To mark the paperback publication of Role Models, John Waters answered a few questions about taste, the art world, and death. The interview was conducted over the phone just before Waters’s trips to the Walker Art Center in Minnesota and the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee.
Chapman: What is taste, and what do people mean when they say something is in bad taste?
John Waters: Taste is style, and to know bad taste of course you have to have been taught the rules of the tyranny of good taste so you can yearn to break them. I thank my mother every day for teaching me proper table manners—which fork to use, all that stuff—even though it lead to a career that humiliated and embarrassed her. But she’s grown quite used to it and proud over the years.
You have to have some taste. I think Diana Vreeland said bad taste is better than no taste. Taste is how you describe yourself. It’s how you present yourself to the world. It’s about humor . . . Everyone is a curator of their own life: what they have around them, what they read, what they watch. So everybody, no matter what—even the most deranged homeless person—has taste. They know which bottle they want to collect more, which shopping cart they want to fill. Everyone has taste and it’s how you define yourself against the world. (more…)