To the editors.
The silliest thing I ever read in the Reader was about Nan Goldin being "violated" (her word) because somebody made a few paintings inspired by her photographs [Hot Type, August 19]. She was so "violated" that she wants these paintings destroyed! It doesn't seem like there was much problem over the economic angle--the painting dealer Oskar Friedl agreed to stop selling the catalog and to take the paintings down. This will protect Nan Goldin's livelihood. But these concessions weren't enough for Goldin--or for Catherine Edelman, at whose gallery there is a Goldin show: "Edelman thought she and Friedl had reached an understanding: Goldin would come to Chicago in a few weeks' time and the paintings would be slashed in front of both women." THE PAINTINGS WOULD BE SLASHED IN FRONT OF BOTH WOMEN!!! And Nan Goldin said SHE felt "ripped off" and "raped"!
I'm sure a lot of people were upset when Duchamp put a mustache and goatee on a Mona Lisa reproduction, along with an inscription at the bottom that means "She has a hot ass." But nobody stopped it. And did anybody suggest that Jasper Johns' painting in abstract expressionist style, with a real broom mounted on it, should be slashed, say in front of de Kooning and Pollock because it was an insult to the seriousness of their style? Artists are always folding each other's works into new works--Levine redoes Miro paintings and Walker Evans photographs. And what about all that silk screening by Warhol, Rauschenberg, and others? As far as I know there have been very few lawsuits where there are lots of opportunities. (In the only famous suit, Warhol settled with a lady who had done the original of the big flowers he appropriated.)
Dealer Friedl said, "If I'd be Nan Goldin, I'd take it more as a compliment" that the painter, Polish artist Jacek Siudzinski, had seen her photos in a magazine and done four paintings from them. They are not just BASED on the photos, they are more like copies. Siudzinski's mistake was only in not crediting them to Goldin. Other than that she has no call to complain. Michael Miner remarks in the Reader article on all this that Goldin "wasn't being dramatic; one of the images the Pole chose to make his own was a photograph of a man who had been her lover." And Goldin says of some other "lovers " in a photo, "These are two of my best friends. That's intensely personal." If you want your friends to stay personal in your life, don't take pictures of them, make these pictures part of your international career, exhibit them all over the place, and sell them. Intensely personal! This is the last straw. Goldin has the arrogance of wanting to control not only her art materials and the poses of her models, but also the reaction of the crowd!
She also objects to her works being "trivialized." There is but one way to keep your art from being trivialized, and that is to keep it to yourself. The world will do what it wants with your art and you have no control over that. Trying to control it can only be thought of as part of your art act.
Goldin says that her work is her "diary I let people read." Well again, if you want privacy for you and your friends, then don't let the world read your diary. "The photographs . . . are suffused with longing, frustration, and pain," the artist notes. To me they just look like very technically correct pictures of a lot of bored people lying around in the gloom. An audience for spoiled and often ordinary-looking people will find the photos highly decorative for their condominiums--the pictures have the "tragic" or at least depressed-looking chic that the rich who can afford such things as high-priced photographs like to surround themselves with. If Goldin really wanted to express longing, frustration, and pain, she wouldn't be depicting what look like crosses between yuppies and young punks. She'd set up her cameras at any old people's home. Somehow the suffering of her friends isn't as convincing.
Finally, Miss Edelman and Nan Goldin, I don't know whose idea it was for you two to stand in front of four paintings being slashed in a little weird ceremony, but talk about strong emotion! That experience would certainly be much, much stronger than one provided by a Goldin photo, or all of them put together--or by any number of anybody else's art works. And by the way, art slashing talk puts women's claims to being any better than men back to the Amazons.