It’s okay to be silly, an interview with: Cumwizard69420
Just because it's vulgar, doesn't mean it can't be art
Three months ago, I decided I’d become an art critic. I was reading Dean Kissick’s Spike column and What it Means to Write About Art: Interviews with Art Critics; I was chugging my former colleague Nate Freeman’s “Wet Paint” gossip column and checking out what Schjeldahl and Hilton Als had to say in my girlfriend’s barely touched New Yorker back issues. I went to a show and promised to write about it. And then I never did. I gave up. It’s way more fun to tell yourself you’re gonna do something than it is to actually follow through.
In those heady days, when Covid still loomed like the yellow miasma in Eliot’s “Prufrock,” I sent a DM to a newish Twitter account @cumwizard69420 and asked if he would answer some questions for me. He did, over email, and then they languished in my inbox until now.
Cumwizard69420 asked that I not use his real name. His answers don’t reveal much, but that’s OK. I was drawn to his work because it got me thinking about a fundamental question about art: What makes a painting good? Cumwizard69420’s art is figurative, though an outsider aesthetic dominates. The subjects are often celebrities from popular TV shows (Nathan for You, The Sopranos, King of the Hill) and politics (George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi). At the time, I had a note in my phone of other figurative artists—respected artists—doing work that was intriguing, though not particularly adept. Art that looked easy enough to recreate, even as an amateur, but which challenged my notion of the values I held. Could art be funny? Why not?
Humor is the pervading attribute of Cumwizard69420’s paintings. They differ in quality, but even the best ones, such as My father and Ernest, are cartoonish. There is attention to detail in this picture. The shading on dad hints at a more formal approach than what’s present in some of the rushed, flatter watercolors.
Cumwizard69420 is in dialogue with some of the 19th and 20th century’s great artists. His work references Van Gogh, Renoir, Edward Hopper, and Basquiat and falls somewhere between homage and parody. Think Duchamp defacing the Mona Lisa with a mustache and goatee. In The Nightmare, Cumwizard69420’s take on the 1781 oil painting of the same name by Swiss artist Henry Fuseli, as in the original, a woman lies supine on a bed. She’s draped, like the sheet that hangs haphazardly nearby. The composition mirrors Fueseli’s. The woman is the focal point. She draws the eye in with her creamy nightgown that, in the surrounding darkness, features hues of purple around the edges. On her chest is a sleep paralysis demon upon which a horse looks on in utter disbelief. In Cumwizard’s rendering, the demon has a fat ass and big titties; the horse is now an incredulous Steve Harvey. As might be suspected, Fuesli’s effort is superior, but Cumwizard’s is not without its charm.
Throughout Cumwizard69420’s oeuvre, the scatological appears as a motif. Frequent allusions to fucking, as well as the primitivism in style, remind me of Carroll Dunham, the controversial artist who is father to the controversial showrunner, Lena. Auto-fellatio and self-fucking are tropes that recur as well, I can only assume, because they are more amusing and taboo modes of eroticism than, say, P&V sex. In his interview with Barack, when Jimmy Kimmel asked the former president, “On the night you did kill [Osama] bin Laden, did you and Michelle make love?” the comedian was being irreverent. Had he asked Barack Obama if he had made love to himself, as he does in this painting, that would have pushed past the threshold of awkward and entered the territory of plainly insane.
Sex offenders such as Woody Allen, Epstein, Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey show up often for, again, I can only assume, shock value. I could see how others might find this stuff puerile or sophomoric, but that doesn’t preclude it from also being hilarious. In The Great American Novel, Philip Roth waxed poetic about the eternal truth that farts will always be funny. “Even today, with all the drugs and sex and violence you hear about on TV, [kids] still get a kick, such as we used to, out of a fart. Maybe the world hasn’t changed so much after all.”
Ultimately, Cumwizard69420 is somewhat of a mystery. In the process of emailing him, I learned his name, but he said he’d like to remain anonymous. I respect that. His bio reads “I’m an autistic certified goofball” but who knows if that’s truth or artifice. What is the point of a painting? The answer is not to represent but to make us feel. While his skills have their limits, I believe what he lacks in rigor, he makes up in laughter. Below, is Cumwizard69420 speaking for himself.
How would you like me to credit your art (under what name)?
What inspires you to paint?
I just want to make people laugh and paint things I think would be funny to see.
What materials do rely on?
Acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor paint, and occasionally pubes.
What do you think of contemporary art? Does anyone in its sphere inspire you?
I really don’t know much about contemporary art and I’m not really interested in the art world. I do enjoy Katherine Bradford, Keith Boadwee, and Outlawscumfudge but I’m mostly inspired by movies and things that make me laugh.
Which of your paintings are you interested in?
I’m interested in my series of people passing out and shitting. I like to think it’s because the person is unwell.
When did you begin making art?
I first started in college when I was 21. I took an art class for one semester. I dropped out and stopped making art for a year or two then I started up again last year in the summer as Cumwizard69420.
What has it taught you?
It has taught me that it’s okay to be silly [sic] not take things so seriously.