Eric Mancini is used to being an outsider. The 30-year-old Denton native doesn’t look, sound, or act like any artist you’re likely to find in Dallas, or anywhere else – and that’s kind of the point. He may not have prestigious degrees or formal training, but the painter’s debut show on Saturday, September 29 proves that all you really need is art. A sense of humor helps, too.
Mancini’s upcoming show, aptly called You Don’t Look Like an Artist, will take place at Stomping Ground Comedy Theater, a Dallas nonprofit. While admirers browse Mancini’s collection of abstract paintings, comics will take the stage to roast the artwork. It’s the perfect debut for an artist whose path thus far has been anything but conventional.
“Art is the only thing I can’t f*** up,” Mancini likes to say. In fact, his passion for art saved his life.
Originally, Mancini had plans to be a rock star. Music, specifically the drums, was his first love, but he had few friends who played. So, he dropped the drum sticks in favor of a bat and glove, focusing on baseball rather than music.
Mancini had good prospects as an athlete. After graduating, he went south to Edinburg on a baseball scholarship to the now-defunct University of Texas-Pan American. Unfortunately, sports weren’t the only thing that kept him busy. The pitcher became addicted to drugs, which quickly derailed his academic and athletic careers.
“My life was coke, baseball and nothing else,” Mancini recalls. He dropped out, moved home to Denton and eventually started taking classes at UNT. It was there that he discovered art, restoring balance to what he’s called a chaotic life.
“I have an addictive personality, so when I first started painting, it was all I wanted to do.”
Art began as a form of therapy – a way for him to find peace and balance. He befriended several students at UNT’s art school who let him tag along to the studio. “I had a lot to figure out, and art helped me do that,” he says.
Soon, his work expanded outside the confines of the college campus. One of Mancini’s first paid gigs was the 42 Murals project, where he joined 41 other artists to create a series of vibrant public artworks in Deep Ellum. That’s how Mancini met Nick Sanders, a local writer who would go on to become one of his closest friends.
“The first time I asked him about his art, I was expecting him to give me some explanation of his vision for this painting,” says Sanders. “But he said, ‘I’m just going to do the outline of Marilyn Monroe’s head, and then fill it up with my signature squiggles.’”
That’s not to say Mancini doesn’t know his stuff. He’s a student of his craft, citing Basquiat and Warhol as two of his biggest influences.
“That dude is obsessed with art,” Sanders says of his friend. “Something in that guy’s blood just tells him to do art despite all the odds.”
Mancini calls art his “positive addiction” – a habit he’s constantly experimenting with.
“I like doing things that are interesting and fun,” the artist says. Earlier this year, he made headlines when he plastered a photo of President Trump’s face on a dumpster in Denton. He’s tried his hand at portraits, photography, and is constantly pushing his style.
Fellow artist Angel Green, a longtime supporter of Mancini and his work, believes his penchant for exploration and honesty is part of what makes the artist unique.
“His work is so genuine and emotional,” Green says. “Men love it, women love it, and it’s something everyone can find joy and meaning in.”
Green, a Brooklyn resident by way of Dallas, sells Mancini’s work in her New York boutique.
“Eric’s paintings have been some of our best sellers the last two years, but there’s one painting he gave me that I can’t part with. I want to hold on to it as long as I can,” she says.
After spending the last three years making a name for himself, Mancini decided to throw his first art show.
He needed a space, and Stomping Ground was looking for artwork. The theater’s executive director Lindsay Goldapp knew Mancini would bring something special to the venue.
“Eric is one of those people who can’t stop creating, and we love creatives,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt that he has a great sense of humor, too.”
Goldapp knows the joint comedy-art show will be a swift departure from what most people expect from a rising artist.
“Art galleries tend to be serious – a lot of staring with furrowed brows, and thoughts about how this makes you feel. This show is all about joy, laughter, and getting Eric some good customers,” says Goldapp.
For Mancini, it’s a chance to show Dallas what he’s got, and to keep having fun with his positive addiction.
“I’m only focused on what I can do now,” he says. “I’m having fun with it, and people should come along for the ride.”
You Don’t Look Like An Artist is Saturday, September 29, 6:00 p.m. at Stomping Ground Comedy Theater. Admission is free, with complimentary drinks by The Bearded Monk and Austin Eastciders.