Millie Brown is one strange, strange artist. She gulps down tall glasses of milk dyed with food coloring and then vomits all over a canvas she has placed on the floor. Then she gulps down another color of milk and does it again (and again) until she is satisfied the work is complete, all the while accompanied by two singers dressed as turtlenecked milk bottles singing Delibes’ “Flower Duet.” It should come as no surprise that the response to her work has been overwhelmingly negative for exactly this reason. Because she has Lady Gaga’s support, many people are accusing both of them of glorifying bulimia. Many more people are saying her work is not art.
I think there is absolutely no question it is art.
Here is why I think it is art. Millie Brown’s work has a tremendous line of art historical precedent — art made with far grosser effluvia that was easier to create and sells for more money. Heck, she is only making $20,000 a canvas and look at all the work she has to do!
Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Paintings (better known as “Piss Paintings” — take a guess how he made them) sell at Christie’s for $1,900,000.
If only I could get paid for peeing on things. I’m just lucky if I don’t get a ticket.
Piero Manzoni canned his own shit (a lot of it).
Each can sells for $50,000-$60,000 at auction. But then again, look at Manzoni’s face: who could resist that shit-selling smile?
You’ll be glad to know that it turns out it wasn’t actually shit, he was just relabeling cans of pasta sauce. Again, a way better (read as: more practical) plan than vomiting on a canvas.
And let’s not forget Cy Twombly’s smeary pink and brown fecal efforts to mock Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
Which brings us to Jackson Pollock himself: the first man to paint with his canvas on the floor of his studio; the first man to make a work of art simply by dribbling paint all over a canvas and allowing the alluvial action to produce an image; a man known for his “dance” around the canvas, expressing his inner Jungian subconscious for the benefit of mankind. Millie Brown has taken several pages from Jackson Pollock’s book by painting with her canvas on the ground and allowing the paint to simply dribble (or heave, or gurgitate) onto the canvas. She takes Pollock’s idea of expressing her inner self even further by imbibing her paint and upchucking it directly — literally — from inside her… her stomach. She claims she suffers from serious migraines, and I don’t doubt she does; that’s the inevitable result of literalizing Pollock’s efforts to externalize one’s interior genius.
Note also: Jackson Pollock did his works with style and glamor. He was a celebrity as much as any artist ever was. Having Lady Gaga on your team is nothing compared to Pollock. Since I’ve tabled the issue of bulimia, I’ll also table the issue of alcoholism and Pollock’s mental health.
And that’s just getting to the 1950s.
In 1946, Marcel Duchamp ejaculated a painting (Paysage Fautif) and gave it to his girlfriend, Maria Martins.
What a charmer!
And Duchamp started his work decades before that. It took him years to get to ejaculating paintings. As everything in the twentieth century inevitably comes from Duchamp, so too can Millie Brown’s vomitorium paintings can be traced back to Duchamp’s watershed piece, The Fountain (1917).
In short, bravo Millie Brown! There’s no question that what you are doing is art. The question is whether it’s original, or any good, and whether or not the paycheck is worth the migraines.
Edit — 11/1/2014 — you’d think this sort of stuff would reach a level of one-upsmanship where no one would want to go, and yet, here we are again.