This is a drawing I did of one of the photos in the collection. It depicts a reclining man smoking a cigarette with a baby laying on his stomach.
My first collision with Larry Clark was through the 1995 movie ‘Kids’ which he directed. I was about 13 at the time, and anxious to do anything rebellious. I’ve always been intrigued by oddities, so when a friend told me about Clark’s movie, which depicted teen drug abuse and sex... it became my mission to watching it. Through covert operations (since I wasn’t yet able to rent Rated R films) I attained a copy, and finally viewed the film. I was changed. At 13 I became enthralled with drug abuse, and glorified the life style that surrounded it. Clark showed both heads of the drug abuse coin... yet I still was captivated by it.
Now, many years later, I have seen and experienced the negative effects of addiction. So when I walked into the Midway Museum of Contemporary Art, and saw Larry Clark’s collection of photographs, “Tulsa”, I was immediately drawn to it. As the co-owner of the museum explained the pieces in the the exhibition, and how they were taken from private home collections, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around Clark’s collection hanging in a living room. (Youth amphetamine addiction seems to clash with conventional family art standards) Then the guide told us the photos were kept in a separate room in the collector’s house.
The collection was composed of 44 black and white photographs documenting the artist, and his friends’ amphetamine use. Through the photographs, Clark captured the highs and lows of drug abuse. Some pieces, if taken out of context, would seemingly depict everyday life, such as a photo showing a person with a toothy grin laughing, or a gorgeous woman seductively smoking a cigarette. Others however show a sad and destructive side. In a striking photo, a pregnant woman inserts a needle of amphetamine into her arm. A few photos down, is the image of an infant in a coffin. The viewer is lead to believe it is a casualty of the mother’s abuse.
Overall the collection reads as a strikingly intimate view on amphetamine abuse in America. As an adult, I have a different perspective on Clark’s work than I did when I was 13. I’m suited with a better grasp on the value of life, and how my actions have a direct effect on me tomorrow. Depicted in Clark’s photos, are young people who are unable to employ such insight. The depictions are tragic because the viewer can see into the future. We want to tell that pregnant mother her baby is going to be a casualty of her selfishness, but we can’t.
There is still a part of me that glorifies the life that surrounds drug use, and I felt it blazing when I stood head on to Clark’s collection, but because of the indiscriminate documentation the artist employs, the viewer is graphically confronted with EVERY aspect of addiction. There is no way to escape the caverns of depression, danger and panic experienced by his subjects. I commend Craig for publishing the series. It’s authenticity is striking.