CUPCAKES WITH STALIN
Stalin liked being boss.
Stalin really liked showing others he was boss.
In a particularly nasty effort to show the Ukraine who's boss, Stalin starved the Soviet state in 1933.
7,000,000 Ukrainians perished.
The surviving Ukrainians knew who was boss.
This, and a lot more unpleasantness from a boss who claimed, "Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union."
Lenin predicted things wouldn't be very pleasant, let alone gay, under his successor, Stalin, with the words, "That cook will concoct nothing but peppery dishes."
Khrushchev said, "I don't think there has ever been a leader of comparable responsibilities who wasted more time than Stalin did just sitting around the dinner table eating and drinking."
On March 1, 1953, after an all-night-just-sitting-around-the-table-eating-and-drinking thing with Interior Minister Lavrenty Beria and future premiers Georgi Malenkov, Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin collapsed. He died, and presumably went to hell four days later, on March 5, 1953, at the age of 73. Officially, the cause of death was listed as a cerebral hemorrhage. Vyacheslav Molotov's political memoirs, published in 1993, claimed Beria had boasted to Molotov that he poisoned Stalin.
There is no evidence that Stalin liked cupcakes.
However, the lack of a historical record of Stalin's dessert preferences did not stop me from throwing either a dinner masquerading as an art show or an art show masquerading as a dinner in his dubious honor. After all, as Khrushchev pointed out, Stalin enjoyed his dinner parties and dinner parties, by definition, require dinner guests and that night Stalin's dinner dates included Hitler, Mussolini, Göring, Mao, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, the Reign of Terror, Saddam, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Kim Jong Il and Barry Bonds and 40 complete strangers.
Generalissimo Francisco Franco was invited but was a no-show. Apparently, he is still dead.
It was all called Bad People Have To Eat Too and, in defiance of historical record, it featured Stalin's Cupcakes for dessert.
"Mom, what's for dessert?"
"Stalin's Cupcakes, again? We have Stalin's Cupcakes every night. Can't we have Chocolate Mussolini?"
In defiance of good taste, Bad People Have To Eat Too was also privy to 32 30″ x 30″ prints from my Stalin's Cupcakes series in 16 different tasty flavors, each topped with a candied hammer and sickle. The walls also featured such distasteful odes to bad people and good food as Adolf 'n' Eva's Wedding Cake, Hail Caesar Salad, Göring's Lunch, Kim Jong Il is a Big Sucker! and Chairman Mao is a Big Yummy Yellow Cookie.
Since historical record and good taste were ignored, why not pay no nevermind to common sense and do this whole shebang in conjunction with the much-maligned restaurateur Michael Hebberoy in a yet-to-be-opened art gallery?
Common Sense: "I wouldn't trust Hebberoy as far as a quadriplegic could throw him."
Me: "Just because his whole Ripe Restaurant Empire collapsed amidst scandal and rumor and scandal?"
Common Sense: "You said scandal twice."
Me: "There was a lot of scandal."
Common Sense: "My point exactly."
Me: "Anything else?"
Common Sense: "He did skip town during all the scandal and rumor and scandal."
Me: "Anything else?"
Common Sense: "He did hire you as the Ripe Restaurant Empire Artist-in -Residence and promised to stuff you with free food and cover your production costs to coat his walls with your so-called art and then, before you got so much as a free piece of cheese from him, he skipped town amidst scandal and rumor and scandal."
Me: "Anything else?"
Me: "He did, as I recall, and please do forgive me if I'm wrong, stick you with your not-all-that-small production costs bill before he skipped town amidst scandal and rumor and scandal."
Me: "Anything else?"
Common Sense: "I'll think of something."
I hate Common Sense, but he did have a point or 57. I blithely ignored them all. Hebberoy is my friend, a genius, a foodie extraordinaire, a savvy marketer who seemingly has more connections than AT&T and, like me, completely fucking oblivious to Common Sense.
Common Sense: "He's also a flake!"
He also had a peripatetic supper club in Seattle which was gathering press, as do all things Hebberoy does, called One Pot. Besides, being a friend, genius, foodie extraordinaire, well-connected marketer and a flake, Hebberoy is also a good writer. About his new venture, he wrote, "I have been making tables for a long time. I have been creating spaces for people to gather for longer – I have been doing it without governmental permission since I began. It makes it a bit more fun – and much more is possible. One Pot is my newest project. It is about the table – and a simple pot of food. It is about creating experiences where I get to learn what is possible with a table – where I get to learn about old rituals of the table and invent new ones – it is an excursion (to steal a term from poet Lisa Robertson) in a kind of soft architecture. And it is new – so I will leave it at that – and perhaps the thing that it is will soon outweigh the rhetoric that it has already spun."
And he wanted to know if I wanted to do something with his newest project and my art in a yet-to-be-opened art gallery.
Common Sense: "Ahem."
Me: "Now what?"
Common Sense: "Yet–to-be-opened art gallery? Do I really need to remind you about your past art adventures in anything other than an established gallery or museum?"
Common Sense: "Three words: Hitler Loves Henry."
Okay, so Common Sense had point 58, and point 58 was a big one. In general, I hadn't done too well with my art in non-traditional venues and, in particular, I had done mildly catastrophic in my efforts to help raise money for a child with cerebral palsy by featuring him with Hitler and other naughty National Socialists in a suite of work called Hitler Loves Henry.
Go figure, a catastrophe, huh? I was one of a number of artists to be involved in an art show as fundraiser at a skate shop for a wonderful boy named Henry with an unwonderful disease. I thought it was a testament to the wonderfulness of Henry that he could even inspire love and a stiff-armed salute from some of history's most unpleasant folks, that he could inspire love from anybody, and the wallets and purses would open up and stay open nonstop.
I thought wrong.
Yes, Hitler loved Henry, but his mom was none too pleased about it. And neither were Henry's aunt, his uncle, his cousin, his friends, his neighbors and some people who had never met Henry. Hitler Loves Henry, Göring Loves Henry, Goebbels Loves Henry, Himmler Loves Henry, Mussolini Loves Henry, A Nazi Horse and Marching Band were unceremoniously removed from the walls of the fundraiser and thrown in the corner.
Did I tell you that I spent a significant amount of money that I did not have to make the discarded art?
I spent a significant amount of money that I did not have to make the discarded art.
I promised Common Sense I would never get involved in any such shenanigans again; it would only be tried - and - true art venues for my art and me from now on!
Common Sense: "Promise?"
Common Sense: "Cross your heart?"
Me: "Cross my heart."
Common Sense: "Hope to die?"
Me: "Hope to die."
Common Sense "Stick a needle in your eye?"
Me: "Stick a needle in my eye."
Of course, I lied.
After all, what would it hurt? I had a number of art pieces from previous shows that I could cobble together under a food theme that hadn't sold such as Will You Be My Valentine, Chairman Mao?, Le gâteau de mariage de Napoléon, Bacon & Eggs & Mao and many more because apparently, unlike me, the art-buying public listened to Common Sense and didn't buy them. I thought I could just haul those up to Seattle and put them on the walls of the unfinished art gallery, maybe sell one or two, enjoy a nice dinner and call it an art day.
Again, I thought wrong. I agreed to do the show.
Common Sense: "You fucking moron."
The fucking moron took the train to Seattle for a lunch meeting with Hebberoy, his right-hand chef, Morgan Brownlow, and the owner of the yet-to-be-opened gallery. Before my samples of food, fascists and communist dictators and I hopped the train, Hebberoy had some last-second oh-by-the-way words for me that the yet-to-be-opened gallery owner was "a little spacey."
Common Sense: "Ahem."
Spacey is a relative term. Compared to yet-to-be-opened gallery owner Diana Adams, Sputnik was a little spacey; she would prove to be a lot spacey.
Lunch was good. I ignored Common Sense and had pate and didn't suffer for it, making the score Common Sense 18,281, Me 6. Samples of my food-related art were passed around and didn't suffer for it. Wine was served. Wine and Common Sense and I do not get along.
"I thought we could call the whole thing Bad People Have To Eat Too, "wine and I said.
Wine and everybody ignored Common Sense and nodded their heads.
More wine was served.
"Hitler's last meal before he blew his brains out was a mushroom ravioli and I thought we could have that as the evening's main course, "more wine and I said.
More wine and everybody ignored Common Sense and nodded their heads.
Even more wine was served and led to must-have courses for Stalin, Mussolini, Caesar, Kim Jong Il and any dictator anyone could name drop. It was going to be inglorious, a feast of the damned.
And Common Sense just shook its damned head.
Common Sense is also telling me now might be a good time to explain what this whole bad-people-have-to-eat-too thing is all about.
Common Sense: "Now might be a good time to explain what this whole bad-people-have-to-eat-too thing is all about."
Me: "I just said that!"
Common Sense: "It bears repeating."
It's good to laugh at bad people. After all, bad guys don't mind being called bad guys, but they sure don't like to be laughed at. Bad guys take themselves so seriously.
Imagine the embarrassment Louis Black could cause the Great Leader if he made his way into North Korea armed with Kim Jong Il jokes and a megaphone? Imagine the torture Louis Black would endure in a dank North Korean prison?
Again, bad people don't like to be laughed at.
And isn't it a good laugh at Kim Jong Il to turn him into a lollipop, Stalin into a cupcake, Caesar into a salad dressing, Mao into a cookie, Kaiser Wilhelm into a dinner roll, Hermann Göring into a vegetable gardener?
Of course it is! It makes them look ridiculous.
Voltaire, a good guy, said, "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."
Common Sense: "O Lord, please make Riswold listen to me more often."
Then I saw the yet-to-be-opened gallery. The walls were magnificent. It had no electricity. The walls were magnificent. It had no bathroom. The walls were magnificent. It had no real floor. The walls were magnificent. It had no lock on the front door.
In other words, the walls were magnificent.
Magnificent walls would dwarf the smattering of pieces I had in mind for the show. Solution: Make more art for the magnificent walls!
Common Sense: "O Lord, you're not answering my prayers."
Oh, and pray real hard that such gallery essentials as electricity, locking front doors, bathrooms and flooring would be done in time for the whole kit and caboodle.
In six weeks.
Common Sense: "O Lord ... fuck it; he's on his own."
In those six weeks, fueled by way too much coffee and abandoned by Common Sense and the Lord, I managed to complete 32 30″ x 30″ prints of Stalin's Cupcakes; three Kim Jong Il is a Big Sucker quintychs; a 9′ tall Hail Caesar Salad; The Kaiser; Hi Ho Hi Ho, It's Off to World War One We Go and Barry Bonds and run up a $12,000 framing bill for the show.
Fuck you twice, Common Sense!
Hebberoy was the icing on the cupcakes. He said he would have the denizens of the Seattle art world chomping at the Bad People Have to Eat Too bit; surely, no self-respecting denizen could resist his eloquent dinner invite:
"One Pot + Bad People Have To Eat Too = August 9. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. We have somehow convinced the ever-talented and delightfully controversial artist Jim Riswold to come up from Portland and play for an entire month. Go to his website – www.jimriswold.com – laugh – because his work is funny – and if you are too precious to find the humor then you and I shouldn't go for walks in the park. Jim has made it his Nuevo-life work to humanize the oppressors, to deflate the monsters – in a few short words: Riswold makes art about bad people. And he is going to hang an entire show called Bad People Have To Eat Too – and Morgan Brownlow and I are going to throw a decadent dinner party among his rippling images – it will be the food that Hitler loved, that Mussolini dreamed about, and that Caesar had some poor slave boy rub between his thighs. We will regale you with stories about tyrants and their bellies."
Piece of Stalin's Cupcakes!
And, to add more sprinkles on Uncle Joe's cupcakes, Diana Adams, despite residence on the moon and an extremely yet-to-be-finished gallery with magnificent walls, had run a gallery before. I did not know, however, that it was a gallery that Diana would later describe as a place where people "stapled pizza to the wall."
Common Sense: "What did you expect you fucking moron, the Guggenheim?"
Gallery owners whose previous gallery experiences involved having people staple pizza to the wall generally do not have mailing lists, clientele, marketing savvy or preparatory skills, and Diana was no exception.
Me: "She had magnificent walls!"
She did know that the customary sales split between artist and gallery, even a gallery that has pizza stapled to the wall, was 50-50. And I knew James Porter, the talented and over-caffeinated lead preparator for the Tacoma Art Museum and he agreed to hang all Bad People Have To Eat Too's 51 pieces. Never before had so much bad art looked so good. Thank you, James.
Common Sense: "At least one of you knew what you were doing, and it's not you."
Morgan Brownlow knew what he was doing. He concocted a menu of the menevolent that included Homemade Doritos with Saddam Salt and Iraqi Dip, Goring's Cyanide Stone Fruits, Vodka-pickled Stalin Potato Salad, Great Leader Cognac Lobster Bisque, Hail Caesar Salad, Hitler and Mussolini Back Together Again in a Grappa-Infused Mushroom Ravioli, Yummy Chairman Mao Pork Belly, and, of course, Stalin's Cupcakes for dessert. Thank you, Morgan.
August 8, 2007. Dinner of the Damned is served.
There are 50 people here for dinner. There are more people here for the art. There are people here for Diana's non-pizza-stapled-to-the-wall debut. There are people not lynching me. Somebody actually buys a piece. This thing might work.
Common Sense: "It's still early."
Me: "Party pooper."
Common Sense: "That's kinda my job."
Common Sense retreated to the back room, and we all sat down for dinner. Among his many talents, Hebberoy has a silver tongue—shut up, Common Sense—and he says more than a few nice words about me, and I say a few words about my art called What's So Funny About Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, World War Two and All Its Unpleasantness, Napoleon, Mao, the Cultural Revolution, the Crusades, the Reign of Terror, the Guillotine, Hubris and Some Really Adorable Dollhouse Furniture.
Nobody threw up.
Starter: Homemade Doritos with Saddam Salt and Iraqi Dip.
Heat peanut oil to 350°.
Season corn tortillas with cardamom, paprika, cumin, coriander, kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.
Fry corn tortillas until golden brown. Re-season as necessary.
Season Greek yogurt with fresh-squeezed lemon, garlic, tahini, kosher salt and a splash of olive oil.
I introduced Morgan's starters course with the following words, "While awaiting the hangman, Saddam Hussein learned to love Raisin Bran and could lay waste to a large bag of Doritos in 10 minutes. On June 22, 2005, David Letterman had 10 reasons why such a hateful man so loved such a salty snack.
Three-cornered chips remind him of the Sunni Triangle.
9. Chemical Ali taught him how to convert the spicy powder into a nerve agent.
8. The crunch sounds like the breaking of a dissident's bones.
7. Pringles are for Kurds.
6. They are chips of mass deliciousness.
5. Goes perfectly with a tall glass of camel milk.
4. Endorsed by his favorite late-night television host, Al-Assad Muhammad Leno.
3. Cool Ranch flavor is a preview of the paradise that awaits a martyr.
2. When beard is full of orange crumbs, he can do hilarious Yosemite Saddam.
1. Delicious taste allows him to momentarily forget he'll spend eternity in hell.
Nobody threw up.
First Course: Göring's Stone Fruits.
Stone fruits contain trace elements of cyanide. Göring was one fat Nazi, but his last meal was his smallest; it was a cyanide capsule the night before he was to meet the hangman.
Nobody threw up or died.
Second Course: Vodka-pickled Stalin Potato Salad.
A couple jars of kosher dill pickles.
Pour pickle brine into a sauce pan.
Add one bottle of potato vodka.
Bring to boil.
Remove from heat.
Pour mixture over pickles and sliced sweet onion.
Let everything sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Mix beets and potatoes with pickle and onion mixture.
Add chopped parsley and serve immediately.
During Stalin's reign, anywhere from 24 to 49 million people in the Soviet Union died what was termed an "unnatural death." Here are a few things Stalin had to say about death: "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic" and "Death solves all problems—no man, no problem." Let's eat!
Nobody threw up.
Fourth Course: Great Leader Cognac Lobster Bisque.
Brown lobster in butter.
Add sliced onions, leek and carrot.
Add sprig of fresh thyme and one bay leaf.
Brown out onions, leek and carrot.
Add one cup of flour and mix.
Add a tablespoon tomato paste.
Add a cup of whipping cream.
Simmer for two hours.
Strain smooth and serve.
Great Leader, Kim Jong Il, buys $700,000 worth of Hennessy cognac a year. The average North Korean earns $900 a year.
Nobody threw up. Nobody knew either that crawfish was substituted for lobster.
Common Sense: "I wouldn't mention stuff like that."
Fifth Course: Hail Caesar Salad.
Pound, in Morgan's words, "a fuck load" of anchovies with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, olive oil and fresh-ground pepper.
Wilt radicchio lettuce in oven.
Make, in Morgan's words, "a kick-ass aioli" from egg yolks, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.
Mix "fuck load" of anchovies, wilted radicchio and "kick-ass aioli."
Top with toasted crusty bread.
Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.
The Caesar Salad is not named after Julius Caesar.
It is named after Caesar Cardini.
But there's a joke about Julius Caesar and the salad not named after him.
In 49 BC, Caesar's personal chef prepares his emperor a salad of romaine lettuce, lemon juice, crushed garlic, olive oil, mustard, croutons, coddled eggs, grated Parmesan cheese, fresh-ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce and says, "You shall name this salad, Caesar."
After a moment of pondering, Caesar says, "I name it … coleslaw."
Common Sense: "That's not funny."
There are no jokes about Caesar Cardini and the salad named after him.
Nobody threw up.
Sixth Course: Hitler and Mussolini Back Together Again in a Grappa-infused Mushroom Ravioli.
Common Sense: "Oh heavens to mergatroid; please don't."
Chop a bunch of button and porcini mushrooms. If you prefer Morgan's words, "Chop a fuck load of button and porcini mushrooms."
Combine mushrooms with chopped shallots, butter and sage leaves in large pan.
Reduce mixture until moisture has evaporated.
Add splash of heavy cream and reduce again.
Add chopped parsley.
Remove from heat.
Add a couple handfuls of shaved Parmesan cheese.
Stuff mixture into handmade ravioli shells.
One egg to one cup flour to one splash of water ratio for ravioli shells.
Toss stuffed shells with grappa and melted sage butter, or in Morgan's words, "Toss in an ass load of grappa and sage butter."
On August 30, 1945, at 2 PM, Hitler sat down and enjoyed a meal of mushroom ravioli. It was his last meal. He and wife Eva Braun retired to their private quarters. Several moments later a gunshot was heard. After waiting a few moments, Martin Bormann and Joseph Goebbels entered and found Hitler's body sprawled on the sofa, dripping blood from a gunshot to his right temple. Eva Braun had died from swallowing poison.
Around midnight on April 29, 1945, Hitler and Braun were married in a simple civil ceremony. Champagne was served, Hitler reminisced about better days long gone by and soon after Hitler and Braun retired for the evening, presumably to consummate their marriage and discuss honeymoon plans.
Eva: "Adolf, honey, what should we do for our honeymoon?"
Adolf: "Kill ourselves."
Eva: "I love you too, Adolf."
Ain't love grand?
Common Sense: "That's not funny."
Nobody threw up.
Seventh Course: Yummy Chairman Mao Pork Belly.
Braise pork belly in Shaoxing wine, star anise, sliced onion, soy and ginger.
Boil garlic and red chilies in water until tender.
Fry garlic and chilies until crispy.
Carmelize honey or cane sugar in pan.
Add more garlic, chilies, star anise and ginger to pan.
Add braised pork belly and more Shaoxing wine.
Top with scallions.
Mao listed the Three Main Rules of Discipline as follows:
1. Obey orders in all your actions.
2. Do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses.
3. Turn in everything captured.
Betty Crocker, on the other hand, said, "A meal that looks good gives pleasure at once and invites you to eat." She then went on to write a poem about it:
Something soft and something crisp
Should always go together,
And something hot with something cold
No matter what the weather;
Something bland needs the complement
Of something with tang and nip.
Follow these rules and all your meals
Will have taste appeal and zip.
Long live Yummy Chairman Mao Pork Belly and Betty Crocker!
Common Sense: "That's not funny."
Nobody threw up.
Dessert Course: Stalin's Cupcakes.
1. Get Cupcake Royale to make a bunch of red cupcakes topped with candied hammers and sickles.
2. Repeat Stalin's "Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union" quote.
Drink more wine.
Common Sense: "Okay, I'll agree with you on point 3. Please don't drink and drive."
More wine was drunk. Then more wine was drunk. Then the wine was all gone. And then I didn't drive and went to bed confident that Common Sense had been damned, the morning's hangover notwithstanding, and I had made a successful leap into the Seattle art scene. The denizens of that scene and their praise and pocketbooks surely would beat a path to Vermillion's door over the course of Bad People Have to Eat Too's six-week stay.
I thought wrong.
If a piece of art is hung in the forest, does it make a sound? What is the sound of no hands clapping? In other words, nobody came to the show.
I wanted to blame Diana. After all, she was from the moon and what did she know about art if it wasn't pizza stapled to the wall? I wanted to blame Seattle. After all, what did a city known for shit software and corporate coffee know about art? I wanted to blame Hebberoy. After all, he promised the moon and delivered a small county in Tennessee.
Common Sense: " I…"
Me: "Don't tell me you told me so."
Common Sense: "…told you so."
Me: "I told you not to tell me that."
I blamed myself instead. What was I thinking? I'm no artist. I told myself I didn't care that I had a number of critically successful shows in Portland, pieces in the permanent collection of various Northwest museums, a place in the Northwest Biennial, a blot or two of national press or that my son's French school directory listed my occupation as artist. I sucked. I should apologize to Common Sense and go back to advertising and sell people things they don't need instead of making things they don't want like Kim Jong Il lollipops.
Then I got mad.
"Fine Seattle, if you don't like my stupid Kim Jong Il lollipops, my stupid Caesar salads, my stupid Adolf 'n' Eva's wedding cakes, my stupid Kaiser rolls, my stupid Göring's gardens, my stupid Chairman Mao cookies, my stupid Stalin's cupcakes or my stupid, headless, cupcake-advocating queens of France, I am going to take them and go home," I said to myself.
Self-pity demands around-the-clock attention and before I knew it, I forgot to cancel a reading of my Esquire article about my new life with leukemia and Hitler art called Hitler Saved My Life at the gallery.
Common Sense: "You're retarded."
Retardation may have its benefits. Maybe Hitler Saved My Life could save Bad People Have to Eat Too. Maybe Hitler Saved My Life could sell one or two Stalin's Cupcakes. Maybe Hitler Saved My Life could get some Seattle press.
Hey, stranger things have happened with Hitler Saved My Life: It got read at Apple, and they still let me use their gadgets; it got read at Tacoma Art Museum, and they still let me and my work through the doors; it got read at a fancy-pants marketing convention in San Francisco, and they didn't throw me off the Golden Gate bridge.
There was one slight difference: At Apple, Tacoma Art Museum and that marketing thing, people showed up. Apparently, on a beautiful Seattle Saturday afternoon with both the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars in town, all but 15 Seattleites have better things to do than listen to me blah-blah-blah about the relationship between leukemia and photographs of Hitler figurines on toy vacuum cleaners.
I wanted to take down my 9 ft. tall Hail Caesar Salad and hide under it.
Common Sense: "Wieden's direct line is 503-937-7762."
Then, much to self-pity's chagrin, Gail Gibson came to the rescue. Gail is a Seattle art dealer who is not from the moon, although she may have orbited the earth a few times here and there. Gail has an art gallery that people go to. Gail said she wanted to sign me. Gail has said she wanted to sign me before. Gail said she meant it this time.
Gail made me happy; so happy that I agreed to come to the closing of Bad People Have to Eat Too.
Common Sense: "You can't leave bad enough alone, can you?"
You should know by now, I can't leave bad enough alone. Of course, it crossed my mind that nobody would come to the closing and I'd get all depressed all over again, but I forgot to chicken out and showed up anyway.
Nobody was there.
I told myself and my best friend, Derek Ruddy, I would have a glass of wine with Diana and ask her a few innocuous questions about the Sea of Tranquility or wherever on the moon she was from and get out of there for good.
Then, before I could exit stage right, something good happened. People showed up, quite a few people, actually, and quite a few of those people were young and those young people were, for some reason, taking notes.
And the wine was good and free and maybe I could drink $12,000 worth of it and get my investment in Bad People Have to Eat Too back.
"Oh, what the hell, let's stay; there are real live people here, the wine is free and I would like to learn more about life on the moon from Diana," I said.
Common Sense: "Free wine is good."
Yes, free wine is good, but it's not as good as the reason why all those young note-taking people where there: They were honor history students from Ballard High School, and their teacher had been one of the six or seven people who saw Bad People Have to Eat Too and gave her students an assignment to:
Pick one of the images that Jim Riswold created for this show.
Summarize the photo (or series) in one paragraph.
Explain WHO the "bad person" is in the photo and WHY they are a historical figure (i.e., what have they done to get into the history books) in two paragraphs.
In two to three paragraphs explain WHY Riswold would portray this "bad person" in this manner and whether or not it is effective.
Summarize your trip to the gallery and give your opinion on Riswold's art as well as his subject matter.
I spent the next hour and a half talking with these students - talking about my art, real art, history and whether they thought their teacher was crazy for giving them this assignment. I also had them fetch me some of that free wine.
It was the best hour and a half of my young art life. It was better than the successful shows in Portland. It was better than the good press. It was better than being in the Northwest Biennial. It was better than the Hitlermobile hanging in the Portland Art Museum for a year. It was better than the Portland Art Museum not being burned to the ground because they hung the Hitlermobile for a year.
It was wow.
More wow arrived when their teacher sent me a few of the essays. Art Linkletter was right when he said kids say the darndest things:
"Oh my goodness, what are these giant lollipops? There are three large photos with five giant lollipops in each picture and three other giant lollipops right next to them. They're all rainbow-colored too. Here I was at Vermillion Art Gallery and I had no idea who the giant head belonged to on all of these lollipops until I read the caption: Kim Jong Il is a Big Sucker! I was not sure who Kim Jong Il was, but I sure knew that I had never wanted a lollipop so bad in my life, than how I wanted one right then ... First off, I love Riswold's ideas and how he puts together little figurines, bright colors and food! It's everything I love! On top of that, all of his artwork has special meaning behind it because it's based on the bad seeds of history, which gives it an eerie effect. All of his artwork looks so cheery and hilarious at first, but if you look further at it, you realize there is a lot more to it. In a way it seemed as if he was mocking the happy, colorful culture of today, by putting these horrible people and ideas behind the cheerfulness. All in all, I think his artwork is incredible, and I would love to see his next show."
Give that kid an A+!
With all apologies to self-pity, I guess I have some new fans and, given their ages, maybe I'll be a famous artist when I'm dead.
I'll take it.
The icing on Adolf 'n' Eva's Wedding Cake was when the Seattle Weekly posthumously referred to Bad People Have to Eat Too as "the best show nobody saw."
My Make-Believe Artist show is scheduled for Gail Gibson in July 2008. Hebberoy and I are already planning a menu from the The Dali Cookbook.
Common Sense: " Here we fucking go again."