Adam Palmeter was relieving himself when the idea came to mind for how he could get his artwork out there for more people to see and maybe even increase his chances of having someone approach him to commission him for a job. Fortunately, at the time, he wasn’t in the regular think-tank environs of a design studio where great ideas tend to come about in more conventional ways. Otherwise, he may have been arrested.
“I was in the toilets in Piu Piu and was wondering what kind of installation I could do,” says Adam, a 35-year-old New Yorker who’s becoming better known in Ho Chi Minh City for his work as an MC on the comedy circuit, and now his art. “I looked up at the wall and thought it would be fun to paint it with this design I’d been working on. I have a lot of connections in bars through my comedy work so it went from there.”
For the Art
So far, Adam has painted the inside of the bathrooms at four venues in Ho Chi Minh City — Kokois in District 2, and Broma, La Fenetre Soleil, and Piu Piu in District 1 as part of his latest installation Adam Palmeter In Stalls. As time has gone on, the project has become less about finding new ways for, er, exposure and more about doing art for art’s sake.
“Bathrooms are kind of cool and coming from a graffiti background, I used to always carry a marker when I was younger and tagged bathroom walls,” says Adam. “They’re a kind of communal space. People might be waiting in line, others might be doing drugs, a couple of people might be hooking up with each other, or you may have had too much to drink and find yourself hugging a toilet. But seriously, going to the bathroom sometimes you feel vulnerable, so I like the idea of people being vulnerable in an installation, in the actual art and being surrounded by it.”
Adam has used regular house paint for the installations, with the colours and design varying from venue to venue. At Kokois, a light and airy venue, he’s used a turquoise-blue as a base and then layered it with white geometrical shapes and patterns in the ladies’ bathroom.
The textured pattern appears to reflect the influence Asia is beginning to have on Adam (he lived in South Korea for three years before coming to Vietnam) as the boxy look bears some semblance to Chinese, Japanese and Korean scripts. Indeed, many of the squares look a lot like the Japanese character for mouth or opening — kuchi — something that may or may not be intentional.
“Travelling has hands down been the best thing for my art. I feel more complete as an artist thanks to travel. Korea is where I started using chopsticks for painting instead of brushes,” says Adam when explaining that he’s become more experimental over the years.
He adds: “I don’t have a theoretical background in art or the skill set that someone might have who’s graduated from art college, so everything I do is very organic, in a way it’s natural. I like making a mess and I like the contrast of colours and how they work together.”
Before moving to Korea to live and work, Adam had already begun his foray into becoming a full-time artist. He started painting around the time he was preparing to graduate from college. One day he came across a crate of records and decided to use them as canvasses because they were cheaper than the real thing, that’s when he started painting New York City skylines on vinyl.
“NYC is probably the worst and the best place to be an artist,” he says. “Not only are you surrounded by so many artists and so many talented people, but the living expenses and the competition can be crushing. Whereas, Vietnam is a great place for creatives, it really embraces a creative lifestyle and for me personally, the weather’s nice, so my career with winter is done. Still, I’ve never been to Europe and there’s something about Spain that’s calling me.”
Photos by Vu Ha Kim Vy