Lead Story

The Los Angeles Times reported in April that, in order to meet state-mandated quotas for low-income housing in each city, three affluent towns near Los Angeles would begin including in their counts the servants’ quarters on large estates. State officials said the decisions by Rolling Hills Estates, San Marino, and Bradbury did not violate the law.

Great Art

In May a 75-work retrospective of photographer Joel-Peter Witkin was scheduled for the Villa Pignatelli in Naples, Italy. Included in the show were The Kiss, a photograph of a corpse’s head sliced open by a pathologist and joined lip to lip, and Still Life, a photograph of a decapitated head as a vase containing a flower arrangement.

On permanent display in the living room of a SoHo loft is 3,600 square feet of dirt spread two feet thick. The Earth Room was created in 1980 by conceptual artist Walter DeMaria and is described by curator Bill Dilworth as having “more of an emotional range than the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel.” Once a week Dilworth cultivates the soil so that nothing will grow in it.

In January Canadian sculptor Raymond Mackintosh opened the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg with a nearly life-size statue of a vendor scooping ice cream from a cart for a little boy and girl–made entirely of butter. Last summer Linda Christensen sculpted “butterheads” out of 85-pound blocks of butter for the Minnesota State Fair.

The French performance artist Orlan recently completed the fifth episode of plastic surgery, out of seven scheduled, in her four-year program of personal body transformation. She is changing parts of her face and body to conform to Renaissance and post-Renaissance ideals of feminine beauty, and after it’s over an advertising agency will select a new name for her.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Nicolino, a “conceptual artist” in Point Richmond, California, is trying to collect enough brassieres to string them four miles across the Grand Canyon. So far he has about 50.

In February Erika Rothenberg and Tracy Tynan staged an exhibit of authentic suicide notes at a gallery in Los Angeles. The artists framed the notes in vinyl body bags and gave each piece a name. For example, Man With a Sexual Problem referred to a note by a man who killed himself because his penis was too large.

According to a recent profile in Creativity magazine, a supplement to Advertising Age, Minneapolis artist Judy Olausen has completed nine photographs of a series featuring her 70-year-old mother portrayed as various objects. Included were her mother kneeling on all fours with a pane of glass on her back (Mother as Coffee Table) and lying alongside a highway (Mother as Road Kill). Olausen said, “My brothers think I’m torturing my mother,” but countered that her mother is her best friend: “I’m immortalizing her.”

Weird Weapons

During a domestic dispute in Millstadt, Illinois, in March, Terry L. Maul threatened to shoot his wife and daughter but finally settled for throwing the family’s pet pig at the girl. Neither she nor the pig was injured.

In February an 86-year-old woman shopping in a Foodtown store in Union Township, New Jersey, stopped a 32-year-old woman whom she accused of trying to steal from her purse. The elderly woman threw a sweet potato at the alleged thief with such force that it broke against her head, slowing her exit from the store so that she was soon captured.

Mabel Hyams, 79, was given a suspended sentence in London in February on a charge that she had beaten her husband, also 79, to death. Ms. Hyams, who is wheelchair-bound, testified that her husband had constantly taunted her about three affairs he had had in the 1940s in the early days of their marriage. Finally, she could take no more and hit him five times with her bedpan.

The Weirdo-American Community

Thomas Supina, 86, was arrested in December in Ashford, Connecticut, and charged with smashing windows in the town clerk’s office because he was upset with the wording on a referendum question. The Hartford Courant reported that Supina, a former state legislator, had over the years been arrested a number of times for making political points by throwing rocks at and smashing windows in government buildings.

Least Competent People

Officials conducting a district middle-school spelling bee in Bell County, Kentucky, in April buzzed off finalist Amanda O’Bryan, age 12, when she spelled “label” L-A-B-E-L instead of the way they thought it should be spelled, L-A-B-L-E. The other finalist, who heard the judges rule L-A-B-E-L incorrect, guessed correctly that what they wanted was L-A-B-L-E and was declared the winner, moving on to the state contest.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.