What do you like to rub all over yourself?

It’s a strange question to ask, ‘What do you like to rub all over yourself?’ but it’s a far better one than ‘What inspires you?’.

There’s nothing like the word ‘inspire‘ to make your dick shrivel up like a cashew in Antarctic sea ice. It’s a dead word. The overuse of words like inspire and passion have made them carry almost the opposite of their meaning.

Installation view of works by Simone Leigh [foreground] and Janiva Ellis at the Whitney Biennial. Photo courtesy Ben Davis.

Who do you want to push down the stairs?

Any time someone says to me they were so inspired by Simone Leigh’s latest work makes me want to push them down the stairs. Don’t get me wrong, I love Simone’s work, I hate people making unthinking, lazy statements.

It’s got me thinking a lot lately about why some people can’t get enough of one thing but are totally indifferent to others.


Tell me more about that.

Right now, I’m writing this in my brother-in-law’s office above his garage. The walls have framed photos of golf courses. There’s framed shirts autographed by, I can only assume, famous golfers. There’s even a few of his hole-in-one trophies. Clearly, he loves golf. But I have never asked him why. What it is specifically about this game that has gripped his soul. That’s a mistake.

By not asking him, I have limited my curiosity. I have put arbitrary limits on things. I have cut myself off. I’ve kept myself in my own pocket, not venturing into the verge, the edge, where different ideas bump into each other.

Women in pink with bouganvillia between two blue canvases

We’ve sealed ourselves off from things we don’t like. That’s a mistake.

It’s part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in right now. We’re not prepared to listen to people who have different points-of-view. Our social media worlds are programmed to only show us things we like. It’s only by seeing things opposite to us that we can get a better understanding of the people on the other side of the street, on the other side of politics and on the other side of the world.


What’s this got to do with art?

In my work, I tear up magazines like Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair which I paint over with a acrylic wash and then tear-up and reassemble to create works of art. It sounds insane now I have written it down. But that’s what I do.

As I do it, I find images that I can’t paint over. I put these together on my studio wall. They become little shrines to things I love. People, colors and shapes mainly.

Some pictures I hold on to for years. Like the runner in bright shorts vomiting into a trash can. The color of his shorts, the shape of his legs, is art.

It’s time to stop curating our lives with things that we think we like. It’s time for us to stop hanging out with friends who all have the same conversations as us. It’s time to ask difficult questions, have difficult conversations, meet difficult people.

It’s time for me to ask Mike about golf. And a Renoir-lover about why the fuck they like his art. Who are you going to have a difficult conversation with?



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