Los Angeles

Paul McCarthy

By 1974 Paul McCarthy had already made more than two dozen performances and videotapes and parodied AbEx by painting with his penis. Around that time, John Waters was preparing to shoot Female Trouble (1975), perhaps his greatest film. When Dawn Davenport—played by Divine, in one of his most enthralling performances—wakes on Christmas morning to find that her parents had decided not to indulge her desire for cha-cha heels, she throws a tantrum (which ends with her mother pinned beneath the Christmas tree) and bangs out the door in a flimsy green negligee to begin a life of crime and extreme beauty. A scene of outrageous humor, it is also an acute commentary on the explosive give-and-take of desire and the quasi-pornographic transferences crucial to any act of giving, withholding, or receiving (think of Andy Warhol bestowing “cum” paintings on baffled loved ones as holiday favors).


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