VIDEO: Studio Visit With John Ransom Phillips

Tour the artist's studio.

Painter, writer, and filmmaker John Ransom Phillips draws his artistic inspiration from various sources. “One of the most exciting things for me in my life are those moments those very rare moments in which I feel the excitement of the an idea that will have consequences for my writing, for my painting, for my living, for my perception of other people,” he has said.

In his bright and airy studio at his home in a former dance hall and restaurant on 58th street, Phillips believes he communes with the gatherings of yesteryear, such as parties thrown by Jackie Onassis—parties, he told us, that he was never invited to. “I feel the energy still,” said Phillips. “I’m interested in the impact of the spiritual on the physical.”

That notion of communicating with the past is deeply intertwined in his newly-completed book, Sleeping Presidents. The book’s main conceit, about “invading” the dreams of our country’s leaders, is based on Walt Whitman’s contention that we can know one another better through our dreams. “If you can invade the dreams of sleeping presidents,” Phillips said, “you will know more about who they really are then if you were to listen to them in their waking moments.”

Phillips’s first film, Dick and Jack, produced last year, also sprung from his interest in our nation’s presidents, telling the story of Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and their relationships with their fathers. The film is his way of rewriting history with a humorous bent, while also encouraging viewers to explore their own paternal ties.

We spent a day with Phillips, visiting his studio and joining the artist as he crisscrossed Manhattan, from Grant’s Tomb in Riverside Park to the High Line in the Meatpacking District. Here, catch a glimpse inside the mind of this fascinating artist.

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