I like art and I like history, but sometimes one distracts me from the other. I started writing a post about a painting I have in my apartment, so I took a picture of the wall where it was hanging. That made me think of Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, the name by which a New York City-based anarchist group of the 1960s is commonly known. It was originally a guerrilla art/protest group called Black Mask, which briefly shut down the Museum of Modern Art and disrupted gallery exhibitions, among other activities. The group evolved into an organization known among its members as The Family (unrelated to Charles Manson), according to painter Ben Morea, who co-founded Black Mask with poet Dan Georgakas. The Family became known as Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers because of a quote in its first leaflet, as Morea explained in a 2006 interview:
“We put out a leaflet explaining why were doing this, but those of us involved realized that we weren’t really Black Mask anymore and so we didn’t want that name on it. There was a poem by Leroi Jones with the line ‘Up Against The Wall Mother Fucker’ in it and I suggested we put that on there. Somehow it stuck and from then on in everyone referred to us as that. It wasn’t a deliberate thing on our part. It would have been fairly pretentious to just name ourselves ‘The Motherfuckers. (laughter)'”
The prose poem by black nationalist LeRoi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka) that Morea quoted was “Black People!“, which urged blacks to rise up against whites. It reads, in part:
“All the stores will open if you say the magic words. The words are: Up against the wall mother fucker. This is a stick up! Or: smash the window at night (these are magic actions) smash the windows daytime, anytime, together, let’s smash the window drag the shit from in there. No money down.”
The founders of Black Mask were white. They said they wanted a revolution for all races. A Black Mask magazine from October 1967 said:
“If the blacks [have] decided to get together with their brothers first, then the whites had better do the same: they can no longer ride the black panther. Yet revolution has no color barrier: if blacks can do it, whites better learn, for only then will Revolutionary power replace Black Power, revolution replace nationalism.”
I spent hours reading about this yesterday and I blame gorgeous New Orleans-based painter/furniture designer/performance artist Sarah Ashley Longshore (call her Ashley!).
It was one of her paintings that I was photographing when I was distracted. I got a big kick out of Ashley’s brightly colored, humorous art when I attended an exhibition she had in New York in March. I was particularly intrigued by a painting that included all my favorite “P” things: pink Champagne, pastries, a purse and a pig.
On her website, Ashley says:
“My paintings are representative of the world I see around me. I am inspired by pop culture and things that I find intriguing. I really like to combine the use of words and images in an unexpected way to create a smart, colorful bold statement. Most importantly my love of color is what really makes my artwork ‘pop.’ My paintings are statement pieces that are a reflection of the experiences I have in my life.”
The painting I liked was 5′ by 4′, and when I went home and measured the walls, there was no room for it. I went back to the gallery with MrB in tow to examine other options, particularly Ashley’s series of paintings depicting Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “I started this series because I was completely tickled thinking about how bossy and bitchy Anna is perceived to be,” Ashley later emailed me. ” When something tickles me, my mind starts racing and I see images.” I was leaning towards Ashley’s painting of Anna as a popsicle …
… but MrB preferred this one.
Ashley emailed me about her inspiration for “No Fatties Allowed” painting:
“A woman was telling a story about Vogue and Anna, and someone said that she ‘HATES FAT PEOPLE.’ I also heard that she wouldn’t talk to [Vogue editor] Andre Leon Talley for six months because he was sooooo fat. I thought that was hilarious. I can’t imagine not talking to a good friend for months because she was in a bloated, muumuu-wearing phase. … My biggest fear would be for Anna Wintour to watch me eat or to see me scarf down a cheeseburger from McDonald’s or God forbid she see me after 10 days of Mardi Gras down here in New Orleans. I just love daydreaming about what goes on in that woman’s head …”
Ashley concluded, “I love the fat girl eating cake [reflected] in [Wintour’s] glasses because she doesn’t give a damn.”
If you’re hitting the European art shows later this year, you’ll find Ashley exhibiting in Zurich, Antwerp and Art Basel. Closer to home, she has a collaboration with Anthropologie this fall. And you can always contact her through her website.
Here are a few things that are on my other walls: A portrait of me in the style of Anne Boleyn, painted by my friend Natasha Zupan …
… two rainbow-y paintings I got in Bratislava, Slovakia …
… a giant William Wegman Polaroid of my dogs Gigi and the late Mr. Chubbs …
… my favorite Linda Evangelista magazine cover …
… and a topless photo of Madonna that hangs above my bed.
The wall with the most going on is my stepchildren’s bedroom/guest room. Gorgeous blogger Jennine of The Coveted and Independent Fashion Bloggers lived in it for about a month in 2010. She calls the room “The Frame Room” because all the work- and school-related framed things migrated there. On the small section of the wall shown below, you can glimpse two caricatures of MrB drawn by artists at the Wall Street Journal, where he was the managing editor for 16 years; two original metal printing plates of Wall Street Journal pages; a certificate given to MrB in recognition of a fellowship and, at the bottom, my 1989 diploma from Columbia University.
Seeing my diploma hanging on the wall always reminds me that during the politically and socially tumultuous year of 1968, two activist student groups united to lead a strike against the university. Students occupied buildings, paralyzing Columbia’s operations and taking a dean hostage for a day. The New York Police Department was called in, riots broke out and many students were arrested and/or injured. The intrusion of “real life” — including racial unrest — upon a college campus was a significant cultural event, and it’s detailed in a book by J.L. Avorn, a Columbia alum and former editor of Columbia’s school newpaper, the Spectator, where I’m currently chairman of the board of trustees. The name of the book? Up Against the Ivy Wall. (It’s out of print, but you can buy it used). A year after the student revolt, the Spectator’s magazine supplement at the time published a commemorative game named … Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker! (exclamation point theirs, not mine). You see? Everything comes full circle, even this post.
Jessie in Fashion Limbo says
SOOOO jealous about that Madonna pic. I’ve beem moving around a lot for the past months so I still have most of my possessions at a friend’s place in France, and one of the things I miss the most is a print of a picture of Madge taken during the Sticky & Sweet tour. But this one you have is from the really early days, and it’s amazing. Love the Anna Wintour art, especially the one you went for. I especially liked this blog because you include the artist’s intentions with each work of art, and the creative process is something that fascinates me.
Fantastic and truly interesting post xx
That's Not My Age says
Very interested to read about Black Mask – I’ve never heard of them before. Love the Anna Wintour paintings, hilarious! One day I will have a frame room.
I remember reading your post from when you purchased that painting from Sarah Ashley Longshore – She’s cool. I love the art you have in home. I briefly looked at her furniture and it’s awesome. Will have to check it out in greater detail when I’m not at work.
I love that it was actually MrB who selected the “No Fatties Allowed!” LOL
That was a great exhibit and I loved Ashley’s work. She’s very original and I like that she is not just a painter… she’s an artist.
You have the best pix and artwork in your apt!!
OMG — you should commission Ashley to do a painting of FitzRoy. He’ll definitely sit for it — for at least 18 hours straight.
Couture Carrie says
Love your artwork, darling!
And that portrait of AW is awesome!
Susan Partlan says
I love your in-depth pieces Wendy. Ashley’s a wonderful artist. That Anna Wintour painting with No Fatties Allowed is one of my favorites of her. But the Anne Boleyn painting of you is my favorite of the pieces shown here. Very cool.
If memory serves, a Jefferson Airplane band member shouted “Up Against the Wall Motherfucker” at the end of one of the songs on the original Woodstock album.
Miss Conduct says
As soon as I read the title of this post, Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” began playing in my head. It will be there the rest of the day. Anyone over 35 who has ever consumed alcohol in a bar in Texas knows the chorus. Seriously, ask any Texan to bellow it out for you. I had not heard of Black Mask nor the poet Jones/Baraka, but I have to wonder if Walker, who is from New York, was inspired by them.
Of course, I had to look it up and now it’s stuck in my head too. I knew it was risky but I couldn’t resist.
Did you ever add the gold identification to your painting of Anne Boleyn / Brandes? I don’t see it in this photo, and thought it was such a brilliant idea!
No! I’ve been remiss. I really should do that.
daphne debauchee says
Love your jewelry. Love your blog. Thanks for introducing me to Sarah Ashley Longshore. Love her work.
Thanks for stopping by! I adore Ashley’s work. So fun.
I’m so glad you linked back to this– somehow, I missed it…. but I love seeing a New Orleanian featured! (And totally feel her on “How would Anna respond seeing me after 10 days of Mardi Gras?”
She’s a great gal. Love her sense of humor.