How long has your hair been leopard-spotted?
Nine years now. It’s been a collaboration between my wife, Rachel Kaiser Levine, and I for the past seven years. She’s an artist as well, and she did a lot of body painting down in Miami, where we used to live. She was painting some models for a show, and the Vidal Sassoon salon did my hair like this. When we moved to New York, she started doing it. She figured she could do a better job because she was a painter—and she was right.
How does she do it?
It’s a two-day process. The first day is cut and bleach, and on the second, she paints the spots on with hair dye.
People must ask about it all the time.
If I’m not wearing a hat, I usually can’t make it too far out of the building without getting some comments.
You must like that.
It’s a love-hate thing. I love it because everybody loves a little attention, and it’s also a part of my work. But sometimes you’re not in the mood to have the same questions asked over and over again.
Part of your work?
I have a body of work that’s based around a narcissistic sense of self. I’m in the process of trying to copyright myself as a living sculpture, and since May 1999, I’ve been saving all the trimmings from my haircuts—there are an awful lot of them. At some point in time they’ll become part of a piece that I’m not really showing yet. When it comes out in its full context, it will make more sense.
What makes you more of a living sculpture than anyone else?
Well, the hair. And some tattoos, but also the view that life is a daily work of art. It’s similar to the idea of Gilbert and George’s singing sculptures, where they use themselves as the sculptural object. Joshua Levine is a living sculpture. Who you meet and who I am are two different people, but only I and maybe my wife know what’s me and what’s “Josh art.”
So did you get that copyright?
So far the government has issued two denies. But now I’m using lawyers.