July 9, 1937– David Hockney has always made a big splash at my house.
“The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you’re an artist.”
I currently reside in Portland, Oregon, the West Coast Brooklyn to Seattle’s Manhattan. The current special exhibit at The Portland Art Museum in partnership with Portland Opera & The David Hockney Foundation is: David Hockney: A Rake’s Progress. I have a date to attend today on Hockney’s birthdate. I just mentioned an opera company & art museum, trying to prove to you that here is more to Portland than beards, beer & bicycles, although I am a fan of all that.
He was already a noted & accomplished painter in his native England, but Hockney’s style, point of view, & medium changed (from oils to acylics) when he moved to LA, a city he had fantasized about since childhood. Hockney;
“Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I’d passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas & won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week. & I thought, it’s just how I imagined it would be.”
His best work has a crazy energy & brashness. He uses color & line with moxie. The Hockney that I love best is the late 1960s-1070s painter of sunny California skies, swimming pools, palm trees & boys. His work in this period seems to me to be a modernist painterly slant on color Polaroids & snapshots from the life I was brushing up against that place when I attended college in LA from 1972-76. I actually attended an all-boy pool party at a famous producer’s home in the Hollywood Hills & Hockney was one of the guests. I couldn’t believe it! There he was, wearing a red baseball cap over his shaggy blonde hair, beige baggy pants, a yellow & red striped shirt with a white collar & yellow striped tie, a yellow watchband, red socks & white Jack Purcell’s. Perched on his proper English nose were his trademark round spectacles. He was holding a sketch book & a Polaroid camera. He was alone & mostly ignored by the parade of boys.
We did not speak to each other. I was at this event as the host’s special guest & I was careful not to overstep the bounds of propriety, but we did make eye contact. I like to think that if we had spoken, Hockney would have liked me & I might have become the subject of one his works, possibly the beginning of a series of “Hairy Boy” pieces.
When I asked our host if Hockney might desire attention, he told me that the artist was not so much reticent, as always working, spending most his time in his studio in Santa Monica, & always thinking & planning. He explained that Hockney balanced a hedonistic side & enjoyed attending parties, but he almost always left an event to rush back to his studio rather than to his house in Nicholas Canyon. My host thought I would be amused to know that Hockney had a sign at the door of his studio that read:
“Thank You For Pot Smoking”
Hockney has always been openly gay & has enjoyed a variety of relationships with men. With a series of boyfriends, never married, he describes himself as a “playboy”.
He has a lifelong fascination with using new technology to make pictures. Hockney’s current work, mostly landscapes, are sketched & then translated onto the screen of his iPad. He uses a drawing app, giving him accessibility to draw at his leisure in any location, without the need of additional materials or supplies. Hockney’s fingertips have replaced his paintbrushes. Hockney:
“It’s all drawing. It’s a new medium for drawing, the iPad, it’s like an endless sheet of paper.”
He is absolutely one of The Husband & my favorite artists, & although I would love to own one of his paintings (they sell in the millions), as a lowly old man gentleman I remain content with my Hockney “coffee table” books, including one by the artist that features paintings of his dachshunds, David Hockney’s Dog Days, & postcards of his work. I also own & highly recommend the 2 volumes of biography by Christopher Simon Sykes, David Hockney: The Biography, 1937-1975 & David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012, & True To Life: 25 Years of Conversations With David Hockney by Lawrence Weschler.
The bios & even his own diaries show Hockney to be exasperatingly egotistical & positively petulant. I admire that in artist. He is fiercely pro-smoking. What a great cause in this PC day & age. He loathes anti-smoking laws:
“They are dreary, absolutely dreary… You get rid of smoking & they are all on anti-depressant pills. They say smoking is bad for you, but they used to say the same about wanking.”
Hockney is one of the most successful artists in history, with a personal fortune of more than 60 million, plus his David Hockney Foundation has holdings of his work worth at least 125 million dollars. Gay writer Christopher Isherwood owned the most important private collection of his work. In the 1990s, Isherwood’s partner of 33+ years, Don Bachardy, donated the collection to a foundation.
Besides The Portland Art Museum, Hockney’s work can be viewed in person at great museums around the globe, including: Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston, National Gallery Of Australia, Art Institute Of Chicago, National Portrait Gallery & The Tate in London, Los Angeles’ J. Paul Getty Museum, LA County Museum Of Art, Museum Of Contemporary Art in LA (Hockney was one of the founders in 1979), Metropolitan Museum Of Art & Museum Of Modern Art in NYC, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Philadelphia Museum Of Art, De Young Museum in San Francisco, & Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC.