Your Art Makes Me Sick. (Thanks.)

Who needs “Fear Factor” or hot dog-eating contests to induce extreme bodily reactions? Head to a museum. Grab a book.

From a recent piece on Jeff Koons at ArtNewsOnline:

“Critical response to Koons’s encased vacuum cleaners, floating basketballs, gilded celebrities, and stainless-steel and porcelain tchotchkes has been extreme. Even his fans have had trouble reconciling their love-hate relationship with him. Peter Schjeldahl, now an art critic for the New Yorker, once proclaimed, ‘Jeff Koons makes me sick. He may be the definitive artist of this moment, and that makes me the sickest. I’m interested in my response, which includes excitement and helpless pleasure along with alienation and disgust … I love it, and pardon me while I throw up.”

From an entry on Gertrude Stein in William H. Gass’s “A Temple of Texts: Fifty Literary Pillars,” a booklet from the early 1990s that accompanied an exhibition of the same name:

“No prose ever hit me harder. This was the work of the woman they called 'the Mother Goose of Montparnasse’? How could you read the central story, 'Melanctha,’ and not take everything she did seriously? I read with an excitement which made me ill, and having finished the book at 1 a.m. (having never contemplated reading it in the first place, having been lured, suckered, seduced), I immediately began reading it again from the beginning, singing to myself, and moaning, too, because my stomach hurt fiercely. My head ached. Was this how it felt to have a revelation? … And so at the end I was sick, and though hanging over the mouth of the john, I knew I had found the woman my work would marry. And I would, in effect, always carry three great faces in my wallet: Virginia Woolf’s, Colette’s, and Gertrude Stein’s. If you ask, like a cinema soldier in a movie foxhole, I will take them out and show them to you.”

I was told that Gass’s next collection of essays, “A Temple of Texts,” will include this currently hard-to-find gem. The book is scheduled for a February 2006 release.