SAM TAYLOR-WOOD BY COURTNEY LOVE
From V Magazine’s September 2011 issue, V73 The Heroes Issue
If you strip away the excess of the incendiary force of nature that is Courtney Love—all the heartbreak, glitter, guitars, parties, tax attorneys, custody battles, estates, tabloid stories, misquotes, sex, and fashion (among other identifiers, of which there are thousands)—she is, by trade, a woman of the arts.
It should come as no surprise then, that the reigning queen of rock and roll has elected seminal British video artist, photographer, and director Sam Taylor-Wood as her personal hero. Both make profound work in which they often serve as their own centerpiece—self-flagellating song in Courtney’s case, acute and ethereal self-portraiture in Sam’s. But perhaps the greatest similarity they share, and one that makes both of them heroic, is that neither will take an ounce of bullshit from anyone. Love spoke to Taylor-Wood recently, as the artist took a welcome respite in L.A.
COURTNEY LOVE You’re my hero!
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD I’m so flattered. I was so surprised. Why did you choose me?
CL I’ll tell you why: you beat cancer twice, your body of work is brilliant, and you’re the only person who has never taken a bad picture of me—yet I have never worn makeup [for your photos].
STW The recent portrait I took fo you in my studio is one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken—not just of you, but of anyone. I mean, I know it’s revealing and there is quite a lot of—
CL There’s vagina in it. But it’s cool, it’s not like spread-eagle vagina.
STW There’s a power.
CL Yeah there’s a power. Somebody once said—and it wasn’t me, although I once found it attributed to me—that I had a magical pussy. So it sort of fits with that, which is fun. But anyway, how does it feel to have conquered cancer?
STW It’s one of those things that when you’re in it, you’re in it, and you’re literally battling for your life. I think now that I am out of it I try not to ever think about it, because it’s just one of those things that if I start thinking about it, it’s going to get me down and stop me from doing what I’m doing.
CL Did you say, I’m going to live in every moment now, I’m going to be in the now?
STW Oh yeah. I think that’s why I probably radically changed so much as a person because I stopped living the way other people wanted me to live and started living the way I needed to live for myself.
CL And that is so palpable, and that’s why I chose you. You have this integrity and astringent honesty. You don’t put up with any shit, and you don’t have any sort of agenda.
STW That’s why I’m so late in having my kids, because I couldn’t have any for such a long time. Now I’m kind of making up for lost time, with many things, in many ways.
CL Growing up, did you come from an upper-class family?
STW I’d say aspiring middle-class. People thinkt he double-barrel name is upper-class, but it just means my mum kept getting married. My first dad was Taylor and my second dad was Wood. My third dad’s name was too long to add to the list. I remember as a kid, my mom saying, “Taylor is so common, but if you are a Taylor-Wood, imagine checking into a hotel wearing a big fur coat and saying, ‘My name is Sam Taylor-Wood!'” I remember at 9 years old just thinking, How fantastic! She talked me into it.
CL You know, I think in Luella Barley’s Guide to English Style, she says in the last chapter that when it comes to arts, the class system just breaks down.
STW It’s true. It’s funny, because I remember thinking that being an artist meant having a passport to every level of society. You could be in a council estate working and say you’re an artist and you could be in a stately home working on something and say you’re an artist.
CL Did you always know you would end up making feature films?
STW I think I went a very long way around to actually end up doing what I always really wanted to do. Filmmakers are quite heroic sometimes, because I think to get a film made is an achievement in itself. To get a film made that is truthful to your vision is almost impossible.
CL What is your next film?
STW There are a few different ideas that I’m working on, and a couple of developments, but it’s too early to say anything. One of the projects requires a lot of research, and it just feels like the biggest luxury to actually stop and read. The downside is that I am so used to being self-motivated as an artist. In this instance, you have to rely on so many other people, so it can be frustrating.
CL God, I wish your brain could be downloaded into mine.
Sam Taylor-Wood in Los Angeles, July 2011
Photography Michael Evanet Styling Vanessa Geldbach