In May of 2012, my nose endured a combined septoplasty and turbinate reduction which I like to think of to the tune of Snoop Dogg’s Sensual Seduction.
(Replace sensual seduction with turbinate reduction. Or, given where this blog post is going, Durbinate conduction.)
As part of my convalescence, my surgeon prescribed antibiotics, Vicodin, and a couch.
Enter Real Housewives.
While popping synthetic heroin, I didn’t become addicted to synthetic heroin. I became addicted to synthetic femininity. I binged on wives shows. The Real Housewives of Orange County. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Because I was on drugs, I hallucinated my way into alternate housewife universes. The Real Housewives of Medellín. The Real Housewives of Buttonwillow. The Real Housewives of Narnia. The Real Housewives of Hades. They go on hiatus while Persephone hangs out with her mom.
(Sinus-related ART created on VICODIN)
Discovering these shows felt surreally natural. They were an extension of the Real shows of my adolescence, The Real World franchise, which taught me what it meant to be a gay Cuban with AIDS, a black male comic, a Latina Republican, and an Irishman in leather. And yet the reality of these characters, these archetypes, if you will, was questionable…? They were a performed, edited, and test tube version of real that hearkened to the realness of today’s televised reality, which is my FAVORITE televised genre aside from soap operatic horror (See COVEN). I especially enjoy reality which makes women cry and destroys them because what destroys us makes us better women. My favorite part of my favorite reality show of all-time, America’s Next Top Model: The Janice Dickinson Years, came at the end of every episode, when the round’s two final contestants would be called before Tyra. This Afro-ice queen would gaze down upon them and breathe: “Two beautiful girls stand before me, but I only hold one photograph in my hands. The girl whose name I do not say must immediately return to the house, pack her bags, and go home.” Ah, the cruelty. Tyra reinvented Snow White’s stepmom’s cruelty with a bigger, chocolatier forehead. The devastation on the face of each aspiring model whose name went unsaid was so deliciously poisonous that I adopted this high stakes way of conveying news in my classroom: “Two very determined students stand before me but I only hold one passing grade in my hand…”
Anyways, during my convalescence, when my girlfriend would reach for the remote to try to watch something without wives, I’d growl Cujoishly. She’d leave the living room in favor of some wife-free space in our home.
Also, Real Housewives of Miami is my family. A bunch of crazed Latinas and one Polish alcoholic? Welcome home.
(i’m the one in PRRRPLE)
(As Chuck Palahniuk would write: I am Kate Durbin’s poetic glutes.)
The Litfest website didn’t say much about what Durbin’s staging would entail and this whetted my appetite further. What would Durbin do? How would Durbin do it? Would there be costumes involved? Could I please be Vicki Gunvalson?
Oops. In case you don’t know who thee thee thee Kate Durbin is, she’s not human. She’s not human in the same way that Bjork is not human. She comes from Bunnyland, which is an invisible place near Whittier, California, and it can be seen from my Grandma’s house using an Icelandic pair of white chocoloate binoculars, and Kate Durbin is a breathing doll with a brain that dissects femininity with the twee-est precision. HER MIND IS A PINK SCALPEL, OKAY, BUDDY? She’s published a bunch of femystical stuff but is maybe best-known for being the progenitrix of le blogue Gaga Stigmata and the author of poetry collection THE RAVENOUS AUDIENCE. She also takes Tumblr very seriously, thank guaddess.
(Guaddess Feliz. Feliz means gay! Feliz Navidad!)
I loped up to Durbin as I saw her arriving at the OB stage and asked, “Can I take your picture?” I was worried it wouldn’t turn out considering Durbin’s not human, but it did.
(OMG! (OHMYGOOFY!) THAT’S A DISNEYLAND TRUCKER HAT!)
Durbin asked, “Do you want to get my shoes, too?”
I looked down at kittens in the grass.
I shot them.
My friend Zzzzzz (who is pretty amazing/she once visited a Russian folk healer in the forest and she works for the federal government) and I sat among Durbin’s audience, which was wildly stylish and young.
Durbin moved the mic onto the grass and into the shade of a big ass tree and quipped about not being cool enough to touch the Octavia Butler stage, and then she explained to us that she’d written a novella, WIVES SHOWS, that is basically a WILLIAM BURROUGHS-ESQUE WIVES CUT-UP! (Didn’t he sort of cut up his wife with a gun?) Durbin wrote WIVES SHOWS by watching several wives shows, transcribing some dialogues, splicing them together in hibbity jibbity order, and voila, she birthed a work about the performance of artifice and the artifice of reality and the reality of artificiality. GENIUS. Tumblr that!
(This image is reblogged from the Tumblr CHAMPAGNE MANAGEMENT. Get it? Uma Thermos.)
Durbin explained one of the weirdest things about the wives shows: that many of the wives are not wives. These wives are aspiring wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, ex-husbands, children, low key hookers, grandmas, grandpas, babies, dogs, and closeted-Xanax-taking dogs. That’s part of what makes the wives phenomena so kooky and legit. In these shows, wife is a fulcrum surrounded by revolving human accessories that orbit towards her, at times becoming interchangeable with her. We can all become HER. THE UNIVERSAL HER.
(This dog, Napoleon, is a he, but in a conversation between his owner, psychic Wife Mama Elsa, and her daughter, Wife Marysol, his feminine outfits are noted, thus, gendering Napoleon as bitch, thus illustrating the universal, canine she. Wife Napoleon.)
Durbin announced that she had scripts excised from her novella. We were going to bring them to wife/life and she invited us to not feel limited by our bodies when it came to casting. Anybody can be a wife. Since her audience had innocents, Durbin also encouraged her volunteers to self-bleep dialogue if they felt it necessary because was this not a performance and when language is performed doesn’t self-censorship naturally deodorize its artifice?
Durbin invited up those eager to give it all in the afternoon’s first performance, a scence from MOBWIVES.
Here’s how MOBWIVES looked after Durbin Durbinified it.
Her new cast watersed it down, John Watersed it down.
In the performance after MOBWIVES, a scene adapted from polygamous Brady Bunch SISTER WIVES, a new batch of wives accompanied their long-haired, goateed husbear to choose a cake for an incoming concubine.
I grew extremely affectionate towards this sketch because my friend Zzzzzz was cast in the role of the baker. She spoke many lines and played the dubious cake lady with the tiniest amount of aloof…fear. Writer Cheryl Klein killed as Wife #3 (I think) and Naomi Hirahara, author of the Japanese sleuth series the Mas Arai Mysteries, dazzled as hapless patriarch Kody. EVERYBODY WAS FANTASTIC AS WIFE BECAUSE OF THE UNIVERSAL SHE.
The artifice of daily life, television, and marriage dangled freely before us. During both wives performances, all characters addressed one another as Wife This, Wife That, Wife Jill, Wife Jack, So and So Forth, Whatever, Whatever Wife.
After the Wives Shows, on the way to the car, Zzzzzz and I found evidence that we were trespassing in Durbin’s shoes hunting ground.
(Hi! I’ll be reading at Riverside DIY Printfest tomorrow, May 16, at 2:15! See you there! Or not!)
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!
Check this lady out! She’s totally naked, but she’s a superhero, so she’s not really worried about being vulnerable like that. She’s got her superhero hood on, and her namaste posing makes me feel like she’s totally on the side of goodness, as does that sort of smirk she has on her face. I feel like this heroine is all like, Yeah, I know it’s all samsara drama, but I gotta do my part. I’m here to help. A Bodhisattva to the rescue for reals, with a nice pair of wings clawing up her back. I lugged this big, wooden piece by artist Peter Max Lawrence around the Western Addition yesterday, then gave up and jumped in a cab, for I am not a superhero. It’s got a secret second piece on the back, a similarly nude super-dude whose main power seems to be making his bed in the morning. A super every-man we all can relate to! I am so digging Peter Max Lawrence’s super-powered visions after seeing his current installation at Mission Comics, where he papered the back room in scrawling and splattered butcher-paper portraits of old (Batman) and new – a powerful, sinister depiction of a superhero getting Abu Ghraib-style treatment doesn’t let you get to comfy with comic book nostalgia. The walls are also layered with smaller paintings that cascade downward into a pile on the floor, like a tide of superhero heads creeping your way. It’s an awesome illustration, and Peter Max Lawrence is clearly a factory of art! I am so psyched he gave us this piece to auction at tomorrow night’s Spectacle, and I chatted with him on the interweb about it.
MICHELLE TEA: Were you into superheros when you were a kid? How has your interest in them changed?
PETER MAX LAWRENCE: As a child born in the year of the “Star Wars”, “Superman” and “Wonder Woman” I believe that superheroes were the first set of mythologies that I truly believed in. These stories and characters seemed to mix into my very DNA. During my tumultuous teenage years I turned back to comics, but this time those with a bit more independent flair. I became interested not only in the characters but the creators behind them and the reasons for the metaphor and allegories they were steeped in. During this time I was also heavily into Greek mythology and my own repressed homosexuality and in short the the combination of all these things led me to not only start creating my own heroes, villains and universes but to also search out more obscure authors and creations. This led me into underground comics and zines which i went on to author myself throughout the mid to late 90’s. My general interest in them has actually come full circle in the last few years as the big screen adaptations of several of my childhood favorites have been a bit lackluster and now find myself going back to the source materials aka the old comics with some amazing story lines for example Iron Man and his struggle with alcoholism, Batman and the inevitability that he was getting older and needed to find a series of successors, so on and so.
MT: What can you tell me about the heroine you donated? How do you imagine her – does she have a back story, a life off the canvas, or wood?
PML: The heroine depicted on the poplar wood is a lesbian femme fatale version of an old Marvel character “Angel” who later went on to become “Archangel.” I continue to enjoy queering established characters and concepts by either incorporating trans or gender-swapping elements. This painting was a spontaneous study for the character that after several years of sketching and drawing evolved to a more magickal demi-goddess whose origin story boils down to she is the indirect offspring or lovechild of Pan and Terminus, a human who works at SFO.
MT: Who is your favorite superhero?
PML: It is very difficult for me to pick a single favorite super hero but if forced I would say Promethea ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promethea )
MT: OH MY GOD I AM OBSESSED WITH PROMETHEA!
PML: Me tooooooooooo. I want more….more more moore Alan Moore. While I was in Iceland, (artist) Michelle Morby took a photo of me wearing a similar crown. And then just the other day a fan of my art all the way from Spain sent me this… and I swear to god I cried.
MT: If you were a superhero, what would your deal be?
PML: I have been asked this question many times and as per the always I’m just not sure. I feel like growing up as a closeted homosexual in Kansas and Missouri that in many ways I was living a double life for many years that made me clearly see the pros and cons of living such a lifestyle, and so if I was to be a hero of my choice I wouldn’t have to hide my identity and would probably fall more in line with a Jedi knight or someone who has to learn to embrace the powers the universe offers us all and to through trials and tribulations help the greater community and world. I prefer creating characters and their unique scenarios rather than fantasizing about my own possibilities.
Come to the Radar SPECTACLE Friday May 17th and bid on Peter Max Lawrence’s Angel, as well as work by Phoebe Gloeckner, Craig Calderwood, Kari Ovik, Joan Baez + more!
A few years ago Sister Spit did a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Through a series if unfortunate events, word did not get out that we were coming to town, and the only people who showed up to see us were three earnest lasses, and Phoebe Gloeckner, our Special Guest that night. A professor at UM/Ann Arbor, I had been freaking out that she would join us. I am a HUGE Phoebe Gloeckner fan, and have been since the 90s, when I first started seeing her creepy-cool comics show in in various places, and then, with the publication of one of my most favorite books ever, Diary of a Teenage Girl, an epic diary-comic that goes in and out between graphic novel and illustrated memoir. The dedication, For the Girls, When they are grown, haunts me sweetly. I feel like one of the girls Diary of a Teenage Girl was meant for.
Rather than being a dud, that sparsely attended midwest show was the BEST, because Phoebe stood on stage showing us slides form her new work-in-progress, detailing her mind-blowing process, the intensity of the story that had overtaken her life, and some witty and wise musings on the life of a working artist, in general. After visiting the Mexican city of Juarez to write about the murders of women that have been occurring on a horrible, massive scale, Phoebe was left in some sort of state of shock. as an outsider gringa who couldn’t comprehend the poverty the Juarez community exists within, and as a women and a mom who recognized the devastating loss these families were trying to live as her own worst fears. She became close with the family of a murdered fifteen-year-old girl named Elena Chavez Caldera, and began visiting them often. From this relationship has grown Phoebe’s current project, in which she intricately re-creates much of the family’s buy fashioning dolls and their environments and then photographing them, often manipulating the photographs to add details that shock and disturb, like the artist’s own face.
Phoebe has donated two of these pieces to the RADAR Spectacle, to help fund the Radar LAB creative retreat, which she will also be a guest at this year. I can’t believe we are able to offer these pieces, from a project that is so important and creative, requiring mad artistic genius and a dedication to empathy. They are amazing, and as the project comes to completion and is shown and published as a book, whoever walks away with these prints is going to be PSYCHED.
Almost as psyched as I’m going to be once I score Phoebe’s third contribution to the Spectacle’s Art Auction – an illustration from Diary of a Teenage Girl!!!!!! I am LOSING IT! If anyone wants to enter a bidding war with me for the sake of RADAR, let’s do it! That’s what it’s all for – to fund this excellent and unfunded writers’ retreat! But I am going to WIN.
Oakland academic Essence Harden interviews RADAR SPECTACLE performer BRONTEZ PURNELL.
Tell us about you’re recent work “New Diaspora” and “Other Dancers” at the L@te series at the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM). How does blackness, queerness, and collaboration inform your work?
New Diaspora was a means to celebrate the different Black talent going on in the Bay right now. It was inherently a very queer night also. I grew up in Alabama and have always been challenged/ curious about the lives of Black people in terms of place/environment/time period. Other Dancers was a means to celebrate the different experimental choreographers I know. there were some people involved in Other Dancers whose work i had never even seen before. i just got drunk at a bar with them and it was like “oh! you do performance? KOOL! would you be a part of this?” Blackness, Queerness, and Collaboration inform my work INFINITELY.
Speaking of “New Diaspora” I really loved how you ended the night with a decompression of energy by leading a group-follow dance onto pillows. How is community reconciliation significant to your art?
I went to speak to my friends class at Berkeley about community healing thorough art and i think its as simple as getting a group of people (no matter the number) in a space together moving towards a common goal or feeling however fleeting it may be. Its essentially about togetherness and intention.
Tell us about the making of “Free Jazz” your inaugural dance film from the Brontez Purnell Dance Company? Particularly the “cut n’ mix” of aesthetic choices involving punk, cosmology, the African Diaspora, and temporality. How has studying theatre and dance informed your current project?
I was obsessed with doing a dance movie cause like who does that? Particularity in Black and White Super 8 cause im a slave to aesthetic. I was doing work and making pieces at Cal State East Bay and was really excited about it so i wanted to put the work i did in a form that could live forever and encapsulate a certain period in my career. All my work is informed by whats closest to me. I think about things like sex, religion, community 24/7 and the film is a subdued response to my raging obsessions. Maybe it gives them more of a context for myself.
I loveeee novella’s, tell us about your upcoming work?
It’s called “Johnny Would You Love Me If My Dick Were Bigger” its not a novella as much as it is an exorcism of the ghosts of my reckless first 30 years on the planet. I found a publisher but editing is kicking my ass. I decided not to change to tittle ever cause i fell like trying to pander commercial appeal for a book thats about a black punk rockers romp through life is somewhat delusional. Plus i see it living on in that N.W.A meets feminism category of literature.
I think what’s really incredible about your art and you as a person is the inescapable visibility you give to the complexity of being Black, queer, male, and a politically radical punk. Can you talk about being a radical Black queer punk and how these and other positionalities continue to inform your art?
Its hard cause at 30 im finally starting to feel semi-comfortable in my skin and what i will allow and not allow. Even though im rightfully a cross section of all these varied identities i dont trust MOST Black people, MOST punks, MOST queers and don’t get me started on men. Its been an interesting journey finding out who my people are. One example was i took a dance class at Berkeley and this other queer black male student found out i was from Alabama and had all these romantic notions of Blackness and the Deep South (he had grown up in California) and he said something about wanting to move to Atlanta- now growing up down South i have my own prejudices. In inadvertently blurted out “dude, first of all if you HAVE to party down South go to New Orleans NOT Atlanta. I CANT with Atlanta. I know all the shows on TV make it look fun but its the WORST mix of East Coast attitude and Southern boredom. If i wanted a bunch of stuck-up Black people telling me to go to church all the time i’d watch BET…..BARF”- and i look up and im like “holy shit- i just scared this kid”- this is one example of how my radical, black, punk rockness gets me in trouble and i wouldn’t trade it for the WORLD…….
Essence Harden is a current graduate student in the department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. When she is not researching articulations of Black masculinity through 1980/90′s hair and styling practices you can find her reading sci-fi and eating bagels in her back lot/garden.
- Irina and Ami / Las Tres Adelitas, 2009. Color pencil and collage on paper, 30 x 49 inches.
Whenever I see Los Angeles-based visual artist Shizu Saldamando out at a party in Highland Park or a fun karaoke night at a Little Tokyo bar, I wonder if any of the night’s revelers will make it into her artwork. Shizu always has a camera and snaps away capturing moments that seem like booze-fueled throwaway scenes that you’d hate to be tagged in the morning after on the social media against your will. Except when she renders the subject—or rather her friends or people she knows using a mix of materials within the process such as wood, bed sheets, color pencil, washi paper and ball point pen, to give nod to the varying contexts and situations she depicts—she strips the party context and casts a wash of ontological purity that brings the deeper, darker serenity floating inside each person to the surface.
The bulk of Shizu’s work has focused on making U.S. Latino and Asian youth cultures visible in such a way that articulates a basic quotidian nature of being; a visual murmur that reveals a lot without revealing the secrets of their complicated public identities and the scary abyss within their very private selves. But her work is so accessible. Shizu’s work operates like pirate radio—you never know where it’ll turn up. Chances are you’ve seen her work if you’re a fan of Girl In A Coma or if you’ve been to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in the past two years.
Before you read any further, I just want to say that Shizu is probably the most well adjusted Morrissey fan I have ever known and is getting ready for her first career survey in October of this year at the Vincent Price Art Museum located in East Los Angeles. Shizu also has an online fundraiser that is coming to a close soon. She is trying to raise money to publish the exhibition catalog for which I am writing an essay. I caught up with Shizu last week at the East LA tattoo shop where she currently works.
- Rigo with Papel Picado, 2009. Oil on collage on wood panel, 48 x 36 inches
Are you stoked about your upcoming survey at the Vincent Price Art Museum in East Los Angeles later this year?
Yes. I’m stoked because I’ve worked so long in the area, at Self-Help Graphics and a local tattoo shop and have a lot of friends in the area. The area has been inspiring me for a long time. Also like the area is just full of people who are already Latino and Asian and it’s not like when I exhibit in other parts of LA where the consistent question always focuses on how my Mexican or Japanese background informs my work, or that I am trying to figure out who I am, whereas people in East LA are more apt to move beyond or through, rather, the limitations of identity because everyone is Mexican. I can anticipate people being familiar with the subcultural elements in my work, like the backyard party, the outdoor punk show, or primping for a punk show so hopefully the reads won’t be so “oreintalist” or “other-ising”. It’s going to be like coming home in a way.
You’ve exhibit in a range of galleries and museums over the last ten years. What has been the consistent thing you’ve heard about your work?
I’ve heard more about my background and bio than anything. People usually write a novel on my ethnic or geographical background and then mention the “meticulous rendering” or something to that nature about the paintings or drawings. I appreciated some one telling me after they saw the work up at the Smithsonian, that they thought I was a good person because you could see how the people I depicted trusted me and allowed me to capture that moment. I might have been really drunk at the time because I think I started crying when they told me that. I think a lot of the work is born out of pain and perseverance and strategies for survival, hence the depiction of a lot of “self-medicating” with alcohol.
- “Waiting for the Band In Between Sets.”
Why is there so much post-punk rock in your work?
I grew up in the 90s so it’s my high school listening and a lot of my references are from that time. Shoegazer-y stuff has a lot of psychedelic 60′s/euro/garage/dirge-y/ spector “wall of sound” type shit. Basically, they’re a lot of static noisy melodies that I really appreciate. There are a lot of layers and influences to it and for some reason its been my thing since as far back as I can remember finding Live 105 radio in SF when I was attending Everett Middle School. Maybe it was because my dad was so into Santana, Queen, and the Beatles that it was a natural progression for me to go towards punk. A lot of my friends around East and South LA have the same sort of musical preference as well and so there for the portraits I do naturally reference this music. It has become a kind of specific generational thing.
Subcultures I’m influenced by are music-based. Music is a great unifier and whole genres and subcultures and friendships are borne from music. It’s easy to come together in a collective consciousness around music and like it’s a way to differentiate. It is cathartic, relatable, also escapist and transcendent. You don’t have to read a whole backlog of art theory to get to it, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s easy to discern influences in music, similar to fashion, but you can get whole histories with music that you might not so readily with other things.
You’ve exhibited internationally, what are some things you hear from people from other cultures that encounter your work?
People read that the work is about youth culture. The “ethnic” read isn’t dominant as people see that these are kids hanging out and partying, into punk or whatever t-shirt they happen to be wearing in the piece. I think then the work becomes more about psychology, group dynamics or personal narrative.
Your work seems to always get talked about how you remove the context of your subjects and isolate them. What’s up with that?
I think people surpass their contexts. Individuals are more complex than language and place. We evolve faster than our languages and contexts and environment and I’d rather focus on subjects then environment because you can connote so much from just the person. Whether it is through the way they dress, the attitude, or different facial expressions you can see that and don’t need the extra information. It isn’t necessary. Often the environments are limiting and can flatten the read as well. A blank background is a way to ask the viewer to project his or her own questions or assumptions onto the work. I see the absence of a background more as the presence of infinite space and possibilities.
Can you talk about the flat or binary way people get depicted?
The tattoo shop I apprentice at right now just did a reality show and it just showed me how media just flattens people. The stories that get crafted are one-dimensional and so linear and people are just way more complicated than that. You’re shown a person and she’s either a gold-digger or the good mother and people’s histories and mentalities are way more complex than what we’re fed by media.
Raquel Gutiérrez is a performer, writer, actor, curator, playwright, and cultural organizer. She has written on queerness, music, film, performance and community building in addition to creating original solo and ensemble performance compositions. Raquel is also an expert in creating artist-community partnerships for a range of institutional and community-based organizations. Raquel has studied and graduated from both community and university settings but really got her art education at Jabberjaw in Mid-City/L.A. as well as when she interned and house managed at Highways Performance Space in the year 2000.
Raquel is a co-founding member of the performance ensemble, Butchlalis de Panochtitlan (BdP), a community-based and activist-minded group aimed at creating a visual vernacular around queer Latinidad in Los Angeles. Raquel also co-founded other queer women of color projects and Los Angeles-specific projects: Tongues, A Project of VIVA and Epicentro Poetry project. Raquel has published work, most recently in Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing (edited by Lázaro Lima and Felice Picano). Currently, Raquel is working on a few essays about her favorite performance and visual artists and the state of art and community-building as well as a novel. Learn more about Raquel HERE!
This week I’m SO SO SO excited to present one of my favorite artists, Stephanie Sarley! This visionary Oaklander runs the gamut of image making, creating works ranging from stone lithography to GIFs. Her obvious technical prowess paired with her uniquely clever outlook produces distinct work that is at once beautiful and grotesque. She will surely be famous faster than I can blink, so I’m happy I caught up with her before she’s too big to talk to me! I know you will enjoy her as much as I do.
Can you talk a little about your background and how it informs your art? What fundamental things define your outlook?
Being an artist has always been a part of my identity due to being a third generation visual artist in my family. I have been trained from the time I was about six years old. Going often to local bay area fine arts museums, my grandfather and I would draw together side by side studying the masters in our sketchbooks. My grandfather was a true artist who rarely sought personal recognition for his work but rather worked for the love of the process. My mother also an illustrator has a strict eye for detail and has always constructively criticized my work, and my father, a feature film storyboard artist, has also trained my artistic development. Representational art has thus been a primary focus for my art, especially erotica and surrealism most recently.
I saw a post you made which said “My Father is a storyboard artist and has worked on a lot of great 90′s movies and tv shows such as… Waynes World, Robbin Hood Men in Tights, a Muppet Movie, Xena!!!! etc..”. Is this true??? If so, how does that connection impact your work.
It was always fun to hear about movies he was working on, and I have always emulated his style to a certain extent. Also, he hooked me up with a Cintiq enabling me to make clean finished illustrations digitally, I also make GIF animations! It’s a great tool.
We have the shared experience of benefitting from the Laney College printmaking department (a hidden gem that I feel conflicted about uncovering). Can you talk about your experience there?
It is truly a gem of Oakland, I am very grateful for the skills I have learned studying etching and lithography at Laney College. I started studying there in 2010. At the time it brought a finished element to my style. I grew immensely from the experience. The printmaking teacher has been there for more than forty years! Even my grandfather took classes from him in the 70’s! I think I have done some of my favorite pieces there.
What type of printmaking do you practice? Do you favor one technique?
I have mainly produced etchings so far and have completed two lithographs in the past year. I believe Lithography is a more advanced form of printmaking because of the extensive complexity of the process, from etching the stone to the printing. Although etchings are somewhat more precious due to the fact that a plate can only deliver about thirty or so prints before fading, and lithographs can run hundreds. I can’t say I could favor a process at this time.
I’m IN LOVE with your lithograph The Rapist. Can you talk about why you wanted to pay homage to Magritte’s The Rape and the meaning behind your imagery?
“The Rapist” is a direct response to Rene Magritte’s “The Rape” created in 1934.
“The Rape” exemplifies objectification as an act of observation whereas the identity of the woman’s differentiating facial characteristics are stripped and replaced with her anonymous sex organs in a landscape of a lonely abyss.
“The Rapist” as a flip side is utterly humiliated, as his face is made of his own genitals, facing his victim in the abyss a reflection of her suffering exposing his lewd grotesque nature to her. He is almost penetrating his own anus attempting to stroke his alter ego.
Do you draw a lot of inspiration from Surrealism?
Yes, I am inspired by Surrealism as it is a powerful way to convey a statement or to bring humor to a concept. Philosophically, I’m an Absurdist which I express in my works such as my “Dick Dogs” and “Orifice Giggly Poofs.” I look into my dreams for inspiration, reflect on my inner conflicts in a form of catharsis, or just doodle whatever pops into my head to reveal surprises within my subconscious.
There is some form of deconstructed/surreal sexuality running through most of your illustrations. Where does this recurring imagery come from?
Quite honestly, I am an oversexed C.U.N.T (charisma, uniqueness, nerve, talent) and I truly enjoy drawing surreal erotica. It also comes from a fascination with primitive behavior, raw sexuality, and vulgarity overlooked and understated in our modern rape culture. Rampant objectification of women in the 21st century drives a lot of my subject matter.
What medium are these color images?:
Some of my new works are digitally colored on my Cintiq. I also like to work with gouache and inks.
I’ve seen this image floating around a bit:
What’s it all about? Are you guys collaborating on something?
I made that collage for fun! Representing my fellow natives of the east bay and my love of Oakland! I was thrilled with the online response it got.
What projects are you working on now?
New coloring book featuring Dick Dogs! Coming out soon! Come check them out at an upcoming Rock Paper Scissors event 2278 telegraph ave. zines, live music, art show and interactive tutorials. On May 10th from 7-10 pm.
Find me at:
Griselda Suarez is an efficiency goddess. Before your morning alarm has sounded, she has likely catered an Episcopalian wedding, blogged about ancient Mesoamerican birdlife, translated Dante’s Inferno to Nahuatl, and done the dishes using an app that she invented while staging the queer quinceañera she never had. She writes, she feeds, she cooks, she nurtures, she teaches, she translates, she fights discrimination, she curates, she plants, she harvests, and she hand delivers organic vegetables to the spoiled jaws of my pet rabbits, whom I’ve taught to say, “Gracias, Griz,” so quietly no one can hear it. As the BeeGees sang, Griselda is more than a woman. She’s a firme muchachona chingona gringona pochabilly okay? Okay. Esa will be performing with Sister Spit at Long Beach’s MADhaus Gallery. Before you go worship her, taste her delicious mind:
RADAR: Spiritually, you are such a poet. Explain how a poem germinates in that brain of yours.
GRISELDA SUAREZ: Poetry has always been around my life. My father loved to sing and make up verses, in the troubadour tradition, so he was a heavy influence. I like the word you chose, germinate, because words work a lot like seeds for me. My brain gets obsessed with particular words or images and they transform in my mind like a movie reel. I am a very internal writer. It is quite odd. If I have a few minutes to spare, I will think about the poem I want to write and visualize typing it. I go over it several times in my mind and then file it away until I have time to visualize editing like a mental notebook until I can actually put it on paper.
R: It feels like so many writers born and raised in Los Angeles cannot escape the muse of place. L.A. becomes their lifelong muse. As an LA-rooted writer, what’s it like to experience a geographical muse?
GS: I like presenting another L.A. One of the comments I detested the most while in graduate school was “I am missing the gritty L.A. from your writing.” I want something different. I learned a lot from Carl Sandburg. I think he is a big reason why I like Chicago over New York. City as muse is such a romantic concept, but it can also represent so many aspects that I care about like the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity that inhabit place and space. The thing about L.A. is that as hard as we try renew her, particularly downtown, she remains the same in the old buildings, theaters, hotels, parks – like Griffith Observatory, millions of dollars to renovate but still broken holograms or 405 improvements for mountain lion and coyotes pathways.
R: You have a very popular prose piece about a chola alter ego who has outrageous eyebrows and a mouth to match. How did this chola alter ego come about? Does it make you sad that there is a dearth of literary cholas? The chola is such an epic archetype that it seems that she should heavily populate American literature or at least California’s.
GS: I had been struggling with this piece for some time. I wanted to tell the story through a fictional character and it was after a workshop session with Ellery Washington at Lambda Retreat that it came to me. He pushed me on presenting more of me in my non-fiction writing. He asked us to write about a time when we were afraid and never confronted it. The scenes of the piece had already been in my mind, so they wanted to come out. She came to me because I wish I would have said those things so long ago. Growing up though only cholas could “say” certain things because they were rebels against the “way good Mexican girls should be.” I am sad that in all the literature I have read, cholas are reduced to ignorant or violent or sexual beings. It feels like Latina authors are afraid of depicting the “negative” as a real force in the community. Cholas are fierce.
R: I want you to list three white dude-centric American classics that you think would be better off if we replaced the main character with a chola, i.e. The Chola in the Rye.
GS: The Scarlett Teardrop, The Adventures of La Haina Fina, The Chola Menagerie (It’s my favorite play.)
R: Your inspired life extends to gastronomy as well and you weave this art form with words over at Our Daily Kernel. Does food speak to you or do you speak through food or is there a dialogue happening there? Talk turkey to me.
GS: I like writing about food because it has been a central theme in my life: Everything from learning how to cook from an early age to learning about different foods in college as part of my assimilation. I am also a food nerd and proud of it. I like to talk about the process of making food because it is very scientific and it amazes me that we pass down chemistry, physics, biology, botany, so on through food. So when I see prickly pear or even cilantro layers of words appear in my head. Prickly pear=Tuna ≠ Tuna Fish. Tuna as in the old Arabic word for fig, as in new world fig. Cilantro, herb, smells herby, euphemism for pubic hair. Food language is about culture and history for me, not just about consumption.
R: Sliced & Diced Eatery, the restaurant business you and your partner own, is like a living ode to food. What’s your role in the business?
GS: I am definitely the creative side of the business since it is really hard for me to count from 1 to 20. I do have dyscalculia. I make a lot of the food, think about new dishes, and I am the Mexican poster cook. Many times people want to know if a “real” Mexican is actually cooking the food, so that’s when I come to the window and throw gang signs. It makes for really good writing. I also work on PR and social networking. I am also more butch some categories so I carry heavy things.
R: The poet laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Klein Healy, recently ate Sliced & Diced and will be the first to appear on your literary wall of fame. What did she order? What do you think this order says about her soul as a poet?
GS: Eloise had a Del Lago chicken torta. I love your question. It’s like tarot but with chile and beans. Her order tells me that she likes traditional form with an edge. She is adventurous for trying something that is not as popular as the taco. She also tried both of the sauces so this tells me that she trusts my point of view as a cook. It’s great to have customers like her. She wasn’t afraid of the torta either, she just went for it “mano limpia” style. She is not afraid of getting messy.
R: You teach at Cal State Long Beach. If you were constructing your ideal class, what would the reading list be?
GS: ARTEMIS IN ECHO PARK, Eloise Klein Healy
ZIGZAGGER, Manual Munoz
ZAPATA’S DISCIPLE, Martin Espada
ZAMI, Audre Lorde
BROWN, Richard Rodriguez
PARA LAS DURAS, tatiana de la tierra
DAHLIA SEASON, Myriam Gurba
And so many of my fellow poet friends would do guest workshops
R: What projects are on your brilliant horizon?
GS: I want to get two collections out there. The first one is poetry, The Death Inside Me, about my father’s passing. It took me to a really dark place. The second is a collection of non-fiction essays related to me, Unincorporated Life: Life from the East L.A. Interchange.
As far as collaborative work, I look forward to working with Las Guayabas, a Latina writer salon, on a chapbook series in honor of tatiana de la tierra.
R: You and I have often spoken about the clichés present in Chicana literature: the cult of the abuelita (grandma), the Virgin, the kitchen, the harcore fetishization of tragedy, dancing enchiladas. How does your work grease itself up to wrestle with these clichés?
GS: I want to be real about my identity. It is easy to go on to facebook and find the pages “Things Mexicans Do” or “What Mexican Moms Say” and say, “This is me.” We laugh at it and connect to it, but often we just continue a cycle that only gives racists more fuel. Yet, I too was a young writer and I wrote the obligatory abuelita poem. I think we fall into those tropes because we are fed a certain kind of writing as “Latino” literature, especially in middle school and high school. So I write about what I know, about my life and the crazy shit people say about me to my face. I take their stereotypes or racist remarks and own them in my writing. I take away their power by giving new meaning to their words. There is one exception. I will not write a mango poem. I have read and heard too many bad ones that I am afraid that subconsciously I will write a horrible poem.
Hey man-go see Griz read at MADHaus with Sister Spit! 624 Pacific Ave., Long Beach at 7:30 sharp okay? Okay. Until then, a sample of her poems.
She muttered announcements through a telephone,
crept inside my brain, bored herself in my heart.
Knocked on my door and grumbled in my stomach,
bellowed Father’s passing with wind from the storm.
Snapped every nerve in my body and yelled through
my spinal cord that my father was no more.
Cradled my limp body in mourning and fed me ashes,
forced bitter memories down my throat.
Tlazolteotl Feasts on My Life
She is my queer goddess and lives in my neurons,
in the funk between my toes and the must in my thighs.
She weaves my world and I spew it out of me,
piling my life like compost so that she could eat it.
I dig the earth to plant seeds in her fertile warren,
wet with excrement- dip fingers in her.
She is my dirty goddess with black lips
and she seeps through my blackened nail beds.
She is my filthy goddess and she eats my guilt like putrid refuse.
My armpits reek of pleasure, excrete lesbiana sweat.
I release my sins in her mouth –
I implore my indulgences: dark tortured rotten words.
Red and black ink etched with her obsidian nails unto my ethereal skin.
She pulls me into her tides and drowns me,
birthing me every night and burying my transgressions.
Check out some of these awesome emerging artists in the Bay Area!!!
My first stop at Oakland Art Murmur was Johansson Projects where I fell in love with Michelle Blade‘s woven mylar paintings.
Then I looked at this grouping of graphite drawings by Casey Watson which from afar looked to be amoebas.
Then I went to Krowswork and saw the Liz Walsh exhibition.
What I particularly like about Krowswork is their viewing room with these old church pews:
And then I went to this vintage store in a truck (who wouldn’t!!):
On Sunday I went to CCA Open Studios to see my friend Sarah Patten‘s installation.
Her work is INCREDIBLE and I’m so mad I only have TERRIBLE cell photos to share with you.
That’s a collaged wall with hand-beaded/hand-tie-dyed cloth. Here’s a detailed image:
Sarah’s studio was full of great still life:
and excellent snacks:
And around the installation hung her new collages. I WANT TO BUY ALL OF THEM!
I walked around open studios for the rest of the afternoon- there was SO MUCH to look at. What follows is some of my FAVORITES:
Amber Fawn Keig
Wes Fanelli (who won me over with the Bear/spaghetti dinner fetish drawings <3 )
Benjamin Blanco and Nicole Hall- I’m including the artist statement with this for obvious reasons.
If you can’t tell, It’s Raining Men is playing in the background.
Beatrice Hunt (I WANT THIS FOR MY MANTEL!!)
and last but certainly not least, Stephanie Wickizer.
CHECK OUT THESE ARTISTS WEBSITES. I WAS SO INTO ALL OF THEM!!!
until next monday-
I visited a dream museum recently. It was Melody Owen‘s DREAM JOURNALS (WHEN I WAS NINETEEN, I WAS AN OLD MAN). Owen is a Portland artist, writer, and vegetarian, and her dreams read as both familiar and exotic at the same time, much like the first time I tasted a casserole.
Here’s an example:
“My sister is going to marry vice president Dan Quayle. He is royalty. He wears blue foil gloves. He has a taster who tastes his food to make sure it is not poison.”
For those who grew up with Dan Quayle, this makes sense.
What follows is an interview I conducted with Owen interspersed with images of her DREAM JOURNALS which I brought with me to a recent natural history museum visit and posed with various exhibits.
RADAR: The structure of DREAM JOURNALS is really odd, dreamy. You juxtapose reality with collage and the narrative of your dreams and place this against snatches of poem I’m assuming are culled from your actual early writings. How did this structure come about?
MELODY OWEN: I met Kevin Sampsell a long time ago, when I was doing mail art and writing poetry and having these dreams. I went to an event at a cafe for a zine he made about River Phoenix called “Dead Star”. I liked the idea of it. I was making little zines called “Trading Saliva” at the time. He included me in a couple of poetry collections that he published and I illustrated the first version of his Common Pornography book with little black and white digital collages in 2001. He suggested that he might like to publish some kind of writing collage combination and here it is. Voila!
I had recently reread my dream journals and found a lot of item to be pretty funny and strange. He agreed. It was Kevin’s idea that we start the book with some real memories. But even those memories were written down in the nineties. I had decided to try to remember things and write them down. I did it for a couple of days, then I got distracted and stopped.
We originally thought that I might make collages about the dreams. Instead, I decided to use images I collected and made at the same time as I was having the dreams. They are not directly related to the dreams, but you can see a correlation. The book is about as random and scattered as my journals and zines and life is, for that matter. There were a lot of word to visual relationships in the collages, probably because I was transitioning from writing to visual art.
R: I have never had the discipline to keep a dream journal. What gave you that discipline? How frequently did you write in it?
MO: I always found dreams to be interesting and being mildly self obsessed, I found my own dreams particularly interesting. I remembered them pretty clearly in those days. I wrote them down a lot, I have three notebooks full of them. Now, I only keep snippets with me when I wake.
I hear that writing them down helps you remember them. I only wrote them down regularly for about ten years. Then, I moved to New York City or something and got distracted. I still try to write down when I have an exceptional one. I think of it as a clue. Like Agent Cooper. Always pay attention to the clues!
R: Are there dreams that didn’t make the final cut?
MO: I gave Kevin the journals to read and he chose the ones which would go into the book. He marked them with yellow stick-it notes. I think there are probably lots of other good ones. He may have selected out for repetition too. I have probably had hundreds of dreams trying to save small animals who are in peril. These are a tiny fraction of the “saving cats” dream episodes. Packing and saving cats are my main activities in the dream world.
There were a couple of good ones that I might have left out by accident because I didn’t see the stick-it notes. That’s OK. It’s a little book. I think I will read a few that aren’t in there at the party we are having for the set of these three Scout Books that were published together. That’s April 13th at the IPRC in Portland.
R: Your collages are set in no time and no place. That’s their beauty. How do you approach collages?
MO: The collages in this book are all culled from my journals of the time so they are generally just little bursts of emotional creativity. I’ve made a journal every year since I was fifteen. These combinations crop up out of accumulated paper materials I come across, coupled with whatever calamity or triumph is going on in my life/psyche at the time.
Usually, my approach is to have a story or theme to work with. For example, I did a residency in Iceland and one of the things that fascinates me about that place is the idea of elves. So, I made a series of collages that addressed the idea of the changeling; the human baby switched out for an elf baby. I only used materials I found there. More recently, I illustrated each chapter of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It helps me to have a structure because anything is possible in art and a conceptual structure gives scaffolding on which to build.
R: Are you a feminist?
MO: I definitely am, though I don’t tend to use that word. I was raised in Eugene, Oregon, so I developed a kind of aversion to terms like that. But the truth is that I feel very strongly about equality for all people and I do believe that things are still extremely messed up for women (and subsequently, for everyone). There has been progress of course. But just look at commercials for kids. Girls are bombarded with make up and pink sparkle princesses… Still! Why?! Unbelievable and maddening.
And the fact that so many women wear shoes on sticks still baffles me. To me, high heels say “I can’t run”. Helplessness is sexy, I guess. I can see how they are pretty sometimes but the normalization of it bothers me. The media has become such a pervasive part of our realities and the images of women are just as objectifying and stereotyping as when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong. I love to look at pictures of beautiful ladies but there is much more going on than that in the media. I prefer it when they are whole people who do things, not just sex objects wrapped up tight and on sticks.
R: Do you hold any dream theories? Like, what do you think they are? What do you think they mean?
MO: I have lots of ideas about what they are and what they mean. I don’t know if I could pick just one. I know that sometimes I dream things and then, later I will be in a place that is just like that dream place. I hadn’t seen the place except in a dream. So, that is kind of magical thinking. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. I do wonder about time and reality though, and maybe dreams have something to do with time, like another layer, or like it is the inside of a circle and we can only see the line of the circle. Something like that. I know there are cultures in which dreams are considered sacred and truly meaningful, maybe even another kind of “reality”.
In our culture, they are generally regarded as Freudian cheat sheets. Water = Sex. Etc. I do believe that they offer insight into what our minds are grappling with. And I think the symbols are really particular to the individual’s life. We all have our own reference points and experiences. I probably have nightmares about wasps because when I was five, a wasp got caught in my jumper and it stung me continuously until we got the jumper off. But Freud would probably say it has something to do with wishing I was a man. (joke). I think dream symbolism is very personal.
I think I am so fascinated by them because I am and have always been interested in the nature of reality. As a child, I loved the Surrealists and Escher, that type of thing. I have had mental health issues since then as well. So, my reality was maybe not as fixed as most people’s. Kids are really fluid with imagination and playing with reality but adults build walls. I have never functioned very well within these walls. Dreams feel so real sometimes. Which begs the question, what does “real” feel like?
Even when I began to get more interested in animal welfare and this type of thing, I was thinking about reality because it is so much about perception. We are just learning that bees can sense the electromagnetic fields of flowers. They are communicating information to each other with electricity. What?! That’s amazing. Also, it is amazing that different animals perceive colors than we do. Also, how their hearts beat at different speeds. So, does a whale experience time differently than a hummingbird? And if reality is so much about perception, then again, what the hell is it? There is really so much we don’t know.
R: Did you include your worst nightmares and greatest dreams in the collection? If not, would you mind sharing your most terrifying nightmare? I love hearing people’s nightmares. I love learning what scares the shit out of people.
MO: My nightmares and dreams tend to smoosh together. The first nightmare I remember having, when I was a little kid, took place in a store full of lights, lamps and chandeliers. All of a sudden, all the lights went out. I suddenly knew that a vampire was in the room with me, very close. It was scary but kind of sexy too. The scariest feeling is when I am in an out of control car or a really high ladder. The bloody, gory stuff is not always so scary. Like, I dreamed once about a parade of roadkill animals that had jack o lanterns for stomachs. I thought it was kind of neat, but in real life, I would have likely found it horrifying.
I have had many panicky dreams in which there is a fire or some sort of calamity and I have to pack my most valued possessions very quickly! But, as the dream goes on, I forget about the fire and it kind of fades into the background. Then, the dream is just about packing. I pack a lot in my dreams because we (my family) had moved twenty-seven times by the time I was eighteen. Mostly, within the same town but it was a lot of packing and unpacking. And I kept moving, even more frequently throughout my twenties.
I had a vivid nightmare on the morning of September 11th, just before waking up to see the towers fall on TV. I was crawling on my hands and knees through a long, dark tunnel. It seemed like the ground underneath me was muddy and covered with old clothes but then I realized that I was crawling on the bodies of dead soldiers. That was terrifying and awful.
R: Its interesting to me that you’ve been so devoted to jotting dreams because in your work, you also seem preoccupied with the idea of extinction and once you wake from sleep, dreams are extinct. How do you see the concept of extinction as it relates to your DREAM JOURNALS?
MO: That is an interesting point. In Through the Looking Glass, Tweedle Dum and Dee tell Alice that the red king is asleep in the woods and he is dreaming about her:
`He’s dreaming now,’ said Tweedledee: `and what do you think he’s dreaming about?’
Alice said `Nobody can guess that.’
`Why, about you!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. `And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’
`Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.
`Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. `You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’
`If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, `you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!’
This idea disturbs her and she even ponders it a little after waking up from her own dream at the end of the book. The Alice books were like my bibles, growing up and both those stories are meant to take place in her dreams. I’m sure I identified with these stories so much because my sense of my own reality has always been pretty shaky. My mental health issues manifested partly in an inability to believe things people told me, especially if they were about me. I lived life with a real disconnect from my own self. I was often just a little bit outside, apart from myself. When my grandfather met me, he said I seemed to be floating like a balloon on a string just above my body. It’s like that.
The Disappearing Book (which you were part of) was born of my love and concern for animals, and the amazing fact that we are actually killing them off. It’s really bizarre, the way humans live in the world. So, carelessly and yet so sure that THIS is the way to do it. Once, whale blubber was used for fuel and that was considered the way to do it. I think using fossil fuels is also ridiculous when there are so many clean, renewable energy options. Yet, it is just normal, just the way we do things. Our own self-destruction has become normalized. Same with killing off the animals, cutting down the forests, fishing all the fish out of the oceans, killing all the bees with pesticides, polluting our own water supplies, warming the planet. Meanwhile, we are all wandering around, gazing at and touching our little light emitting screens. Humans are crazy.
R: It’s weird that now that I’ve read your dream journal, I feel like I know you really well, maybe even better than if I’d read something real about you. Why do think it is that we can connect with one another in such a real way by sharing dreams?
MO: Maybe, it has something to do with how our dreams are a way to work out our anxieties and so I have just shared my anxieties. Maybe that is an intimate thing to do. Or because it is an alternate reality that we all spend a third of our lives in. It’s a place we all go to every night where there are no rules and anything can happen. Maybe it is interesting because it is our own minds that create them. So, they are like little plays we write every night. The theater of the mind. Insights into what really troubles or excites us. I don’t know, but I’m glad you know me.
MO: I am just starting work on a series of collages based on the Grimm Fairy Tales. I want to make clusters of real cut paper collages and simultaneously make digital animations out of the same materials. I have a huge love for music and there is a lot of good music in Portland. My plan is to make at least ten animations, each using the music of a local band. I am also working with video footage I took inside of phone booths in Paris. And I want to make some new work about bees. So, mostly video and collage in the near future. More of the same.
And I will be moving soon. (Again!)
For info on DREAM JOURNALS release party, click here and have a dreamy night and day.