It’s easy to imagine John Waters salivating over Forever Tattoo’s newest mural: a portrait of Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president and chief operating officer. The fast-food boss turned traditional-marriage spokesman appears more than a little gussied up, caked in makeup modeled after the famed American drag queen (and Waters muse), Divine.
The spray-painted work by Asheville artist Gus Cutty went up on Aug. 6, following a high-profile week for Chick-fil-A restaurants catalyzed by Cathy’s anti-gay-marriage comments on a radio program and in a baptist newspaper.
Individuals and groups from both sides of the issue had their own responses (and counter-responses upon counter-responses) to the controversy.
On the pro same-sex marriage side, actions included outspoken boycotts, kiss-ins and other onsite PDA demonstrations.
Traditional marriage supporters responded with Chick-fil-A endorsements by political and religious figures (Mike Huckabee, Rev. Billy Graham) and an “appreciation day.”
Cutty, a gay-rights supporter, decided earlier this week to hybridize Divine and Cathy, adding an extra visual satirical kick to the debate. As a self-proclaimed fan of the restaurant’s signature chicken sandwich (which he will no longer be enjoying, he says), Cutty was disappointed that the establishment entered the political/social fray. The Atlanta-based chain operates more than 1600 stores in malls, and is a regional institution of sorts.
Divine is the stage name for drag queen Harris Milstead, who died in 1988 at age 42. Divine appeared in many of Waters’ films, most notably as Babs Johnson in the 1972 cult staple Pink Flamingos and as male/female counterparts Edna Turnblad and Arvin Hodgepile in 1988’s Hairspray.
Cathy’s face dons Divine’s big red lips, blushed cheeks, lime green triangular eye shadow and signature beauty mark, just above the lip. A flaming halo of gloriously-trashy hair encircles the head with words Dan “Divine” Cathy off to the right of his face.
After toying with ideas about Lady Gaga, Cutty fell for Divine’s image following a friend’s suggestion. “And being a huge John Waters fan, I knew the Divine idea was too good to pass up,” he said. Divine and Dan Cathy are inherently opposite.
Forever Tattoo’s owner, Rob Hunt, is noted for giving artists free license when painting his shop’s south wall, which hosts murals by different area artists on a rotational basis. The new mural is sure to incite dialogue, and certainly halt passersby.
The piece coincides with Cutty’s solo exhibition, Drinking Buddies, which opens Aug. 8 at the De Soto Lounge, 504 Haywood Road in West Asheville. The mural is not related to the show, which features spray-painted portraits of “great drinkers,” as Cutty puts it, including Dorthy Parker, Hank Williams and Charles Bukowski.