Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

John Waters On the Work of Jeff Koons and Descending the Staircase Nude

Photo of Shipra Gupta By Shipra Gupta | Indiewire February 26, 2014 at 3:45PM

Waters and Koons may have kitsch in common, but their conversational demeanors couldn't be more different. Whereas Waters remained candid with the audience throughout the entire evening, Koons kept his answers academic. You might even call Koons a bit aloof.
3

"I’d kind of like to start at the beginning and ask you a very Freudian question," said John Waters. "Did you have a secret art life as a child?"

And that's how we fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. At the receiving end of Waters' question was contemporary artist Jeff Koons. Waters and Koons conversation, which took place in the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, was part of The Broad's -- pronounced "Br-OH-d" -- Un-Private Collections Series.

Waters and Koons may have kitsch in common, but their conversational demeanors couldn't be more different. Whereas Waters remained candid with the audience throughout the entire evening, Koons kept his answers academic. You might even call Koons a bit aloof.

Leave it to Waters, though, to keep things real: “But you never felt alienated by art? I remember when I first went to the Baltimore Museum, I bought a little Múro print and brought it home. All the other kids said, ‘Ugh, that’s ugly. Why would you put that ugly thing on your wall?’ I thought, ‘Ah, the power of art.’ It really made me feel glad that everyone hated me. And as a kid, I used to pretend I was nude descending the staircase. I would come down the steps nude and only I knew. That’s what I meant by a secret art life."

Art as sacred? As if! Here are the best of Waters' not-so-secret impressions of Koons' work:

Caterpillar Ladder, by Jeff Koons
Caterpillar Ladder, by Jeff Koons

JW: "Let’s look at the one, number 13. The caterpillar and the ladder. To me, that’s threatening. Everybody knows you don’t walk under a ladder."

JK: "John mentioned the nude descending the staircase -- that was my nude descending the staircase."

Chainlink Fence, by Jeff Koons
Chainlink Fence, by Jeff Koons

JW: “To me, that’s scary. That reminds me of a playroom in a prison. You always look at this other room where the children are supposed to play when they’re visiting their parents that have a life sentence. It’s a joyless place. And I always look at that little room and no one’s in there. No children, anything. Can you look at your work and like it in the wrong way?”

Balloon Dog, by Jeff Koons
Balloon Dog, by Jeff Koons

JW: "...the big balloon dog. Now, is this sexual? Because basically the dog's neutered. I mean the only way it's going to reproduce is on a plate. A limited edition."

After Koons responded that he saw the tail as a reflection of "male energy," Waters quipped: "But it's cleaned up, this dog can't shit. Y'know nobody's going to follow it around with a newspaper bag. It can't have sex. It's neutered in a way -- in a great way. So is it manufactured perfection? Which would be good." Koons insisted that "it's still prepared to have sex."

Girl with Dolphin and Monkey Triple Popeye, by Jeff Koons
Girl with Dolphin and Monkey Triple Popeye, by Jeff Koons

JW: "So this one, y'know, really, I'm against people riding dolphins. Get your lard ass off those things. Bullshit spirituality. However, how do you feel about them?"

Michael Jackson and Bubbles
Michael Jackson and Bubbles, by Jeff Koons

JW: "To me it's your scariest work. Does Bubbles know the truth? A jury thought one way -- does Bubbles know the truth. That third arm."

Party Hat, by Jeff Koons
Party Hat, by Jeff Koons

JW: "Now this is one, y'know, a very optimistic piece it feels. But when I look at it, I always wonder, who deserves to wear this hat? Are children always an ager? Y'know, I guess I'm thinking negative sometimes. Only because I'm saying it's so cheerful that it hurts almost."

St. John the Baptist, by Jeff Koons
St. John the Baptist, by Jeff Koons

JW: "Of course, I look at it so perversely, I look at this symbol, that's what the Manson family did: One in Charlie. I know you didn't have that in mind."

This article is related to: John Waters, Jeff Koons, The Broad, Michael Jackson, Charles Manson, News







SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

We the Economy: Supply and Dance, Man!

Why is the law of supply and demand so powerful? In this whimsical tale, our friendly narrator guides bored students Jonathan and Kristin through a microeconomic musical extravaganza.

More