Wednesday, March 18, 2009
It's the day after St. Patrick's Day, and bent has quite a hangover, but thought she would take the opportunity to blog about Gender Fatigue's activities on the Irish day. Bent has fond memories of listening to her grand-father (bless his soul) sing along to Irish drinking songs in her childhood, getting drunk most every night. While she can't recall any of the specific songs or artists, and she doesn't recall him drinking much aside from Genesee 12 Horse beer, she does imagine a memory of him singing "Whiskey You're the Devil":
As a punk rocker, of course had to like the Pogues, basically the only well known Irish punk rock band. Gender Fatigue had a fantastic party in 2008 to the tunes of the Pogues on St Patrick's Day, and the tradition continued this year. We also had our radio show the same day, which featured plenty of Pogues, as well as a tune by Lick the Tins, from the soundtrack to Some Kind of Wonderful. Mothersheister and bent love to sing along and dance to the Pogues version of "Whiskey You're the Devil."
On this day, Gender Fatigue likes to recall the similarities between Mothersheister's and bent's people's experience with the English, conniving colonizing bastards that they are! After all, Ireland (and to a certain degree Scotland and Wales too) was a testing ground for their colonizing tactics elsewhere, like in Kenya. As we ate corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, we pondered the Irish Potato Famine which killed more than a million and sent another million (all together a quarter of the island's population) fleeing the country. It was not the case, as some mistakenly believe, that Irish people only ate potatoes, and so when the potato crop failed back in 1845-1849, people starved. The Irish grew many other crops, but the English colonial regime would take most of their crops (like grains) as taxes. There was actually more than enough food in Ireland to feed everyone during the potato famine, it's just that the English took it all.
[This is a mural in the Falls neighborhood in Belfast, photo by Asterion.]
The famine, and the English government's lack of reaction to it, resulted in an uprising in Tipperrary. Also really interesting, according to Wikipedia, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent food and money to help the Irish, and the Choctaw Indians in the US, who had just endured the Trail of Tears, raised money and sent it as well. Hooray international solidarity!
Another example of international solidarity came at the same time, in the United States, but this time from the Irish towards Mexico. In 1846 the US invaded Mexico, and many newly arrived Irish immigrants (along with other immigrants) were conscripted into the military. When they were sent to war against Mexico, many of them deserted to the Mexican side, for various reasons. Treated poorly by the Anglo officers and wider US society, and by the English before that, they also saw similarities with the Mexicans in religion and being attacked by a larger empire. In addition to many Irish, lots of Germans and other European immigrants deserted, as well as a number of black slaves - they all were given Mexican citizenship immediately.
Since they knew they would probably be killed for treason if they were captured, the San Patricio Battallion soldiers fought extremely hard against the US army, and were exceptionally successful in part because many of them had more combat experience than their Mexican counter parts. Mothersheister says she heard that when the Mexican troops would put up the white flag of surrender, the San Patricios would tear it down and put up their own flag, to keep fighting. San Patricios also probably enjoyed shooting down US army officers who had abused them, and some records show that officers were disproportionately killed during battles involving the San Patricio Batallion. The battallion is fondly remembered in Mexico, where it is celebrated on St Patrick's Day but also on September 12, the anniversary of the executions of those members of the Battallion who were captured by the US army. So have a drink for these amazing fallen soldiers!
Monday, March 16, 2009
Part of our journey of preparation is learning how to shoot a gun properly and safely. The only time Bent shot a gun was as a child and mothershiester has shot guns in her dreams. But a couple of weekends ago, we made it to the gun range at the Virginia based National Rifle Association Headquarters.
Bent had been in contact with the Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights and shooting group that organizes shooting get togethers. They organized an outing to the NRA range. One of the members said he would provide the guns and the bullets so there we went.
We needed a bit of food fuel to get through a morning of shooting several rounds so we went to this greek family owned diner near the NRA. We almost passed up the Have A Bite eatery, but thankfully we didn't because they served the tastiest potatoes. Potatoes with lemon are very tasty!
Thanks to milmo, we were able to make it to the gun range full and without incident. We were were one of the first cars of the morning. "Early to bed, Early to rise"...Actually, just kidding, we went to sleep super late but we still woke up super early for this moment.
The gun range is located in the lower level. It kind of set the mood for Mothershiester who was starting to regret coming. Images of accidentally shooting herself or other folks at the range bombarded her mind while Bent walks giddily.
We definitely didn't know what to expect when we got there. Both of us are just excited to demystify the gun. Below is us 'excited'!
Once you enter, you can't take photos. Since we'd never been there, we had to read through a gun safety and NRA rules manual plus take an open book test before we could set foot onto the live fire part of the range. After taking the test, you buy some targets, and pick up a set of eye goggles and ear muffs--and you definitely need those. Once you walk into the range, it's pretty surreal. It's set up like a bowling alley because each shooter is in their own lane. In front of you is this huge empty space with walls riddled with bullets and each lane has a target at different distances from each other depending on how far you want to shoot.
The sounds of the guns firing scared the hell out of mothershiester. It was much louder than she expected and it seemed like the shooting would never stop. At one point mothershiester wanted to run out before she could even hold a gun. Bent handled things much better. Some of the loudest guns that were being shot were shotguns and assault rifles.
Our pink pistols contact gave us a mini practice session before using the real things. We started out with a .22. Bent graduated to a 9 mm and a colt .45 with a type of precision that should make any person scared.
5 things that surprised us from our gun range visit:
1. Gun enthusiasts/users are not gun wielding vigilantes that want to shoot first
and ask questions later.
2. You should not focus on the target to shoot the target accurately. Instead the
target and the back of your gun should be blurry while the front of your gun
should be clear.
3. Guns are fucking LOUD.
4. Limp wristing is not just a joke on the gun range. It can apparently happen.
5. BENT and MOTHERSHIESTER are obsessed with shooting! We will be back!!!
There were several pieces of comic art by Native women that were featured. Below is a picture I took from a series by New Mexico artist, Rose Bean Simpson --Objectification: Seductive Woman with TV, Super Pueblo, Graffiti Artist, Lesbian Couple
Simpson's art style reminds me of the Hernandez Brothers' love and rockets comix. Here is a closer look at the lesbian couple in this series. very cute!!
As you all know, Gender Fatigue is ga-ga over comics. And despite the lack of respect comics get in the states as serious art forms, gender fatigue knows that comics are one of the most accessible and oldest art forms pre-dating written language, um yeah. It was also pretty inspiring for Mothershiester who will be taking illustration classes in April. Stay tune for her illustrations on this site in the late spring.
Word on the Papa Raul Grapevine: The next comic that gender fatigue should start reading is Black Lightning. A comic book about a superhero that takes on DC comics' chief executioner of justice, Superman. This character confronts superhero and ask the age old question, "Why aren't you dispensing your justice in the south side of metropolis?" riddling Superman with white guilt plus some kick ass dispensing of justice on his forgotten streets.
Mothershiester tried to buy a couple of issues this weekend but Big Monkies Comics on 14th street was sold out. Damn it! So give them a call and ask for more issues so that another comic character of color doesn't bite the dust. We know how it is.
Friday, March 13, 2009
On March 3rd, Gender Fatigue was very excited to be joined by amazing local artist Lisa Marie Thalhammer. We've only known Lisa Marie since last year, but we are consistently amazed by her work, her charm, and her energy. Most recently, Lisa Marie teamed up with Kathryn Cornelius to hold Soup Kitchen at Transformer on P St NW - a kind of performance action involving soup, sharing with others, connections between art and soup, and more, in their own words: "Join the artists as they fill bowls, slice bread, and entertain guests with an event that addresses the relationship of art and community service with the common concerns of our current economic situation, in the format of a communal experience." Sales of customized soup cans benefited local group SOME.
Lisa Marie has also recently had a new exhibit, Lifeguard, open with Decoy at Hounshell Realty on 14th St, had an incredible portrait of Michelle Obama in the exhibit Manifest Hope: DC in January, and continues to garner rave reviews for her amazing art featuring women and challenging gender stereotypes - including Lot Lizards, Boxers, and Girls & Guns (hey, that's kinda like Gender Fatigue! We're girls with guns! More to come on that).
[could this be bent in the future?]
Due to technical challenges, we are bringing you the transcript of the interview, though we hope to finally have audio streaming capabilities up and running soon on the blog...
Our show started with Lisa Marie talking about her work like what it's about and what it's made from. Due to technical challenges, our efforts to record the first bit was thwarted, so we pick up with our transcript a bit into the interview. You can read more about her work on her website albeit in the form of reviews that don't hold a light to Lisa Marie's personal explanation. Maybe this one comes closest...
We begin halfway through Lisa Marie's answer to our question about being an artist in DC:
Lisa Marie Thalhammer: ....telling me their stories like about dc space, I've had the privilege to meet really interesting people in this city and I think its the people I've met that have kept me here. I'm not on the Hill or talking to a lot of people on the Hill. I'm just talking to everyday people, people that come into my gallery, or when I used to work at the bar, people who used to come into the bar, and I think it was those interactions that really inspired me. Yeah, so don't talk shit about DC!
dj bent: That's right! Can you talk more about how DC has affected your art? Like being here vs where you were before, like New York or whatever, and especially in light of the fact that the whole Lot Lizards series is based on that. So how has DC affected that? Especially I think of one of my favorite pieces, it's the one with DJ Natty Boom in it. And maybe Natty Boom has been at a truck stop, but obviously that's putting those two contexts together, right? [note: Natty Boom is a phenomenal DJ and also was a collaborator on Lifeguard]
LM: Well it's hard to appreciate where you're from until you're away from where you're from. So I think finally moving out of the midwest and being on the east coast, I found it interesting that east coast people have this strange curiosity with middle america: What's going on with middle america? You know? It's this big mystery! So then it sort of also sparked my interests in middle america too, like what is going on there? So i thought about my experiences there, and being on the east coast is how that series of work came about for me. I don't know if I was still living in Illinois, Missouri, or Kansas if I would have came to that same type of understanding about where I was from.
dj mothersheister: What are some of the challenges of being a working artist?
LM: There's a lot of them! Being an artist you have to challenge yourself daily; you always have to kind of challenge your own thinking, think about what you're putting out to the public, what you're putting out in culture. It's kind of a circle, the culture affects the art but also the art affects the culture. It's important to me that there's positive images in my work. This latest series deals primarily with sex workers in the trucking industry, also trying to shine a light on that sub culture that isn't looked at very often. So those are important things to me. There's challenges you know... I'm not going to talk about the economy. [laughter] There's always challenges and i think especially with what's going on right now, it's important that as a culture we all come together to value art and make a stand on what we want our culture to be about. What do we want our hard earned money to go to? Do we want it going to war or do we want it going to creating art and culture? That's an individual question that everybody needs to ask themselves, but also a larger question of what we value as society.
B: That kinda of came out recently with the economic stimulus package. There is a part about arts, and people were like, "What is this doing in there? That doesn't generate economic stimulus! Those aren't workers that need economic support!" It was crazy the way people talk about the arts and cultural production as this totally separate thing that has no relation on our larger society.
LM: And it has such a huge relation! Arts and economic stimulus is hand in hand! I just think it's important that we keep talking about that, and the importance of that.
MS: You were talking about challenging yourself on a daily basis and I'm very interested in that. Because we often talk about that - we've been working on creating a space for people to be creative in, and sometimes it's very hard to motivate yourself to finish projects, or start on them, or continue them. How do you do it? Do you have a plan?
LM: It mainly comes down to obsession, to a certain degree. I'm really obsessed with my artwork, and I'm always trying to find three more hours in the day to focus on a drawing that is 2 inches by 2 inches, or something crazy like that. Art is something that is part of me. Even when I'm not feeling particularly creative, I make myself sit in my studio and free draw. There is a business aspect to art making. Especially if you're trying to take it to a professional level where you're having exhibitions and shows and you're writing grant proposals. So if there's a day I'm not feeling particularly creative then I focus on writing that grant, or sending an email to some friends with an image of a new painting i just did, and then on the days where I am feeling creative, and I go with that. So there's different hats that you kinda have to wear in this day and age as an artist. Different days call for different hats.
MS: You don't have something you say to yourself in the mirror, or a drink you take in the morning? I mean I think that's great....
LM: We all have our tricks! Secrets of the trade! [laughter]
B: It reminds me of a panel that Mothersheister and I attended a couple weeks ago that was about arts, and a lot of it goes back to what we were just talking about: the economy. Artists are small business people, and no one wants to give them that credit! In this panel they were talking about that, how in art school you don't learn about running a business, finances, whatever, and that's really an important part of being an artist if you're trying to make a living off it, or even if you do it on the side, but that's not recogized.
LM: As an artist it's your job to get your artwork out there for people to see, but if you don't put it out there for people to see it, then it's never going to be shown. Or it might be something you do for yourself, which is totally valid if that's your intent, but if you're intent is to get to show it, and for it to interact culturally on a larger level, then there's definitely a small business aspect to it. I file sole proprietor taxes, I have my own business technically. They don't teach you that in art school, you have to learn that on your own and there are a lot of great resources on that in DC, like the foundation center is really great. If you live in DC you can definitely check out DC Commission on Arts and Humanities site, they have classes like grant writing. So you definitely have to take it on yourself, they're not gonna teach you that in art school.
B: Another question: Could you talk about the role of gender and/or sexuality in your work, or other stuff like that. [laughter] Like our show is about gender fatigue, but we talk about all kinds of stuff.
LM: Gender, identity and power are definitely major themes through all my work. I definitely attempt to challenge what traditional gender roles are in my work. For me especially with some of the works of portraits I've done of female friends, trying to pull out this powerful glance or pose, but still make it their own is important and it's also important to me that different people find that in an individual way. It's not the same for everyone, not everyone's gonna want to come in and pose the same way for a portrait, but collectively when yous ee them together, I feel like there is a message of power through gender identity.
LM : Awesome. [laughter]
MS: I had another question. In terms of having a support network for all the things you work on, what are the communities of people that do that? Do you have that? How does that work? Do you meet? I don't have the language for it. What does your support network look like?
LM: There's definitely a support network for visual artists and for me personally and I feel like a lot of that revolves around cetain galleries and nonprofit spaces, like where I work (the Ellipse Art Center) we definitely have a community that we've built around that space. Also Transformer, which is a local non profit that creates community with emerging artists, and connects emerging artists with people who have had longer professional careers in the arts and collectors. There's also a community around people who collect my work and support my work. Also the O Street artists studios, where I have my studio space, that's a really interesting community of artists. It's a really unique space for DC, there's not many artists studio buildings left where you'll find multiple artists in one building I think there's probably about twenty artists in our building. We have an open studio every year, this year I think it's gonna be the weekend of April 25, 52 O St NW, open house, come by, see my studio, my artwork, the studios and art of twenty different artists in the building. All different kinds of artists, from sculpture to furniture making to jewelry making, drawing, painting, wood sculpture, wood carving, all over the board. So I've been really lucky to find that community in DC because there's not very many of them. I've also found a community through Girls Rock! DC which is a local non profit of women in the DC area who come together to put on a rock camp for young girls age 8-18. Organizing around that has been really inspiring to me and has given me a whole new artistic community to be involved in or get inspiration from. You have to seek it out, but it's out there, and you know, from your own community too, just friends hanging out, like in the studio...
B: That was pretty much what we wanted to cover! Could you tell folks where can people see your work, and what exhibits have you been in lately, and website?
LM: Website is www.lisamariestudio.com. See some of my work at Hounshell realty office at 1506 14th St at 14th and P Sts NW. It's a real estate office but you can go in during the day, just knock and they'll be happy to let you in, through April 11.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Additionally, over the weekend, Gender Fatigue made an expedition to the shooting range. Pics and commentary coming soon - and if we get lucky, maybe we can even figure out how to upload some audio from the day!