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Discovering Role Models: In Conversation with John Waters

Juxtapoz // Tuesday, 10 Aug 2010

Noel Nocciolo: In rewatching Pecker, I especially loved the part, with regards to art and noticing things, of Shelly (Christina Ricci) saying to Pecker (Edward Furlong), “You’re crazy, you see art when there’s nothing there!” Has that been a blueprint for your life?


John Waters: Art is exactly when there’s nothing there and only you can see it. Art’s magic. If you go to art galleries all day and you really learn to see, when you walk home, at least for a couple hours, you’ll see something on the street that will remind you of art. It fades; you have to go back to galleries. But then everything you see will look like art, if you learn to not have contempt about what contemporary art asks you to do, which is usually see things that regular people can’t.


I did a piece once that said, “contemporary art hates you.” It does. It hates you, if you’re the kind that walks in and says, “my kid could do that,” or “that’s ridiculous,” because you aren’t giving it a chance, because you aren’t seeing it in a different way. If you can’t see it in a different way, it hates you. You have to stop, and not have contempt before investigation, which most people have about contemporary art as they walk through the door of a gallery. That’s why galleries don’t care if they’re in out of the way neighborhoods; they don’t want people to walk in off the street, because they will hate it. They want people that want to go there; that’s why Chelsea started.




When you’re preparing for a gallery show, where do you work? I have visions of you in a room in your house with pictures everywhere and pieces of plaster strewn about that later become life-sized roach motels.


I have a studio. And in my studio is certainly every little thing that can give me ideas. I’ve had the roach things for a long time and I’ve had rats and roaches in my movies. “Decorative” is sometimes the meanest word you can use in art, a real no-no.


I did the roach stuff to keep decorators, or the kind that buy art to match the furniture or to put over the sofa, away. Although, my art would fit over the sofa because it’s long and thin, so it’s a joke! I don’t know how many people want to hang The Process, the giant, scary one of someone who worships Christ and the devil over their sofa, though. That’s what I like; it might be sofa sized, but not sofa-subject appropriate.





You’re definitely the most impeccably scheduled, hardest working person I know. I’ve said in the past that I need to be a little bit more structured like you to get more work finished in my own life. Do your habits come out of something instilled by your parents? Or Catholic school? Or is it what works for you to get everything in that’s needed for your day?


Not Catholic school. I went to private grade school, public junior high school, and Catholic high school. My Father, I think, probably instilled it in me. I look back and think, how did I make those early movies? I took LSD all the time, I went out every night. How did I do them? I don’t remember! Did I go to sleep the night before?


But nowadays I’m very organized, Sunday to Thursday I don’t go out, certainly. I even schedule a hangover three nights in advance.




Read this full interview with John Waters now in our current issue, Juxtapoz August 2010.




Portrait of John Waters by Sam Bassett




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