Director John Waters Has a New Art Exhibit

John Waters - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

John Waters - H 2015

The 'Hairspray' helmer’s exhibit opens Friday at Marianne Boesky in New York, and here, THR gets Waters’ take on his work and the imperfection of film and art

A new exhibit of art by the cult film director John Waters (aka “The Pope of Trash”) opens Jan. 9 at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City’s Chelsea. Like Waters’ previous shows (the last was in 2009), Beverly Hills John mashes up and distorts images, terms and tools of the trade from Hollywood, pulp fiction and contemporary art — often distinct worlds that Waters, 68, says he has moved among seamlessly for more than 50 years (informed by his subscriptions not only to The Hollywood Reporter but also to The National Enquirer and The Art Newspaper). He titled his arresting photo sequence “Shoulda!” (2014) after Kroger Babb’s 1949 exploitation movie “She Shoulda Said ‘No!’” (“my favorite title ever,” he said). The piece includes images of Hollywood women who died in tragic ways, like Whitney Houston, Patsy Kline, Anna Nicole Smith and Amy Winehouse. His series of imagined plastic surgery gone wrong, courtesy of Photoshop, features Justin Bieber, Lassie, and Waters himself looking like the worst of the Beverly Hills Housewives. The director-artist walked The Hollywood Reporter through the exhibit a day before its opening.

The Hollywood Reporter: You made a hilarious, new 74-minute version of your X-rated 1972 cult film Pink Flamingos, rewritten as a “desexualized sequel” — a children’s movie with an all-kid cast. Why did you decide to exhibit the video here, in this way?

John Waters: I don’t think of it as the next movie in my filmography at all.I don’t want it showing in a movie theater where people have to come in and take a seat and have to watch it straight through. You understand what the piece is if you watch it for 20 minutes.

I love the kid in the red wig – she is a ham!

She’s like Mink Stole!

Tell me a little bit about how you reconcile your work in the worlds of art and of film, pop and pulp culture?

I have gone to great lengths in my career to keep my art career and my film career completely separate. But my art work is as equal to me as making movies. And this is an art show about editing, and curating.

In what way?

Well, I’m editing images from movies to make other “little movies.” I call some of these art pieces that. But they are completely not to be shown in a movie theater. They’re to be hung on a wall. They are like storyboards. They tell a story. You read them left to right. So it’s another way to write, in a way. I’m taking images out and putting them in a completely different context that has nothing to do with what the original director had in mind.

Beverly Hills John, 2014

Let’s talk about this piece “Missing,” where you have what looks like a film grab of a woman’s head at the top, a blank space in the middle, and then her lower body below?

“Missing” is taken off the TV screen, from one of my old movies, which makes them look even worse. And believe me, my old movies look bad! So I’m taking it to another generation of poor technique! In [my film] Cecil B. DeMented, he says that “Technique is nothing more than failed style.” And I believe that.

“Missing” also seems to be referencing those magic tricks where they cut they lady in half…

Well, it is. And this was kind of like celebrating the broken splices of my old movies. Or the end of a reel in 16 mm when it flapped and so you see it cut off and all the dirt and scratches that are at the end.

So you are celebrating the imperfection that you are not allowed in Hollywood?

Well, or anywhere. I’m celebrating the imperfection of the film and art world. And embracing it. And trying to say once you embrace it, it’s not an imperfection anymore. It’s perfect.

This conversation was edited and condensed. For more information about “Beverly Hills John,” visit