Everybody is an artist

And I decide that I am too


NYU also had a set of core courses every undergraduate had to take, so I struggled through physics, doodled through the writing workshops, and flirted with an aspiring director all through Literature of Film.

To my surprise, however, I enjoyed the required course in Art History. It was a fascinating way of looking at world history, not through kings and battles but through visual objects.

Although the teaching suffered from an everybody-is-equal-always political correctness (one professor painstakingly explained how a lopsided pre-Columbian pot was the equal of a European old master) I liked the subject, and it ended up being my second major.



Union Square, 1985, with an early version of hair extensions - in plastic! - glued to my head. Note that S. Klein has been torn down entirely.


A degree in Art History prepares you for nothing more than a lifetime of being a bore in museums, explaining to your unfortunate companion that the canvas you are looking at is the artist's early period, which is so much better than his later period.

Art History did, however, have the virtue of being a true liberal arts education, teaching me how to think, as opposed to my journalism courses, which were glorified vocational training.

It also gave me a lifetime of confidence around bad art. Others may say, "I don't know much about art. Is this good?"

But thanks to my time at NYU, I can say, "You know, I was an art history major, and this is absolutely dreadful."



At the time, everyone with a Manhattan mailing address seem to fancy himself or herself some sort of artist.

If not a dancer or an actor or a painter, then an artist at making omlettes, or a pick-up artist. No study or discipline was required: these were the days of the punk ethos, learn by doing.

So the streets of Soho and East Village were full of homemade posters, band posters, political posters, and just-for-the-art-of-it posters.

In those days just before home computers became popular, a great deal of street art was based around another recent technological marvel, the photocopier.

"Xerox Art", the clipping and pasting bits of magazines into angry and ironic collages, was big among rebellious teens of minimal talent, like me.


Poor Children From Texas


I collected a lot of postcards and pictures for my Xerox art at local art galleries. One day at a gallery called White Columns, on White Street in Soho, I saw a painting I particuarly liked called "Poor Children From Texas."

I went back several times to see it, but in my student poverty I could have no more purchased a painting than I could have purchased an aircraft carrier.

I did take a copy of the free catalogue that came with the exhibition, however, and for some reason it struck me that I could easily photocopy the Poor Children from Texas onto sticky-backed mailing labels.

I made hundreds, perhaps thousands of copies of the painting, which I stuck on lampposts and scaffolding all around Greenwich Village, the East Village and Soho.



I had no real purpose, but then again I had plenty of time. It just seemed like a cool thing to do.

When my stickers were taken down or faded in the rain, I went around and put up some more. In the rather lawless city of the time, nobody ever challenged me.

I got a great thrill when I saw that some other street artist had noticed the omnipresence of the Poor Children and had decided to specialize in covering up their heads with tiny stickers of his own. He used red circles with the faces of the Three Stooges.

Idea, response, all for the pure joy of it. Now, that's art.



Next: My exotic college jobs, and why I know how to get out of a straitjacket.

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