“Indecent Exposure” is the new John Waters exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art. And hard as it is to believe, it’s the first such exhibition in his hometown.
Of course most know Waters from his films, ranging from the outrageous comedies starring Glenn Milstead (better known as Divine) up through more lighthearted romps like Hairspray, Cry Baby and Serial Mom. But he’s been creating pieces of visual art since he was a repressed Catholic kid growing up in Baltimore.
“And I haven’t made a movie in 15 years,” Waters confesses while guiding a tour through his satirical pieces that often poke fun, ask viewers to rethink both celebrity and calamity and generally tweak the noses of the establishment.
There’s a sculpture of Ike and Tina Turner, in which the famed soul singer is depicted as a dancing as a puppet on strings operated by her husband. You’ll find a curtained gallery that opens to reveal a dozen derrières winking at passersby. Visitors are treated to a pair of baby dolls featuring the fully adult faces of Charles Manson and Michael Jackson (after multiple plastic surgeries) called “Playdate,” and even images juxtaposing cinematic sci-fi disasters (think flying saucers smashing into American landmarks) opposite photographs taken during the 9/11 attacks.
Among the most striking: images of Divine playing Jackie Kennedy in a piece called “Zapruder,” which revisits the film of that fateful day when her husband was killed while riding in a limo next to the First Lady, a baby carriage festooned with logos of sex clubs fixed with a leather harness rather than safety straps, and a portrait of Justin Bieber called “Justin’s Had Work,” that illustrates his features so smoothed over as to be otherworldly.
Anyone who’s seen Waters’ work on film will instantly recognize his irreverent visual approach to art — including a giant spilled bottle of amyl nitrate (aka poppers) below a giant sign in campaign button style that exhorts patrons to “Have Sex in a Voting Booth!”
The exhibit continues through January 6. Miss it, and you’ll regret it.
Last modified: October 17, 2018