Duane Michals: Three Moments from a talk at the Carnegie Museum of Art / by Christine M Lorenz

  1.  Upon taking the stage, Michals introduces himself in an accented falsetto as "Dr. Duanus." Switching to his normal tone of voice, he begins a long tale involving an erection during surgery and something about elevators. It is not clear what the school-aged kids in attendance make of this. It is also not clear whether this was the kind of teachable moment their well-meaning parents were expecting.
     
  2. Elaborating on his "Sidney Sherman" images, he can't quite read off the screen and veers into gobbledygook that makes neither more nor less sense than what he had written. "Not a photographer? Artist who uses photography? If it quacks like a duck. Don't p**s on my leg and tell me it's raining." Later, an audience member asks a particularly well informed question, which for the life of me I can't remember, because his answer was to ask her if she'd like to give him a lap dance. What was that? Taking a Dada turn? Answering the question you wish they had asked? Or just plain old-fashioned misogyny? Sassy or stupid? I mean, I still don't know. 
     
  3. Michals can only get away with being such a dirty old man because he's at the same time such a radiantly blooming romantic. This side is never far away, and never more affecting than in the images and passages from "The House I Once Called Home." They're nostalgic, sardonic, operatic and everyday, all rolled into one. When an audience member asks what kind of camera he likes best, he answers, "You might as well ask Proust what kind of typewriter he prefers."

See the exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It is phenomenal; Michals is a giant; he is large; he contains multitudes.