Van Gogh’s ear. Schnabel’s head.

I’ve got a ton of art to post. Not all of it is good, but it’s all interesting. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Here’s a double-dip.

Elmgreen & Dragset
Van Gogh’s Ear

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Another large-scale public piece at Rockefeller Center. It’s a 30′ upended swimming pool. It works best if you don’t know it’s there. You turn a corner and are met with this displaced object. It’s comical.

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I’m not sure how they arrived at the title. Does it look like an ear? Elmgreen & Dragset’s previous installation was Project Marfa, a Prada store located in the middle of the desert in Texas. Equally pointless. Nice contrast and angels.

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This errie giant is standing sentinel at the Whitney. It seems as pointless as the previous piece but I like it.

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Urs Fischer
Standing Julian
Wax, pigment, steel and wicks

It includes wicks because it’s a candle. This is a wax statue of Fischer’s friend, fellow artist Julian Schnabel. The idea is that the wicks are lit each morning when the museum opens. It’ll burn down and be discarded. There are two wicks; one is on his shoulder.

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The clothing is made of steel but passes convincingly as cloth.

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The cast of Schnabel is a remarkable likeness. The mold can be repurposed. Fisher should create an army of Schnabel candles. He can sell them at Pier 1 Imports.

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The second wick is inside his head. I wonder how long this has been burning?

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bins

May 18, 1992

I called Lucy and accidentally slurred a couple of words. She asked me if I was drunk and I decided to run with it and told her yes, I was. I said I had a few glasses of wine and pretend to be drunk. I continued to slur a word every now and then and say things I’d never say sober. I occasionally threw in a cuss word.

I told her I thought she should change her mind about dating me. She said she’s a nightmare to date and she’d only make me miserable in the end. That’s probably the best piece of free advice I’ve received in a long time. I sure would like to see her naked, though. I occasionally think she’s ready to crack and surrender herself to me but then I look in her eyes and I see there’s nothing there. Do you know how sometimes a girl will look right inside of you and give you a soulful, sorrowful look that tells you everything you need to know? I get the opposite from Lucy. One look and I can tell she feels nothing for me.

She asked me to come over a couple of times during the course of the conversation. I told her Kat was going to Atlantic City over Memorial Day and that I’ll be staying in her condo in Long Beach in her absence. She stamped her foot and wanted to know why I hadn’t invited her along. Is she really that stupid?

On Saturday I had comps to a Broadway show, “A Small Family Business.” It’s by Alan Ayckbourn, who’s one of my favs. I met Maureen at the theater but once we got there we decided we’d rather see something lowbrow. We tried to give the tickets away but had a hell of a time. People in New York are so full of suspicion. Nobody wanted them. We were on our fourth couple when I finally thrust them into a guy’s hand and said if he and his girlfriend didn’t want them, they should pass them on to someone else but to NOT THROW THEM OUT.

We ended up seeing “Wayne’s World” in a disgusting Times Square theater that I wouldn’t bring mom into. It smelled like cats sprayed all the seats. The plaster was cracking and there were big holes in the ceiling. It smelled bad and looked worse. [Note: this is what pre-gentrified Times Square was like. I don’t miss it.] Sinéad O’Connor sat in front of us. She was with a gigantic bodyguard.

The movie was stupid, just like everyone said, and also very amusing, just like everyone said. We ate pizza and ice cream before the show and bought popcorn at the theater, which tasted like cat urine. We were kind of sick afterwards. I got home in time to see Geraldo Rivera box Frank Stallone on Howard Stern’s TV show. Geraldo got a proper ass-whopping. His protective headgear wasn’t on secure so when Stallone punched him, it would slip a bit and he couldn’t see. Hilarious.

I’m reading a book of essays by David Mamet. He says it’s no longer a thrill to see his words in print or spoken on the stage or screen. What a dick. Even if you felt that way, why would you say such a thing?


The storm that ate Manhattan. I took these from my office window on Thursday at 4:00. This entire sequence took 30 minutes.

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71 thoughts on “Van Gogh’s ear. Schnabel’s head.

  1. I love the Schnabel piece, that’s cool as shit. I remember seedy Times Square in the 90s, and am ashamed to say I haven’t seen it since. I used to love going to the movies and sitting near celebs like it was nothing. I’ve been revisiting those college days in New York… lots of stories there and your posts inspire me to keep [re]writing them. AND, inspire me to return to the city again soon. 🙂

    • To be fair, that’s not Schnabel’s piece, reet? It’s great to stand next to. Gigantic. Real gravitas.

      If you haven’t been here for that long you’d be shocked at what you saw. I guess that goes for everywhere. 27 years is a long time.

      • I’ve been in the city, just not in Times Square. Though, to be fair, I was in and out a few times before I met my first husband – which was before 9/11. And then not again until 2013, when I took my daughter up for her 8th birthday. I was definitely feeling a bit of culture shock after so long.

      • Times Square is very, very crowded these days. There’s a lot of bitching and moaning about it, and I get it, but I still think it’s the lesser of two evils.

        You brought your daughter here for her 8th birthday and avoided Times Square? How did you pull that off?

  2. Awesome photos of the storm! The pool standing in its side…. I passed by a row of those every day as a kid, on the side of the highway advertising in ground pools. I remember thinking they did look like ears. And kidneys. Art. Who knew?

  3. Yep. Dear old Marfa, Texas where it gets hot as hell has some weird artists. The art communities in west and southwest Texas are mostly artists that came from some other place. I don’t get wasting energy on making an ugly piece of art called an upended swimming pool turned on its side. But then my idea of art is old fashioned. I dig your weather photos. Those were some mean looking clouds that dropped a huge amount of rain quickly.

      • Cadillac Ranch is west of Amarillo which is in the Texas panhandle. Texas millionaire, Stanley Marsh, got a san Francisco art collective called Ants something or the other to help build his project. I’ve never been there. Amarillo is quite a distance from Marfa. The original site had to be moved due to highway expansion, I think. You should visit Texas someday, especially Big Bend National Park. Marfa is sort of in the general area if memory serves me. You can look at the area on Google map and get a sense of the vastness of west Texas. You would either like or hate Texas but the people are friendly still, I think. 🙂

      • That, in a nutshell, should tell you everything I know about Texas geography. For some reason, I always thought it was in Marfa. Have you heard Springsteen’s ‘Cadillac Ranch?’ a spiffy tune.

        Texans are the friendliest tourists in New York City. And I’m not joking about that.

      • I’ve not heard Springsteen’s song but now I’m going to have to get that CD. I like his music a lot and have one CD or did. Somebody stole it from me at work.

        It’s good to know that Texans are friendly everywhere they go. Your observation made day.

  4. I get that dickery sense from Mamet too, by the way I’ve seen him pose with cigars. I have a photo of me doing the same on my blog image carousel thing, but I haven’t written like Mamet. We did “Sexual Perversity” scenes in college though, when I was in theater, and man it was fun acting Mamet. My wife did her MFA project on his White Oleanna and I think her contempt for him rubbed off on me somehow. I like the little Kung-fu move in paragraph 2 there, about Lucy being the opposite, nothing there in the eyes. And it’s funny, the gentrification of Times Square. It seemed like it happened over night, to me. I didn’t go to the city that much, and part of the reason was what it was like just emerging there from the Greyhound Bus station to all that rank piss and pigeon bum action. How’d they clean it up? Did they use Van Gogh’s ear? Happy Sunday. Bill

    • ‘Sexual Perversity’ is a great play. Much better than the movie it was adapted into. I was a huge fan of his for many years and would see anything he coughed up but his latest works have been lazy affairs. His Broadway show with Al Pacino last season got across the board bad reviews. It kind of deserved it. Hope he regains his mojo. Hope I get mine.

      I chased that woman for years and it was all for nothing. She only ever made me feel inadequate and unworthy. With friends like her, etc.

      Gentrification is a class A felony but I don’t have any warm feelings about old New York. I just remember being scared shitless when I rode the graffiti-strewn subways. Old times there are best forgotten.

      • Beauty. Yes, much better than the film. Rob Lowe got his mojo back didn’t he? Not like Robert Downey Jr though. I remember your post about that show with Pacino I think. I’ve pursued women that way too, you have to. It makes for good writing, at least. Like taking vinegar straight, good for the organs.

  5. In this weather, this Van Gogh Ear sculpture feels like a waste of a perfectly good pool. If they put this sculpture horizontally, filled with water, and allowed people to experience this work of art from within, they could get a better appreciation of art from New Yorkers and tourists.

    • Is it melty up by you, too? Good Lord, how can people stand this year-round, I wonder? The city gets extra-stenchy when it’s this bad. And that’s saying something. They’ve opened up the fire hydrants. The pool, however, remains upended and dry.

      • I now live basically out in the woods up north, work in an air-conditioned office also out in the woods – as in, people-actually-see-bears-on-campus woods, and commute in an air-conditioned car, so it’s not that bad here. But I spent enough time in NYC to know exactly what you’re talking about.
        Which is why I thought it’s a waste of a pool.

      • In NYC, I’m never happy unless my underwear is sticking to my ass. Hate to be so graphic but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

        I lived in Phoenix for 18 months. You never really felt the outside most of the year. Too damn hot! You moved from one artificially cooled environment to another.

  6. Let’s see. You make a statue of a friend and then arrange it so the back of his head melts away. A great subject for a Psych 101 course, I think.

    As for the pool – I’m thinking I could take the broken pink baby pool I have in my backyard and upend it in the front yard, and then sell tickets. I did take a photo of it, which I posted on Flickr, and it got quite a few views. One can never be sure what might appeal to the masses.

    Needless to say, I’m not art-oriented.

    • I think that’s called passive/aggressive. I’m sure he did it with Schnabel’s consent but it still looks kind of disrespectful.

      In all fairness to Rockefeller Center, the exhibit was free. Even THEY didn’t have the gall to charge admission. I wonder how projects like this get financial backing?

  7. I have to say that I like the wax giant. Melting like that seems… artistic, no? I’m not so sure about the pool.

    You should really have tried to date Sinead O’Connor, Mark. Nothing would compare to that.

    That first picture of the storm is fantastic. I can’t think of many things to do that are better than sitting on my porch and watching a storm roll in. I drag the kids out there all the time to do the same, and after initial resistance, they hang out for a good long while, dodging raindrops.

    • I concur. Upended pool = lazy. Candle sculpture = creative. Please don’t ask me to justify those opinions. They are what they are.

      O’Connor joke = not quite as bad pool exhibit. A backhanded compliment if ever there was one.

      I miss having a porch for that very reason. I loved sitting out there in the porch swing watching those torrential summer cloudbursts. This wasn’t quite the same but I’ll take it.

      Nice to see you, sir. Hope all is well. Hope you’re enjoying your summer.

      • I am indeed. Hope you are too. Yes, my humour is slipping a fair bit, but I used to think Sinead was really hot. She had attitude, and those pipes.

      • Me, too! My, what beautiful eyes she had. Pretty hard to pull of hot with your head shaved but she did it. I remember seeing pictures of her with hair and it was everything you’d expect.

  8. I’m trying to drag my mind away from the fact that you had comps – comps! for god’s sake! to an Ayckbourn play and…you went to a crap movie in a flea-pit…are you the urbane fellow I had dinner with????
    There are cities where an upended pool *is* art.New York is one.Thank you.

    • Here’s the REALLY funny part…that Ayckbourn play TANKED. It opened and closed all within a couple of weeks. It just didn’t work for some reason. I must have smelled a fish, is why I gave up the tickets.

      The pool is more fun in person. It’s fun looking at people’s reactions when they turn the corner and aren’t expecting it.

    • I am in a secret society that gets comps and deep discounts. to lots of shows. I don’t make the kind of money it takes to see as much theater as I’d like, so I had to seek out alternative ways. It was born from necessity. There are a number of papering services available, none of which I will reveal in a public comment section. Who needs the competition?!

  9. You have one helluva view outside your office window! Compared to you I work in captivity. Our windows are frosted, so Godsend and I try to judge what it’s like outside by the light and what the temperature says on our smart phones. If I open the window, all we get is traffic roaring down Queens Boulevard and the seven train. On Thursday, we would have also gotten buckets of rain.

    I love the Standing Julian sculpture, and yeah, it does look a lot like Schnabel, except what’s he doing in kinda/sorta street clothes? When I saw him on West Broadway a few years back, he was wearing pajamas. As for the upended 30′ swimming pool called art, I wish I made whatever Elmgreen & Dragset are paid. That would afford me the time to write something long form that might resemble something worth reading. What charmed lives those guys have.

    No theater this weekend, but I saw the new Ghostbusters film. It was a a lot of fun. Take the wife and kids. If you see it, the best joke is a line of dialogue, which I will NOT give away here, that’s spoken toward the end when Kristin Wiig’s character asks a question that Kate McKinnon’s character answers. That response was hilarious, and it might be your favorite line, too.

    • I am very, very lucky to work where I do. I’m on a high floor in The New York Times Building on 41st/8th. We have wrap-around views of the city from very high up with no other tall buildings around to obstruct. I’ve worked in some crap places. I was two floors underground at Citicorp Building. It was windowless and you could hear the subways go by. We were like vampires.

      You should get over to the Whitney to see that sculpture. It’s fantastic. There’s also a big Stuart Davis exhibit. Do you know him? He’s in my top 10. It’s a great show. I’ll visit again before it closes in September. Some things bear repeating.

      I hear Kate McKinnon steals the movie. Anything inappropriate for a 10-year old? If it’s PG-13, I won’t take her. Her head will be filled with garbage soon enough. My pal saw ‘Privacy’ at The Public last night and loved it. I hope I win the lottery because I want to see it and that’s the only way I’ll get to.

      • No, I’m not familiar with Stuart Davis so I just checked him out. You’re right, very cool work. Godsend, who’s a graphics designer, would be much more into it than Milton, who can be so persnickety. We didn’t see Ghostbusters together because he’s one of “those guys” determined to hate it, but he had to see it at its very first screening. He didn’t admit it was good, but he admitted he loved Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pine and then he said a lot of nasty blather about the rest of the cast, that I completely disagree with. I thought the entire cast was great, I loved the spot-on cameos (again, I’m giving you NO spoilers) and it was just a real feel-good comedy starring funny women. It is PG-13, not because of language or sex (if there was any sex, I didn’t notice), but a 10-year-old might be frightened by the ghosts. If she’s the type of kid not freaked out by scary monsters, I think she’d be okay with it. But, I’m not a parent and my niece, when she was young, was easily freaked out over EVERYTHING. Milton, The Boss and I are seeing Privacy next week. The Boss piggybacked off our membership and that’s why she let me blow over an hour of work-time last Thursday ordering my tickets to the Public’s upcoming season. That ordering process was a nightmare.

      • Have you been to the Whitney since it reopened downtown? You should go. They did such a great job. And there’s some really cool exhibits there right now, which isn’t always the case. Stuart Davis is a graphic designer’s delight.

        I’m pretty sure my 10-year old would have nightmares for the rest of the summer, so we’ll pass on Ghostbusters. My 14-year old, on the other hand, can’t wait. Her AND her friends.

        Lots of audience participation at Privacy. Hope you’re okay with that.

  10. I like the swimming pool Mark – it says so clearly that the same design is used for multiple applications – Van Gogh’s ear. Humans chose the swimming pool shape but the ear is natural and is an example of Fibonacci spiral – the same as the Milky Way or pineapple surfaces. Fascinating subject.

    The wax head/candle is really neat too. It must have been expensive to make the first one, but with the mold made,subsequent copies would just be the labor and cost of materials – pennies.

    Your diaries are brilliant as always Mark- so real. Thank You.

    • It’s true, the shape of the swimming pool is reminiscent of an ear. Or a kidney. I remember kidney shaped pools being a big deal at some point.

      The most fun aspect of the candle is just how much it looks like Julian Schnabel. It’s amusing to watch his head melt away. Thank you for your kind words about my journals. These were frustrating years to live through, but now I’m just amused.

  11. Your journal entries are such great time pieces of the era: Howard Stern’s awful TV show (which I never missed), the Wayne’s World movie (which I admitted to no one that I saw — four times), Frank Stallone (seriously? Wow), etc., etc. It all takes me back. Even the faux drunk move, which I admit to doing once or twice in the hopes that… well, never mind. Keep posting them, please.

    • I was so miserable at the time I wrote these. I wrote because I felt I needed a therapist but couldn’t afford one. In hindsight it doesn’t look like I was having all that bad of a time, does it? Youth is wasted on the young.

      Not only do I remember Stern’s TV show, I remember that specific episode. Poor Geraldo gamely tried to fight but he wound up pretty beat up.

  12. Wayne’s World always reminds me of Bohemian Rhapsody. I hope you enjoyed that bit of the movie.

    Maybe you should have just told Lucy that you’d like to see her naked. From what you’ve said about her, that might have had a better chance of success than anything else.

    • I liked the movie just fine. It was very 1992. I’m not sure they needed the sequel, which is almost always the case.

      I’m pretty sure if I told Lucy I want to see her naked that would’ve been the last time I ever heard from her. By soft-selling it, there was always hope, dim as it was.

  13. Hey shouldn’t the wax sculpture be of Edna St. Vincent MIlay? You know, I burn my candle … Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

    Love, love, love the storm photos.

    I want you to know I’m “watching” the convention. They keep running and rerunning Melania Trump’s emergence from the limo. She looks downright virginal in that white dress. Let’s all hearken back to the good old days ….

    I am not listening to any of the convention, though. My stomach ain’t that strong.

    • I tried to watch because I think it’s the responsible thing to do. I got as far a Scott Baio (political kingmaker) and some post-Baio commentary and was so bored out of my mind that I bailed out. What a bust. Except the plagiarized part. That’s pretty funny stuff.

      Edna St. Vincent = low hanging fruit, but well done, just the same.

  14. I bet there’s a huge market for personal, life-sized candles… You could have one made for a funeral… I would like the image of myself slowly melting before my eyes. Day after day… maybe I need to make one for my deck, and I can start burning it now?

    • What an excellent idea! A marketing scheme ready to be tapped into. You can sell them on QVC. I wonder how difficult/expensive it is to create the mold? It really is creepy and lifelike, which is what make it so amusing. A caricature just won’t do.

  15. I’m with Daisy, i think there could be a huge market for life-sized candles especially in the ego-centric America we live in, imagine how many the Donald alone would order, (great article in the New Yorker about him and the guy who ghost wrote the Art of the Deal)… and to go a bit Mamet, i’m always fascinated by your trials and tribulations with women, i had much different experiences with the fairer sex, looking back it was one area of my life where i was quite successful… and i used to call my ex-neighbor Frank Stallone, guy looked just like him, found out he was an ex-Pagan who turned and then got tossed out of witness protection for perjury, i had the bastard pegged, figure he was an ex-undercover narc or a criminal, gotta love the burbs…

    • I saw the New Yorker article. You’re not going to believe this but Donald has written that guy off a jealous hater. He tweeted the ultimate kiss-off by telling him to have a nice life.

      I had good periods and bad. It just seems this was a rather dry moment. I’ve started to post these things chronologically instead of just hopping all around the calendar, so the times when I was without seem more stark, I suppose.

      Are you sure it WASN’T Frank Stallone?

  16. I like the Standing Julian too. It subverts what could be a rather luvvie idea — paying “homage” to one’s arty friend — by destroying the image all the time. I’m quite surprised you can get away with lighting fires in galleries in NYC. I always think of America as obsessed with “health and safety” (whilst being overrun with guns of course).

    The unrequited lust/love anecdotes really do chime with me. I’ve been on the end of the Lucy look too many times, and whilst I have now resigned myself to nothing developing with Wendy, it still pains me to recognise the scores of little signals she sends to keep me within the boundaries she set. So it’s always good to be reminded that you’re not the first one to suffer like that.

    • A homage or an insult? Destroying an effiage in some countries can get your head separated from your body. Clearly, Mr. Schnabel can take a joke. Or a homage, whichever the case may be. And they’re not proper fires. It’s two tiny candles. What’s the worst that can happen?

      Sir, you are not the first to suffer this particular indignity, nor will you be the last. It’s an ongoing misery. The shoe is on the other foot, as well, for you, as it was for me. During that period of time, I had someone hoping for something that would never happen. And it never did.

      • The size of the candle doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the fire. I’m pleased they allow it.

        My friend Erica got a First in her Fine Art degree. For her final show, she made a wedding dress out of all her violent, jealous ex-husband’s letters. Then set it on fire.

      • That’s a fantastic idea! I would’ve loved to see it. The fire wasn’t indoors, was it? Too bad you can only do something like that once.

        What did you think of the upended swimming pool?

  17. Yes, she did it in an art gallery in Barrow-in-Furness, one of those fucked up no-hope English towns that councils think that modern art can rescue.

    Didn’t like the swimming pool. So something looks like something else? Take more drugs.

    • I admire a town pining their hopes on modern art.There’s something hopeful about it. I guess I have a soft spot for that sort of thing.

      I didn’t like the pool very much, either. There was something pedestrian about it. Like they were trying way too hard.

  18. I like melting candle wax man. He looks totally content to be melting. He’s accepted it.

    My guess is that even though you don’t think that girl was interested in you, I think you eventually saw her naked as you hoped. You weren’t drunk, but you were acting drunk, and she still invited you over. That’s a good sign. I think she wanted to do some naked stuff with you. Yes?

    • So a melting head as a Zen exercise in acceptance, is that what you propose? Okay, I like it.

      Are you ready for this? That girl and I became roommates. She moved into my two-bedroom apartment for a while. We never once laid a hand on each other. It was never even close. If a girl doesn’t want me, I don’t pursue her. It’s embarrassing.

      • It takes a good dude to not try to get in every girls’ pants and value the friendships of them, even when you want to get in there. Those moments of pleasure are usually regrettable. Friends should be friends and naked friends should be naked friends.

      • Not only are theose moments of pleasure regrettable emotionally, the sex is usually quite bad. It’s never what you hoped it would be. And then it’s impossible to be in the same room together

  19. That melting wax head fascinates and repulses me at the same time.

    Yes, very dickish comment from Mamet.

    Popcorn that tastes of cat urine? You have quite the imagination or maybe your palate serves you well. I could be terribly crass and crude and make reference to something else. But I won’t.

    Apologies for my tardiness, I’ve had a terribly hectic few months as you know.

    • My dear, I wish you wouldn’t apologize for being tardy. It’s so unnecessary. Attendance is not mandatory. You have a terribly hectic live, as I know. I’m on a bit of a break myself. It’s a bit liberating, truth be told.

  20. I want to be Lucy who can give soulful looks and stamp her foot whilst still on the phone.
    The melting wax statue is creepy and Exile you cannot call Ayckbourn highbrow IMHO.

    • We thought that simply the act of going to a Broadway show indicated an evening of highbrow entertainment. We were young and didn’t know any better. Now, all these years later, I can say that some of the lowest forms of entertainment I’ve seen have been on Broadway. Truth.

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