Sarah Meyohas

Stock Performance & Financial Gambles

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Buying art and buying stocks are not very different – both are financial gambles that rely on a combination of knowledge, taste, and gut instinct. However, Sarah Meyohas’ newest performance piece at 303 Gallery, Stock Performance Project, takes the relationship a step further by creating art based off of the financial market gamble. The 24-year-old Meyohas also manages the eponymous uptown apartment gallery, garnering inspiration for the project from her curriculum at Yale University, where she was studying finance before taking a decisive plunge to focus on being an artist. Meyohas sat down with us to discuss the genesis of her work, performing before an audience, and realizing she was an artist with the help of Alexander McQueen.

 

Ella Marder: How long had you been thinking about this project?

 

Sarah Meyohas: It’s been almost two years since I started trading stocks with the purpose of moving them. The first time, I remember, I was sitting in my room. I had found this stock called Golden Enterprises and I thought, “Okay! I’m about to put on a really big order.” And then the price jumped. From there, I did it a bunch of times, and that’s where the concept came up. At first I thought “I can move a stock and I can move a price pretty significantly if I pick something that has a low enough volume.” But then, “How do you turn that into a representation that has some teeth to it?” For a while I kept trying to build my ideas into the paintings, but that was not working, and then I realized my words, myself, and the gallery would all be part of it. I’m not a performance artist. I’m just a conceptual artist, but the performance is one of the ingredients of this work.

 

EM: And it wasn’t your first performance…

 

SM: It was in a way. January 8th was the first time that I performed it in front of 150 people.

 

EM: How did it feel?

 

SM: It felt great.

 

EM: Did you get an adrenaline rush, or stage fright?

 

SM: I was nervous that people wouldn’t understand what I was doing and where I was going, but I wasn’t nervous in delivering it.

 

EM: And so you feel like moving forward now, you actually like this performative aspect?

 

SM: The thing is, if you perform you’re in character, and I think I already kind of am a character. I’ve embraced that over the years, so it’s always just going to be me.

 

EM: Do you like the idea of being a renaissance woman?

 

SM: I do. The only thing that doesn’t appeal to me about that is if you do too many things at once, you’re never really good at one thing. So I  tend to focus on the same thing. The last three projects all had to do with conceptions of value and different systems. I think I try to implant value so that you can’t untangle it. My project BitchCoin is  a cryptic currency backed by photographs that only have value because they’re printed, which is another analogy to money being printed.

 

EM: Do you think learning from this performance is informing how you’re thinking about your next project?

 

SM: I think I’m starting to find a way of working that just feels right for me and is truthful, which doesn’t always fit so well into the art world. I think a next piece will have to do with land art and ownership of  land.  What if you sold a piece of land and on it there were two huge two-way mirrored dark rooms you would walk into and see whatever the artwork was. There’s an experiential beautiful artwork, but there’s also the land, which might have its own value. Right now oil is down, so what if I got a cheap piece of land that might have oil under it, and then I put a piece of artwork on the land? The piece of artwork would stay there for as long as the artwork is more valuable than the possibility of what’s under it.

 

EM: When did you realize you were an artist?

 

SM: I remember in high school watching an old Alexander McQueen fashion show where the model struts down the runway wearing a circular white dress, and then these robot arms try to see where she is before they start spraying her with yellow and black paint as she turns. It was accompanied by really emotional classical music, and I was enamored by it. For a long time I wanted to go into fashion, but it was that part of fashion that appealed to me – then I decided the fashion industry was not for me, and finance was the natural thing.

 

But then in the spring of junior year I made a firm decision. It was a pretty tough decision to make, especially because I had received offers in the finance sector, so I thought: “Okay I’m going to say no to this for something I have very little experience in.” It was a gut instinct. I had started getting encouragement from people other than my art professors, so that also helped me think I wasn’t crazy. You don’t become an artist unless you absolutely need to, because it’s not easy  at all.

 

EM: I love what you’re doing uptown, turning your family apartment into a sort of exhibition space.

 

SM: The last show, The Birds & The Bees, was shocking to me. The crowd was a different crowd, not the young artists that I usually show to. Roberto Longo came, Stanley Whitney came, Thierry de Duve came. Amazing people came. I’m not even sure of what Meyohas is just yet. It’s not a gallery, it’s a project space.

 

EM: You’ve had four shows there so far, how does it work: you curate, and invite other curators?

 

SM: Really just people I know. I’m curating two women artists for the next exhibition; one is from Chile, Constanza Alarcon, the other from Iran, Shahrzad Changalvaee. It’ll be based on a set of poems written by a Chilean author who got killed when Pinochet took power, somehow those poems made their way to Iran and were turned into songs over there.

 

EM: Are you the last child in the family? Because you are somebody who’s 24 and incredibly accomplished – you seem like a very old soul, the way you talk, and how you go about giving opportunities to other artists with the project space. It’s a very generous gesture that you’re putting out in the world.

 

SM: Ha ha ha! Old soul! I’m not doing it for myself. I don’t need to do it, but I love it.  I like to help my friends. I don’t even know if it’s really helping them. I like to be part of a group. I like to have my crew. I also lose money doing it, because I have to put up all the stuff and I show work that’s not very commercial. But we have freedom. Galleries are forced to be very commercial, whereas we don’t go on the schedule of an institution or have to plan a million years in advance. These shows can happen much more spontaneously.

 

EM: So this idea of the collective, the collaboration, the conversation is very important to you.

 

SM: Yeah, and especially when it’s so hard for an artist in New York to find a place. We all graduated from school, and it was like…”I have a big living room”.

 

EM: If you had one dream of something you would like to see happen, what would it be?

 

SM: The dream is Peggy Guggenheim meets George Soros meets Miuccia Prada.

 

Portrait Photography: Tyler Nevitt for NeueJournal

Karen Kilimnik

Elements of the Spiritual & Occult

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Karen Kilimnik‘s multimedia and multidisciplinary repertoire, although eclectic, has recurring motifs of pop and consumer cultures, with portraits of Paris Hilton, Hugh Grant, and Leonardo DiCaprio encompassing some of her best-known work. But Kilimnik has delved into other facets of art, including immersive installations that use elements of the spiritual and occult, while always maintaining the sharp wit that has made her stand out in the art world. We emailed the artist and passionate environmental advocate to discuss the happiness of food, finding spirituality in walking, and abolishing GMOs once and for all.

 

NeueJournal: Do you find that the work you create is part of an ongoing conversation, or do you feel that each exhibition stands independently from your past work?

 

Karen Kilimnik: I don’t know. Probably more the ongoing kind, but both.

 

NJ: Do you engage in spiritual practices daily?

 

KK: I try to go for a walk every day and look at the trees and the sky and the birds – does that count? I have to say, I’m not into religion at all – although I totally love the paintings, sculptures, music, and architecture of Rococo and Baroque churches! A big thank you to the church for that! And I have always loved anything to do with witchcraft and druids and ancient Egypt, too. I also love to go to ballet class and listen to my favorite ballet music. I love Pugni, Minkus, Drigo and lots of others composers.

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hunt for the dinner feast – in the forest with garlands & bow decor 2016 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled, and dated verso KK 4226 © Karen Kilimnik, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

 

NJ: What do you think is the most imperative environmental issue that we have to attend to at large?

 

KK: So glad you asked. GMOS! We must ban them, because labeling is not enough. Have you seen how they want to label them in the U.S.?! With barcodes that you need a cell phone for! Plus the U.S. labels don’t include whether the animals were fed GMOs, and they don’t list exactly which ingredients are GMO, as they do in Europe, Japan, and other countries; it just says ‘may be produced with genetic engineering.’

 

There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organic farming, because GMOs spread and contaminate everything else. The glyphosate is now in our rainwater, soil, and air. We must ban glyphosate and chemical farming and stop the monoculture GMO agribusiness. Who eats fields of soybean and corn?! Also organic raw milk (unpasteurized, non homogenized) should be available everywhere – in fact, all milk should be raw, otherwise it’s bad for your health.

 

GMOs are solely for the profit of the chemical companies and nothing else. We must stop all subsidies to GMOs commodity crops and instead subsidize organic farming and keep corporation out of the organic standards board.

 

NJ: What can people do to become more educated about environmental issues?

 

KK: Look up and join the Cornucopia Institute – keeping organics organic! Also read Cows Save the Planet; Grass, Soil, Hope; Altered Genes, Twisted Truth with a foreword by Jane Goodall; and Prince Charles’ book, Harmony – he’s against GMOs too. Read about the Savory Institute and how global warming can be reversed in a few years by rebuilding the soil through organic farming and grazing. Also human population control.

 

There is one organization I really like working with to keep small farms in Poland from the takeover of corporate chemical and GMO farming: ICPPC – International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside.

 

NJ: If you were a supernatural being, what would you be?

 

KK: I guess I would be a fairy.

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the goddesses Artemis & Ceres return to their niches to sleep after a hard day’s work 2016 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled, and dated verso KK 4232 © Karen Kilimnik, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

 

NJ: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

 

KK: Probably unwanted noise, though given more time I could think of others.

 

NJ: When and where are you at your happiest?

 

KK: I am generally very happy, especially around food.

 

 

Featured Artwork: “going off to the Battle” tapestry – off to a glittering start 2015 Water soluble oil color and glitter on canvas 16 1/4 x 20 inches (41.3 x 50.8 cm) Signed, titled and dated verso KK 4163 by Karen Kilimnik courtesy of 303 Gallery

 

Homepage Artwork: Neptune’s grotto theater 2015 Water soluble oil color on canvas 14 1/8 x 18 inches (35.9 x 45.7 cm) Signed, titled and dated verso KK 4170 by Karen Kilimnik courtesy of 303 Gallery

Liza Lou &
Lawrence Weschler

The Labor of Patience

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Liza Lou rose to prominence in the art world in 1996 with her groundbreaking contemporary piece, Kitchen, which re-created, over a five-year period, a replica of a kitchen made entirely with beads. Since then, the New York native has relocated to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa to open a studio where she has symbiotically employed local women with a mastery in beadwork, creating unique pieces that are testaments to the labor of patience. Having established herself as one of the leading contemporary artists, it was only logical for Lou to sit down for a conversation with Lawrence Weschler, the author and cultural critic who boasts long-term relationships with everyone from The New Yorker (where he was a staff writer) to other visionaries, such as David Hockney and Robert Irwin. The two discussed poetry, translating experience into art, and Zulu beadwork.

 

LW: Let’s start with the evening prayer. In this case, it’s part of a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, the great Nobel-Prize winning Swedish poet. I promised you, Liza, that we’d consecrate the event with a poem. This one is called Sentry Duty, translated by Robert Bly:

 

Task: to be where I am.
Even when I’m in this solemn and absurd
role: I am still the place
where creation works on itself.

 

Dawn comes, the sparse tree trunks
rake on color now, the frostbitten
forest flowers form a silent search party
after something that has disappeared in the dark.

 

But to be where I am and to wait.
I’m full of anxiety, obstinate, confused.
Things not yet happened are already here!
I feel that. They’re just over there:

 

a murmuring mass outside the barrier.
They can only slip in one by one.
They want to slip in. Why? They do
one by one. I am the turnstile.

 

 

LL: It’s kind of hard to follow up after Tranströmer. I think the idea that we are a turnstile is so interesting. It’s saying, right now, this moment is an act of creation. Not looking at finished things. But, having said that, I’m going to show you some finished things:

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Kitchen by Liza Lou

 

The first artwork I ever made that was large-scale was 168 square feet. I made Kitchen over 20 years ago. I think part of what I’ve always been interested in is time and the idea that you change your life in the process of making work.

 

 

LW: This is all beads. This is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of beads over every surface.

 

 

LL: Yes. So around 2004, I started to think, “Man, I’ve been working in this craft métier for almost 15 years. Couldn’t I have the making make some kind of difference? Surely I could go somewhere where people work with labor intensive process and material and who have a history with beads, and the work could actually make a difference in real and quantifiable ways.”  So I started to write letters sort of saying, “I’m this artist and I work in this sort of way, how and where could I be of service?”  And it was suggested to me by the non-profit group, Aid to Artisans, that I go to South Africa. At the time, KwaZulu-Natal was the epicenter of the HIV epidemic and unemployment in the townships was as high as 70%.

 

 

LW: KwaZulu-Natal is near Durban…

 

 

LL: Yes, it’s a coastal town on the Indian Ocean. I rented a dancehall. The idea was to find women who were previously unemployed and desperately needed the work.

 

 

LW: There’s a long tradition of beading there, right?

 

 

LL: Absolutely. Zulu beadwork is among the most beautiful beadwork in the world and it is all woven or sewn. Prior to going to Africa, I never thought about beads as part of a craft tradition. I thought of beads as an art material with a starting point of zero. There was no art historical precedence for beads in Western art and that’s what I loved about them. Going to Africa changed my understanding of the material, and it changed my work.

 

 

LW: How many people are in the group?

 

 

LL: We started with twelve, and today there are 27 people. The piece Maximum Security was something we made after Security Fence. I started to think about chain link as a purely repetitive pattern. Apart from its associations with prison architecture, incarceration, and South African history past and present, I became curious about how far one would have to take an ugly symbol until it could verge on a sense of wonder or even the sublime.

 

 

LW: You wonder both at the beauty and obsessiveness of the process.

 

 

LL:  (laughs) I guess some people might think I’m obsessive, I don’t know.

 

 

LW:  I leave it to you. Describe the lives of the people who work with you…Tell people a little bit about that.

 

 

LL: Well, the difficulty of people’s lives and the way in which they work their way out of extreme situations has been very humbling to be witness to and a part of. I try very much to be of service in that situation and what has been fascinating is that all of that real life is situated within an art context.

 

 

LW: We were talking about the creative process, but before we do that, can you talk a little bit about what it is like to show your work in the first world… in a gallery or a museum. Is it important to you that the process, which you’re talking about, be understood by the people who are looking at it? Or how do you feel about people who might just see it as formally beautiful, or whatever other things they might think of it as?

 

 

LL: For me, the beauty of sculpture and painting is that it doesn’t speak. I really love that silence. It should exist for its own reasons, and ultimately, should stand on its own without explanation. Viewers should be able to have their own personal experience with the work and hopefully it’s a springboard to their associations and experience, which they bring to bear when looking at art.  Of course it would be wonderful if everyone took the time to dig deeper and to find out more, but one has to be realistic. And anyway, a little bit of mystery and silence is not a bad thing.

 

 

LW: Let’s be clear. Your workshop is a workshop. There are 27 people whose families now have educations, healthcare, and so forth. So that’s happening in your studio every day. But come back, though, to how strange it is that people might go and see your work and not experience or know any of that. Does that matter to you?

 

 

LL:  I’m not making art to illustrate a social issue, because the making itself is a social issue. One of the first reactions to seeing my work is often, “how was that made?”  And even if I tell them, there will still be a sense of the unknown. We can never really see how much thinking or love or labor goes into anything. We can never truly appreciate how a rug or a piece of clothing was handmade. There is a kind of silence around labor. There’s kind of a heartbreak that we’re not connected culturally, or in any way, with all that’s made on the ground beneath our feet. I try to weave that disconnect into the work. I did a piece called The Book of Days, and it’s 365 stacked woven sheets. Every single one of those sheets is woven, in this very, very slow labor intensive process that over 30 people worked on for a year. I was just really interested in only being able to see the edges of the stack and the very top sheet. It’s that shimmering around the edges Joan Didion talks about when she describes writing. She could also have been talking about a field of awareness. I mean, how much do we ever really know or see?

 

Portrait Photography: Tyler Nevitt for NeueJournal 

Title Page Artwork: Color Field (2010-2013) by Liza Lou

Rob Pruitt

Rebellion of The Self

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Rob Pruitt’s studio in Brooklyn is exactly as you would imagine it – spacious, busy, with NPR playing loudly and bric-a-brac plastered on the walls, such as printed images of famous people and their celebrity doppelganger. Naturally, the place is also decked with artwork, including one of Pruitt’s famous massive gradient paintings, which reclines against the wall opposite of where the artist is sitting. The D.C. native, who is as clever as he is intriguing, has been an important figure in the art world for over twenty years, with his multi-media and multi-stylistic pieces encapsulating a broad spectrum of creativity and autobiography. With the lull of the radio serving as a phonetic background, Pruitt speaks about the rebellion of the self, his first memory of painting, and his lifelong love affair with Jacques Cousteau.

 

NeueJournal: You’ve often been labeled as post-conceptual. What does that mean to you?

 

Rob Pruitt: Making art with a total awareness of what the conceptual movement made 20 years before me. It’s a little bit of revisiting and it’s a little bit of parody, in the warmest way, and it’s an explanation as to what conceptual art is. I made a project twelve years ago called 101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself, which are little recipes for how to make art. I think what was at the forefront of my mind when I made that project was explaining to the laymen what conceptual art was. Art, I think, exists in a very rarefied space. For example, my parents would walk into museums and not know what in the world was going on.

 

NJ: Do you communicate different messages with different mediums?

 

RP: Switching mediums helps me to shake things up and to think of new ideas. If I get too comfortable with one particular thing, then the whole thing becomes stagnant. I really like to speak in an entirely new technique that’s unfamiliar to me. It feels fresh, like I’m in school again.

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NJ: What’s your preferred medium?

 

RP: Photography. It’s so easy – you just press a button and it’s almost always good. That sounds cynical, but I don’t really show any of this photography that I’m bragging about being very good (laughs). I mean, I don’t even have a fancy camera, I just buy the latest iPhone and take lots of pictures every day. It just feels good to be making some things with speed and ease.

 

NJ: Do you share these photos?

 

RP: I have an Instagram. I think it’s time to redesign it, though, because right now one-third of it is advertising things that I’m listing on my eBay, which is a project that I’ve been maintaining for two years. I list stuff that I don’t want anymore and give all the money raised to a charity at the end of the year. It feels like a nice thing, to turn junk into something that can help a few people.

 

NJ: How would you describe your artistic aesthetic to a blind person?

 

RP: I think I would begin describing it as having almost no virtuosity in any area. Some people are really skilled at getting a likeness to another person down on paper or the canvas, but I don’t know how to do that very well. What I mean to say is, if I’m any better at any of these things than the person across from me on the subway it’s because I’ve been doing this every day for the past 25 years, but I don’t think I was born with any special talent or skills.

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NJ: What made you pursue art?

 

RP: Growing up I was very shy. It was easier for me to communicate with pictures and through drawing. I retreated a lot as a child into my own head and that manifested itself from drawing, not so much from story writing or playing house.

 

NJ: Were there ever any other options for professional pursuits?

 

RP: There were options that I romanticized, but I’m not sure that I would have been good at them. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with Jacques Cousteau, for example, so I wanted to be a marine biologists. I’m 50 years old now, and I don’t even know how to swim – not that you need to know how to swim to be a marine biologist. At another point I wanted to move to Bennington, Vermont and be a potter. I think that I was in love with the lifestyle more than the idea of making pots, but I guess making pots is virtually the same thing as making paintings so…if there was a fork, it wasn’t such a big fork.

 

NJ: What did you care most about when you were 10 years old?

 

RP: I remember I really loved playing with dolls. My sister inherited all of these dolls when the next door neighbor went off to college. She had outgrown her dolls and her mom gave this huge collection of them to my younger sister, but she didn’t really care for them. They were Barbie dolls. I had an old sewing machine and would make clothes for the dolls in accordance to the characters I had given them. I cared tremendously about that, and I also cared that not too many people found out that I was doing this. On one hand I was proud of it, but on the other I wanted to keep it private as well.

 

NJ: What’s your first memory of painting?

 

RP: Around the same age, just under 13, I took some small canvases and jars of acrylic paint to the beach on the weekend with my family and I tried to paint the sea from the beach. It was a mess. Sand got all over the painting. I remember not being terribly distressed about it, thinking that maybe the sand was working out to be a good part of the painting. I think that’s the first time I remember painting, because it didn’t go smoothly and it was a bit of an ordeal.

 

NJ: What was your biggest rebellion as a teenager?

 

RP: I was a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s, and the acceptance of gayness then, even though it wasn’t that long ago, was not that great. So I went to school every day maintaining this secret about myself. Maybe for someone else the two things wouldn’t have been so opposed, but for me maintaining this secret was all I could do. I don’t think I was in a place where I could rebel exactly. I was just trying to not get beat up. Sounds kind of sad, but I actually had a relatively happy experience in high school. It was probably just different from everyone else’s. It’s really strange to be in the committee that makes decorations for the prom but then not go.

 

NJ: Trying to be yourself is a constant rebellion.

 

RP: Yeah, it is. Even though I was maintaining a secret, it was important for me to still let everyone know who I was, with some degree of honesty.

 

NJ: How are you superstitious, if at all?

 

RP: When I get an exciting offer or there’s something on the agenda that I can’t believe is happening to me, I tend to keep it to myself until just before it happens. I don’t want anything to jinx things and have them not happen.

 

NJ: If you could have witnessed any historical event, which one would it be?

 

RP: Cave people discovering fire.

 

NJ: When is the last time you cried?

 

RP: I asked a friend to write an essay for a catalog and it took him a couple of months to eventually send me something. I was in the car with Jonathan Horowitz, my husband-partner, and I had my iPhone in my hand when the essay came in through email. I was reading it aloud and was so moved that somebody took so much time to think about me and what I’ve done over the past 20 years, that I burst into tears as I was reading it. I was overwhelmed.

 

Photography: Harris Mizrahi for NeueJournal 

John Baldessari

The Life Absurd

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John Baldessari is a hard man to categorize, which is appropriate, as he abhors categorization. The artist has been widely regarded as a conceptual artist, but the work he has produced in his lifetime has created a world all of its own, with the only rule being to always break the rules. With a career spanning close to 60 years, the California native created some of the most influential work of the 20th century, then burnt it, then created some more, always reinventing – and teaching – what it means to be an artist.

 

NeueJournal: You’ve famously defied being categorized. What do you think is the danger in encasing people into labeled boxes?

 

John Baldessari: It gives you a limited view of that artist’s work.

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NJ: A motif in art throughout history has been using sadness as inspiration, but you’ve spoken about the creative power in anger. How does using different emotions as catalysts alter your pieces?

 

JB: I’m sure how I feel on a day I’m working on a work affects the way it comes out.

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NJ: “The Giacometti Variations” has become of your most instantly recognizable and lauded collection. By collaborating with the Prada Foundation you inadvertently invited a new audience to experience your work. Was this intentional?

 

JB: I was invited by Miuccia Prada to do the project. I had never done sculpture before so it was a challenge.

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NJ: Many artists have cited the Cremation Project as a poignant precedent for the exploration of deconstruction as a means of creation. What do you think separates using burning as an effective tool from using it as a gratuitous way to shock?

 

JB: When I did the project it was the only effective way for me to stop painting.

 

NJ: Some of your work is quite humorous, but you’ve often said you’re not purposely trying to be funny, rather, that you have a well-developed sense of the absurd. What is the value of absurdity in life and work?

 

JB: I think if one doesn’t consider life absurd, they don’t understand life.

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NJ: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? What is the trait you most deplore in others?

 

JB: Laziness.

 

NJ: What has been your greatest mistake?

 

JB: Not meeting Marilyn Monroe.

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NJ: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

 

JB: Being able to support myself financially.

 

NJ: When and where were you happiest?

 

JB: In the 1950’s with my college girlfriend.

 

Photography: Max Farago for NeueJournal