57 Varieties

Ketchup

Picked up this at the ubiquitously titled Fresher’s Fair last week.

While £7 posters of everything from Breaking Bad, to Star Wars, to Pulp Fiction flew out of the poster racks, there lay a solitary rack of wooden castoffs and rejects sitting at the back of the display area, collecting dust.

On a flick through there was only half a dozen in total, and in the end it was coin-toss between Coca-Cola and Ketchup.

Marked for £5, but I held up four fingers and the lady agreed. Sign language being the only way to communicate in a tent packed to capacity with 18 year olds, breakdance music pumping for effect.

It all seemed oddly kismetic. The college was holding a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition, something I’d never have thought possible back in the day, given the conservative nature of the university and the risqué nature of Mapplethorpe’s work.

I’d written a presentation of Mapplethorpe for my photography training back in 2000, together himself and his namesake Robert Kapa had been the two pillars that had interested me enough to start taking my own pictures. And when I completed my undergraduacy a few years later I‘d read Mapplethorpe’s unofficial autobiography one evening in the campus laundry, perched on a shelf, drinking cheap tea and watching the dryers spin.

Mapplethorpe was good friends with Andy Warhol during his life, and I’d seen Mapplethorpe’s picture on the wall of the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, back in 2001. His greaser profile, slicked hair, widow’s peak, cracked leathers and Jagger pout projected an air of belligerent decadence and masculine beauty.

The exhibition featured multiple self-portraits (one critic once labelled Mapplethorpe “as vain as Narcissus”), including one of himself in obvious drag and you couldn’t deny his androgyny, dark curls and full lips rouged in all their glory.

Warhol made pop-art famous. His Heinz bottles are almost as famous as his Campbell Soup Cans.

And my sports team also play their home games at Heinz Field, receiving $57 million in naming rights back in 2000 to have such a name on their stadium. A cheap deal for Heinz, as the going rate for naming rights was considerably higher, even then.

All of this combined to make the purchase worth it.

It’s a shame that I cannot hang it on the wall of my dorm. But as I don’t own the room, and neither tape nor tack would be substantial enough to hold the board and, obviously, am forbidden to knock holes in the wall, it’ll have to remain propped on a box until some other idea sparks in my head as to how exactly I present it.

If my postgraduate year had a symbol it would be this picture.

And if the year flames out in a few months’ time, this picture would be a satisfactory token gained from such a venture.

Which is a polite way not to mention the amount of money that would be effectively flushed away, should I cut my losses and bail halfway through.

Until then though, I’m happy for it to greet me every day I walk in the door, or wake from another night of dreaming of trying to be better.

P.S.

And I haven’t overlooked the Kate Moennig snapshot in all of this. Picked up years ago, back in London, for a few pounds, it was during those interim years when Kate had just finished ‘Young Americans’ and was about to embark on ‘The L Word’ and the role that she’s most famous for.

Black and white, face turned half-portrait, flecked dark hair and a mouth that’s neither smiling nor sour. She’s enigmatic in her appeal, not unlike the likes of Mapplethorpe and Warhol, the provided inspiration for the artwork she’s rubbing shoulders with right now.

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