Meet the John Waters Fans Planning Baltimore’s Outrageous Divine Monument
By Moze Halperin, Flavorwire (February 9, 2016)
Beyond “Crab Cake Capital of the World,” one of Baltimore’s best-known nicknames is “The Monument City.” And one of the city’s most notable features is its wealth of behemoth effigies, with General Pulaski kicking it in the same city as Billie Holiday, Martin Luther, Babe Ruth, and a whole bunch of Confederate sculptures whose future is currently being debated within Baltimore’s municipal government.
What it means to monumentalize something, and whether some monuments should be reconsidered or simply eradicated, has become a big subject of conversation in Baltimore. That might partially explain why recent news of the plans for an eight-foot-tall shrine to Divine (and originally, strictly her dog-shit eating Pink Flamingos scene) was met with so much enthusiasm, conjuring mimetic shit-eating grins from Divine fans across the Internet. (Inevitably, that enthusiasm was also paired with disdain from ultra-conservatives who were outraged by the city’s threat to Confederate monuments).
The proposed monument is a large, formal marble segmental arch, with a dramatic image of Divine’s — aka Harris Glenn Milstead’s — made-up face peeking out of it. It’d be in keeping with the historically reverent architecture of monuments… but for the fact that its subject would be a drag queen who notoriously vied, in Pink Flamingos, for the title of “filthiest person alive,” and that the sculpture would be besmirched by a diminutive pile of bronze dog-shit pellets (accompanied, now, by a few other objects). This devotional artwork comes with a massive price tag, too — at $70,000, the monument will cost seven times as much as to make as Pink Flamingos itself, a number that could either be seen as extravagant or as exactly what’s needed imbue “trash” culture with the financial veneration usually reserved for war heroes and high-brow artists. And so, with the project’s glorious outrageousness comes an outrageous budget, which the creators need to raise on Kickstarter by March 26.
Alex Fox, left; Michal Makarovich, right
The project began with Michal Makarovich, the owner of Hampden Junque antique shop in Baltimore, and Alex Fox, a young, Ohio transplant who was inspired to move to Baltimore after watching Pink Flamingos secretly with his Jehovas Witness friend, and who created the Church & Company event space in a restored church from 1875, which he also inhabits. They teamed up with Iranian writer Parisa Saranj; Baltimore sculptors David Hess and Sebastian Martorana; a software engineer; a teacher; and the filmmaker behind the Sundance award-winning documentary Divine Trash. It’s an effort that’s just as much about community (drinking) and companionship (drinking) as it is about sticking a colossal face on the side of a wall, with small, glistening turds beneath it.
I spoke over the telephone (separately) with Makarovich — who could very well be a John Waters character, speaking with the glee of a hundred tchotchkes trying to tell their own stories — and Fox last week. But days ago, the two were still fighting battles both internal and external to maintain the crass minimalism of their proposed idea: the massive Divine, the tiny turds. And since some fans critiqued the concept — noting that Divine ultimately grew tired of having his legacy affiliated with that scene — they sent me an email after our conversation, with the following update:
We acknowledge that many in the Divine fan base want more of a tribute than just the doggy-doo reference. So [we’ve] decided to expand the scope. On the marble steps, in addition to the reference to the [bronze dog poops], are [also] plans for other objects: cha-cha heels (Female Trouble), an iron (Hairspray), and a tube of lipstick (drag performances).
The story behind the Divine memorial is both filthy and sweet, dysfunctional and quirky: a seeming testament to what these people want to assert Baltimore, and particularly Divine’s and John Waters’ Baltimore, is all about. Read what Makarovich and Fox have to say about the project below.
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