Hung in a gigantic sky lit room at Dia Beacon, an art museum an hour and a half north of New York City, is a series of paintings by Andy Warhol called “Shadows.” Warhol completed the 102 abstract canvases—a repetition of blurry ﬁgures in various densities and colors—in 1979, and asked that they always be displayed as one piece. It is rumored that the shadows in question were either cast by pieces of paper ripped and held to light by Warhol’s longtime assistant, or they are erect penises held probably less close to light by who knows. You can ponder yourself silly about the whats, whys and hows of the art world in Warhol’s room at the Dia—they’ve put out two comfy couches in the middle of the room for relaxed contemplation. Which is exactly what I thought Cameron Mesirow would do, but instead, jetlagged out of her mind, she sinks into the cushions and pretends to snore. But unwilling or unable to actually sleep, Mesirow opens her eyes and says what she’s been thinking about, which turns out is her middle school Spanish teacher, Señor Duffy. He hated gum. One day, she says, he came into the class wearing a Western-style shirt with snap buttons, unusual. When he heard the inevitable chewing, he ripped open the shirt to reveal a secret undershirt that read in big print chicle en la basura—gum in the trash! Mesirow laughs and we get off the couch and head to the room with dirt and broken glass on the ﬂoor. She loves it.
It’s pretty much Mesirow’s birthright to love weird shit. Her father is a musician who now lives in Germany and performs with the Blue Man Group. Her mother was a singer in the almost famous late ’70s Boston new wave band Human Sexual Response. Their most famous song, “Jackie Onassis,” was quoted by Rage Against the Machine. Their second most famous is “Butt Fuck.” In the group with Mesirow’s mother were Dini Lamot and Windle Davis, who, 30 years later, are still a couple. After the band broke up in 1980, Lamot and Davis shifted their creative energy towards home restoration, buying and rehabbing rundown properties. Their current project is The Inn at Hudson, a big brick bed and breakfast in upstate New York. After we wander through the rest of Dia (Mesirow on Richard Sera: “I feel the bigness”) and eat a lot of French fries from a paper bag, we hop in the car and drive an hour east to the Inn. Mesirow sleeps the entire way.
Davis and Lamot leave a key in the mailbox, so we let ourselves in, even though it turns out they’re home. They’re running late for a birthday dinner in town, but ﬁnd a minute to fawn over Mesirow and give a brief tour, the highlight of which is an unbloomed, tubular ﬂ ower marked with a “do not touch” sign and watched by a camera intermittently capturing the bloom’s buildup. When it opens, Lamot says gleefully, it will smell like trash.
We divvy up rooms and Mesirow chooses the Pink Room, largely based on the giant bathtub. The Green Room also has a tub, but it’s a little smaller, and is without a companion television. The White Room has a four-poster bed and pillows soft enough that they may be stuffed with the fur of a thousand baby rabbits. And looking around the house, it’s possible they are. There are creepy puppets, statues of lions, a grand piano and a toy piano, risqué photography books, gargoyles and generally anything that one might call an antique. Mesirow points out little details like a proud parent.
After eating a well-deserved meal and downing an espresso, Mesirow nuzzles up in a Persian rug-patterned easy chair and, with the stink flower’s camera ﬂash going off every 30 seconds, finally unfurls.