John Waters

Biography of John Waters

Director extraordinaire John Waters with his trademark pencil moustache is infamous for his transgressive underground films of the 1970s and early 1980s featuring such camp figures as his muse Divine, a legendary drag queen and star of American counterculture. Celebrating the queer, the grotesque, and the marginal in notorious movies like Eat Your Makeup, 1968, or Pink Flamingos, 1972, Waters' practice is deeply informed by subversive sexuality, trash culture, and peripheral characters. Indeed, he was known for casting real-life criminals and prostitutes in his cinematic works.


John Waters has also ventured into the visual arts, producing much photographic work and a significant amount of installations since the 1990s, including Rush, 2009, a sculpture of a knocked over bottle of poppers—a club drug also frequently used in the gay scene to sexual ends. The work is typical of Waters' offbeat sense of humor, blowing up artefacts charged with subcultural connotations in a clever twist on Oldenburg's oversized sculptures of banal everyday commodities. Waters remains one of America's most enduring mavericks, producing incisive controversial pieces that step outside of the bounds of conventional propriety.


Born in 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland, John Waters has exhibited extensively, including the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles and the New Museum in New York, where he was honored with a retrospective of his work in 2004. Waters is also a contributor to Artforum magazine and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2015.

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