The Jerry Moriarty Interview

GROTH: Now, regarding your reference to audiences being passive, and your antipathy toward that. Don’t you think ideally audiences shouldn’t be passive, in the sense that they should be engaged in the work so much that they’re constantly involved in interpreting it and comprehending it and understanding it and cycling through their own prisms of consciousness?

MORIARTY: The smart audience, yeah. And I’m not a smart audience. [Laughter].

GROTH: Now wait a minute …

MORIARTY: No really —

GROTH: False modesty here.

MORIARTY: No, I need to do it to keep myself in check. Because my ego is super inflatable. And it will just [imitates sound of balloon inflating] and I’ll just have this balloon head here. And finally I realized that’s not going to work for my truth search, whatever it is, because if I don’t keep me under check, I will just go into … I have a hero sensibility. Being an artist, when I’m making art, I am Roy Rogers. I am whatever hero …

GROTH: Better pick a better hero than that, man.

MORIARTY: Well, yeah I know. That’s a retarded hero, I have to admit. But that’s the one that started it. And Superman of course, too. I was born the same year as Superman appeared. ’38. He was born in ’35 or whatever with Siegel and Shuster in Cleveland.

GROTH: But he was published in ’38. You’re the same age.

MORIARTY: So between Superman and garbage men, which I had a great love for when I was a kid, and Roy Rogers and Lash LaRue, which was the opposing — not to Roy — but he wore black and he had a whip, and he’d bring people to justice with his whip. He talked like Bogart; they called him the Bogart of the plains. He was from Brooklyn. He’d talk out of the side of his mouth, and he had a Bogart look. He really did have a Bogart look. But he wore all black, had a black horse. Hopalong Cassidy wore black, but he had a white horse. This guy had a black horse, yet he was a good guy. But they had to make him do it; he had to see some injustice somewhere — women being manhandled in his presence and stuff — and he’d step in and say, “Who are you?” And they always end up saying that: “What’s your name?” And he would never tell them, but he wasn’t the Lone Ranger, either, so … So there was that, I did relate to this less successful B-Western guy. And I think a lot of people in my generation recognize that. Lash LaRue, even his name is phony. Roy Rogers, how white-bread can you be? His real name of course is Sly something or … he’s got a weird name, like Clark Gable had a weird name. Lenny Leach or something….

GROTH: Archie Leach. That’s Cary Grant but yeah.

MORIARTY: Oh right, Cary Grant. Anyway, the notion of the hero … function in the art thing …

GROTH: What do you mean by that?

MORIARTY: What I mean is that I’m … it’s like in movies, when I watch movies. I can watch some heavy movies. Well, Jim Jarmusch isn’t super heavy, but Dead Man, I love Dead Man. It’s like a new way to do a Western, with Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer and Billy Bob Thornton has a cameo part. And Robert Mitchum in his last movie.

GROTH: Pretty fucking sad part, yeah. Like death.

MORIARTY: Yeah. Well, but it was this kind of Viking death in the long run. But done under the aegis of the Indians. They’re my constant heroes; that hasn’t changed since I was a kid. But it’s the mythos of the Indians, not the reality, which may be just like the mythos, whatever, I don’t want to even find that out. I once saw Marlon Brando on television with the guy Chief Longbear or somebody, on a show called The Les Crane Show, which was on ABC in 1962. And I remember to this day, Marlon didn’t talk. He stepped back. This was before he got his Oscar for The Godfather, and he sent the Indian out there. So he was into Indians way earlier, ’62, and Longbear, who was just wise, he was just saying unpretentious smart things, simple. I’m looking at this thinking, it’s really true. He’s a real, living guy. It wasn’t like Iron Eyes Cody, who was an Italian from Brooklyn, the guy that looked at the trash on the side of the road and he had a tear in his eye. [Laughs.] He wasn’t an Indian, but he had the right idea. He looked like an Indian, but he wasn’t an Indian. But this guy was the real deal. So I called up ABC … How do I get in touch with this guy. He completely overwhelmed me.

That’s part of the hero thing. If I see a jazz musician in the club, I’d go up [during] break time, and insist he sit at my table. I’m awful ballsy then. Otherwise I’m reluctant and too shy to do that, in that environment at least. So they said, “Would you like to come out and talk?” and I said something in the conversation about how they never have artists on TV talking about stuff. And the guy said, “The problem is that they’re not articulate. And the second problem is that they don’t want to.” [Laughs.] And I’m full of myself and I say, “I don’t mind it.” And he said, “Maybe we can get together.” I think I was talking to Les Crane, I’m not sure of the actual guy.

GROTH: This would have been ’62?

MORIARTY: ’62. And he was a really polished guy, really good-looking guy, and smart. He wouldn’t have been the kind of guy I would have liked to have … maybe it would have been OK, but he just seemed like everything’s gone his way his whole life.

GROTH: Charmed life.

MORIARTY: Charmed, everything is perfect for him. And he’s good looking besides, like George Hamilton kind of thing. But I didn’t have any real prejudice. If I could be on TV, that’d be cool. No problem with that. But that was the information I got from that. They gave me an address to write to in Falstaff, Arizona.

So I wrote to this American Indian Youth Council, saying I didn’t have any money to give them, because that’s what they needed. But I had just started teaching at SVA [The School of Visual Arts]. I said, I’m an illustrator and I could teach illustration or something like that, and learn from whatever you could teach me, and I would be grateful. And I had no money. So I looked for a buffalo-head nickel, and strangely enough I couldn’t even find that. Because one side the buffalo is gone, the other side the Indian is gone. It’s like a doomed nickel. And the last one was 1938, so it’s really nice how that worked out. Actually it’s ’37 but I’ll take another year for that — it’s close enough.

And so I go to school and I couldn’t find a buffalo-head nickel, and I asked the whole class: “You got a buffalo-head nickel?” No one had a buffalo-head nickel. I said, well this is ironic. I can’t even find the lost Indian buffalo-head nickel. And I finally found one, and I sent it along as a token of what I meant. I had no money and stuff. And they didn’t have a staff down there, and my friends were making fun of me. I was living near Pratt. I went to school there and I was still in the neighborhood. They were saying, “we saw this guy with a blanket on at the end of the street and he was looking at the buildings like he was looking for you.” Things like that — cheap shots — and they weren’t funny, and these guys weren’t that funny anyway, but it was in their head: what a foolish person I am to do this. No one’s going to answer that. Well I got an answer like three months later. Because they have no staff or anything. This was like carefully typed out, and it was accepting the nickel graciously and it said something to the effect of: We really would like you to come down to teach them illustration, because they need jobs. [Laughs.] And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to just teach them art, but not illustration, not a profession. Which was how stupid I was about the real needs, whether they needed to get to work. I mean I’m not even seeing it, I’m seeing the hero thing. All they need to do is be reaffirmed about the value of their art, you know. As if I knew. Because I wasn’t looking at Indian art. I just sensed that they were a creative force. That was my hero projection. Indians are creative forces in my brain.

And I still think … I see Gary Farmer going through this, when Gary Farmer played that part in Dead Man. How he’d gone to England and finally got away and came back, and he’d met William Blake — that was Johnny Depp’s name — and he didn’t know that William Blake was a poet and a painter. So he started to quote, “Some people go to bed …” — whatever, I forget the quote — “… miserable and some people wake up …” Whatever. It’s a beautiful quote, I’m sorry I don’t remember it, but then he was … this other person was taking a smoke. He was isolated from his tribe; they called him “Nobody.” I just loved him, and he’s a real Indian — Gary Farmer’s a real Indian. He’s just a wonderful actor and a real guy. There’s another movie called Powwow Highway, where he played a traditional Indian in a contemporary world whose friend was back from Vietnam — who was an Indian, who didn’t want anything to do with the traditional Indian things. And finally something happens where they actually get him to appreciate that there’s some value in that. Gary Farmer stayed in that position. He is a good actor. I really like him. It’s that sensibility about creativity … I don’t like its narrowness, I gotta say. I don’t like certain violations you cannot go beyond, or certain rules there. The rituals have to be performed exactly … the religion concept of it.

I like the receptibility of the Indians. Maybe it’s because of that setup, but I just like the receptibility to force us. I’m not a fan of nature; I love the city. To me, trees and bushes are annoying. [Groth laughs.] I mean, you go and do a picture with a bush, and what the fuck is the shape of a bush? It’s got no shape to it. It’s a blob that happens to be in the way of everything else, so they call it a bush. [Groth laughs.] It’s not glass, it’s got little sticks in it, so it’s a bush, right? That’s annoying to me. The shadows from nature, they’re out of control. The shadows from a building, I know what the hell it’s doing. And then you get these wonderful light sources from … my sink gets lit up every once in a while because a window in a building like 20 blocks away is hit by the sunlight at a certain time of day. It’s like the lost mine in Arizona, looking for Dutchmen’s gold. The sun’s going to come in at exactly the right time. This happens like twice a year because of this equinox thing, and I love bizarre light sources that come from, not nature, but from artificial things. So I’m not even with the ethos of the Indian [???], but there’s something … if I even believed in reincarnation, there was something where I was connected in some way. But I don’t, so I can’t go if I … I’d like to just suck that in and say yes, there’s something that really makes that reasonable, because I am part of that. But my way of capturing it for myself, and I can’t do it. But there is still that, and I love the way they look. I think it’s the most handsome race.

GROTH: Indians?

MORIARTY: Yeah, I mean I just … unbelievable, [good-looking?]. There was a thing on Channel 13 last night about this Indian girl high school basketball team on some show. I just caught the tail-end of it, but God, as soon as they came on with the close-ups, talking to them off the court, because this was like 10 years ago that this had happened, so they’re talking [there’s these faces again?]. The Indian girl faces, too. They really do look like the Spanish, the South American, Mexican, that kind of combination, that mixed race thing. I love mixed races. I like the Polynesian look, which is a mixture as well. I mean absolutely pure European doesn’t mean much to me. Absolutely pure African doesn’t mean much to me, but you make a Halle Berry, a mixed thing, or a Derek Jeter, a mixed thing —

GROTH: So why is that aesthetically more interesting to you?

MORIARTY: I don’t know why. I think it’s Roy Rogers, ultimately. Yeah, Roy Rogers.

GROTH: It all goes back to Roy Rogers.

MORIARTY: Yeah, because he had like, oriental eyes almost.

GROTH: Really?

MORIARTY: I mean, they had to do things with lighting because it looked like he was squinting all the time, but he really wasn’t.

GROTH: Oh that’s right. He looked like he was squinting all the time.

MORIARTY: Yeah, I think he actually probably has … I mean it’s only recently I’ve come up with this thought, even though I’m well beyond [?????], it’s the notion that there’s something about that dislocation. He’s clearly from Ohio, where he was born, but the notion that he has these Asian-looking eyes. And it’s not an unheard of European trait, either. It’s sort of like a white trash look, in some ways, too. There’s something about that. You see them on cops a lot. [Laughs.] Go into a trailer, and doing … and there’s those eyes again, slightly Asian. And I think that has an appeal to me. But not totally Asian, because I find totally Asian is just as adequate as totally Swedish. Just has a standard that —

GROTH: It’s the purity that you reject.

MORIARTY: Well, I don’t reject it; I’m just kind of lulled by it. I’m not angry about it.

GROTH: You’re not moved by it.

MORIARTY: My favorite girlfriend was German-Irish and had that blonde look, absolute, totally European-looking. It was her spirit as well as her look that was important there. But you had an Asian girlfriend.

GROTH: Chinese-American, yeah.

MORIARTY: Yeah, but she was totally, both sides, right?

GROTH: Yeah.

MORIARTY: She looked like she was totally Asian.


MORIARTY: I mean it’s appealing. I have Asian students. They look fine. It’s just, when it’s a mixture, that’s that one more step. I met a student from Ecuador who had that Indian … closer to the Indian side, but definitely the Spanish side there. Just … and I don’t know if she’d even stand out in the street. She was good looking, but among all that … but it would get my attention…I don’t know what it is. There’s still something that’s not giving it the thoroughbredness. The thoroughbred animals, I might despise them. It’s not their fault, it’s just a fact that they’re breeding them so cleanly.

GROTH: Too refined, yeah.

MORIARTY: And I’d rather have a mutt in some form.

GROTH: They’re more interesting.

MORIARTY: Yeah, more interesting to look at. And you kind of feel like, well they’re not better than you are. I come from Irish, Danish, Welsh, English mixture, all that together. I don’t have a country. My name identifies me with Ireland, of course. And I do find myself getting tribal every once in a while watching that on TV. Oh, it’s an Irish guy, OK, maybe! And then I go, don’t even think that.

GROTH: You are wearing green. [Laughter.]

MORIARTY: Yeah, this is my [???] green.

GROTH: Well it’s funny, you know. You mentioned how distinct Indians look — that ethnic look. I was thinking about that and what struck me as funny is how many white, American actors look like Indians.


GROTH: You know that Rock Hudson played an Indian?

MORIARTY: I can believe it.

GROTH: Isn’t that weird?

MORIARTY: Yeah. Back in the ’50s especially [Jeff] Chandler, whatever his name is, played Cochise in a movie. I mean this guy looked so much Long Island, I couldn’t believe it. He looks like Leonard Bernstein, for Christ’s sake. I mean, he’s a good-looking guy. It’s just like, how do you do that? Blue eyes besides. There was a guy by the name of Quanah Parker, who was a renegade Indian, but he was half white and he did have blue eyes. And he was so Indian, in the fact that he beat the shit out of the white guys. I mean he just did not take any quarter. He was completely identified. So it is possible to play that, but that wouldn’t give me the hero thing I want. I’d just look at that and go, well, kick the white guy’s ass. I like that. But it’s just the idea —

GROTH: Well he later learned to cooperate with the whites, didn’t he?

MORIARTY: Probably, yeah. I mean, it’s a survival technique. So did Geronimo.

GROTH: Right, it was either that or expire.

MORIARTY: Well they put him … where did they put him, away in Florida somewhere? [Laughter.]

GROTH: I’m not sure they went that far.

MORIARTY: No they did, originally.

GROTH: Really?

MORIARTY: At least the movies did. [Laughs.] They took him on a train from Arizona, from the Apache, right to Florida.

GROTH: So getting back to the hero concept, do you see yourself when you’re painting?

MORIARTY: I see the movie of me. The movie of me doing the noble thing, in a sense. It’s a corny thing, it’s like counter life forces, and this is reality. You’re in the middle of New York City, I mean what the hell are you talking about?

GROTH: But this obviously has a real resonance for you.

MORIARTY: Yeah, it keeps me charged up, because I feel … as a kid I wanted to be an artist. As a kid I wanted to be a garbage man, as a kid I wanted to be an Indian, as a kid I wanted to be Roy Rogers, or Lash. So all those kids I couldn’t be. But the artist thing was my special trick, and it did give me some kind of … it’s the ultimate hope machine. Like whatever you put into this can happen. I mean it happens during a flat, two-dimensional world, but even that can expand. Because I admire artists, so in some sense, artists to me are heroes that I admire. Or a survivor, any artist survivor, any survivor period, but that’s too big. But artist survivors are people that have done something without due appreciation for … it’s certainly not a denigrated race of people, artists aren’t. There’s so many paths you can take. Just look at all the art schools in New York City. You can see how big a success that is. The fact that, well yeah, the starving artist in the garret, that’s his choice for sure, just not … society isn’t saying, well, you’re fucked. So it’s not that. It’s just the notion that artists on your own terms, that’s the game that I … but I didn’t think it was going to go this long, believe me. I figured I was a boy genius and that they’re going to come to my door when I’m 20, just fresh out of art school, and say, “Oh, we’re waiting for you, Messiah. Here you are.” No way did I think it was going to go this long, and that I would be like peripheral and borderline-talent world. [Groth laughs.] It’s important for me to say, I’m not saying it to get …

GROTH: Is that how you feel?

MORIARTY: I have to sense it in some way for me to get focused to the true things in my nature, as opposed to the heroic things. Because the heroic things are always beyond who I am. And that’s the whole point of it, aspiring to … it may be the better angels of your nature, to quote Lincoln. It’s that other thing. And I do want to do that, but I have to believe in the reality of my existence, too. And that’s the truth in itself, that’s paid for, that’s worth acknowledging and admiring in myself, but it’s not enough. I’m not for that, just because you won’t sell your painting and all of a sudden you’re … wow, you must be real. You can’t live on that very long, because that’s not true. It’s because I’m selfish, it’s because I have no generosity outside of my students. I love me in school, because in school I am really generous, honestly generous. I’m not trying to hold a job down or anything. And I like the fact that they’re there to meet me on a level of my information. I mean not everybody’s there for that reason, they’re there to be in school. But occasionally I’ll find people that really want my information. And that’s what keeps me out of the cocktail party world and stuff like that too, because I have nothing to give back on a social level that would be as useful as what I give as a teacher. And I always feel that’s the real … that’s the thing that I somehow in my nature want to do. That kind of generosity. But it’s object generosity, I’ll buy you beers and stuff. I’m not stiff. I’m falling on my picture saying you can’t have it, because who’s going to get it? Rich people. And I don’t have a big deal about rich people. It’s become as I got older a big deal, because I’m thinking, I’m making luxury items for people that wouldn’t want me in their living room, and I wouldn’t blame them even if these weren’t luxury items. And I’m glad that there’s that distinction. I once married someone rich, so … yeah I was married at 19, 20 years old. It was a ’50s thing.

GROTH: You married a rich girl?

MORIARTY: I married somebody way richer than my status. I was a pin boy in a bowling alley. And I had a ’39 Chevy Coupe that had a Hollywood muffler. It wasn’t hot at all, just made a lot of noise. Fake duals. I had white porter walls, and these were like rubber things that if you drove too close to the curb they would wrinkle up and just blow your cover. But it was a cherry car, the car just was beautiful. And it was truly driven by an old lady. And I got it, and it was my first car. I was 16 years old. So I came from one side of the tracks. I mean, we weren’t poor, but she was living in a mansion. Stanford White, the architect, designed the mansion in Binghamton. On the best street. And her father was an Irishman, football star, working-class guy. Her mother, though, came from Italian stock and they were all like professionals. Like assistant D.A. in my hometown and doctors and all kinds of others. So the money came from that side.

GROTH: Why did you let her go?

MORIARTY: Well she sadly got schizophrenia. She was just an absolutely gorgeous girl and she had an IQ — she’s still alive I’m sure. She has an IQ of 170 or something like that. Way over the top. And her situation, she had this … one of her uncles was the vice president of RCA, which meant that he was the one that sent all the other younger brothers and stuff off to medical school and everything else. This guy did it all on his own. What happened was that he potential was so enormous — she was gorgeous, she was smart, she was social — that she could write her own ticket. But she couldn’t, because they wanted her to be either a doctor or a lawyer. Not her mother and her father so much, but these uncles. So whatever other things that cause schizophrenia — manic depressant, schizophrenic … meanwhile we got married because she was pregnant, but she really wasn’t, it turns out. This is 1958, I’m in art school, at Pratt. Totally naïve — everybody is. It’s the ’50s. Eisenhower days. And you hardly ever used rubbers. So she got pregnant, and I did the right thing. I was the hero. We had already broken up, but I figure it was me, because we got together again and it was within the right period of time. And she sure as hell didn’t want to have a kid. But it turns out there was something … Or if she did get pregnant, she got an abortion and didn’t want me to know about it. But whatever it was, she was super Catholic too. It was an amazing experience to have when you’re 20 years old. And that’s why my favorite girlfriend, I screwed that one up because I had memories of the previous things from years before. Anyway, what’s my point here? [Laughter.] See, there was a point.

GROTH: You don’t have kids, right?

MORIARTY: No, I don’t have kids. Because she, like I said, she wrote me that letter. She wrote me the letter to say that she is now going to tell her parents that there’ll be three of us. That’s a whole other story, that is really nice. I’m not glad it happened, but it really is an adventure. But I did all the right things — I did the hero thing. I didn’t boo me on the screen here. Not that I’ve been a good guy all the time, but I did the right things. And it wasn’t like she was ugly or anything, and she was my girlfriend from high school. She was my first real … first time I ever got laid, in fact. So it wasn’t a real minor thing. I didn’t do a stupid thing in the sense of that, but it was the wrong thing in the long run. But there wasn’t much choice back then, just to be fair about it. And then things went bad, and she had shock therapy and everything. It was way beyond anything … even her parents hadn’t any clue, too. Or anybody. It just all came out at once. And from what I’ve heard on television about schizophrenia, it really hits that age group — late teens — and it’s devastating. It’s like no one expects it. But I had no clue, and no one did. Everyone thought she was just spoiled or whatever, and couldn’t deal with it. We never even lived together. It was quite a movie there in my mind. But the hero thing still went on.

The other thing that happened was this rich uncle. I’m in art school now, I’m going to be this illustrator, I really planned to be a commercial artist. I love illustration. I cut up the magazines. I took the famous artist course in the back of comic books. I was completely gung-ho for illustration, because I just loved it. And I love comics, but comics … back then you didn’t even think about being a comic artist, unless you’re in New York City, for sure. But illustration was coming to you every day, and I thought, well this is the next level up.

GROTH: You were in New York City though. You went to Pratt.

MORIARTY: Yeah, but when I was in my hometown, Binghamton, before I went to Pratt, that’s when I took the famous artist course. And by then my father had died, so we were just … I have two brothers and a sister, and my mother. It was pretty close. So just the fact they even went to college, nobody went to college.

GROTH: You were under the spell of abstract expressionism.

JERRY MORIARTY: Yeah. I mean that was so cool. I went to high school having these drawing chops. I got the art award at graduation. I was the art kid in my hometown —

GROTH: This was all for representational work, I assume.

MORIARTY: Yeah. It was all about being an illustrator. My admiration was for artists like Norman Rockwell, and he still had a place in my heart for many years after that.

So, I went to art school with this total acceptance of representation stuff, and then I was among all these other people who were also art kids. Plus, I had a lot of vets — because this is Korean War, GI bill people, and they really did a lot. I mean, that was really good for us, to be 18 years old, and there’s somebody who’s only like four years or five years older than you, but the seriousness is way beyond what it would have been if they were just regular four years older than you. And it was really positive, truly. It was a really interesting thing to have happen. I’m sure it’s still tried. I write vets. I don’t know if they are, I just know they’re vets, because I get the paper that says, make sure those guys make attendance, so I know he’s a vet. I’m glad, not for them being vets, but for the fact that they are going to art school…

But Pratt had all these practical, commercial things: Industrial Design up the wazoo; they had advertising, illustration. Fine art was like … I don’t think it existed there. They had a thing called Graphic Arts and Illustration, which was the department that I was in, which meant that if you wanted to be a fine artist, you took the same courses as the illustrators took, who also had to take the same courses the fine artists took; in other words, you had painting and stuff that had nothing to do with illustration, and they had illustration, which had nothing to do with painting, as far as they were concerned.

GROTH:  And everyone took all of them?

MORIARTY:  Yeah, there were zero electives, I mean, you had no electives. That was the curriculum and you took it. The foundation there was broader, because there was an advertising department, which is completely separate. So, that was a totally isolated thing. The industrial design department was totally isolated, and architecture had nothing to do with the art school. But it was there.

You knew these people, and they were inspirational too because of their drive and their belief. So, there I am. In fact, the first people I met there were architect people, and I remember going through the city going for a walk through Greenwich Village. We’re talking the beatnik time; I mean real beatniks in Greenwich Village in 1956.

Pollack just died. So, all the beats were … I wasn’t aware they existed of course, and I was what would be called a greaser. I mean I didn’t even have the Ivy look. I was transitioning into “Ivy look,” because my girlfriend at the time was this girl, and she was very aware of what Ivy League looked like, when I had greased-back hair, duck’s ass, duck’s tail, I had dry — I didn’t even have a lot of hair — dry on top, like Bill Haley and the Comets pompadour kind of thing.

GROTH: Have you read Spain’s autobiographical stuff?


GROTH:  Because I think…he lived in Binghamton. [It was Buffalo, of course, not Binghamton—GG]

MORIARTY: Oh, did he really?

GROTH:  I think so. I’ll send you a copy of his book. He does these autobiographical short stories and what you described reminded me of him, because he was part of a motorcycle gang and he had this slicked-back hair.

MORIARTY: I don’t think Binghamton had the motorcycle gang. It wouldn’t be a gang. It’d be guys on motorcycles, because, you know —

GROTH:  Well —

MORIARTY: It wouldn’t have been like Hells Angels —

GROTH: Yeah, it wasn’t like Hells Angels, but it was a group. It was probably a sub-gang. But not a real —

MORIARTY:  Because I was in that underworld scene so to speak, because I was a pin boy and stuff from bowling alleys, and a lot —

GROTH:  I’ll check on that and see if my memory is —

MORIARTY: Yeah. I knew all those people. All the working-class —

GROTH:  The tough kids —

MORIARTY: And the tough kids too. Mostly that was working class. So, I knew them, and there wasn’t any motorcycle people there. There was hot rods. Yeah, but not motorcycles.

GROTH: I’ll dig it out.

MORIARTY:  Maybe there were, and I wasn’t attuned to that, but I was pretty much on top of stuff there, because it was a small town.

GROTH: Well it would have been a few years later, too —

MORIARTY: OK. That’s possible. It’s changed a lot. I mean. Binghamton was an industrial town, and it had IBM, which was kind of the other side of —

GROTH:  You went to Pratt what year?

MORIARTY: 1956 to ’60. Before Kim Deitch. Kim Deitch went there in ’62 —

GROTH: Probably six years after you.

MORIARTY: So Kim Deitch’s time.

GROTH: Yeah.


GROTH: And they were contemporaries, right?

MORIARTY: Yeah, and Griffith, too. They’re all about the same time.

GROTH: Exactly. They all came to New York around ’63. Something like that.

MORIARTY: Yeah, I was out of school. I was actually starting to teach at SVA. I was like 25 when I started teaching. The thing I saw on the street, walking through Greenwich Village was the buildings of course, but then these architect guys were saying, “Look at that shape there. Look at this over here.” And, I’m looking hard and I’m not seeing it. Then I’m seeing it, but I’m thinking, “Why? This is not … this is what?” It’s no language. They’re not seeing another thing; they’re saying that’s something to look at. I think they’re going over the top, too, not because of me, but because they’re excited, here they are now in New York, as well. But they had that sophistication that I was completely without.

GROTH: Sure.

MORIARTY: And intelligence of some kind that I didn’t have. So, it took me a while to get there, but I started to see that the abstract thing was so cool, and it was so obscure, and beat stuff was so obscure. You went to dark coffee houses and listened to cool jazz, and you understood, or pretended to understand, obscure poetry. People were actually reading, saying these things on stages. It was poetry.



10 Responses to The Jerry Moriarty Interview

  1. ant says:

    ….and OF COURSE he has great taste in music!
    Great interview; I treasure that Buenaventura Press edition of “Jack Survives”.

  2. patrick ford says:


    Ouch. Would groveling help? It would be worth it.

  3. patrick ford says:

    MORIARTY: So between Superman and garbage men, which I had a great love for when I was a kid…


  4. David Roel says:

    I would try adjusting the speed in Audacity. I bet that would work.

  5. Adrian Hill says:

    It looks like the “here” link in the sentence “there is more of Jerry Moriarty here” is broken.

  6. Jill tannone says:

    And long gone, Snake and Puffy, green light from the midnight men across the street at their lockers.
    It’s been a long road……
    And I do so keep those slugs memories.

  7. Jerry Moriarty says:

    I just read this interview with Gary which he did years ago in my former loft/studio in NYC. I am now living and working in my childhood home that I bought a few years ago in Binghamton. The last comment from Jill is extra special
    because she and I lived together and painted together in that loft on 28th street for 5 years. Jill was my last girlfriend.

  8. I’m glad to hear you don’t sell your work. It has authenticity.

    I saw “Jack Survives” in a store window, and pushed aside the thought of buying it.
    Then after I left it behind, it worked on me, and I had to have it, but I could not define why. I got it and now go back to enjoy it again. It is mysterious.

  9. Jerry Moriarty says:

    Thanks Gwynn. I never thought of Jack that way but understand how it could happen in spite of his slice of life ness.
    A friend once told me after seeing some new Jacks I had just finished that he didn’t think that Jack would do that.
    I accepted what he said because Jack has a life independent of mine and I love that. It IS mysterious

  10. Penny Baker says:

    Mr. Moriarty — I need to contact you about permission to include an image of the cover RAW One Shot #3 in an article — Thanks

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