This filthy man 

John Waters is known for going against the grain. But he, too, is a staunch advocate for the FAC's future

click to enlarge John Waters
  • John Waters

Even over the telephone, speaking from his Provincetown, Mass., home, John Waters comes off as a caricature of himself.

The eclectic, over-the-top, shock-schlock movie director is trying oh-so-hard to contain himself and act somewhat civilized. But it's an effort made in vain; eventually, the Waters we've all come to know he of Pink Flamingos, Cry-Baby and Cecil B. Demented fame comes to light.

It's only a matter of time.

And then boom! just a few minutes into the interview, it happens, amid an anecdote Waters shares about the last time he came to Colorado Springs and the Fine Arts Center, as he toured the country with his one-man show, This Filthy World.

"I went to a lot of good parties when I was there last time," he says, unprovoked and self-aggrandizing.

"I was trying to talk to all the young people," he continues along, uninterrupted, "the ones that don't fit into their community. They're always the ones that gravitate to me, and they're the most interesting because they can tell you the real lowdown of what's going on in Colorado Springs."

It comes off as slightly out of touch, as if he, in his few visits to this city, has seen a light that so few locals have actually seen. And the key word there (hence the italics) is, of course, real. It spills out of his mouth, with such a high-pitched emphasis and giddy gusto that, surely, it's easy to imagine him uttering it with an ear-to-ear smile plastered across his famously pale skin.

But then something changes. Waters starts defending the institution he'll soon be visiting.

"It's a sequel!" he says proudly and between spurts of laughter induced by his own audacity. "I always like to go to places that have this reputation for being so conservative."

He means, of course, Colorado Springs not the Fine Arts Center. Waters, perhaps not surprisingly, adores the FAC. He lauds it for standing up in the face of the city's conservatism, for being a beacon of contemporary artwork in a city that is otherwise far from contemporary. He speaks volumes about the good that the museum will now do with a brand-new addition to its name.

Clearly, Waters, a notorious contrarian and provoker of thought, has sipped the Kool-Aid. He takes offense to the notion that a younger John Waters might not be seen stepping foot inside such a "fine arts" institution, and if so, certainly not as an advocate.

"A museum that deals in contemporary art in each city is not being snobby," he says. "It's being a hangout for people that can see things that you can't. If that's conceited, well, I'm all for it."

To be fair, Waters has reason to defend the museum's honor: In addition to repeatedly inviting Waters to town, the FAC also holds two of his art productions in its permanent collection (which will be on display as the newly constructed addition to the museum opens to the public next week).

But even those pieces, hung on a wall on the museum's first floor, stand out from the collection hung around them. They don't fit with their surroundings, and, during a recent tour of the newly hung galleries, they provoked comments about their bizarre and inexplicable nature from the older set of tour attendees. Thus, they're perfectly Waters-like.

Which, of course, make the man himself quite proud.

"That's what contemporary art should do," he says. "Some people that have contempt for it in the beginning they refuse to look at it and they refuse to try to see it. And they're right, contemporary art does hate them." pete@csindy.com

John Waters will screen his film Cecil B. Demented, followed by a Q&A session.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center SaGaJi Theatre, 30 W. Dale St.

Friday, Aug. 3, 1 p.m.

Tickets: $45-$49; visit csfineartscenter.org.


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