The first time I visited Jack, he was crocheting a penis, and like everyone else who entered his lair, I was hooked.
Since then, Jack moved to San Francisco where his fiber arts are legendary. I'm just one of many collectors in his cult.
So far, I have a cunning Valentine-doily penis in black and red— and a big knotty bruiser pierced with many amulets, including an old-time New York subway token.
And yes, if you're nice to me, I'll let you touch it.
It's difficult for me when Jack has a show, because if I get around a new crop of his penises, I Want Them All. But I can't stay away... and I like to meet the other devotees!
Here, Mr. Davis answers every question I have on my mind:
Why did you start making penises?
I got my M.S. in Art, focusing on Fibers in 1975. I was in college in the 60s, and graduate school in the '70s— and was influenced by the aesthetics of the period. Women in my weaving and textile classes were making wall hangings that looked like vulvas. I wanted to make things that would help men feel good about themselves, and at the same time I was coming out as a big fag.
Crocheted by Jack Davis
May 13 through June 10, 2007
Opening: Sunday, May 13, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm
Three hours for a simple one, up to several months for a complicated one.
Are they knitted or crocheted?
Crocheted. Knitting is done with two needles; crochet is done with a single hook.
What materials do you use?
I use yarns that are cotton, silk, wool and synthetic. Sometimes I recycle yarn from by taking apart thrift-store sweaters. A few yarns are hand dyed. Some penises are crocheted from found string.
In the past I have crocheted with sewing thread and colored telephone wire. Sometimes I use beads and other found objects for embellishment.
Are they cut or uncut?
All of the penises have foreskins.
How do you put one on?
You don't; they aren't penis warmers. They do open, however. There is a drawstring in each foreskin. So while they are not designed to be worn on a penis, you can put other things in them.
Did anyone model for them?
I use plastic Easter eggs. They're the right size and weight.
How are your penises hung?
I use sturdy push pins in the back. It's easier than using nails. I usually hang them in a grid. There is a group of pink ones that I hang in a triangle.
How seriously do you take your work?
There's an element of humor in my work; how could there not be? Whenever I talk about my work with people, it isn't long before they start laughing about questions like, "How are your penises hung?"
But I do take my work seriously. It comes from being an art student for seven years. I use the word penis, instead of dick or cock, specifically because it's a more serious term.
Any interesting stories about your penises?
One of the earliest stories occurred during my graduate exhibit. A straight male graduate assistant was taking a beginning art class through the university galleries. He stopped by my work, and picked up on of my penises to talk about it with his class. When he realized what it was, I guess he didn't want to be seen holding a penis, and dropped it instantly.
Back in the old days when I entered art shows using slides, there were several times when I was accepted into a show, but my work was rejected after it arrived. They realized they weren't crocheted abstract forms; they really were penises.
I once accidentally stabbed my finger with a fine-gauge crochet hook. Joe, my boyfriend at the time— and my roommate, Sue— took me to the hospital to have it removed. The emergency room staff couldn't believe I had been crocheting. They wanted to believe that my female roommate had stabbed me with what they assumed was her crochet hook.
A friend of mine uses one for a change purse; it gets interesting comments in gay bars.
I know a lesbian who used one for packing.
My grandmother used to crochet cotton animals with a drawstring; you would put your little end pieces of soap inside one and use it to wash with in the bathtub or shower. So, yes, I know someone who uses one in his shower.
Some people put them on their altars. Since they have drawstrings, they lend themselves quite well as ritual objects. Some people put them among their plants.
But mostly people display them on a shelf or on the wall. They look good in a group. While there isn't a right or wrong way to display them, I prefer that people not put them in display boxes.
How many have you made?
Do you sell your penises?
Do you exhibit them?
That's what it's all about.
Are you obsessed with penises?
Well, I am a fag.
Jack may be reached here, and of course, in-person at his opening is the very best!