Post Titanic, Billy Zane (who played Kate Winslet’s egomaniacal, jilted fiance) spends his days painting. He started in Mexico while filming the James Cameron 1997 blockbuster. He hasn’t stopped since, having recently finished an exhibition in London. We caught up with the 47-year-old actor during his invitation-only Art Basel exhibition, NOWNESS, at Hotel Victor in Miami Beach Saturday night.
Describe your artwork process. Do you have any preconceived ideas about what you work on?
The paintings are very spontaneous, and they are derived from limitation in that I do most of them on film sets. And I don’t bring materials with me, and I use what I find in hardware stores, marine supply, garden centers. And I paint usually just off-set or convert part of the house I’m staying in into a studio…even the pH of the water informs the piece, if I’m on an island or in South Beach, I might use salt water.
What is the strangest material that you’ve taken from a movie location to use for painting?
When I can’t find canvas, I’ll use potato sacks or pieces of a sail. I’ve used an umbrella, a canvas umbrella off of its wire. I’ve used dirt, I’ve used wine, I’ve used a lot of house paint, boat paint, you know, various fluids.
Explain the concept behind NOWNESS.
It deals with the immediacy and improvisation of ‘nowness’ of the creation as happening as much more of a physical act than a conceptual offering. I guess it harkens back to the school of action painting.
Do you ever get tired of being the actor from ‘Titanic’ as opposed to an artist?
Not at all. Titanic was an incredible calling card and a means to an end, really. It’s extraordinary. It’s brought fabulous international access. I’m enjoying this particular expression at present.
What are your future plans regarding your artwork?
I’m actually working on curating the next show called ‘Art Department,’ which will be a celebration of the artisans on film sets, who are wonderful artists in their own right: Set designers, graphic designers, scenic painters, production designers: They’re all phenomenally talented. They’re meant to be kind of seamless. I wanted to curate a show about six of these people next to examples of their work on set.
Given how close we are to the Atlantic Ocean, I have to ask, are you a swimmer?
Yeah, I was in “the juice” today. I pined for it. It’s in my DNA. I’m Greek. I find that whether I’m drinking olive oil or swimming in the sea or getting some sunshine, I’m in trouble.