The Wisdom of John Waters


You may have seen our interview with John Waters in the September issue of Baltimore Style, on newsstands now. While he had many wise, wonderful things to say about his upcoming retrospective (on show at the BMA beginning in October), there was far more to the interview than fit in the confines of our print pages. Below, some more of Waters’ words of wisdom.

On his photography: I always say if I worked in publicity I’d be a failure. I take the worst pictures, or pictures of things you’re not supposed to see. It’s low tech. I take them off of the TV screen with real film. It looks worse than the movies themselves. The movies I made that were the worst quality look the best [in the photos].

On ‘bad movies:’ There’s no such thing as a bad movie. If you understand my show, there will never be a bad movie. You’ll look at the most inconsequential thing in the frame. That way, it’s always a good movie… If the movie is bad, don’t walk out – look at the frames. Look at the things you’re not supposed to concentrate on – the ashtray, the couch, the art hanging on the wall in the background.

On the sign that inspired his “Study Art” series: I used to see the sign. It was in the shape of a palette and it said “Study art for fun or profit,” which is the most blasphemous thing you could say in the art world today. To me, it was perfect, because they had no idea that that could be the worst possible thing. They wouldn’t care. And the school must have been popular, because the sign was up for a long time.

The art world, the one that’s famous, is a tiny portion of why people want to become artists. People in the art world that want to be noticed or to be remembered. That’s completely different from outsider artists.

On shock value: “Pink Flamingos” still works. If you’re 18 and you’ve seen everything, it’s still going to shock you. Ever since I made “Pink Flamingos,” I never tried to top that. If I was still trying to shock, I don’t know where I’d be. I probably wouldn’t be doing this show.

I think Hollywood makes bad shocking movies now. That’s why I made “Pink Flamingos” into a children’s film. I’m always trying to surprise you. Shock is easy. It’s harder these days to surprise people.

On where he fits in within the art world: Who knows? I’ve always shown in good galleries and museums; I’ve been accepted into that world. I’ve always said that the art world is like a biker gang. It’s like being in the Holiday House in Baltimore. There are special clothes, special terms. It’s great.




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