Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Most Leadingest-Questionsest Q&A Ever: John Currin on Sexism & Second Thoughts

I know I tend to ask leading questions sometimes in my interviews. While you can get a good, interesting answer from an open-ended question, there's sometimes particular things I can't help thinking about in regards to a given artist or artwork, and I let my personal curiosity get the better of me.

That's kind of what happened in my Q&A with John Currin, out in today's National Post and online at Post blog the Ampersand. Currin was nice enough to chat with me on the phone in advance of his survey opening at the DHC-ART Foundation in Montreal June 30. Around that time, the Anthony Weiner thing was still a bit in the air, so I asked him about it, as well as sexism in general.

Here's an excerpt from our condensed exchange:

Q You’ve admitted in past interviews that your paintings are sexist. Why do you continue with them?

A Well, I’m bothered by [the sexist aspect] more now. I didn’t used to be. It shouldn’t bother me, I suppose, because I want to make a good painting, that’s the only thing I care about. And if the painting has sexist imagery, I don’t think that affects the goodness or badness of the painting. But it does affect my emotional state, and it’s started to bother me more and more.

Q Why does the sexism bother you now, after 20 years?

A The obvious thing to say is that I have a daughter now. But I don’t believe that’s really the reason. I think it’s more that I’m not as young. When you’re a young, attractive man, it’s easier to get away with that kind of stuff. Now, it’s more embarrassing. Overall, my work’s not changing, it’s just the way I feel about it that’s changing.

To get his angle on Weiner, as well as my most leading questions likely ever, read on at the Ampersand.

A tidbit I had to trim along the way: Currin was looking forward to seeing the show himself, as there were some works in it, like Rachel in Fur and Bea Arthur Naked, that he hadn't seen in about 10 years in his estimation.

Here's a link to a pic of Bea Arthur Naked, by the way. I had no idea Currin had painted such a thing until I started researching this story, and I think it's kinda great.

Also trimmed by me along the way: I asked Currin what he thought of Tina Fey's Bossypants book cover, because it kind of reminded me (in a less sexualized way) of his Big Hands, which showed in New York in fall 2010. Because the book came out in Spring 2011, I asked him whether he thought the cover designer might have seen the painting and borrowed from it. He said that he hadn't thought of that, but he felt certain the poster for the movieThe 40 Year Old Virgin borrowed from his painting The Producer. He also admitted, though, "God knows I've ripped off way more from movies and fashion than they could ever rip off from me. Big deficit there."

(Image of John Currin's Stamford After Brunch via the National Post)


Charles Vincent said...

Wow he thought beauty and happiness were interchangeable? No wonder he is revising some of his thinking. I can think of so many examples here. I will go with Crows from Akira Kurosawa's Dreams, where Scorsese is Van Gogh. This is possibly one of the most beautiful sequences ever filmed, but also it is fantastically melancholy in the extreme, in spite of it being bathed in art and sunshine. Beauty can be a dagger. I have often wondered what Currin was up to and it seems maybe he does do. An interesting struggle.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charles,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I wouldn't have suspected Currin was thinking along the lines of beauty and happiness.

So I'm glad I did ask a more open ended question rather than just leading ones!

I haven't pondered the beauty/happiness connection much myself, except maybe from a feminist perpective (eg. The pain many women and also I'll admit many men put themselves through to be "beautiful" -- waxing, liposuction, plastic sugery, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Hi again Charles,

Just wanted to clarify that last comment was from me, Leah Sandals.

It's showing up on my phone as "anonymous" for some reason.