In 1961, Pietro Manzoni canned 90 tins of his poop and called it Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit) and sold it for $37 a can. In 2015, can number 53 sold for over $250,000. When I took my first ceramics class I made a swirl of poop for my boys’ bathroom and a giant swirl of poop dessert holder, which I still own but have used only once. I’m told that making poop in ceramics class is not uncommon among new potters.
Apparently Mr. Manzoni and I are not the only artsy people who enjoy fecal humor. Italian Artist Cristina Guggeri has created a series of photos of world leaders on the toilet called The Daily Duty. American Artist Paul McCarthy had a giant, inflatable poop on display in a park in Hong Kong in 2013. A couple of years ago an artist named Gold Poo was gilding New York City’s unpicked up dog poop. The most beautiful poop related art I’ve ever seen is the elegant sculpture, Lady Taking A Poop by David Shrigley. I’m not sure the list of artists making poop-related art is endless but my interest in all things poop is.
I can’t help myself. I love talking about poop. I find it to be an infinitely entertaining topic. So last fall, when I was shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I came across an item called Squatty Potty, whose motto is healthy colon : happy life and immediately texted a picture of the goofy product to my sister.
“OMG! Where are you? bbb? I want one!”
Not the reaction I expected. My phone rings.
“Will you pick me up a couple?”
“And ship them from Chicago to New York? No. Don’t you have a Bed Bath out there?”
I went on to suggest that she use a stool or something she already had. Something pretty. I’m all about the aesthetics. I don’t like to walk into bathrooms that have full wastebaskets, soft potty seat inserts, soft toilet seats, heated toilet seats, wood toilet seats, containers of flushable wipes, or cans of air fresheners and especially not matches. I don’t want any indications that the owner has any bathroom issues. I get skeeved out and then can’t use the facilities myself. My ideal bathroom is clean, nicely decorated, with a fresh toilet free from spots and stains on the seat and in the bowl, white toilet paper and preferably, disposable, monogrammed hand towels.
Of course my sister didn’t listen to my suggestion and she ordered a bunch of the things and raved to me about how much better her family was pooping. I have a family member with bowel issues, so I’d been reading Gut by Giulia Enders and Gulp by Mary Roach because I wanted to better understand the alimentary canal. I did note that Ms. Ender’s book had a diagram showing that sitting on the toilet puts a kink in your colon and squatting stretches out the colon for quick and easy elimination. According to the Squatty Potty’s very entertaining video starring a prince and an ice cream-pooping unicorn, if I use a Squatty Potty I won’t suffer from hemorrhoids, constipation or colon disease, including colon cancer.
Just because I didn’t want to own a Squatty Potty, doesn’t mean I didn’t wanted to try the “technology.” I found myself, when having trouble eliminating, propping my feet up. I’d use whatever was at hand; rolls of toilet paper, a wastepaper basket, tissue boxes, my suitcase, a soup pot, a houseplant, and even my dog. Just for fun, I’d put my feet up when I didn’t think I needed to poop and out it came. I felt lighter and happier. And then I remembered The Daily Duty photos and thought, “What if all of our world leaders had Squatty Potties, we might all live on a happier and healthier earth!”
Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and founder of Doodle Art & Design, a teaching studio and art gallery in Western Springs. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. You can experience more about her and her studio at www.doodleartanddesign.com