Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In


December 29, 2007
In an unusually touching piece in this week’s New York magazine (Dec. 24-31), entitled “Love Underground,” four couples describe, in their own words, how they met in the subway—and it reminded me again (see below) of how agents and publishers may not be in touch with what the public wants to read and, of course, I AM. Many years ago I wrote a proposal for a book of interviews with couples entitled How They Met. I’d been collecting the stories for some time, my favorite being about how University of Iowa graduate student, Matt, got to spend time with Jude, the aloof and glamorous New York artist and professor, when he accidentally cut off the tip of this finger in the sculpture studio and she, who was supervising the studio, accompanied him to the hospital. He said "it was totally worth it to have this beautiful woman with me in the ambulance, rubbing my chest" (they’ve been together now for many years, and BTW his finger got sewed together and is fine).

Anyway, I wrote up the proposal, got on the subway, and dropped it off at 5:00 at the office of a legendary literary agent. She called at 9:00 the next morning (I was still asleep and, at first, thought it was my aunt calling) to say she was interested in representing the project on the condition that I’d be willing to change it to interviews with celebrities. I was not. That wasn’t my idea at all. Who cares how celebrities meet? My interest was in real people—I saw myself as a collector of oral histories, the Studs Terkel of modern romance, spreading hope among the lovelorn.

Less than two years later I was walking by a bookstore in the Village and there it was in the window, How They Met, interviews with celebrities such as Walter Matthau, Robertson Davies, Jay Leno, Daniel Dinkins, and Carly Simon, published just in time for Valentine’s Day. I just checked, and you can buy it on for $1.00. Not exactly a bestseller. (However I remember once reading, perhaps in Rolling Stone, that when Carly Simon and James Taylor first met at a party they went immediately into the bathroom to fuck—if it’s in the book, that story alone might make it worthwhile. But do we really care how Mrs. Matthau met Mr. Matthau?)

I can’t do the book now because it’s such a good idea that, completely independently, the New York Times took it up and the “Vows” column on the wedding page, is one of their most popular. However if anyone wants to comment and tell me how they met, I’m all ears.
The photo is from the NY Magazine article, of Mitchell Ratchick and Suzanna Ko.
December 28, 2007

No, this isn't a Paul McCarthy, but the aftermath of our Christmas cake. After taking this photo, Roberto threw it away. He couldn't bear to eat the head.
December 24, 2007

Even though the heading was "I still want it all," when I sent this out as an ecard a few years ago, most of my friends thought it was an antique image I found somewhere and didn't get that it was me. But it is me, with my brother, John, probably at Wanamaker's in Philadelphia. My father took the photo and did the lettering. That's a terrifying grip Santa has on my arm.
December 22, 2007
In the latest issue of The New Yorker (December 24 & 31) there’s a cartoon by Michael Maslin of two toddlers in a playroom, and as their mothers approach, one says to the other, “Here they come—act infantile.” It reminded me of a conversation I had with Judy Fox, where we were talking about drawing being all about observation (but then, isn’t everything?), and I said I thought we underestimate children’s abilities, that if they were shown more sophisticated ways of seeing their world they’d be able to represent it. I was thinking about how my father, an engineer, taught me to draw in perspective when I was five. My early talents lay with music, and artistically speaking, I don’t think I was particularly precocious—yet as soon as my father pointed the concept out to me, I could draw it. Judy told me that when she was little, she drew stick figures because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do. Then one day in school when her friends were wondering what adults looked like naked, she volunteered that she’d seen a naked adult and proceeded to draw them a picture—with such graphically detailed breasts, nipples, belly button, and pubic hair that it was immediately confiscated by the teacher. Ultimately Judy grew up to be a sculptor of naked people, but at the time she took the wiser course and went back to stick figures.

Judy's sculptural installation, Snow White and the Seven Sins, was seen in New York this fall at P.P.O.W. and will be exhibited at Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills in the upcoming months, dates to be determined.

December 21, 2007
For all five of us who didn't go to Art Basel/Miami, Joanne Mattera has posted a complete review with pictures and comments on her blog that feels almost like being there--minus the sore feet and champagne.
December 18, 2007
While I'm on the subject, I could not resist posting this photo I took on my first trip to Reykjavik, where they have the most sophisticated sense of winter fashion:
December 18, 2007

Scott introduced me to The Sartorialist fashion blog, and now I’m an addict, because it doesn’t feature fashionistas but people the world over, young and old, who have created their own style of dressing. Therefore I was inspired to take this picture of the gentleman who sat down across from me in the Coop café the other day, who I’d noticed a number of times before because of his charmingly colorful garb. Neither hippie-ish nor gypsy-ish, his elaborate use of bright color only enhances his thoroughly distinguished look. It turns out he’s an Irishman named John ffrench (the correct Norman spelling), and a ceramicist who uses a lot of color in his work. It must run in the family. ffrench told me his wife buys his clothes, while his daughter, Crispina, is well-known in the Berkshires for her colorful fashions made of recycled fabric.
December 13, 2007

Leaving the Whitney Museum the other day, we were in the mood for a quick cup of soup. The coffee shop that used to be in the same block was gone. Walking down Madison we passed a number of upscale restaurants, but no place where you could sit and simply get a bite--until 15 blocks later the Viand coffee shop appeared, looking like a complete anachronism amidst all the the steel and glass glitz. It reminded me of a piece the late Glen Seator did in 1999, where he inserted a full-scale replica of a check-cashing joint into the facade of Gagosian's Beverly Hills gallery. At the time Michael Duncan in Art in America saw it as "rather obvious social commentary" saying that "the contrast between the high-tone gallery and the low-rent check-cashing store seemed too much of an insider art world joke." Now the joke's on us when we can't get a cup of soup.