‘That’s only a subject. People think I’ve got something about ants and dragonflies. I haven’t. I couldn’t care less about the damn things. Except that it’s a subject to paint, and there’s plenty of the coots around the place. I had one in my studio the other day, a bulldog ant, a big one, about an inch-and-a-half, nearly two inches. You know, they send a scout out looking for a new place. The thing wanders in me door. Massive big thing it was! And the worst part of it, they watch you. Oh ho, the head goes around and they follow you around, mongrel things! Fancy having an ant watching you! Keeping an eye on you! And they watch the dogs and the cats. Terrible things! Ever seen one, a bulldog ant? You wait until one bites you mate! Eight of them will kill you! I tell you what; we get them. That one ant, you know, if I hadn’t seen him, they could have set up a nest somewhere around my studio, because he’s a scout, they send out a scout, you know, he watches you. Fancy having an ant watching you! Oh ho, yeah. And if a dog walks past, you see all the [ants’] heads turn [to] watch the dog, for goodness sakes! It’s very dangerous for babies and kids, because if they lay on a lawn one bite could kill a kid. You know, bulldogs are very…well they’re around here. They’ve got them down town. There’s a bus stop down here, had a seat outside the bus stop, and they’re all crawling around the seat. Some ladies jumped around there when they sat down on the seat, because they come up in your clothes and bite chunks out of you, you know! Oh, it’s the worst bite you can get. Very, very deadly blooming bite, you know. Green heads are the same, little green heads, the mongrel things. Anyway, I don’t like bulldog ants. And we’ve had a few nests in our yard too. Awful things they are.’
Selection of 1960s neck ties from my collection.
While architect Harry Seidler’s impressive body of work cannot be denied, I must confess to having been more interested in his trademark bow ties than his buildings. I own about 250 vintage clip-on bow ties, and in 1999 I wrote him a letter asking if he would donate one of his to my collection. ‘Sorry to disappoint you,’ he indignantly replied. ‘I have never worn, nor will I ever wear, a “clip-on” bow tie! I only ever use “tie yourself” ties exclusively.’
There are lots of great Karal Ann Marling stories. All of them true. One of my favourites happened when Karal Ann was Chairman of the Art History Department, which at the time was housed in an old science building, so nearly every room had a sink. Mary, the department’s beloved slide librarian, had complained about a foul smell in one of the rooms. Karal Ann suspected it was due to a certain male member of staff urinating in that room’s sink after a late-night class. At a staff meeting she confronted the poor chap and threatened to ‘cut off his pecker’. Miraculously the offending smell vanished soon afterwards. [Photograph: Robert Tinytwig.]