What Ryan McGinley, Frida Kahlo, David LaChapelle, and More Have to Say About Their Dads

Artsy Editorial
Jun 16, 2013 3:51PM

Father’s Day. You’ve been the route of the tie, the golf clubs, the fancy artisan shaving kit (untouched), the grill (and the apron), the power tool. But some things are better said with words—and if you need help, look to these ten artists as they reflect about their own dads this Father’s Day.

Still not enough? Find out what’s on your dad’s Artsy wishlist. (Everyone has one.)

1. David LaChapelle: “My first memory is of my dad shaving before work and singing to me in the crib. Dad was a businessman; spiritual, very selfless, old school, part of ‘the greatest generation’.” Source

2. Yayoi Kusama: “My father had lots of lovers and I had to spy on him for my mother. Because my mother was very angry it made even the idea of sex very traumatic for me. My work, including the naked happenings, is always about overcoming that bad experience. And my visual language all still comes from my hallucinations, which I have seen since my childhood.” Source

3. Thierry Cohen: “When I was a kid I was lucky enough to travel to the United States many times and travel west to the deserts—the Mojave and Death Valley—where my father taught me how to look at the stars and recognize different ones.” Source

4. Frida Kahlo on her father, a professional photographer who taught her to use a camera and gave Frida her first box of paints and brushes: “The death of my father was something terrible for me. I think that it’s owing to this that I became much less well and I grew rather thin again. You remember how handsome he was and how good?”Source

5. Gregory Crewdson: “I would say my earliest exposure to photography was when my father brought me to the Diane Arbus retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 which was when I was 10 years old. And I’m still not quite sure why he brought me to that show because it wasn’t a family practice to go to art shows. But I think that was my first awareness of the power and the psychological resonance of pictures.” Source

6. Ryan McGinley: “And my dad’s crazy too. He was in the Korean War and raised me since I can remember to be a tennis player. He was like, ‘you’re gonna make a million dollars by the time you’re 17 and I’m gonna make you a great tennis player.’ And I was like ‘this fu*ckin’ sucks.’ And I’d just be out in the tennis court, hittin’ the fu*ckin’ tennis ball back and forth.” Source

7. Kara Walker: “My dad is a painter and used to keep his studio in the garage. I recall sitting on his lap when I was around three years old and watching him draw. I can clearly remember thinking to myself that I wanted to do that too, when I got big.” Source

8. Richard Avedon, who received his first Rolleiflex camera as a gift from his father at age 19: “My parents put the New Yorker in my crib. I saw Vogue and Vanity Fair around the house before I could read.” Source

9. Phil Toledano: “Parents are like an extraordinarily bright light. When they die, the light goes out, but you can still see the shadow they created in your own being. Since they died, I see more clearly the ways in which I am similar to my mother and the parts of me that are like my father. And then I look at my daughter Loulou, who loves pictures and painting. Most children love to paint, but I think perhaps that her gift represents a tiny spark of my father in her, which is a very satisfying thought.” Source

10. Cindy Sherman on working with her father for her “Untitled Film Stills” series, including the infamous Hitchhiker taken by her father: “The ones set in Flagstaff were taken by my dad while we were on a family vacation. I’d carry around a little suitcase full of wigs and costumes.” Source

Artsy Editorial