The creature known as the dandy has become, now more than ever, an endangered species. With the waters being crowded with boring metrosexuals, crummy hipster beards and the most banal of them all, the fake tanned gym rat, where are the true peacocks of the world?
Over the past few days, I've been haunted by the spectre of Fred Hughes. Best known for bridging the gap between underground art and the portrait-artist-for-hire world for the legendary Andy Warhol, Hughes was as striking of a figure as his boss. Originally from Texas, Hughes was a born dandy with an aesthetic eye for everything in his life, whether it was paintings, people, clothing, knick knacks and perhaps, life in general. Pseudo-adopted in his college years by the de Menils, who were heirs to the Schlumberger oil fortune, they took the young art history major on significant art buying trips in New York and Europe. Soon, “Le Dauphin” crossed paths with Warhol and history was made. It was Hughes that was with Andy when he was shot by SCUM manifesto writer Valerie Solonas. It was also Hughes that led Andy to all sorts of chi-chi portraiture gigs, affording Warhol to take more risks with the art that actually mattered but also to force the art world at large to really examine what is art. To this day, there are people that vehemently loathe Warhol and his art, but anything that makes you feel that strongly must have something there. Part of the genius of Warhol is that he completely left it up to you to judge and whether or not it was deemed art, he just kept quiet and kept creating.
Hughes went on to be executor of Andy's estate after he passed in 1987 and per the request of Warhol's will, founded The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. A few years later, Hughes was forced out due to infighting with the organization's president, Archibald L. Gillies. However, the ultimate setback was being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which ended up taking his life in 2001.
It may seem odd that this semi-bohemian, DIY loving, strictly working class girl from the South to be thinking of a man who was as chic and dandified as Hughes, but much like Warhol himself, he was a man that came out of fairly humble origins (his father was in the furniture business). Despite that or maybe even because of this, he was able to, thanks to a hawk-like sense of art-keen and a lack of fear, to be this raging, omnisexual creature of sheer style. Due to all of these things, he crafted the kind of exact life he wanted, with only an unpreventable health issue getting in the way. On top of all that, I love anyone who is fully committed to just being whomever they truly are. So many live the life of the worst sort of regret, which is the kind born of “what if.” There are few things that I personally find more haunting than that. In addition to that, a cat like Fred Hughes absolutely loved art and even better, was reportedly the inspiration for the title character in Paul Morrissey's “Blood for Dracula.” Fred, I salute you, no matter whatever assortment of bitchy things Bob Colacello wrote about you in “Holy Terror.” The world needs more people who are not afraid to be striking and more importantly, not afraid to be.
With a lot of buzz bounding about with awards season, it always make me wonder why we put so much stock into these things. Of course, all creative people, myself definitely included, want if not outright crave attention, respect and affection. That's the truth and there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting feedback and appreciation for your hard work. That's just human. However, the big fallacy with awards, whether it is something as big as the Oscars or as small as an online poll, is that the truly deserving rarely win. It's like someone cut off the multiple heads of your high school's student council and those heads grew into a rainbow assortment of awards shows. Think about all the great artists who have never won versus some of the milquetoast equivalents that did. If you want to know the best way to support your favorite artist, fuck the awards and give them something they can actually use.
Like a livelihood.
A nice statue isn't going to pay anyone's rent or feed their kids. Buy their books, watch their movies, listen to their music, look at their paintings, etc etc. Let them know that their message in a bottle isn't just rotting away into the ether.
If you need something fun, splashy and trashy to wash away the bitter taste of my mini-rant, then check out my piece on the great 80's horror film tome, “Bleeding Skull” over at Dangerous Minds. Still needing a refreshment? Then wash that bad boy down with my “Employee Recommendations” at the fabulous Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog. You'll be glad you did!