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John Waters: Cult filmmaker, cult leader or art thief?

June 8, 2010 |  9:00 am

Watersdrawing It’s hard to describe what makes Mike Kelley’s work so disturbing and appealing at once.

But John Waters—who says he would love to be known as a “cult leader” instead of “cult filmmaker” one of these days--has a dead-on description in his new book "Role Models."

In one chapter, he talks about living with the artist's work in his New York apartment and Baltimore home. It almost makes you want to live with Kelley too.

His opening gambit: “Mike Kelley is one of my roommates. Yes, the man who made pitiful seem sexy by turning grimy thrift-store stuffed animals into heartbreaking, jaw-droppingly beautiful sculptures by placing them on stained blankets on the floor or facedown on card tables next to one another like dead Jonestown suicide cultists.”

He also talks about a sculpture that got away, which consists of “nothing but a cardboard shipping box filled with soiled, packed-up cat toys, uneaten pet food, and wormer medication that obviously didn’t work,” with “death of your pet” sympathy cards pinned above it.

The work is now owned by MOCA, and he says that he just might break in. “Guards, trustees—you have been warned. I like that sculpture more than you do!”

Can someone please ask John Waters to curate a Mike Kelley show? The cult leader will be in town to give a talk on "neurotic happiness" with Carrie Fisher at the Aratani Japan/America Theatre Tuesday.

--Jori Finkel