Visit the museum on Saturday, March 21, and see a lecture by iconic filmmaker John Waters as part of the American Pictures Distinguished Lecture Series. His talk will explore Letter of Resignation by the great abstract expressionist Cy Twombly. The series is made possible though a pioneering partnership among Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The event takes place in the museums’ Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, and begins at 4:30 pm, with doors opening at 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public; tickets will be released at 3:30 pm at the G Street lobby information desk on a first-come, first-served basis. Limit of two tickets per person. More information is available here.
This 1995 portrait of John Waters is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collections. Painted by his neighbor Joseph Sheppard, the portrait shows Waters seated in front of the Italian poster made for Desperate Living, which depicts two of the movie’s stars, Jean Hill (left), and Mink Stole.
Waters, dubbed the “pope of trash,” draws the subject matter for his outrageous, shocking, often X-rated films—including Mondo Trasho (1969), Pink Flamingos (1972), and Desperate Living (1977)—from life in his native Baltimore. Their offbeat and earthy grittiness has influenced many other filmmakers. Waters says he purposely stooped low for the sake of “shock humor,” which he described as “making people laugh at things they would never laugh at if it were real.” However, in a surprising turn of events, his 1988 film Hairspray received a PG rating and then became a prize-winning Broadway musical.
The American Pictures Distinguished Lecture Series will continue with lectures by critically acclaimed novelist Jamaica Kincaid; internationally recognized New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast; and leading Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. Kincaid will discuss the painting Kept In (1889) by Edward Lamson Henry on Saturday, April 11. Holzer will examine John Henry Brown’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln (1860) on Saturday, April 18. The 2009 series concludes on Sunday, April 26, with Chast’s exploration of Charles Addams’s famous cartoon Boiling Oil (1946). More information on the series is available on the website of the C. V. Starr Center.
John Waters / Joseph Sheppard, 1995 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Rita St. Clair / © 1995 Joseph Sheppard