An artist's chance meeting with Anderson Cooper leads to "60 Minutes" story

"I was coming down the street, and I see this 6'8" guy dressed as a house painter," says Cooper. Turns out, it was artist Mark Bradford, a former hair stylist whose artworks can sell for millions

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"I see this 6'8" guy dressed as a housepainter," Anderson Cooper says about the first time he met artist Mark Bradford, whom he profiles this week on "60 Minutes."

Bradford, who is typically dressed in a white t-shirt and white jeans, showed Cooper around his art gallery in Los Angeles, and described his distinctive way of making art.

"He uses paper like paint. He makes it malleable. He blends colors together from paper," Anderson says. "I thought it was incredible."

In 2016, Cooper bought a 2003 Bradford painting called "The Hood is Moody." The work is largely made from end papers, a tissue-like material that Bradford knows well from years of working at his mother's hair salon.

"What's interesting, I think, about the end paper paintings is that -- I think they're beautiful," Cooper says. "Mine has two sneakers in the lower part of it, which I really like."

Below is a transcript of Overtime's story, produced by Ann Silvio and Lisa Orlando. It was originally published on May 12, 2019 and was edited by Lisa Orlando.


Anderson Cooper: His life is a fascinating story. His art is--

Anderson Cooper's "60 Minutes" story this week is about Mark Bradford, an artist he met by happenstance.

Anderson Cooper: I love this red.

Mark Bradford: Yep. If you would have come a week ago, the whole thing was just purple.

Anderson Cooper: I met him on the street. I actually met him on the-- I went to an art gallery. And I was coming down the street. I see this 6'8" guy dressed as a housepainter, essentially. And said-- you know, he says hello to me. And I say hello to him. I knew nothing about him.

Ann Silvio: Do you start talking?

Anderson Cooper: Yeah. We just started talking and then he was like, "Oh, you know, this is the gallery I started." I was like, "Oh, hey. That's cool."

Anderson Cooper: So is it open?

Mark Bradford: Yeah, it is open, absolutely.

Anderson Cooper: There were other people, like, in the gallery. And they were all kind of looking at him and whispering. And I realized, "Oh, wait a minute. He's probably kind of a big artist." And then he invited me to his studio.

Mark Bradford: This one-- you know, I think this has something.

Anderson Cooper: That's cool.

Mark Bradford: I'm telling you. This is a part of the Constitution of the United States with these growths on it.

Anderson Cooper: And I was like, "Oh, my God. This is-- I'm an idiot for A) never having heard of him."

Ann Silvio: What did you think of his art, when you saw it--

Anderson Cooper: I thought it was incredible. I mean, I couldn't believe that it was all paper. I couldn't believe that it wasn't paint. It doesn't come out in pictures. I'm not even-- I hope it comes out on television. But to see it up close--

Mark Bradford: I kind of just bring it right into that nice little shape.

Anderson Cooper: He uses paper like paint. He makes it malleable. He blends colors together from paper. It's a really interesting process.

Mark Bradford: The paper really-- I mean the-- these are my paints.

Anderson Cooper: This is what you're using instead of paint?

Mark Bradford: Yep.

Anderson Cooper: And he's got a little kid's kiddie pool that he's, like, soaking paper. One has an image of what an artist-- you know, how an artist works and, you know, with Mark, it's almost like going to a carwash at some times. Because I mean, he's got, like, power washers that he's using. He's got sanders and drills, knives that he's cutting things with.

Anderson Cooper: He was working in the salon one day and looked down. And an end paper had fallen on the ground.  

Mark Bradford: And I looked down, I thought, "Oh, they're translucent. Oh, I could use these."

Anderson Cooper: What are end papers used for in a hair salon?

Mark Bradford: When you do a jheri curl-- yes, I had a jheri curl.

Anderson Cooper: You had--

Mark Bradford: No judgment.

Anderson Cooper: Did you have jheri curl?

Mark Bradford: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. It was the '80s. No judgment. I looked fantastic, by the way.

Anderson Cooper: You know, paint-- expensive paint could be, you know, $20 for a tube. He didn't have that money. And he could buy cartons of end papers for, you know, $20. So he started working with them, burning the edges of them. And it was Mark's realization that he could use end papers as the basis of his art that was the big breakthrough for him.

Anderson Cooper: And it was funny. The woman who came to buy one of his first works, she's a legendary collector and she said, you know, "I'd like to buy one of these—how much are they?   

Eileen Harris Norton: I said, you know, "How much?" And Mark said, "How much do you have?" And there were a couple of curators with me, and the room stopped.

Anderson Cooper: He had never sold anything before. So he was just like, "Well, how much you got?" And she was like, "That's not the way it's done."

Mark Bradford: This is where it all started. I mean-- your painting has end papers on it?

Anderson Cooper: Yeah.

Ann Silvio: You own one of the end paper works.

Anderson Cooper: I do, yes. I bought one of his works. It's called "The Hood is Moody." And it's made out of these end papers, which are like, a tissue-like paper. What's interesting I think, about the end paper paintings is that I think they're beautiful. Mine has two sneakers in the lower part of it, which I really like.

Mark Bradford: When I first started using them they were so translucent I couldn't see the border, so I started burning them with a blowtorch and that's where you get the fringing.

Anderson Cooper: His art is interesting to look at. Whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not, it is compelling. And there is meaning to it. And to learn his story and how that translates into his artwork, I think, is interesting.