Daniel Cooney Fine Art is presenting a solo exhibition of Don Herron's "Tub Shots," a series of portraits of underground luminaries pictured in their bathtubs dated from 1978 to 1993. The 65 vintage black and white photographs will be on display at the Chelsea gallery September 13th to November 3rd.
Herron stated simply to the now defunct Village Voice back in 1980, "I decided to do a series of photographs of people in containers. The bathtub was the logical container to use. I started with my friends and it grew from there".
Featured in the series are queer icons Keith Haring, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cookie Mueller, Peter Berlin, Charles Busch, Ethyl Eichelberger, Annie Sprinkle, Mink Stole, and the legendary Holly Woodlawn, among many others. “Herron truly captured the camp, the glamour, the joy, and the tragedy that the creative community experienced at this tumultuous time,” a statement from the gallery reads.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Herron moved to San Francisco in 1972 where he started the "Tub Shots" series. In 1978, he moved to New York and became part of the East Village art scene and continued the series there.
Out chatted with gallery owner Daniel Cooney about the series, where he provided us some background information on the subjects.
How does this series profile life and the experience of making art in the 80s?
I think that the scale of the project, photographing many people from 1978 – 1993 speaks to the size of the creative community and their willingness to collaborate.
I feel like New Yorkers are so rarely seen at home. So portraying them in their actual bathrooms adds an extra level of intimacy, yes?
I think it’s one of the most intimate spaces that we occupy on a daily basis. Most of the people in the photographs maintain a public persona so it’s interesting that they so willingly revealed themselves in their bathtubs, mostly unclothed.
How does this show represent Don Herron's legacy as an artist?
As an artist this is Don’s legacy. This was his major artistic output for his life. He was also known as a painter, historian, and writer, but I think this is the most complete and lengthy project he worked on.
Can you add any personal notes about the subjects?
Many of the subjects have been very helpful in helping to fill in the blanks. Many of them have answered questions and shared the experience of being photographed with me. The late 70’s to early 90’s was a time of innocence that was abruptly changed with the AIDS crisis, so ultimately it was a painful and terrifying time. However, there’s a lot of joy in the images and the survivors have helped me to understand that the series is about hope and perseverance over fear.
In November of 1982 Keith Haring (1958-1990) was 24 years old and his career had just kicked off in earnest. He had a solo exhibition at Shafrazi Gallery and had travelled to Europe for an exhibition in Rotterdam. On his birthday he was en route home from that trip and wrote, “Twenty-four years is not a very long time, and then again it is enough time. I have added many things to the world. The world is this thing around me that I made for myself and I see for myself. The world will, however, go on without me being there to see it, it just won’t be “my” world then.” Haring soon skyrocketed to art world stardom and produced his work until his death in 1990 of AIDS.
Holly Woodlawn (1946-2015) was a Warhol superstar who was featured in the 1970 film “Trash” and was the inspiration of Lou Reed’s hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.” Woodlawn told The Guardian, “I felt like Elizabeth Taylor. Little did I realize that not only would there be no money but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties; it was fabulous. You live in a hovel, walk up five flights, scraping the rent. And then at night you go to Max’s Kansas City where Mick Jagger and Fellini and everyone’s there in the back room. And when you walked in that room, you were a star!”
Ellen Stewart (1919-2011) was the founder and artistic director of La Mama Experimental Theater Club in New York City for 50 years. She is credited as being the central figure in the creation of Off Off Broadway Theater. Stewart is known for nurturing the young talents of Sam Shepard, Adrienne Kennedy, Rochelle Owens, Jeff Weiss, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Wilson, Julie Bovasso, Richard Foreman, Meredith Monk, John Kelly, Blue Man Group, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel. In 1985, the MacArthur Foundation gave her Genius Award. She used the $300,000 grant to buy a former monastery in Umbria, Italy, and turned it into an international theatre center.
“My first contact with Donald Lawrence Herron came through a telephone call. He wanted to photograph me for a series of ‘Underground Celebrities’ he was photographing. We set up a meeting, I recall him visiting me at my residence on Saint Marks Place where I was living with another photographer Timothy Greathouse. Tim and I were never lovers, albeit many assumed we were, because we were.”
“When the photo was rejected from consideration in Afterdark (because my genitals were exposed…or so I was told) I used it for the cover of my first chapbook of poems, dedicated to a lover at the time who had moved to New York after being released from his incarceration in Rome. As a young out gay man navigating the very gay East Village, there were many who wanted to take me to bed. When this photo appeared the interest in me climbed exponentially. I organized an exhibition of Donald’s prints at the Tribeca club Stillwind and also showcased Suzan Silvers jewelry. I may have also screened a new version of my TV talk show--the All New Sur Rodney Sur Show. Sometime after the event I produced a version of my talk show where I interviewed Holly Woodlawn in a bubble bath for a photoshoot with Donald in a television studio in Chelsea.” – Sur Rodney Sur