Portfolios > If My House Caught Fire

Duane Michals, (and Beau) New York City, October 21, 2016. (born: Feb 18, 1932).

Duane: Oh, should I say something? It’s a picture of my mother.

Roddy: Taken when?

Duane: Oh gosh, I don’t know, taken when she was maybe twenty-eight or something like that. And I thought she was very beautiful. She was a great mother. She was a terrific mother, except for the beard (laughter). We had her shave for this shot. But other than that…she drooled a lot. She was pretty, but she used to drool on her blouse, it was embarrassing (more laughter). So, it’s a picture of my mother. She was a wonderful woman. And she was a great mother.

Roddy: And was this picture taken in Pennsylvania?

Duane: Yea, in McKeesport, in the local photo salon. I forget what it was called.

Roddy: What kind of relationship did you have with your mother?

Duane: We only necked (laughter). She was a great mother, although she needed me desperately in the constant battle with her husband. In the war with her husband. She needed me to be her ally. But she was quite willing to let me go to the University of Denver in Colorado when I was seventeen. Which was a great loss for her. And for me too, but it was total freedom. She never held on to me. She wasn’t one of those mothers that made their sons their puppets, or their lookalikes or wannabes. She liberated me at the expense of her own emotional needs.

Roddy: When did she die?

Duane: I killed her (more laughter). It was really an accident. The knife was in my hand. I just happened to be behind her. No. No, she died about nineteen-ninety-nine. I miss her.