by Robina Riccitiello
Fans of San Francisco’s Dolby Chadwick Gallery have seen some familiar artwork on TV in recent weeks. Two of the gallery’s artists have been featured in popular TV shows – Billions and Russian Doll.
Jaq Chartier’s work showed up in Showtime’s Billions, on the office wall of the hyper-intelligent Taylor Mason. A large painting by Kai Samuels-Davis features prominently in the eight-part Netflix show Russian Doll, which features a woman who mysteriously dies and keeps starting her life again in a New York apartment.
For the artists, it’s a fun and unexpected detour from their usual work in the studio.
“I was excited when they picked my work, but was bracing for it to end up on the cutting room floor,” says Chartier, a Seattle-based painter whose experiments with color resemble ethereal DNA strands. “I’m sure they select a range of images so they can edit and see what works best once they’re shooting scenes. A friend of mine was the first to spot my work in the trailer for the upcoming season and sent me a screenshot. Wow, I couldn’t believe how prominent it was. What a thrill!”
The Billions set designers found Chartier through an art consultant, who has put a lot of blue-chip art (think Robert Motherwell and Ellsworth Kelly) in the show. “For this season, they wanted some more contemporary work with the development of Taylor’s character – a younger vibe and more tech-oriented,” Chartier says.
Chartier’s piece in Billions, BG, Blue, PB (w/lots of new formulas) is a digital reproduction, not the original painting.
Samuels-Davis, an artist who works in Inverness, a coastal hamlet in Marin County, isn’t sure exactly how the set designers for Russian Doll found his work. The piece, which shows up in many episodes on the wall of an apartment where the character returns again and again, is a reproduction of his piece From Sinking. “The piece they used was a print they made since, by the time we sorted out all the details, it had to be on set in two days. I just sent them the digital file and they handled the rest,” Samuels-Davis said.
Other TV shows have used his work, but he hasn’t seen the final product, since producers don’t often give the artist too many details on when a show will air.
“Russian Doll was great since the piece was featured so prominently and the structure of the show made it so that the piece was in almost every episode,” Samuels-Davis said. “The show was fantastic, too, so I was excited to be part of it in some way. It felt like (my painting) fit with the narrative and was more than just set decoration.”
“As soon as it aired, I started getting texts from friends and family with snapsots of their TV’s and my painting,” Samuels-Davis said. “It was a fun surprise since I totally forgot about the project because they’d contacted me about a year before it aired. Lots of people who follow me on Instagram also started messaging me and asking if it was my piece in the show.”
The works generated a big buzz among the collectors, friends and families of the artists.