David Hockney’s best work has a crazy energy and brashness. He uses color and line with moxie. I am crazy for all of his work, but the Hockney that I love best is the late 1960s-1970s painter of sunny California skies, swimming pools, palm trees and boys. His work in this period seems to me to be a modernist painterly slant on color Polaroids and snapshots from the life I was brushing up against when I attended college in Los Angeles from 1972-76. I sometimes attended an all-boy pool party at a famous producer’s home in the Hollywood Hills and one time Hockney was another 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 and red striped shirt with a white collar and yellow striped tie, a yellow watchband, red socks and white Jack Purcell’s. Perched on his proper English nose were his trademark round spectacles. He was holding a sketch book and a Polaroid camera. He was alone and 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 and 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 and 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 some attention, he told me that the artist was not so much reticent, as always working, spending most of his time in his studio in Santa Monica, and that Hockney was always thinking and planning. He explained that Hockney balanced a hedonistic side; enjoying attending his parties, but the famous artist almost always left an event to rush back to his studio rather than to his house in Nicholas Canyon. Our 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 and has always enjoyed a variety of relationships with men. With a series of boyfriends, he never married. Hockney describes himself as a “playboy”.
Today is David Hockney’s 81st birthday. I wish we were hanging out by the pool. And that it was the 1970s.