Jonathan Weinberg is a painter, art historian, and author of Male Desire: The Homoerotic in American Art. Before joining a Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” panel discussion entitled “What Did Robert Mapplethorpe Teach Us?” he talked in the Zócalo green room about Maurice Sendak, X-Ray vision, and the appeal of painting surfers.
What is your first memory of painting?
I don’t have a memory of painting, but I was kind of raised by Maurice Sendak—he was a close family friend—and he gave me my first water color set.
If you could choose any artist to paint your portrait, who would it be?
Living, David Hockney. If you include the dead, Rembrandt.
What’s your most prized material possession?
I don’t know.
You’re a critic at the Yale School of Art. What’s the most important quality in a critic?
What camera do you use to take pictures?
I have a Canon SLR. It used to be the Rebel line.
What’s hanging on your living room walls?
Actually, a lot of paintings by me. Portraits that I’ve done. That’s sad, in a way. When artists sell most of their work they don’t have to hang it on their own walls.
We’re here in Los Angeles, so it seems only right to ask a question about surfers. They’ve been a theme in your paintings. What drew you to them?
Well, I’m gay. I like looking at beautiful men. One of the things that’s very intriguing about surfers is they’re so out there. They change their clothes in public. They change next to their cars. They’re like birds, and they don’t seem to mind if you photograph or draw or paint them.
What super power would you most like to have?
I guess I’d like to fly. That’s not the best one. There are better ones. X-Ray vision is supposed to be handy. Super hearing is good because you could find out secrets and do well in the stock market.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
What five words best describe you?
I refuse to answer this. How’s that for five words?