Everybody has pictures of their friends doing fun things and if you hold onto them long enough, they might just be seen as something other people are interested in. Today billions of pictures a week are shot and plastered all over the internet (what will happen to all of these photos, who knows?) But this week three shots I’m in (and two I took too) were all in NYC galleries, a feat I have never managed before as I’m primarily a painter. Here are my stories of how this happened…
Tseng Kwong Chi; Performing for the Camera
Last month the fab retrospective of photographer Tseng Kwong Chiopened at the Grey Art Gallery at NYU. I knew Kwong, who was famous for his Chinese national costume portraits and documenting a lot of Keith Haring‘s public works. They were pals along with a lot of mutual friends like Ann Magnuson, Kenny Scharf, Bruno Schmidt, Pilar Limosner, Walt Cessna (my ex) and others. But when I walked into the exhibit one of the first pictures I see? A group shot of all of us on Halloween in 1988 at Kenny Scharf’s studio. The only thing was – I took the picture, not Kwong! It took some time to unravel the mystery of how two shots made it into his retrospective, but after I met up later with Muna Tseng, Kwong’s sister who manages his estate, I discovered the large print, along with another I took of Kenny & Kwong (left), that were blown up really large for a dual show of Kwong & Kenny’s work for an exhibit at Eric Firestone‘s gallery. When this retrospective got organized, the big prints were included in this show, as well as the book which I recommend. Actually, I’m thrilled it happened this way. Back in the day, I would shoot 35mm black and white film and then get little prints made of selects at Duane Reade, for like $1 each or something. When it was a group shot or a particularly good one, I’d make multiple prints and mail them to friends. Kwong died 25 years ago, not long after Keith, and the images were found among his things. As I said, I’m happy about the pictures seeing the light of day, as well as the pretty lady “realness” drag of my youth. Just wish a few other people were around too...
David Armstrong, Mark Morrisroe, Nan Goldin; Boston to New York
I once designed graphics for art galleries. It was my business. Invitations, catalogues, ads. The Pat Hearn Gallery was near me in the East Village and Pat Hearn, the person, was a friend. She came to New York along with a group of photographers and artists who are now very well-known; Jack Pierson, David Armstrong, Nan Goldin and Mark Morrisroe, all of who are in the new Whitney‘s opening exhibit, America Is Hard To See. Pat hired me to design a poster/fold-out invite (that’s now kinda collectible) and introduced me to Mark Morrisroe. We became friends and he asked to photograph me with my dog Spot in my apartment at the Christadora House. I had just gotten a MAJOR flat top haircut the day before, somewhat shocking if you are used to me with a shaved head of today. Mark was a really intense guy, who was a street hustler at one time and walked with a sever limp, but he was such a sweetheart one-on-one. He took about 8-10 shots, I still have one. There’ one he kept in a book on his work. These two small images are now up in this new show at Clamp Art in Chelsea, if you want to see them up close. Sadly, Pat, David and Mark are all gone. That’s the great (and sad) thing about photography freezing time for us to remember people and moments.
Friends In Deed, Benefit Photo Auction
Another friend thing, in deed, Tom Cashin, the charming partner of Jay Johnson, both of Jed Johnson Interiors is a friend and BIG supporter of the AIDS organization Friends In Deed. I’ve contributed to their auctions in the past and volunteered to contribute this year. I thought I would feature a shot from a new photo series I’ve been working on, but as the time got shorter I realized I couldn’t have it framed properly, and so I decided to include a vintage Polaroid shot of the late Warhol Superstar, Jackie Curtis. Back when Polaroid was still “a thing” you could send them shot and they would blow it up and frame it for you. So I did just this one test, this shot of Jackie. It was taken at a series I used to do at The Pyramid for Straight To Hell magazine; The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts. I had a full-time job in the art department of Vanity Fair at the time but every Sunday night, I hosted different downtown luminaries like John Waters, Fran Leibowitz, Kenneth Anger… and Jackie Curtis come talk or perform at the club. When I see the line-up of people it was kind of amazing. The magazine was true stories of gay hook-ups that was edited by my friend, Victor Weaver (that’s me on the cover, btw) Anyway, I put that shot in the auction and everyone seemed to LOVE it. Tom bid on behalf of mega-collector Beth Rudin DeWoodyand won it, so I’m thrilled. And Jackie got her moment in the sun for everyone to appreciate her again. Sadly, she died a few months after this shot was taken of a heroin overdose, which I believe was accidental. She had just gotten “married” to a young guy and was very happy here. Another moment frozen in a week of them on display.