is focusing on the positive: finding calm in the chaos. He says it's possible, as he looks at a painting that says "Everything is… OK." Maybe that's true.

The Peter Tunney Experience | 83 Leonard Street, New York, NY 10013 | petertunneyart.com