Today’s very special ART MONDAY is an URGENT MESSAGE that you absolutely MUST rearrange your schedule to see Laurie Lipton while she’s in town! Her new book The Drawings of Laurie Lipton, published by local heroes Last Gasp, provides the most comprehensive survey of Lipton’s work to-date with beautifully reproduced images of her incredible, large-scale graphite drawings.
Released on the tail of Lipton’s recent move back to the states after many years living in Europe, her new drawings represent a new perspective on the American cultural condition by depicting Los Angeles’ beauty, youth and car culture in a manner that is equal parts outsider/insider and rendered with dark satire in her signature BEYOND meticulous style.
She has THREE Bay Area signings this week- Don’t miss out! Click HERE for more information!
Thursday, December 12th
824 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
6pm – 8pm
Friday, December 13th
Artist discussion & signing
2349 Shattuck Ave
7:30pm – 9:30pm
Saturday, December 14th
Exclusive Varnish print release
Varnish Fine Arts
16 Jessie St #C120
San Francisco, CA.
5 – 7pm
In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN, I present another offering from the 1997 Sister Spit Tour Diary! This entry was written from a CYBER CAFE by one of the Valencia directors Samuael Topiary!!!
DAY 4 or 5, from topiary
Hello and hope you are well. We are now on day 4 or is it 5? Driving all night through major heat and find ourselves in Tuscon.
After nice opening shows in Santa Cruz and LA, we really hit our stride in Las Vegas, out-performing ourselves to a rowdy and diverse Vegas crowd of locals, a mix of heckling straight men and appreciative dykes and many others in between. Our most excellent and talented host Dave had hooked us up w/ free rooms at the illustrious Stardust Casino and even got us a grant from the Nevada State Council on the Arts. The free “ass juice” the bar kept doling out definitely heightened the energy. Heckling was raised to a new level. And believe it or not, we even did a second set!
I think it’s safe to report that we all had a blast in Vegas especially after Ali treated some of us to her expert slot machine techniques.
It’s fucking hot as hell here in Tucson and we’re all a bit punchy now after driving all night from Vegas to Tucson. Am writing you from the cyber cafe next to the Hotel Congress.
Hit a traffic jam in the middle of the desert on the road from Vegas to here at about 3 am. We wondered about the alien abduction possibilities, but it turns out there was a murder…. probably by human hands, though. The landscape is surreal here.
I lost $3 to the nickel slots. It’s very hot in the van. We have to drive at night and sleep by day. Wish we had more time in Tucson, it seem so interesting, picturesque.
The tour is really starting to get rolling now. I can feel us as a show gelling, getting the hang of it, getting funnier and easier and less precious with each other. The traveling is harsh, though.
In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN we’ve dug deep into the Sister Spit archives for some must-see-gems from the vault. So today, for your #FBF viewing pleasure, I present DAY 33 of the Sister Spit Tour Diary 1997, written by Michelle Tea.
Below is it exactly as it appeared on the ’97 website:
DAY 33, michelle
Greetings from the illegal insides of the Budget Cargo Van!
I’m bouncing & rocking all over the place as the van zooms out of Cleveland and on towards Detroit. This whole part of the country – particularly the east coast (is this still the east coast?) – has been such a crazy whirlwind.
Philadelphia was a great all-ages show at the new gay center, we each got to do one piece written by someone else on the tour, something we’d been talking about doing for a while. It was pretty hysterical, the big highlights were Ali doing Sini, complete with the trademark yellow glasses; Sini doing Eileen’s ‘Merk’ in pure Sini fashion – very loud, with a couple “Fucking”s thrown in. And Eileen doing Tara aka ‘Pantena’ was completely insane, performed in some kind of weird snooty british accent, wearing a feather boa, doing Pantena’s strange yoga-ish moves on the floor. I was a little afraid our gigantic in-joke performance would bore & alienate the audience, but they really liked it.
After Phili was New York, where all the girls were split apart, staying at different houses and it felt more like a weird vacation than the tour. I saw Rod Stewert eating breakfast, he looked really bad but I still got excited seeing him. I went to see the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA, it was sponsored by Madonna, who Eileen believes should sponsor next year’s Roadshow. So if anyone knows how to get in touch with Maddy, please let me know. And did anyone read her goodbye to Versace in Time? What a fucking idiot! I’m so sorry she won’t get to stay in his villa & be pampered anymore, this must be a really hard time for her. But I still would like her to kick down some cash to our traveling all-girl literary revolution.
ANYWAY, NYC was rad, a little show at Rising Cafe in Brooklyn, and a sold-out house at P.S.122, a show Topiary & Eileen put together from the road, a very tricky thing. It was a great night. Next was Boston, another sold-out, people turned away at the door, standing-room-only show – can you deal with all these people coming out for poetry!!! It’s pretty fucking incredible.
Boston was wall-to-wall excellent girls, and there were a bunch of moms & assorted family members in attendance, including my own. It was the first time she ever heard me read, actually it was the first spoken word event, lesbian event, weirdo event, whatever event for my mom, and I think she held up pretty well & even enjoyed herself, though she was also slightly disturbed. It’s good to periodically disturb your mother, don’t you think? Ali’s mom stole the show, joining her daughter on stage to read her lines from Ali’s piece “The Story of Slutty.” She made all kinds of great exasperated mom faces while Ali read about being 15 years old smoking pot in a changing stall with a 27-year-old floosie.
Next was fantastic Provincetown, by far the hardest place for us to leave. Well, it was hard getting out of New York, but that was because Cherie took the wrong train and got lost in Queens for 2 hours. But Provincetown was fabulous! Another packed show, where we were joined by local poet Kathe Izzo, the lady responsible for the terrific event. Kim Silver & Annie Sprinkle opened their homes to us vagabonds, and Annie taught Ali a new boob trick – how to light matches off her nipples. She nearly got arrested on Commercial Street one night lighting up her tits for our entertainment. You’d think the cops in P-Town would have more of a sense of humor. A bunch of girls went whale-watching and had very spiritual experiences watching the humungous mammals flip around and wave their fins. Cherie, who used to live in P-Town, took us across the breakwater to her secret swimming hole, and we swam with the crabs & minnows, and I held a couple starfish and as you could guess that was pretty cool. We got some good illegal tattoos from Cherie’s friend Chris – tattoos are still illegal in Massachusets, and you still can’t buy booze on Sundays either. Coming into town right as we were leaving was Club Casanova – a very swanky & hilarious drag king show from New York City. We got to catch their act the night we left, Mo B. Dick, Dred, Will Doher and Labio, Fabio younger brother. Cherie & Sash hopped onstage and sang a country song as a pair of incestuous brothers recently kicked off the Garth Brooks tour for their forbidden love. Finally we tore ourselves away from Provincetown. It was very hard.
Back in the van for an overnight 15-hour drive to Buffalo, we haven’t had to haul ass like that since Texas! We were like a bunch of 7-11 hot dogs on one of those rotating hotdog warmers, all of us lined up & sleeping in the back of the Budget. In Buffalo we were welcomed into the House of Kate, who not only put most of us up in her huge & excellent house, but also kept us thoroughly entertained. Our show at Hallwalls was great and very, very bittersweet because it was the final show of the original Sister Spit line-up. Marci & Ali have since returned to their lives in San Francisco & New York, and Eileen is off writing in the woods at a writer’s colony in upstate New York. I don’t have to tell you that we miss them a lot. Marci was a really good, solid, sensitive & stable girl to have on the tour. Ali is not exactly stable, but her constant humor & sweetness even in the tensest of situations, is sorely missed. Plus, Sash has lost her drink…
(……oops!!!!…here’s where michelle ran out of batteries … we’ll get the rest of the story soon!)
ERIN: Who were some of your art/writing heros when you were in high school?
Carmella Fleming is a poet currently living in Berkeley California. She will be appearing this month at The RADAR Reading Series on August 27th at the San Francisco Public Library. I asked her a few questions about her work and she provided me with some real talk about bouffants, sestinas, and Gertrude Stein.
What is your name?
Carmella Suzanne Fleming
Where are you from?
I was born in Washington DC and I grew up mostly in rural Iowa.
Name three ways you self-identify:
Goth, gay, and cuckoo bananas.
How would you describe your writing style?
I describe my style as ironic, terse, dissonant, and at times sassy. This is true of my creative nonfiction. With my poetry I try to embrace language for the sake of language as well. My writing is often high-pitched and childlike, but deals with adult themes.
What is your literary background and what have been some turning points in your development as a writer?
I basically have no literary background. I wasn’t raised reading much. I was a slow learner in school and my reading skills were not so great until I was older. My high school also had little requirements for English and so I am not “well-read.” I didn’t start writing creatively until about 4 years ago. As of late I’ve been cultivating a background in women’s and queer literature, and postmodern poetry of the U.S. mostly.
One turning point for me in my writing was taking a poetry workshop a couple of years ago with Ali Liebegott. That was my first poetry class, and it got the sparks flying for poetry. I wrote my first Sestina with Ali!
The biggest turning point for me as writer occurred last spring when I attended a queer writer’s retreat called MADCAP. I was camping in the middle of four-day rainstorm in rural Tennessee, reading and writing in an old barn with forty queer writers, none of whom I had met before. It was powerful. The experience was too big to represent here.
What is the writing community like where you live now?
It’s just so great. I have been well supported. I feel like I have three writing communities. First, I have all those queer and/or weird writers hanging out in the Bay Area, like the organizers of the Oakland reading series, Manifest, and the RADAR folks. I’m always forming new writing groups with strange people in the area.
Then I have my graduate community at San Francisco State University. They are an excellent group of people. Graduate writing programs have a bad reputation, for being too cutthroat, unsupportive, and homogenizing, but I’ve found the opposite. Workshop is a blast! My voice and individuality are cultivated there.
Finally, Sharon Coleman, a local poet, professor at Berkeley City College, and curator of the reading series Lyrics and Dirges, was crucial in my development as a poet and provided community for me. Her students have been of great support and inspiration at readings and in critique groups.
Who is your favorite literary hero or heroine?
Gertrude Stein. Her writing has been a huge influence on my style. I have a deep appreciation for my forequeers. In a literature class I recently wrote a paper on Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Butch/Femme Eroticism in Tender Buttons. It was great fun. I like to think about Gertrude Stein, a lot. Asking what would Gertrude do can really get me out of a rut or bout of insecurity. She was bold. I like that.
Who are some contemporary writers or artists that inspire you?
My biggest inspiration has been Jamaica Kincaid. I read Annie John in high school and it blew my mind. Now I read At the Bottom of the River on a semi-regular basis. Kincaid gave me permission to be brief, direct, and terse. I admire the ways in which she explores experiences of childhood. She has a keen ability to expose power dynamics in her writing through very subtle methods. These are things I try to accomplish in my writing.
I am interested in writers that use history, archive, and found materials in their writing, like Frank Bidart. His use of letters and medical documents inspires me. The poem “Ellen West” is one of my favorites. I enjoy a good historical document, real or imagined.
My friend Caitlin Rose Sweet is a visual artist who inspires me. Caitlin does craft and textile work and she deals with some of the same themes that I do. We both like to question what is high and low art, and Caitlin fiercely identifies as a queer artist. A lot of queer artists and writers are hesitant to be labeled as a “queer artist,” but I, like Caitlin, am very proud to claim that title.
Then there’s Woody Allen…I could go on and on, but I’ll stop.
What are the biggest influences on your poetry and why?
I think my not being “well-read” or raised with a lot of literature gives me a fresh and nuanced perspective.
Comedies such as Anchorman and Zoolander influence me, however strange that might sound. Humor is important to me in my writing, and the ways in which those folks use language are so new and creative. In Anchorman, for example, when Ron Burgundy says that he will “get married on a mountain top with garlands of fresh herbs,” he takes a cliché and kind of explodes it.
What are some recurring themes that haunt your work?
Queerness, lesbianism, childhood, depression, time (I am obsessed with time), sex, disappointment and irony, and love.
Where does your work appear?
My work appears in, Milvia Street, Faggot Dinosaur, and the forthcoming Vincent Van Go-Gogh. I also have three self-published chapbooks, one of which is a collaboration with the photographer Elisa Shea. The chapbook, “We Just Got Here” features her photography alongside my poetry.
Tell me about “Let’s Be Loose and Relaxed”…
Let’s be Loose and Relaxed is a reading series that I started with my friends Lucien Sagastume and Elan Dia. We wanted to showcase queer writers. I personally wanted to focus heavily on poetry. It’s a laid back environment, hence the title. It also at times has turned into a dance party. The next reading will be in September.
What is the secret to big hair (Like the bouffant you are wearing here? )
A bottle of hairspray, a comb, and some positive self-talk.
What are some upcoming plans, projects, ideas, or events that you are excited about?
I am excited to read at the RADAR reading series with Dodie Bellamy, Alejandro Murguia, and Stephen Boyer. I am a student of Dodie’s, and I met Stephen at MADCAP. I couldn’t have picked a more exciting group of people to read with.
I’m looking forward to Dodie Bellamy’s new book, Cunt Norton to come out. It’s a follow up to Cunt Ups, but in this case she cuts up the Norton Anthology of Poetry with pornographic material. That’s quite a radical project. I love it.
I am working on a manuscript right now. It examines mental illness from what I hope is an odd perspective. It’s humorous. It features a lot of archival materials that I am so into right now. I’m having fun playing with psychiatric medical documents, getting my kicks where I can.
Shawna Elizabeth is a PhD Candidate specializing in Queer Theory. Some of her writing can be found online at femmetheory.com and she has also been a Guest Blogger for Ironing Board Collective- http://
She is originally from Canada.
After the explosion that is GOOGLE GOOGLE APPS APPS, I HAD to talk to my old friend San Cha about this most recent artistic triumph. San Cha and I first met when she was brand new to SF and we were both working in the box office of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Nothing fosters a forever-bond quite like being side-by-side in a glass cube for eight hours a day, and during that time I watched as San Cha’s music progressed almost as quickly as her outfits shrank. The more time we spent together, the more I recognized in her qualities that I attribute to all my favorite artists: She’s extremely driven, hard-working, fearless, fun-loving, authentic, talented, and hilarious. Her recent collaborations have pushed her art to the NEXT LEVEL- maybe a level ALL HER OWN. I’ve always sensed she was destined for greatness, and am so pleased to have front row seat to watch it happen.
Can you talk a little about your background and how it informs your art? What fundamental things define your outlook?
I’m a chicana. The child of 2 milk farmers from “Los Altos de Jalisco” (Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico) who crossed the border “illegally.” On this Mexican/Americana working class cultural backdrop, my sexual desires were suppressed by the catholic church under the interpretation of the bible of rural Mexico. Everything I grew up suppressing now comprises my performance in my own sexual liberation. And the tools that my culture would use to suppress me: religion, money, media and GENDER politics is what I like to fuck with.
How did Daddies Plastik form? Tell me about your relationship with the other members.
I met both Tyler Holmes and Vainhein at different times. I had a very similar experience with both of them, in that I adore their work as much as I am in love with them as people. It’s hard to meet people with the same frustrations, philosophies, temperaments and ideologies, and who at the end of the night are the sweetest, down ass bitches you’ll ever meet. As soon as all three of us got in the studio together, we knew we had something amazing going for us. Our frustration with money and how it runs our world, and our fascination with empty beauty and glamour. We are now all housemates in West Oakland. Vain and I actually share a room.
Google Google Apps Apps. Amazing. So amazing I can barely deal with it. What is the ideology behind the song and how did it all materialize?
We’ve been dealing with crazy living situations, living with difficult roommates or difficult landlords, and have even been plain screwed over just to stay in the city.We’ve had many conversations on race and the changes we are experiencing in this area. The tech boom is supposedly bringing in tons more money, but BART employees have not received a comparable raise. City College of SF is closing down, and the bridge fees keep getting higher and higher, making it that much more difficult for anyone not making tech/internet money to afford even commuting to the city. Persia came to us with an idea and a deadline (the “Save Esta Noche” event) and we made it happen in 4 days. Then we took it to our expert engineer Keith Tadashi Kubota, we recorded vocals, got it on the internet. The response has been overwhelming.
The video is BLOWING UP! With friction around tech-boom gentrification in the Bay Area coming to boil, did you have a sense that this video would strike a cord with people or is the success surprising?
Success is always surprising but the issues are not. In my circle of friends this issue is always floating around. It’s more surprising that more people aren’t already having this conversation. Racism/sexism/homophobia is something that people tend to forget because we live in the Bay Area bubble but its something that we have to unmask because its just in a different form.
How has gentrification in the Bay Area affected you as a person/artist?
As an artist you’ve had to adapt and keep in mind that at any point your venue of art may be changed. That your platform can be turned from a stage to a Starbucks.
I think of you as both a musician and a performance artist. How critical are the visual representations (ie costuming, make-up, sets, etc) to your music?
Visual representations are very important since my work is a whole experience. It entices the audience to not just listen but to either be comfortable or uncomfortable with my overt sexuality. It’s about freedom to me, it’s never just about the music. Ideas always come to me in story and narrative form. I dropped out of college because I did not want to be just a musician, I wanted the persona, the performer, the look, the politics and the music to fluidly be presented together. Giving myself a label is difficult because my work uses certain aspects of different mediums but doesn’t use them all.
Your identity as an artist was really fostered by drag communities in San Francisco. What is your relationship to “drag”? Do you consider your own costuming a form of drag?
I would not be what I am now without them. I respect and admire the drag performers/performance artist in the Bay Area. I’ve picked up costuming, make-up, performance tips and inspirations from many of these queens. What I learned from drag I could not have learned from following a band circuit. Drag performances are faster and drag in this city can mean so many things. You get 1 to 3 songs to captivate your audience, and these performers give you theatrics, passion and look, and they are so aware of the camera and their audience. I have so much more I want to learn from drag performers. My look is entirely inspired by drag. I love my drag parents Persia and Daniel Toribio.
Who are The Black Glitter Collective? What do you do?
We’re a group of creative homies that help each other out, enjoy each other’s company, trust each other and get hella down. We are Daddies Plastik (Vainhein, San Cha, Tyler Holmes), Persia, and Daniel Toribio. We also work with many other artists in the bay area. We’ve recently joined the Dark Room Family with Kevin Sniecinsky, Daniel Filipkowski, Omar Perez and Lady Bear. We eventually want to create an official record/production label to house all the amazing talent we have in the Bay Area.
Tell me about your forthcoming album? What can we expect to hear on it?
The album is called OFF HER THRONE. Conceptually the album depicts San Cha as a Virgen de Guadalupe/La Malinche/Marie Antoinette/Reality TV starlet. I played with the theme of womyn being assigned the blame for the downfall of humanity.
Musically I’ve been saying it’s xola goth. drawing on my chican@/latin@/church gurl upbringing. It’s a dance record with heavy synths, some songs are more electronic/dance, some more rock based.
When is the release date/release PARTY???
It’s July 27th at Cafe Du Nord for Dark Room. It’ll be my San Cha return to the stage, this time with a full band and back up singers and a full stage show. The lineup includes Tyler Holmes and Vainhein on backing vocals and synths, Eric and Tommi of the band Parae on bass, guitar, drums and vocals. Guest Appearances by Persia and Brittany B. of Hussyclub We’ve been working really hard and it’s all sounding like my dreams are coming true.
HERE is the invite.
Where can I see you perform in the near future?
Daddies Plastik is playing for Christaper Sings’ birthday party Saturday the 13th. We also playing a show at the Gilman on August 30th
What new secret projects are you working on now?
I’m always working on new projects and I’m not too good at keeping secrets.
Who are some of your favorite artists that should be more famous than they are?
Diego Gomez, Tyler Holmes, Vainhein, Persia, Dj Tori, Keith Tadashi Kubota, Parae, Jessica Amaya, Flynn Witmeyer, Brittany B. of Hussyclub, Julz Hale Mary, Craig Calderwood, Manuel Rodrigues, Sloane Kanter, Cle Torres, Gina Contreras, Abel Morfin, Jon Gourley, Believe, Double Duchess, Gaymous, Stevie Glynn, Hottub, Amanda Verwey #duhbye
The best part about the Crash Pad is that there’s value in not talking. The value lies in the sultry looks, the beckoning body language, and perhaps a good prop. If you really think about it, it’s a great film school. Tell a story with out words. Go.
Use the non-verbal. When I first started rehearsals for Valencia, a lot of the dialogue I had written didn’t sound or feel right. That’s really common in scripts, especially for newer scriptwriters like myself. As the words fell out of the actors’ mouths, I edited and replaced them with shrugs, glances and subtle eyebrow raises. There’s actually only one line of dialogue in the entire short that matters, “We don’t eat food that’s been cooked in bird muscle sweat.” And then at the end of the scene she binges on food that’s been cooked in bird muscle sweat. The average dialogue in a Crash pad shoot? One line from each performer. The math is perfect.
Keep close. Another rule of thumb we follow at the Crash pad is shooting with a specific lens length. We secretly (secrets out!) film with 50-millimeter lenses to capture what the true human eye sees. Well, that’s not really why we do it. It started because we were shooting two cameras and needed them to edit together well. We figured out that if we kept the same lens length, then most shots edited together smoothly. Also and most importantly, our various sets were always small and DIY designed, so keeping this tighter lens meant softer backgrounds and a greater feeling of intimacy with our performers. With Valencia, I shot mostly mediums and close ups. Whenever I shot a wide, I just didn’t feel close enough with the characters. My entire short only has one true wide edited in with a collection of close shots. And I don’t really like it.
Be collaborative! At the Crash Pad, we let our performers do whatever they want. If they arrive with a storyline idea, they get to perform it. They decide 100% what kind of sex they want to do in their scene, and we just follow like a documentary film crew. The only rule is you have to do everything on the bed because that’s where the light is shining. During rehearsals for Valencia, people started writing their own dialogue. I had written words that helped shape the character, but then during rehearsals I said they could translate that however they wanted. Of the dialogue that remained in the short, a lot of it was re-written during improv rehearsal sessions. This resulted in funnier and more genuine moments from non-actors.
And then of course, a handful of my actors were cast directly from the Crash pad. They had the most acting experience of everyone, only had a few lines each and gave a lot of good face.
Alexa Inkeles is a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco. Currently she works as the video producer and editor for WIRED Magazine’s tablet edition. Her original films have shown in Frameline, Newfest and London’s BFI festivals. Her interests include magical realism, tipping points, and the effects of technology on popular culture.
After what I’ve been affectionately referring to as THE GREAT COMPUTER HARDDRIVE MELTDOWN OF 2013- I’M BACK with a new ART MONDAY. Although many adorable photos of my mutt, Pepperoni, will be lost forever….the blogging must carry on…..
And speaking of Pepperoni, he came along on this week’s adventure! Being a patron of the arts and unable to stand the confines of his crate, Pepperoni made it VERY clear he was not staying home. So, fearing I would be barred from galleries, I zipped him in my jacket and we commenced with the Oakland Art Murmur field trip looking like a couple of cartoon thieves sneaking into an exclusive event.
It’s hard to tell from this admittedly poor photograph but these mix media pieces were scattered sporadically throughout the gallery creating the illusion of false passage ways within the exhibition.
Next, I went back to RPS because the work of Nina Wright caught my eye. She is an Oakland based painter who is featured in the current RPS group show.
Until next Monday
Amanda & Pepperoni
The film adaptation of Michelle Tea’s queer memoir Valencia is premiering this month at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, June 21st at the Castro Theater, June 27 at Rialto Cinemas in Elmwood. In honor of this cinematic event, I bring you an interview with director Aubree Bernier-Clarke. Aubree will be participating in the panel discussion “What Were the Queer 90′s?“ June 20th at the GLBT History Museum along with several other directors involved with theValencia project. The discussion will be moderated by Michelle Tea. Aubree’s alter ego DJ Snowtiger will also be appearing at the Valencia After Party June 22nd at The Elbo Room.
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Louisville, KY.
When did you move to Portland, Oregon?
I moved to Portland in 2002 on a whim. I knew I needed to get out of Kentucky but I didn’t know how. Then I received an email from a friend, Tami Hart, who I had met once when our bands played together in Providence. She was subletting her room in Portland for the summer for $200 a month. That was $25 less than my room in Louisville, so I say YES! I packed up my car and moved to Portland alone, having never even been there.
How did you get your start in directing?
Well, I started editing way before I started directing. I was always interested in film but I went to college for photography. There was no film program, but we did have a class on Final Cut Pro 1. I made a few little student films there, but didn’t think it was something I’d ever be able to do as a career. When I moved to Portland, I scored the totally awesome job as tour nanny for Sleater-Kinney. Through that experience, I met Lance Bangs, who is married to Corin Tucker. Lance hired me as his assistant and gradually I started doing more and more for him. When he needed an editor last-minute for a project, he let me take a shot at it. The project went well and I started editing full-time.
A couple years later I had the opportunity to shoot behind-the-scenes on two Spike Jonze films: Where The Wild Things Are and I’m Here. It was through watching him work and being on those sets that I got the directing bug. I came back to Portland and directed some little low budget music videos, and realized that it was something I really wanted to focus on.
How has living in Portland impacted your style of filmmaking?
Portland has a fiercely independent DIY aesthetic and an incredibly supportive creative community. People help each other out because they are passionate, its not about making money. I have a wonderful group of collaborators in Portland who I work with frequently, so I feel very lucky on that account. Also since the economy’s such crap in Portland, living there has taught me to diversify. Unless you’re Gus Van Sant, you can’t make a living as a director in Portland. I’ve worked in almost every department: producer, director, editor, cinematographer, PA. Its made me totally ADD because I can’t stand to do the same thing every day, but on the other hand I’ve become quite a well-rounded filmmaker as a result.
What are your greatest influences and inspirations?
The riot grrrl movement is probably the one thing that has influenced my life the most dramatically and permanently. It taught me about feminism, DIY and being true to yourself in a completely formative way. Coming from a photography background, I also love still photographers like Francesca Woodman and Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Film-wise, growing up I was obsessed with Heathers, The Craft and The Doom Generation. I also love to read YA urban fantasy novels and those have actually taught me a lot about crafting a good story.
How did you get involved in the film adaptation of Michelle Tea’s Valencia?
I’ve been a fan of Valencia ever since I read it on a trip to SF in 2002. When I heard Michelle was making it into a film, I immediately emailed her to tell her how excited I was about the project. She offered me Chapter 3, and the rest was history.
In my chapter, Michelle is hopelessly in love with Willa, who does not love her back. Michelle quits her day job so she can spend more time with Willa, and returns to a profession she thought she’d left behind for good–prostitution.
Conceptually, I wanted to stay as true to the source material as I possibly could. It had to be a 90s period piece, and my crew and I strived to make everything authentic. My costume designer Colleen Siviter did an amazing job of sourcing the wardrobe, which I think really made the film. I chose to shoot it in black and white as an homage to Rose Troche’s Go Fish, a film that I thought captured the 90s queer aesthetic perfectly.
Most recently I directed a music video for Sara Jackson-Holman called “For Albert” about a mermaid’s encounter with a sleazy sailor and a group of sea witches. I also did a video last year for La Pump, “Magnet,” which stars my cat Fritz as singer Jen Agosta’s emotionally unavailable love interest.How do you come up with a concept for a music video?
I tend to listen to the song over and over again for a whole day until its stuck so far into my subconscious that I can’t get it out. Then I’ll sleep on it and usually it will play on loop in my dreams and that is where the ideas happen.
Describe the documentary you are currently working on
The documentary is called Diary of a Misfit and its a project I’ve been working on with my co-director Casey Parks for over 3 years now. The film is about Roy Hudgins, an enigmatic figure who lived in Delhi, Louisiana, from the 1920s until the early 2000s. Roy was Casey’s grandmother’s first friend when she moved to Delhi in the 1940s. People in town have different stories about Roy: Roy was kidnapped, was left in a shoebox on the church steps, was a “morphodite.” Roy was an outcast, a musician, a good Christian and a yard mower. Diary of a Misfit is the story of a town and a family who’s histories are intertwined with the mystery of Roy Hudgins.
What other projects are on the horizon?
I just relocated to Los Angeles on May 1 to attend the Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute. Its a notoriously hard to get into program that only accepts 8 women per year. Through this program, I am developing my next short film, I WANT TO BELIEVE, which is a supernatural queer coming-of-age film about love and death. Learn more about it HERE.
What are some of your other goals for the future?
I’m currently adapting a feature screenplay of Michelle Tea’s Rose of No Man’s Land, and am excited about focusing on that project next.
Shawna Elizabeth is a PhD Candidate specializing in Queer Theory. Some of her writing can be found online at femmetheory.com and she has also been a Guest Blogger for Ironing Board Collective- http://ironingboardcollective.wordpress.com/category/authors/shawna-elizabeth/.
She is originally from Canada.
I’d been intrigued by Craig Calderwood’s work, but when I got a moment to really hang out with the stuff – when, by kismet Craig was visiting her hometown of Fresno, California the same night Sister Spit was passing through and she graciously hopped on stage with us – well, I became obsessed with it. 559, the name of the series she showed that night, is named after Fresno’s area code and explores a closeted queerness specific to that place. The images are intense and impacting, mesmerizing candy-colored labyrinths creating figures sinister, or wounded, or both. Hungry eyes peer out of chests and into cell phones, like deranged, digital sacred hearts. An ethereal, bubble-headed kid makes out with a fox-headed kid – or gets devoured.
So, I was fizzing with excitement to meet up with Craig at Craftsmen + Wolves, my favorite new gentrification hang-out, to pick up the piece she is super-generously donating to the RADAR Spectacle. It’s a study for a piece for her new series – each of Craig’s giant pieces begin as these smaller but no less intricate works, and the one laid before me on the table of beeswax paper inked with a pair of snuggle-necked swans, with a smaller illustration of flower-impaled penises and bees sewn to it. It’s super fascinating and beautiful, whimsical and, um, painful. I WANT IT. I talked to Craig on the internet about it.
MICHELLE TEA: Can you tell me how you work with beeswax? Is it messy or delicate or both? Do you feel a kinship with bees?
CRAIG CALDERWOOD: I am using the Beeswax with the Mulberry paper to create a translucency so you can easily see the images within the layers of paper. I find that the wax creates a more visceral piece of paper, giving it a more organic feel then if I used paraffin wax. The process is a bit messy, beeswax is very sticky in comparison to other wax options. I basically heat a cookie sheet up in the oven then take it out, lay the image down and rub the block of wax on top of the paper. The image then becomes more tactile and olfactory, the beeswax is very pungent and creates an interesting texture. I can’t say I have a strong affinity with bees but they do get referenced in the series due to the saying “the birds and the bees”. They go hand in hand with some of the Floral references in the series as well.
MT: What have you learned about swans in researching them for your new series.
CC: I have been reading a lot about Homosexuality in the natural world and a large part of the reading I am doing surrounds birds. I think I like using the swan imagery because the animal is so romanticized and heavily a symbol of monogamy and marriage. In fact the swan is so romanticized that I have been finding it hard to even find anatomy images, especially when researching the Mute Swan. As for its representation of Monogamy, the Swan in Fact does not always perform lifelong pair bonds and has varying mating and pair bonding experience. But I am merely paralleling animals and humans in these drawings, rather paralleling the way in which Psychologist and Scientists have approached queerness in both.
MT: What is the name of this new series?
CC: The Series is Called “Hard Parallels, Soft Parallels”, which has a sort of obviousness to it. The Hard in Soft is Suggesting states of arousal not just in the sense of genital arousal but in regards to the varying degrees of mental arousal. It also references the level of paralleling in the actually pieces, some of the comparisons may be really obvious while others will be very secret. I am still in the research and prototyping phase of the series so I am still developing it as a whole thought.
MT: Why are there flowers in the penises??? It is so compelling and sweet and painful to look at!
CC: In 2012 I was a part of a group show called Best Revenge: A Beautiful Fuck You, where I got to show with the sculptor Nicki Green who was showing these amazing porcelain penis vases with dried tulips sticking out of the urethra. I think when I was working on this pattern I was subconsciously channeling them. The drawing that is to come out of the swan drawing and the penis sounding flowers drawing is about being perceived as deceptive by a masculine accuser (the Chimera – more to come about that in the future). I wanted to represent having a penis as a trans feminine person while also playing with traditional symbols of femininity and what it means to have and want both. I also like the visual of something that is symbolically supposed to penetrate and represent masculinity in some contexts being penetrated by something traditionally feminine. I’m merely trying to create a beautiful representation of having a penis while being trans.
MT: Why are the two pieces stitched together?
CC: The two Pieces are Studies for a larger drawing I am currently working on; I wanted to bring them together to loosely see how the pieces can start melding. They relate in the sense that they are subject to accusations and assumptions from the Masculine Accuser which I am calling the Chimera, a monster made of many different parts in this case the scientists and psychologists that enact different types of violence on the Queer animals and people. They are pieces to a larger puzzle I am currently working on.
Well, as I learned at the Fresno Sister Spit show, I can listen to Craigh Calderwood talk about her work for-ev-ah. Come to the RADAR Spectacle Friday, May 17th at the Verdi Club, and take a shot at walking out the door with this beautiful + intelligent work!