FP: Let LA be LA.
KS: Right, it’s just like what people should do — take advantage of what you have that other people don’t. Accentuate that. Then you can actually stand out and be something different.
FP: Ann Magnuson’s essay in the book has sort of a nostalgic quality to it regarding New York in the early-80s. Do you feel nostalgic for your first years in the city or for New York at that time?
KS: I’m happy to talk about those times, but I don’t really think about it that much. I try to do everything that’s in front of me right now. But it was a blast, I have to say. It was basically, anyone who wanted to come, could arrive and make something of themselves. You could get an apartment for fifty bucks a month.
FP: Now the barrier to entry is higher.
KS: It’s very, very hard. I got my own place a couple years ago, and I’m in Brooklyn. I can’t go back to the neighborhood where I used to be. It’s a different place. It’s still New York. I still love it. But it’s definitely expensive. I mean, no one wanted to be there when we arrived. It was trashy, you know, dangerous, all the things that make great stuff happen. Now Manhattan is like a nice, slick shopping mall full of rich kids.
FP: In the book, Richard Marshall points to Andy Warhol as being a sort of “spiritual leader” to you and Basquiat and Keith Haring. What was your relationship to Warhol like?
KS: I loved him. He definitely was my hero. I was at the University of California Santa Barbara back in ’78, and I was taking Art History and when we got into the ’60s with Warhol, I was like, “Wow. I know that The Factory’s over” (cause this was the ’70s), but I was still like, “I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to go to New York. I want something like that.” Something clicked in me. For a whole bunch of other kids like Keith Haring and Basquiat and for me, Andy was kind of our impetus, our inspiration. All we wanted to do was meet him and have him come to our parties. Andy, after he got shot, kind of pulled away from the crazies, and he veered more toward rich people and Studio 54 and Halston and that whole scene which we were very much against. We were more into Punk Rock and New Wave. We kind of pulled Andy back into the youth culture. I think he definitely liked having the young artists around him. I feel incredibly lucky and honored to have had him as my friend. He was very, very supportive.
FP: In the book, Richard Marshall discusses how your customized appliances are all about bringing the fantastical to the functional. There;s a quote by Henry Miller that’s always struck me: “All roads lead to the everyday life.” I wonder what your take is on ways to make everyday life something more?
KS: When I started customizing appliances, I looked back at the ancient Greeks and Romans. Their everyday little objects were art in and of themselves so my feeling was, OK, in modern times, we have telephones and cars and blenders and all these little gadgets, and they’re so boring and bland looking. If I was to transform these objects into fantastic, imaginary things full of fancy and art, that would be bringing art into the everyday life. And that’s something that I definitely believe in, that your regular life and art should be combined. To make the mundane fantastical, it’s just a way of elevating your normal, everyday ho-hum experience. And not only do I try to change the mundane, I also see fantastic in the ordinary. That’s another way of looking at the world and making it into a more amazing place, because it really is amazing if you just look. It’s everywhere. Great things to see and feel.
FP: You have a reputation for throwing wild parties. What makes a party great?
KS: If everyone that comes can let go of their inhibitions… the first thing I do when people walk in is I paint their faces and immediately. It kind of makes them part of the thing. In order to have a good time, you’ve just got to let go and dance. It’s really about dancing. I like to celebrate life and that’s what parties are.
Attention LA readers: Scharf will be signing copies of his book next Thursday, June 11, at The Celebrity Vault. Art historian/curator Richard Marshall and Ann Magnuson will also be on hand to celebrate the mongraph’s release.