THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN HITLER

There's More To Life Than Hitler

Andy Warhol is the soup-can guy.

Roy Lichtenstein is the comic book guy.

Jean-Michel Basquiat is the dead-black-painter guy.

Jeff Koons is the vacuum-cleaner guy.  Jeff Koons says his work is about class struggle. Critic Robert Hughes says, "If Jeff Koons' work is about class struggle, I am Maria of Romania."

Damien Hirst is the guy-who-cuts-up-cows guy. Damien Hirst says, "It's amazing what you can do with an E in A-level art, twisted imagination and a chainsaw."

I am the Hitler guy.

There have been better monikers. After all, my mom always told me, "Son, going through life as the Hitler guy is no way to go through life."

I am a self-titled fake artist. And, much to the chagrin of good taste and a great deal of the real art-viewing public, I am a fake artist obsessed with really bad people and really bad deeds. My shows have included satirical odes to bad people, bad deeds and bad taste, such as Goring's Lunch, Napoleon 1769 – 2005, Mao Home & Garden and Bad People Have to Eat Too.

Mom, I blame this fascination with bad people on Mr. Arlander. Mr. Arlander lived three doors down from me during my childhood on 14th NE Street in Seattle. Mtr. Arlander fought in Europe during World War II and lived to bring home some German helmets, caps, hats and swastika stuff from some German soldiers who no longer needed them because they were dead.

Kids on 14th NE Street liked to play army before the Beatles invaded. And playing the evil Nazis was a lot more cool than playing the good Americans because you got to wear Mr. Arlander's real Nazi stuff and wearing Mr. Arlander's real Nazi stuff was way cooler than wearing a plastic American helmet from Sears or a bucket on your head.

Bad guys just dress better. It's part of being a bad guy. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beats paper. Paper beats rock. Black Knight beats White Knight. Captain Hook beats Peter Pan. Dr. Sing beats Johnny Quest. It doesn't help that the best good guy in the whole world, Superman, not only wears red underpants, he wears them on the outside of his pants.

Look! Up in the air! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a dork with red underpants on the outside of his pants!

Yes, good guys dress like dorks. White's wimpy and stains easily and you can't wear it after Labor Day.

Anyway, enough about the sartorial preferences of good and evil; Goring's Lunch juxtaposed toy figures of the Second World War's nastiest participants with dollhouse furniture. In addition to the eponymous title piece, the show included such pieces of questionable taste as The Hitlermobile, Heydrich's Skateboard, Himmler's Homework, Speer's Swastika, Rohm's Roses, Three Dictators in a Tub and Who's the Fairest Dictator of Them All? 

And, just to make them even more offensive than they already sound, I made the prints really big. The Hitlermobile, for instance, was 40 x 40".

That's a really big Hitlermobile. 

One viewer said I was "a black hole sucking the life out of everything."

A local arts and culture magazine named Goring's Lunch the best photography show of 2004.

Dan Wieden, my soon-to-be-ex boss, told me, "I'd like to meet the person who would buy one of these and hang it in his house; on second thought, I wouldn't."

Portland's leading art collector, Jordan Schnitzer, buys four. I've never been invited to Mr. Schnitzer's house, so I don't know if he hung them or not. If I were Mr. Schnitzer, I would not invite me to his house.

At the opening someone told my then 14-year-old daughter, "Your father has some serious issues."

Esquire magazine published my account of my pesky leukemia problem and my whole introduction-to-the-art-world-with-a-show-about-Hitler thing. It was called Hitler Saved My Life. 

An advertiser whose ad was featured amongst the five pages of Hitler Saved My Life asked for their money back. Esquire received quite a few letters questioning their journalistic judgment, including the following from an angry Joann Ptaszynski:

Essay: A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. NOT fiction.

I offered to come up and adorn The Hitlermobile with Hello Kitty stickers.

Hello Kitty stickers can brighten up any situation, but I suppose the question What's so funny about Hitler, Nazis, Kristallnacht, the Nuremberg Laws, Deutschland Uber Alles, World War II and all its unpleasantness and some really adorable dollhouse furniture?" maybe should be asked and answered.

(Forgive me if you've heard me blah, blah, blah the following 737 words before or if you're Johnny Trasnosky, Phil Keller or Bob Newell.)

I grew up a 98-lb. weakling.

In elementary school, Johnny Trasnosky beat me up religiously.

In junior high school, Phil Keller took over for Johnny Trasnosky.

In high school, Bob Newell replaced Phil Keller. Bob Newell's beating-up-Jim-Riswold efforts would have made Johnny Trasnosky and Phil Keller proud.

Somewhere between Bob Newell pummelings, I came to the conclusion, despite Charles Atlas's best efforts and a modest weight gain, that I would always remain low on the He-Man food chain.

Trouble was, I really wanted to fight back. I'd pray every night, "Dear Jesus, please help me kick Bob Newell's ass. Amen." 

It didn't work. Maybe Bob Newell prayed harder.

"Dear Jesus, please help me kick Jim Riswold's ass even more than I did today. Amen."

Somewhere, during Bob Newell's answered prayers, a couple things happened. First, I took Mrs. Harding's humanities class and met some of her dearest friends with names like Ionesco, Swift and Voltaire, and I learned some really new words like satire, sarcasm, sardonic wit and hubris. Second, I discovered the absurdist wit of Monty Python.

I did some funny math—I have always been funny with math—and learned something from this strange tonic of rhinoceroses, modest proposals, best of all possible worlds and very funny jokes about the very unfunny Spanish Inquisition.

I learned to laugh at the bad guy.

Bad guys don't like to be laughed at—that's part of what makes them bad guys.  Bad guys take themselves so seriously.

Mussolini, a bad guy, said, "This is the epitaph I want on my tomb: ‘Here lies one of the most intelligent animals who ever appeared on the face of the earth.'" Mussolini did not get his wish. His bullet-ridden corpse was hung upside down in a public square and spat upon. 

Napoleon, another bad guy regardless of what the French say, returned to Paris, abandoning his soon-to-be-defeated army in the Middle East on October 16, 1799, and told France, "Follow me, I am the god of the day."

France followed Napoleon, and 5,398 days later, it was bankrupt, 1,000,000 Frenchmen were dead and Napoleon lived on a crummy rock in the middle of the Atlantic. On the crummy rock, he spent his days dictating his memoirs noting, "I have worn the imperial crown of France, the iron crown of Italy, and now England has given me one even grander and more glorious—that worn by the Savior of the world—a crown of thorns."

There's a word for braggadocio epitaphs and self-proclaimed gods: hubris. 

However, we are told not to laugh at these people. Mocking them, laughing at them, satirizing them, we are told, trivializes their crimes. I would argue that only speaking about the Hitlers of the world in deadly serious tones actually pays the fools the reverence they so crave.

They don't mind being called monsters, but they sure don't like being called fools.

So, by all means, show Hitler with his pants around his ankles; put a clown nose on Mussolini; slap a "kick moi" sign on Napoleon's back; give Mao some onion gum; put a whoopee cushion under Stalin. Descended pants, clown snouts, kick me signs, joke gum and whoopee cushions don't mix well with the overbearing pride that is hubris.

If bad guys don't like being called fools, it stands to reason they would not care too much to be portrayed as pastries and lollipops. Now, I'm not saying all we have to do to deal effectively with the lunatic evil that is, say, Kim Jong Il is sneak Lewis Black into North Korea with a Kim Jong Il bit and a megaphone, but it wouldn't hurt—unless, of course, you are Lewis Black and you get captured and thrown into a dank prison and are tortured.

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."

Research says some good may come of doing so. Once I started mocking Bob Newell and his pugilist ways, he soon lost interest in beating me to a pulp.

Go figure. But I think he stopped his bullying because I no longer paid him the reverence of fear.

After all, Mrs. Harding, a bunch of dead writers and some extremely unbuff British comedians had my back, and they could kick Bob Newell's ass. 

Maybe they prayed even harder than Bob Newell.

Yet despite modest success, or at least not complete failure, with art about bad people, I wanted to see if there was more to my art life than Hitler. 

I decided to make my official jump into the Seattle art world with a show about my favorite art world inhabitants, called Make-Believe Artist. It wasn't any more of a leap of faith on my part than doing a show about naughty Nazis. Respected Seattle art denizen Gail Gibson had seen my commissioned portrait of Frida Kahlo entitled Frida's Owies and said I "should do more stuff like that" and that she would give me the run of her gallery from July 3 to August 16, 2008, if I did more stuff like that.

So I did more stuff like that. 

I did Andy's Owies. I did Basquiat's Owies. I did Basquiat Gets Famous and Dies. I did Basquiat Dies and Gets More Famous. I did Shopping with Jeff Koons. I did Shopping with Jeff Koons six times. I did Jeff Koons as a rug and called it Jeff Koons Home™ Exclusively at Wal-Mart. I did Damien Hirst Makes a Rug. I did Damien Hirst Gets a Fish for His Seventh Birthday. I did Rauschenberghirstwarhol. I did Make-Believe Damien Hirst for the Love of God. I did Make-Believe Damien Hirst Spot Painting (LSD). I did Make-Believe Andy Warhol Flowers. I did Make-Believe Source Material for Warhol's Marilyn in a Giant Make-Believe Dime Store Frame. I did Andy of Liberty. I did Hirst Family Xmas and my imagining of the holidays with the Hirsts was filled with used cigarettes, dead butterflies, pig's heads, urns, dead puppies, surgical tools, skull and candy, 19th century atlases of human anatomy and surgery, and formaldehyde and cookies for Santa. 

Again, to quote my loquacious mother, "Nothing says happy holidays quite like a gift-wrapped severed pig's head."

Oh goody, a dead pig's head! How did you know I always wanted a dead pig's head for Christmas?

I did words for everything.  I did these words for Damien Hirst Makes a Rug:

Damien Hirst is the guy who cuts up cows and puts the pieces in formaldehyde.

I did these words for Shopping with Jeff Koons:

Frederich Nietzsche said, "We have art in order not to die  ofthe truth." 

I did these words for Make-Believe Andy Warhol Flowers:

Andy Warhol appropriated a Patricia Caulfield photograph of hibiscus blossoms to make his Flowers silk screens. 

And, with all due respect to Clement Clarke Moore, I did these words for Hirst Family Xmas:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the DamienHirst house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; 

I had a blast doing it all. Hirst is so much more fun than Hitler.

I thought I couldn't miss. What self-respecting art world denizen wouldn't flock to Make-Believe Artist and merrily load up their shopping carts with my Koons shopping carts, my candied Hirst skulls, my pretend Warhol flowers, my anatomical guides to Frida's owies, my tabloid tributes to Basquiat's all-too-much-too-soon rise to fame and all-too-sad death and my Rauschenberg-meets-Hirst-meets-Warhol-in-a-car-crash sculptures?

Oh sure, there were some problems along the way. I went way, way over budget and then some. I nearly gave Gail a heart attack or 12 by delivering the bulk of the show less than a week before it was scheduled to open. I went way, way over budget and then some. Gail and I had more than one or 12 disagreements about the size of the pieces (I like big and her gallery is not so big). I went way, way over budget and then some. I may have switched directions on the show once or 23 times during production. I went way, way over budget and then some. More than a few pieces, including Basquiat, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Koons and Hirst as lollipops, didn't get done in time for the show. I went way, way over budget and then some. Severed pigs heads and crates of used cigarettes tend to stink up a studio. I went way, way over budget and then some.

Whatever. My mom would get her wish; her son would not go through his art life as the Hitler guy. 

Life after Hitler started off well. Make-Believe Artist received a few good advance notices: one of those good advance notices went so far as to call me "the king of iconoclasts." However, Regina Hackett, diva of Seattle art critics, chose to review, among many other things, the film version of Mamma Mia! instead of my show. Nobody tripped over Jeff Koons Home™ Exclusively at Wal-Mart; well, my dad did trip over it a few times, but he doesn't count because my dad can trip over anything, even butterflies. There were a few opening-night sales. The gallery was packed all opening-night long and not one patron kicked sand on me. One patron told me, "I wish I was rich so I could buy the whole show." I wish she were rich too.

Then Jen Graves' review came out. Graves is the second-leading art diva in Seattle. 

It's time for me to bring the hammer down. I've posted Portland artist Jim Riswold's images before, and I even appreciate one of them for its unintentional pathos and politics (Frida's Owies,  an anatomical map of her injuries, including her abortions and miscarriages).
But other than Frida’s Owies, which I saw about a year ago at Tacoma Art Museum, and including a more recent show of Riswold’s work at Vermillion (which I hear has lovely food and drink), I have to disavow basically Riswold’s entire catalog. It’s grating, shallow, and self-satisfied. I’m sorry to be so rude, but I never thought I’d actually have to come out and say it, because I didn’t think it would rise to the level of ubiquity. But why on earth is this stuff getting so much play? Because art flirting with advertising is risky and post-ironic and fun? No, it’s old, dull, and cynical. Bleh. It sort of hurts.
I was doubly remind of this when I noticed on TJ Norris’s blog (pointed out to me by Howard House’s Sara Callahan today) the list of artists that Tacoma Art Museum is considering for its next biennial, and Riswold is on it. Please, people of the art, please.
(Jim, I’m sorry. You seem like a fine fellow on email, and I fear the email I know you’re about to send.)

Ouch. While, as my mom says, going through life as the Hitler guy is no way to go through life, it is better than going through life as the "shallow, grating, self-satisfied" guy. Letters to the editor tended to agree with Graves, calling me proof that "there is too much art, and too many artists" and that I was an art world version of The Aristocrats except that "the tired old joke wasn't funny at any telling. Ever." The most flattering response Graves' review received failed to mention my work but trumpeted Vermillion's "lovely food and drink": "Their prices on small bites are fantastic! The beets were delicious, along with the salamis and cheeses."

Moral of the story: It's okay to make fun of mass murders in the name of art, but it's not okay to make fun of artists and the art world in the name of art, and Vermillion's beets are delicious.

But what about the email Jen Graves feared I would send? I suppose if I were a playwright, I could write a play. 

ART FOOL

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Art Fool—artist considered grating, shallow and self-satisfied; aptly named Art Fool; gets hit on the head a lot.

Protector of People of the Art—a somewhat sanctimonious, yet polite, well-armored and armed art critic, decidedly not fond of Art Fool’s work.

Art Historian—someone who knows something about the history of art, big words and complicated sentence structure; just so happens to be named Art Historian.

Marcel Proust—a very French writer. What he’s doing in this play is anybody’s guess.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel—a very German philosopher.

Foodie—a big fan of Vermillion’s food, most likely an employee.

Robert Motherwell—abstract expressionist, likes black paint and turpentine.

Art Critic—art critic, conveniently named Art Critic, alleged proponent of Art Fool’s work.

Gail Gibson—gallery owner, displayer of Art Fool’s work.

Jim Dine—artist of, among other things, art things, bathrobes and hearts.

Jeff Koons—art superstar, devoted shopper.

Samuel Beckett—bleak playwright.

Chorus—there’s always a chorus in these things.

 

THE STAGE
The stage is the Art Fool’s studio. It is filled with art, presumably grating, shallow and self-satisfied—and unsold for a fact.

 

THE WARNING
This play contains words, actually written or imagined.

 

ACT ONE AND THE ONLY ONE
Oh, art is too hard.

—Andy Warhol

 

Open on Art Fool’s studio. Art Fool sits in middle of it surrounded by his grating, shallow and self-satisfied art.

A Greek Chorus stands in the corner of the studio. Doesn’t a Greek chorus stand in the corner of every studio?

Enter from on high, the Valkyrie Protector of People of the Art. She is clad in Wagnerian armor and carries a hammer that would make Thor jealous.

Protector of People of the Art: It is time for me to bring the hammer down!

Chorus: The Protector of People of the Art is bringing the hammer down!

The Protector of People of the Art brings her hammer down on Art Fool’s head.

Art Fool: Ouch.

Chorus: The Protector of People of the Art’s hammer hurts!

Art Fool: You’re telling me.

Protector of People of the Art: I’m sorry to be so rude.

Chorus: The Protector of People of the Art is rude, yet politely apologetic!

Protector of People of the Art (surveying the work in Art Fool’s studio): Fool is grating!

Chorus: Ouch!

Protector of People of the Art (surveying the work in Art Fool’s studio): Fool is shallow!

Chorus: Ouch!

Protector of People of the Art (surveying the work in Art Fool’s studio): Fool is self-satisfied!

Chorus: Ouch!

Protector of People of the Art hits Art Fool on his head with her hammer again.

Art Fool: Ouch.

Protector of People of the Art: You, Art, are a fool!

Chorus: Fool!

Art Fool: I’m a Fool; what did you expect?

Chorus: Clever!

Protector of People of the Art: Why on earth is this foolish stuff getting so much play?

Chorus: Why?

Protector of People of the Art: Is it because art flirting with advertising is risky?

Chorus: Risky!

Protector of People of the Art: Is it because it is post-ironic?

Chorus: Post-ironic!

Protector of People of the Art: Is it because it is fun?

Chorus: Fun!

Protector of People of the Art: NO!

Art Fool: No?

Chorus: No?

Protector of People of the Art: NO!

Chorus: No!

Protector of People of the Art: It’s old!

Chorus: Old!

Protector of People of the Art: Dull!

Chorus: Dull!

Protector of People of the Art: And cynical!

Chorus: Cynical!

Protector of People of the Art: Bleh!

Chorus: Bl…is “bleh” a word?

Marcel Proust enters on a giant pen. He rides it like a horse.

Chorus: It’s Proust! He’s a writer!

Proust: Yes, bleh is a word.

Protector of People of the Art: Bleh!

Chorus: Bleh!

Proust: Bleh!

Protector of People of the Art (clutching her heart): It sort of hurts.

The Protector of People of the Art half-heartedly hits Art Fool on the head.

Art Fool: Ouch.

Protector of People of the Art: Art Fool, you seem like a fine fellow on email and I, Protector of People of the Art, fear your response.

Chorus: R-S-V-P! R-S-V-P! R-S-V-P!

Enter Art Historian. He enters on a chair made of art history books.

Chorus: It’s Art Historian! He knows his art history!

Art Historian: Allow me, Protector of People of the Art, to pontificate with you on behalf of Art Fool because I know bigger words than him.

Protector of People of the Art: Pontification accepted, Art Historian!

Chorus: Art fight!

Art Historian: Art about art is nothing new.

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am the Protector of People of the Art!

Chorus: The Protector of People of the Art knows art about art is nothing new!

Art Historian: Throughout art history, artists have begged, borrowed and stole from other art.

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am the Protector of People of the Art!

Chorus: The Protector of People of the Art knows throughout art history, artists have begged, borrowed and stole from other art!

Art Historian: Of course, any Protector of People of the Art worth her salt would know sometimes the content, sometimes the style—sometimes both—of earlier works of art is integrated into new works of art that comment, critically or satirically, on the art that provided the point of departure.

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am the Protector of People of the Art!

Chorus: You know a lot of things when you’re Protector of People of the Art!

Art Historian: Then Protector of People of the Art, of course, knows there are many reasons artists borrow from art. Art is always about art, and art history is a cumulative progression of what has come before.

Enter Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel sitting at a lectern.

Chorus: Give it up for famous and obtuse philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel!

Hegel: Art, like mind or spirit, manifests itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that ultimately become integrated and united, such as those between nature and freedom, immanence and transcendence, without eliminating either opposite or reducing one to the other.

Chorus (confused): Uh…what he said!

Protector of the People of the Art (changing the subject): I hear Vermillion has lovely food and drink!

Enter Foodie. He’s eating and only speaks with his mouth full.

Foodie: Their prices on small bites are fantastic! The beets were delicious, along with the salamis and cheeses.

Chorus: This tragedy is making us hungry!

Art Historian: No doubt Protector of People of the Art knows artists have an interest in knowledge of art—it’s part of what makes them artists—and they draw on this knowledge as readily as they draw on any other experience that influences their art. Robert Motherwell said…

Enter Robert Motherwell at his easel.

Motherwell: Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which everything he paints is both an homage and a critique.

Chorus: Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which everything he paints is both an homage and a critique!

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am Protector of People of the Art.

Chorus: You know things when you’re Protector of People of the Art!

Motherwell: Then Protector of People of the Art knows I was born in Aberdeen, Washington, and my greatest contribution to art history was to use the staging of my work to convey to the viewer the mental and physical engagement of the artist with the canvas, and I was married to Helen Frankenthaler.

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am Protector of People of the Art.

Chorus: We saw Motherwell and Frankenthaler sitting in a tree

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes love

Then comes marriage

Then comes baby abstract expressionist in a baby carriage!

Art Historian: Surely Protector of People of the Art knows more times than not that the borrowing of previous art is direct…

Chorus: Direct!

Art Historian: undisguised…

Chorus: Undisguised!

Art Historian: and unapologetic…

Chorus: Unapologetic!

Art Historian: often displaying insolent humor…

Chorus: Insolent humor!

Art Historian: satire…

Chorus: Satire!

Art Historian: and parody.

Chorus: Parody!

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I am Protector of People of the Art.

Chorus: You know a lot of things when you’re the Protector of People of the Art!

Art Fool: Why is Proust here? I have no idea what anybody is talking about. My head still hurts. Some collectors like my grating, shallow and self-satisfied art. Some critics too.

Protector of People of the Art (crestfallen): Then, alas, the Protector of People of the Art has failed to protect those people of the art.

Enter Art Critic. A Hello My Name is ART CRITIC sticker on his lapel identifies him as such.

Chorus: It’s Art Critic! He conveniently just so happens to be an art critic!

Art Critic (mock anointing Art Fool): I dub him King of the Iconoclasts!

Protector of People of the Art (she anoints Art Fool on his head with her hammer): I dub him King Shallowness I!

Art Fool: Ouch!

Art Critic: I enjoy Fool’s tongue-in-cheek swipes at familiar or beloved icons using photographs of elaborately set-up dolls, toys, plastic food and anything else he can find.

Protector of People of the Art (impressed by her wit): I suggest he find another career!

Chorus: Ouch!

Art Critic: It is no stretch for Fool to make art about art using…

Chorus: Elaborately set-up dolls!

Art Critic: Toys!

Chorus: Plastic food!

Art Critic: And anything else he can find!

Protector of People of the Art (impressed by her wit): I suggest he find another career!

Art Critic: You already used that line.

Enter Gail Gibson, gallery owner displaying Art Fool’s work.

Chorus: It’s Gail Gibson, owner of the G. Gibson Gallery on 300 S. Washington, open Tuesday through Friday, 11 to 5:30; Saturday 11 to 5; or by appointment!

Gibson: Why is the Protector of People of the Art so cranky about this Fool’s work? It’s fun, contains historical reference and sells well to collectors.

Chorus: Cat fight!

Protector of People of the Art: It is disallowed to parody artists who parodied the art world!

Gibson: You know I love you, Protector of People of the Art, but interpreting Warhol’s Flowers with Easter basket grass and cheap floral-patterned plates is a viable exercise in art about art for an artist who makes art from “anything else he can find.”

Protector of People of the Art (impressed by her wit): I suggest he find another career!

Gibson: You already used that line.

Chorus: C-c-c-c-c-c-cat fight!

Art Historian: Furthermore, Protector of People of the Art, artists often also make art about their materials and other artists.

Protector of People of the Art: I know that, I’m Protector of People of the Art.

Chorus: You know a lot of things when you’re the Protector of People of the Art.

Enter Jim Dine in a representation of his studio.

Chorus: It’s Jim Dine. He’s a famous artist!

Dine: More than popular images, I’m interested in personal images, in making paintings about my studio, my experience as a painter, about painting itself, about color charts, the palette, about elements of the realistic landscape—but used differently.

Chorus: Ergo…

Art Historian: Ergo, if an artist who makes art from “anything else he can find” were to do a portrait of, say, artist Jeff Koons he just may do said portrait from the source material Koons himself finds in the aisles of a well-stocked retailer.

Hegel re-enters.

Hegel: That sounds logical to me and I’m a famous philosopher.

Enter Jeff Koons with a shopping cart full of his source materials.

Koons: I’m Jeff Koons and I’ll buy that, especially from an artist who makes art from “anything else he can find!”

Protector of People of the Art: I suggest he find another career!

Chorus, Fool, Proust, Historian, Hegel, Foodie, Motherwell, Critic, Dine, Gibson and Koons: You’ve already used that line!

Protector of People of the Art (defiantly): I suggest again and again and again ad infinitum he find another career!

Enter playwright Samuel Beckett.

Beckett: Just as long as it’s not playwriting!

Art Fool: Ouch!

END

Samuel Beckett can rest easy; I'm no playwright, so I didn't write a play. For one thing, aside from a really lousy play, I thought such a response would have been grating, shallow, self-satisfied and rude. I took solace in some more of my mom's imagined wisdom, "Son, just because you're a bad artist doesn't mean you're a bad person." Furthermore, I doubted I could hold my own in an art history arm wrestle with the Protector of People of the Art. 

Plus, I couldn't come close to the hissy fit Julian Schnabel threw on 60 Minutes when queried about Robert Hughes' criticism that he was "to painting what Stallone was to acting." If I couldn't hissy fit with the best of them, I wouldn't hissy fit.

(Yes, I know I mentioned this Hughes Schnabel-is-Stallone-with-a-paintbrush quote before, but I like Hughes's Schnabel-is-Stallone-with-a-paintbrush quote.)

And then there were the maybe just maybes. Maybe just maybe Graves was right. Maybe just maybe I was shallow, grating and self-satisfied. Maybe just maybe people of the art needed to be protected from me. Maybe just maybe I was a fool to think I was an artist. Maybe just maybe I should retreat back to advertising. 

But maybe not.

So, I decided to do what Jen Graves feared most: more "grating, shallow, and self-satisfied" art. I took a piece she particularly disavowed, Basquiat Gets Famous and Dies and printed her review right on top of every 1,680 square inches of it, completely obliterating the offending piece of art.

I called it She Loves Me Not (Portrait of Jen Graves). Art about art criticism! 

I sent it to her.

She said I was an "incredibly good sport."

And printed another scathing review of my work two days later. 

The Protector of People of the Art's work is never done!  

Apparently it is also often successful: I was dropped from the Biennial a few weeks later. Job well done, Protector! The People of the Art will sleep better tonight thanks to your diligence. 

Then some funny things happened.

The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington picked up a Make-Believe Damien Hirst Spot Painting (LSD) for its permanent collection. The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, Henry Art Gallery!

The Museum of Art at Washington State University picked up an Andy's Owies for its permanent collection. The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, Museum of Art!

The Art of Elysium charity auction in Los Angeles sold a Shopping with Jeff Koons (3) to what they tell me was "a highly respected collector." The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, "highly respected collector!"

I did a reading of Hitler Saved My Life at the Art Directors Club in NYC. Afterward, I sold three prints of She Loves Me Not (Portrait of Jen Graves). The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, proud three owners of She Loves Me Not (Portrait of Jen Graves)!

Advertising legend and surfing aficionado Lee Clow offered to make me a personalized surfboard for a She Loves Me Not (Portrait of Jen Graves). The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, Lee Clow!

(Hopefully, the surfing gods will protect me.)

If you Google image search Damien Hirst, my Make-Believe Damien Hirst for the Love of God appears on the first page of returns. The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, Damien Hirst!

My mom asked for one of my Make-Believe Warhol Flowers for Christmas. The Protector of People of the Art failed to protect you, Mom!

Thank you, Protector of People of the Art.