John Waters to Receive Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from RISD

John WatersPhoto: Tim Gray
John Waters
Photo: Tim Gray

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence has given filmmaker, writer, and visual artist John Waters an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree, AP reports.

Waters’s provocative and unconventional oeuvre spans trashy cult numbers (Pink Flamingos) and more mainstream films (Cry-Baby), always propagating counter culture and the transgressive—a sensibility that also lives on in his more recent book projects, one-man shows, and art exhibitions (see John Waters Says “Celebrity Is the Only Obscenity Left in the Art World” and John Waters on Profanity, Plastic Surgery for Pets, and Justin Bieber).

Waters will receive his degree during a ceremony at RISD next weekend, where he will be the keynote speaker. He will share the stage with Talking Heads members Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison, and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik.

“I don’t even know if I got a high school diploma,” said Waters. “It’s very peculiar. I feel very flattered. I feel like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz when they give him a brain,” he explained.

Waters’s body of work is an “enduring inspiration for RISD students seeking to break boundaries, challenge conventions, and define an expressive style,” according to RISD President Rosanne Somerson.

Waters—who according to AP attended New York University briefly in the 1960s before being expelled for smoking marijuana on campus—is looking forward to receiving his degree: “without irony, for one of the few times in my life,” he said.


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