At Mason Dixon on Tuesday night—with Christmas cancelled in Squaresville—the art-is-democracy-in-action crowd from Creative Time were living it up with free booze. Ah, the noblesse obliges! “They manage to get people involved that would never normally touch art,” Sina Najafi, the editor of Cabinet magazine, explained. Despite straw hats and a mechanical bull, however, all wasn’t rosy for the artists and their boosters.
I tripped over two guys having an intense squabble. Aaron Frank—a gangly modern sculptor in a wool hat—was being accused of “slackerism.” Kareem, his bookish pal, was annoyed the sculptor hadn’t taken an art scholarship. “I’m an earnest anarchist and he’s a jaded nihilist,” Kareem told me.
Aaron sucked down some bourbon. Then he chased it with beer, nodded and said, “I’m just not a very good artist.” Kareem threw up his finger triumphantly, “you see, he’s the genius that doesn’t have to move a muscle!”
An ancient Euro specter with slicked back gray hair and tight wrap-around shades was standing in the dense crowd looking for 1986. Watching him, I remarked to the two artistes, “Everyone else is really young.” The tall enfant terrible smiled and said, “Yeah, I don’t miss the old timers.”
Miranda, a petite brunette first wave style punk—and an intern at Creative Time—had just graduated from NYU and was worried about her prospects. “Yeah its tough now, trying to make rent is a lot harder than writing a paper,” she said staring at her glass of free whiskey. I peered in at the cool little red pin she was rocking on her vintage black leather jacket. “It’s Obama.” Oh, rock on. “I don’t know if he’s punk but he’s awesome,” she said a little defensively.
I moseyed back to the mechanical bullring in back, where the crowd had drifted after the open bar closed. Anne Pasternak, the chair of the shindig, peeled me away from Nato—an intense curator from LA—and pushed me to the front of the line. Full of liquid courage and with visions of Monty Clift in The Misfits dancing in my head, I told her to hold my notebook. “Saddle up partner,” said the buckaroo flipping the switch. Jolts, jerks, catcalls and cheers—I’m thrown. The chorus went up: Is he alive? Can he still feel? It was art. And everyone understood.