a collection: the jewish pop art princess

day after day, 2010

sometimes my job makes me want to pull my hair out. and then sometimes i get to do something really cool. like fly to nyc to interview a serious new york artist for a new digital series.

it’s exciting when a germ of an idea undulates through the creative process and eventually morphs into something very real, something you can be proud of.

last week, i did in fact fly to nyc, i did in fact meet a celebrated american artist and i did in fact have the opportunity to sit down with her to talk about art, inspiration and of course the great american songbook (because really what else is there).

meet deborah kass. one part yentil, one part sass pot and two very big parts creativity. she would never call herself famous, but she’s not unfamous either. unconsciously cool perhaps. all one has to do is look at her velvet cloaked smoking slippers to know she’s that hipster, all grown-up. that girl, who doesn’t even realize (or perhaps she does) how subversively ahead of the curve she truly is…and it kills you.

having gabbed on a panel with andy cohen two weeks ago and developed the lauded warhol project two decades ago, kass has deeply sunk her teeth in the pop conscious of art culture.

the jewish jackie series, 1992

and if that isn’t proof enough, some of her work is currently being featured at the met’s exhibit regarding warhol: 60 artists, 50 years. not bad for someone who actually never got to meet the man himself.

however, what’s got halston (aka yours truly) buzzing is deborah’s first-ever retrospective at the warhol museum in pittsburgh set to open this weekend: before and happily ever after.

the exhibition regales audience members with 30 years of history. american broadway lyrics meet bright colors and political undertones with jarring distraction; warhol-type silk screens are reimagined under the iconography of the greatest jewish bubby princess of all times (barb streisand, duh) and the demise of our country’s fate is vocalized through neon swirls and primary color blocked texts.

sitting with deborah was as profound and blunt as most of her work. she is entirely unapologetic about her lack of fashion sense as well as her obsessive love of the celebrities in her work…which in fact are not quite celebrities, but rather her heroes as she calls them. cindy sherman, frank stella, linda nochlin, elizabeth murray. ashamedly i only knew half the names, but seeing her face twist up in happy admiration left me feeling slighted, making a mental to note to learn and find what i’ve been missing.

she mused on nostalgia, emphatically declaring it is one of the most horribly underrated emotions (genius truth), the narrative of optimism that clothed the immigrant class post-wwii (including her own family), and waxed poetic about her favorite television show, glee (what else would you expect).

deborah’s own narrative is loud, tendentious and filled with showtunes. a woman after my own alter ego. she has that innate new york-born-and-bred armor…a seemingly impenetrable toughness. yet, underneath it all, a warm, yet frenetic energy exists. it is that energy that crosses over into her work and makes her art…and her, immediately loveable.  pretty neat for just another friday at the office.

to see more of the interview, tune in to halston’s facebook page monday at 2pm eastern.

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One thought on “a collection: the jewish pop art princess

  1. Pingback: Read my shoes | Mimi Berlin

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