Q & A - Wayne Propst on William Burroughs

Q: When have you been most proud of yourself as an artist?

A: “I did a show at the Bottleneck, some years ago, where I really felt like I rocked the house…having a room that size, full of people.  {It was} performance art…more towards ranting.  That was also driven by the person that I used as my gauge…I didn’t have a script, no paper, no cards, nothing, I’m just going.  I was using William Burroughs, who was sitting right where I wanted him, I’m watching his reaction, and based on that, that’s how the performance unfolded.  I felt that he was my great teacher, I felt like my teacher was really helping me.  It’s hard to know what was really in his mind, what he was doing, he’s a really smart guy, {he} was trying to get me revved up - what his true thoughts are, who knows?  I wouldn’t have any idea.  But he did a good job of working me, and then I in turn felt like I had, over the years, learned something from him.  This was like a really friendly room.  This is the kind of show they wanted.”

Q: I understand that you were a close friend of William S. Burroughs – how has that relationship impacted/inspired you as an artist?

A: “I didn’t realize he was my teacher until he was dead.  We were just hanging out, and then after he was gone, I said wait a minute, he was my teacher.  I was fortunate enough…some people would say {I’m} lucky, that’s bullshit.  I had a couple – 3 or 4 – people like that, that I was fortunate enough to hang out with, including Bill.  He was a super smart person if nothing else, of course he’s a maniac in a lot of ways.  Williams was very inadept with anything mechanical, and so a lot of his art, people helped him get ready. One of the ironies of marketing and working rooms, is…people who were famous for something or other, and then took up something more like painting…that’s been a debate…wait a minute, is William really a painter?  There is some truth to that, however, what if you’ve spent your whole life hanging out with artists, or being in gallery after gallery, and museum after museum, and being right there in the room when people are making stuff, and you’re a writer and then at age…north of 70…and then you take up something like that…well shut the fuck up, why not?  Well, this doesn’t look like much.  Well, what do YOU know?  The critics, the artists, I can see the way they might be bitter.  The last few years of Bill’s life, he made more money selling art than he did for all the books, everything.  For a while there, the gallery shows…unbelievable.”

 Photo by  Jose Ferez

Photo by Jose Ferez