Saturday, August 11, 2012
Portrait of the Artist
An art news service I subscribe to is firstname.lastname@example.org. Every night at 9PM (PDT) I receive a selection of cut-and-pasted articles, usually organized by theme. Yesterday's "paper" focussed on public art, from the monumental to the performative. The article below (a spoof, with a surface knowledge of artists like On Kawara and Tino Sehgal) was written by Bob Odenkirk for a recent issue of The New Yorker:
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST
He has never been interviewed. He refused to meet me in person, talk on the phone, or sit still for this profile.
He has never made a film or a painting, nor has he written a poem, taken a picture, or tried to “make” anything. Despite all this, he has fascinated the art world and captivated New York society for the past year. He’s been praised as “unfathomable at best” and “bafflingly circumlocutory at worst” by ArtFinger. He scores twelve out of ten on BaffleMag’s “Scoring the Downtown Scene,” and has been named a “Notable Nelly” in ArtScrape Magazeen’s midyear wrap-up three times in the same list.
When I was assigned to profile him, all I knew was rumors and scuttlebutt. But further reporting only caused the rumors to solidify and the scuttlebutt to harden. Do you know what I mean? You don’t? Read on.
He’s a man of habits, believing that they “simplify life and make room for brainstorms.”
He wakes each morning at exactly 7:43 A.M., catnaps throughout the day, and goes to sleep at precisely three in the morning.
Every day, he puts on his “uniform”: moccasins, tuxedo pants, one of a variety of pajama tops designed especially for him by L. L. Bean, and his signature duck-billed hockey mask.
He wears the same pair of underwear for a month, then puts on a fresh pair over the old pair, until he has twelve pairs on, at which point he knows that New Year’s Eve is right around the corner.
Every day for lunch, he eats two hot dogs (sans buns), a slice of lemon pie, and half a bottle of Yoo-hoo chocolate drink, room temperature. He puts it all in a bowl, microwaves it, and eats it like porridge. He says it makes his mouth taste like “a food closet.”
He puts up a Christmas tree once a week and decorates it, then takes it down the next morning.
A voracious reader of history, he’s been known to clip favorite words from books and eat them.
Sometimes he’ll eat whole paragraphs. His New York Public Library card has been permanently revoked.
He doesn’t observe Tuesdays. He wears a watch that he smashed on purpose at exactly twelve o’clock. As a result, scheduling is not his strong suit. He famously missed his own birthday by three months.
He’s had the same assistant for ten years—his cat, Rodolfo. He pays Rodolfo in crickets. His East Village apartment has been condemned for cricket infestation three times in six years.
He reads the Bible in Aramaic to himself through a bullhorn every night and says it’s the perfect mix of the old and the new.
He is a master of air hockey and has the highest score ever recorded in Pong, having played once for four months straight.
He has been baptized, circumcised, exorcised, and bathed in the Ganges—all within a hectic month of self-discovery—but he now calls all religion “too literal to be believed.”
He has three children by four women whom he has never met. He has adopted a man older than himself whom he has affectionately dubbed Grandbrother and with whom he trades birthday cards three times a year.
He claims to hate “all drawings.” He has a tattoo of his right hand on his left hand so that “my right hand knows what my left hand is doing.”
He runs marathons but always quits at mile twenty-five, because he likes “feeling like a quitter.”
He votes Republican, claiming to love Ronald Reagan for his silhouette.
His favorite TV show is “Mayberry R.F.D.,” with the sound drowned out by a Grateful Dead live bootleg.
He throws a Super Bowl party every year the day after the Super Bowl, locking the doors once the pre-recorded game “starts” and unlocking them when the game is over and the post-show recap is capped. He invites only one person to the party—himself. He records himself receiving the invitation, sending his R.S.V.P., receiving the R.S.V.P., greeting himself at the party, eating chips, and cheering on his chosen team. No one has ever seen these recordings and, according to him, “no one ever will—they’re for me and my personal edification.”
When asked to comment on his son’s life and work, the artist’s father, a retired plumber in Nyack, New York, simply shook his head and muttered, “That guy’s a fraud.”