Hell, Champagne, Family Visits, Art Shows

Sunday, January 13th, 2008 | Art, Food, Travel

Lately, when I’ve thought that maybe putting some stones in my pocket and walking into the Pacific would be easier than trying to get a New York show, my vision of hell pops up and steers me away from the water. I’ve never gone for those visions of hell that include fire and screaming naked people. In mine, all of my close friends, family, teachers, favorite writers and directors–all of us would be forced to watch my life projected in its unedited entirety on hell’s big movie screen. And the seats would be just like the SF Opera House balcony–all cramped and everybody’s elbows jabbed into the sides of their neighbors. There I’d be picking my nose, singing off key in the car, doing things in the bathroom I never imagined being seen—in Cinemascope. I could see Preston Sturges in the audience laughing at my first date, Einstein getting excited by my posing in the mirror, my mother weeping silently. Not that I believe in hell, or heaven, really. Well, maybe, it’s just all that Catholic indoctrination. Somewhere in the back of my head it’s still there, preventing me from answering the call of the waves. It’s ambition, albeit a very lazy ambition, as well as my fear of Hell’s Cineplex, this belief that this something that I have to say hasn’t found the right place yet, or a prospective buyer. They’re out there, though, and I’m still looking.

Speaking of… I saw Connie Champagne a few weeks ago, with my friend Doug. She performed as Judy Garland at the Columbarium, surrounded by adoring gay men and the ashes of their buddies. Convinced and confused by her illusion, guys kept periodically yelling “We love you, Judy!” Sincerely. She went through most of the standard Judy tunes, but knocked our socks off with a version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that captured all of Judy’s mannerisms and quirks in a performance that was also pure bubbly Connie Champagne.

Big Chrissy and I played in the snow a few weeks ago, too, flying out to visit his family in the Quad Cities, Midwest. I don’t see how people can complain about snow, it’s the most beautiful thing to see.

My sisters visited for the New Year holiday, all of them, and Carol’s husband, Bruce, and mother-in-law, Margaret. Margaret took me and the Underbears out one night to Range, just her and the boys. I had this roasted chicken that was like something that made me believe we were in heaven right then and there. The skin was like paper, really good-tasting chicken-flavored paper, and the meat like butter. Margaret was the best house guest ever. She preferred the heat turned down really low most of the time, unlike every other person her age, and she kept buying me things and taking me out for expensive meals. We’d go out to a really expensive nursery to look at pots, I’d say, “Wow, isn’t that really expensive terra cotta sculptured pot amazing?” and the next thing I knew she was at the cash register getting it rung up.

Hiroshi Sugimoto curated two of my favorite shows of last year, both at the Asian Art Museum, and still up to see. One is called “A History of History,” and includes highly refined objects, mostly Japanese antiques, from 500,000,000 years ago to the recent present, fossils that he relates to photography in that they were the first things to capture and preserve the essence of something once alive, a Nara period scroll in platinum and silver ink on indigo-dyed paper, with the entire bottom burned off that he unraveled and mounted on beautiful paper, his own photographs, one seascape arranged to be seen inverted through a Kamakura-era miniature pagoda that he’s retrofitted with a glass sphere–things that make thinking visible, he says. The other show is a display of avant-garde Japanese couture dresses, some of which he’s photographed, a few of the photos shown alongside the actual dresses. The dresses are all sculptural wrappings for the female form that seem drawn from history and science fiction–a dress that could also be a chair, a contemporary knit outfit with a tube-like bustle, another stuffed with padding to deform and disguise the body.

Speaking of galleries, I finally shlepped over to Margaret Tedesco’s 2nd Floor Projects gallery, in her apartment on 25th Street. Everyone should go, it’s a great space, intimate. One could say homey. Jill Miller was showing a body of work created as a result of the surveillance of several local collectors. She studied with a real private eye to prepare for the project, and the installation looked like something a real private investigator would have set up in his 25th Street Mission apartment. Jill was there, just absolutely gorgeous. I thought that she looked more like the person cast as the artist in the movie about her than the artist herself. The project seemed like a way of entrapping collectors into engaging with her work, very little of them actually revealed. We all do our best to get them to come see our shows–Jill printed a tabloid with pictures of them under surveillance and sent it to them, inviting them to see the show. Good for her.

More updates later…

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