What was conversation like between David Lynch and Agnes Gund? What did Isabella Rossellini choose for her first course from a menu offering carpaccio di manzo or winter squash crostini? What kind of idle mental music—the kind one conjures silently when biding one’s time—might be drifting through the head of Angelo Badalamenti?
Such were a few of the questions that rose to mind during a celebratory dinner on Tuesday night for David Lynch in New York. The filmmaker and also accomplished artist premiered a gallery show at Sperone Westwater on the Bowery (“Squeaky Flies in the Mud,” on view through December 21), and after the throngs of fans and eager picture-takers departed, a small coterie made their way to mark the occasion at Gemma, an Italian restaurant nearby.
Lynch was seated next to Gund, the storied patron and activist around the arts. Badalamenti, who composed the music for numerous screen works by Lynch (including the indelible ethereality that serves as the soundtrack for Twin Peaks), sat at the next table over. Others in attendance included Rossellini (star of Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart) and the Olsen twins as well as Lynch’s brother John (described as an Eagle Scout in a scant listing on IMDb) and sister Martha (a partner in an investment group in California).
The paintings, drawings, and sculptures at the gallery did little to diminish the mystery that surrounds Lynch and his allegiance to conflicting poles of plainness and surreality. One work in thick, waxy paint summoned a figure squeezing a tube with the word “ointment” scrawled on the canvas. (“I have eczema and stuff like that, so I can relate to what this guy’s going through,” a woman at the opening said to a viewer next to her.) Sculptures evoked notions of machines whose purposes will forever be unknown (but are likely very grisly). A drawing on paper bore the more than a little idiosyncratic words “For you Mayor Bloomberg a pink horizon w/ aligator.” Another painting showed a girl fleeing a house with the tag “Susie left home at age 14” (a good call, seeing as how her house was under attack by a giant red scorpion-like creature seeming to suck its innards through the roof).
The dinner was nice and convivial. Gallery cofounder Angela Westwater gave a toast to Lynch, and the artist—not one to hold forth about mysteries in his work—rose only to say, “I would like to say a big, big thank you to Angela Westwater for showing my work in such a beautiful space. Thank you, Angela. And here’s to many more!”
What the remarks might have lacked in terms of an artist statement were made up for by the guileless grin through which they were delivered. And then the eating continued.
Lynch’s brother and sister seemed to be enjoying themselves and, at one point, talk turned to family gatherings of old, when their mother was alive and they would all meet for time together in Riverside, California. One Thanksgiving they had to go to the grocery store for cranberries but, sadly, David had to stay in the car because his fame made shopping more than a normal chore. Otherwise, the holiday tradition was hunky-dory. Asked what Thanksgiving was like in the Lynch household, his sister brightened up and bellowed, “It was pretty ordinary!”