John Waters: Pope of Trash | Honoring the Hollywood Paragon of Camp

On View Now at The Academy Museum

Written by

Annie Bush

Photographed by

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Images Courtesy the Academy Museum

Oh John Waters! At seventy-seven, the Hollywood paragon of camp is as intimately acquainted with the gutter as he has ever been. On the very week that Waters has been cemented as a star whom all Walk-of-Fame-bound tourists may trod underfoot for the rest of eternity, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has opened the eponymous exhibition, John Waters: Pope of Trash, to run from now until August 2024. Known for his exuberantly tacky art and idiosyncratic contributions to American cinema, John Waters has enjoyed a long, indulgent run as one of the most well known independent filmmakers. The exhibition celebrates this run, and offers fans, critics, strangers, and riff-raff alike a comprehensive delve into the filmmaker’s sixty-year-long catalogue.

Organized by Exhibitions Curator Jenny He and, Associate Curator Dara Jaffe, with the support of Research Assistant Emily Rauber Rodriguez and former Curatorial Assistant Esme Douglas, John Waters: Pope of Trash will be the museum’s third large-scale temporary exhibition. The exhibition will journey through the artist’s complete filmography– individual feature films will be explored through never-before-seen accouterments that facilitated the development of the classics, like handwritten scripts, set decoration, costumes, props, production design, posters, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, and film clips. 

Following a special silent screening of Waters’ recently restored 1968 film, Eat Your Makeup, on September 17th, Interim Director of Film Programs K.J. Relth-Miller has organized showings of the John Waters collection through October 28th: Multiple Maniacs (Sept. 21), Pink Flamingos (Sept. 23), Female Trouble (Sept. 28), Polyester (Sept. 29), Hairspray (Oct. 5), Desperate Living (Oct. 20), Pecker and Cry-Baby (Oct. 26), and Cecil B.Demented with A Dirty Shame (Oct. 28). Adjacent to the Pope of Trash exhibit, Outside the Mainstream–an installation which pays tribute to other American avant-garde artists like Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Gregg Araki, and Todd Haynes–will complement the museum’s dedication to underground and New Queer Cinema. 

Waters has admitted that when he first arrived in Hollywood, he jumped out of his car at Hollywood and Vine and immediately received a jaywalking ticket. He’s performed that authority-tickling act ever since; and the museum encourages those who share his vexatious spirit to engage with the exhibition, that rabble-rousing, jaywalking, envelope-pushing, filthy, nasty, stubborn, excitable, neurotic, individualistic display of trash, of beauty, of comedy, and of cinema.

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John Waters, Art, Film, Annie Bush