David Bruce: Art Anecdotes

• Tarina Tarantino creates fashionable jewelry and is the head of her own company. Her hair is also fashionable: hot pink. She says, “I got married with pink hair. I had two babies with pink hair. And I’ll be an old lady with pink hair.” To make her particular color of hot pink, her hair stylist mixes four shades of colors. Why hot pink? She explains that she “wanted to experience a way of living through color.” Once, a woman in a coffee shop said to her, “You must have a very tolerant boss to allow you to come to work with pink hair.” Ms. Tarantino replied, “Actually, my boss has the same color hair.” As the head of her company, she has to manage a staff of design assistants and factory workers. One young employee was unhappy with her performance review, so she asked Ms. Tarantino to speak to her mother. Ms. Tarantino replied, “Your mother doesn’t work here.” Her office and manufacturing facility is called the Sparkle Factory, and in 2011 it moved to another building on which the graffiti artist Banksy had received permission to paint an exterior wall. He painted a picture of a girl on a swing—the word “Parking” had been turned into “Park.” Ms. Tarantino got her big break when actress Cameron Diaz wore a Tarantino bracelet to the 2002 Oscars. These days, Ms. Tarantino believes, movie stars all have consultants who tell them what to wear. These days, her own big break “would never happen.”

• The Guerilla Girls engage in activism for artists who are women or people of color, frequently by creating posters. The Guerilla Girls wear gorilla masks and are anonymous, taking on the names of deceased famous women creators. As you may expect, they get support from other women. Once, they received this letter from a woman who was a secretary at a museum in New York: “I work for a curator you named on one of your posters. You’re right. He’s an [*]sshole. Here’s $25.” In addition, the Guerilla Girls’ posters frequently include information about how many women artists are or have been in shows at museums or art galleries, something that requires research. Guerilla Girl “Rosalba Carriera” says that when the Guerilla Girls asked for the bigwigs when telephoning to do research, they often lost time as their questions were evaded. Fortunately, they came up with a way to solve this problem: “Then we learned not to ask for the boss, but just to tell the secretaries and receptionists who we were and what we needed. Like magic, they always gave us the statistics right away.” By the way, Guerilla Girl “Frida Kahlo” and other members of the group are working on a way to stop war. “Frida Kahlo” explains, “We want to create the Estrogen Bomb. When it is dropped in an area of violent conflict, men will throw down their guns, hug each other, apologize, say it was ‘all their fault’ and then start to clean up the mess.”

• As a graffiti artist, Banksy does illegal things, meaning that he has to work fast and avoid the authorities. When he was 18, he tried to paint “LATE AGAIN” on the side of a passenger train, but in the midst of his painting the British transport police arrived and he had to run and hide under the bottom of a fuel tank. He realized that he needed to paint much faster to avoid being arrested. As he thought this, he looked up at the bottom of the fuel tank and saw some stencilled information. Banksy says, “I realized that I could just copy that style and make each letter three feet high.” He then went home and told his girlfriend that he had had an epiphany that night. She misunderstood and told him not to take that drug because it is bad for your heart. As a satirist, Banksy is aware that many Americans are fat. In fact, he jokes, “A recent survey of North American males found 42% were overweight, 34% were critically obese and 8% ate the survey.” Some North American cities have bike lanes for bicyclists; in a satiric act, Banksy used stencils to create a “FAT LANE.” Among Banksy’s beliefs are “Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent” and “Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a sh*t.”

• In an article for The Guardianpublished in March 2011, critic and writer Germaine Greer explained a few things about art. This is one point she made: “A kid doing graffiti will make no money and could go to jail. There is no truer example of the sacredness of the art enterprise.” Another point she made is this: “Most art is bad, but you don’t get the good art without the bad. Our best artists make stuff they know is bad; the difference is that they destroy it themselves.” As an example, she uses the artist Tracey Emin, who earned an MA at the Royal College of Art. She is a successful artist, and lots of art dealers would love to have the art that she created to get her MA, but they never will. The art did not meet Ms. Emin’s high standards, and she destroyed it. Ms. Greer says, “That’s the kind of thing real artists can be expected to do.”

• Edgar Degas had some interesting encounters with models, according to picture dealer Ambroise Vollard. He once poked gentle fun at a model, telling her, “You are a rare specimen. You have buttocks shaped like a pear, like the Mona Lisa.” The model was pleased by the compliment, and Mr. Vollard writes that “the girl, beaming with pride, would walk about showing off her buttocks.” On another occasion, a nude model looked at a painting that Mr. Degas was doing of her and criticized it: “Is that my nose, M. Degas? My nose never looked like that.” Mr. Degas first threw the model out of the room, and then he threw her clothes after her. She dressed on the landing.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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I’ve been in pursuit of success
so much that I wouldn’t recognize it
if it were handed to me.

Aspirations that grew into
expectations, malignant
and expanding beyond me

I’ve always feared broke billions.
Debt free but benign,
nothing past due and yet
no memories to share.
For all the times I bought tickets
and figured out the details later,
let’s promise to make time for
the things that make us rich
even if they don’t
make us money.

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