Who Took the Clap Out of the Clap Clap?

Whenever i write I think about Kurt Vonnegut and a book I’ve always wanted to write called “Who Took the Clap Out of the Clap Clap? I came up with the idea in my early twenties while laying in my boyfriends bed. I think i had just read Breakfast of Champions or maybe Cat’s Cradle and was trying to mimic Kurt Vonnegut’s style. During this time, and for a reason I can’t remember, neither my boyfriend or I had a job and we were subsisting on McDonald’s combo meals, which we would split. We also ate a lot of Popeye Puffed Wheat, a puffed wheat cereal that came in a long plastic bag instead of a box and would make your pee smell sweet and nutty. It was under a dollar for a bag so we ate a lot of it. This was in Chicago in the mid ninety’s.

The title “Who Took the Clap Out of the Clap Clap?” is now twenty-four years old and I’ve never written even one word explaining what it’s about. I’ve never had an idea what it was about. I just thought the name sounded cheeky. I suppose if i were to write about it now i would guess it would have something to do with feeling cynical.

When I think of applause I can imagine a variety of audiences, some determined not to show any form of expression and lightly clapping once the performance is through, some over enthusiastic and clapping so excitedly that they’re enthusiasm comes across as false, some rhythmically clapping in beat with the band, and some clapping turning to stomping or pounding or kicking the shit out of one another. That’s my favorite style of clap. I love it when the clapping gets rough and the audience becomes unhinged. It’s the opposite of the cool, cynical clap. I want to come away bruised by the clap with my ears ringing and make up smeared across my face.

I compare these claps to living in Chicago and living in New York. In Chicago i felt trapped by the self serious clap, the type of smug ovation that comes with standing still and listening tensely while sneering at anyone around you who dare make a peep or God forbid, dance. In New York I felt exorcized! I clapped, screamed howled, and stomped all in unison to those around me and joined an equally rabid group of women who made me feel like i could finally cheer as loud as I wanted with no hushes or anyone asking me why I was so angry.

“Why are you so angry?”

“Why are you not angry?”

A lot of this, of course has to do with the time period, tastes in music and my own personality and is not meant to be a comparison of the two cites. I had a lot of fun in Chicago but i was also relieved to leave. There’s an icy tombstone in my imagination perched on the edge of Lake Michigan, that reads Christiane Hultquist “Good bye to my early twenties, May they rest in peace and never ever come back to haunt me. 1995-1998”

The Beginning of An Unsolved Issue

I got asked last night to give a lecture to a group of friends. The lecture has to be 15-22 minutes and it has to be about something that doesn’t pertain to my job, so I can’t talk about fashion, or making costumes, or painting or anything art related in general. A few ideas have come to mind, one is to talk about memory and the idea that according to scientists most of what you remember never happened in the way you remember it. I find this fascinating since it seems to make so much of my life totally meaningless, but if I’m to believe the reasons why we have memory in the first place is to keep moving forward then why do i worry all of the time about past issues or some embarrassing thing that I said. Those memories plague me more than the good ones. As well, along with the fact that we are now more open to talking about our past traumas, in can seem like maybe you just made that memory up at the pressing of a therapist or that maybe you should be able to splat that memory like a bug and pretend that it never happened. But then I’ve also started to read a book called The Body Keeps the Score and it’s about PTSD and how the body keeps all of it’s past sufferings locked inside our minds and how these disturbances are released in very disconcerting ways. So, really what is memory for if you we can’t remember events correctly yet we store these acts in our mind to be released in ugly episodes in the future?

As well, and sort of along the same lines I read an article in the New Yorker this morning called “The Case For Not Being Born” about the “anti-natalist” philosopher David Benetar. Basically, he believes that life sucks so much that we should stop having children for reasons of compassion. I can’t say that in some way I haven’t had this exact same feeling. The thought of my nieces and nephews having to go through their early twenties, a time that i found to be confusing and painful in a multitude of ways, makes my heart ache so badly that I want to throw up. Grief is another reason for never wanting to be born. It’s the ultimate annihilation of any sort of once happy existence. I’ve seen it eat away at people in ways unimaginable. Your soul becomes a wet sheet, bagging at the center where once flourished some sort of life. Grief on top of grief on top of more grief, that’s the way it hits if you believe that death comes in threes. So, yes, if you want to be a compassionate person, why ever procreate?

I’ve never been a nihilist though. I really love life. I keep thinking about how when i’m going through a difficult time, i get this feeling of ecstatic joy mixed with sadness. I think it’s because i love solving problems. I’d rather have a problem that not have a problem just so I could solve it. It’s kind of why i’ve started to write. I know I have a problem that I need to solve and for some reason making it known to everyone around the planet seems like the best way to work out my dilemma. Writing, i think, is about everything coming out sideways and so i present to you some really sideways writing that is both truthful and at the same time trying to hide my real feelings about life, the un-Instagarmmable ones.

It Probably Didn't Really Happen Anyway

I’ve started to write again.  I wrote a lot in my teens and early twenties. I threw many of my pre-New York City, 1998 journals away in a dramatic fury where I also threw away my high school yearbooks and a whole lot of artwork. I was trying to free myself for the next chapter in my life, getting the fuck out of Chicago and moving to New York. 

New York, the place I’ve always wanted to be. When I think about my desire to move to New York I imagine myself as a child, staring out the window on a rainy day and singing the 1970’s slow jam “Feelings” 

 Feelings

Nothing more but feelings

I look through my window waiting for someone to sing me a song. 

I would gaze longingly out that window at the gravel in the driveway and the big tree in mean Mr. Gates’ yard. Mr. Gates had tried to sue my mom after he slipped on some ice on the sidewalk running in front of our house. My older brother, who at the time must have been about 11 or 12 had shoveled the walk and missed the ice. Mr. Gates tried to sue us, but you can’t get much from a single mom on welfare so he must have decided not to follow through on his threats. 

 I longed to get away from Mr. Gates and the couple who owned Irwin’s in uptown Marion where they sold men’s clothing and Marion Indians High School t-shirts and matching shorts and socks in red and yellow. I loathed them after they snapped at my brother and I to only take one candy bar from the dish on Halloween. We were always treated like greedy, greasy, stupid poor people, but I knew we were smarter than they were. We just did things differently. 

 But who knows if any of this actually happened? I was watching a show recently on Netflix about how the mind works and It’s made me question nearly every event in my life. The neuroscientists on the show basically said that you can’t trust your memories and that memories are really only there to keep you moving forward in life. They used as an example a man who had lost the part of his brain that kept long term memories when a doctor accidentally removed it during brain surgery. Whenever they asked him if he had any plans for the coming days he would answer in a confused and lethargic tone that he had no future plans. However, I may be remembering this all wrong, so you should probably just watch the show. I think it’s called How the Mind Works. 

 I can’t be sure about anything anymore so I’m acting solely on my feelings. 

 I started to write a piece about how when I was in my teens, I was sure I would become a writer and then that piece of writing veered into writing about my mother writing and here it goes again. My mom used to write everything on an email machine because she couldn’t afford a computer. She wrote a newsletter called Happy Housewifery and both in an attempt to sound like she lived on a mountain top in weather worn shack and to save room in an email format that only allowed for a certain number of words, she would remove the letters O and L from any word usually needing an “OUL”. For example, should became “shud” and could “cud.”  She did all of this while homeschooling my three youngest siblings making them study by candlelight while pretending to be pioneers in the old west until my dad would finally growl “ok, pioneer day is over. I’m turning on the tv.”

My dad put up with a lot from my mom and my mom from my dad. In fact, he was far worse than her, so he really deserved at least a year worth of pioneer day and no tv for at least ten years. 

 Anyway, back to my decision to write and most likely my decision to stop writing as well. After a particularly bad acid trip on a type of acid called Death Notes. The name itself should probably tell you that one hit is more than enough and that two will make all hell break loose and your friends disappear into thin air, like my friend who kept coming apart right before my eyes. He would become little particles that would blow away like smoke starting at the top of his head until he was just a lower torso with a voice. Fortunately, if I closed my eyes tight and then open them again I “cud”  kind of put him together again. Phew! 

 My bad trip paired with a recent divorce from a person I never really wanted to marry and leaving my family in Iowa for Chicago really put me on a downward spiral and I began to have constant panic attacks paired with a nagging voice that would whisper “just commit suicide” over and over. I wish my mom would have been there to rebuke the devil in the name of Jesus from my body because I really needed it!

 Alas, I was alone with only my asshole brother who spray painted his entire bedroom and then left without paying rent. 

 Finally, in a desperate moment I called a suicide hotline. The woman that answered sounded like she had just woken up.

“hello” she answered in a weary voice. 

“hi, I’m thinking about committing suicide” I squeaked. 

Clearly flabbergasted she huffed. “Well what do you want to do with your life?”

“I want to be a writer” I answered feebly. 

Her response came loud and clear down the Illinois land line. “Well you’d better get used to it then!” 

I had no idea what to say, so I said, “Thank you.” And then went into the bathroom, tied a towel tightly around my neck, held it there for a moment until the feeling had passed and then shuffled to bed and slept soundly for the first time in many months. 

 Somehow I continued to write after that, but it must have blown the wind out of my sails because I never again took it seriously and I decided when I moved to New York that being a visual artist was so much cooler than being a writer or maybe I just decided that the suicided hotline lady was right and I just couldn’t live like that. 

July 31, 2019 Cardboard and Stuffed Creatures

It’s another hot day here in NYC, but i have to say not as near as it has been. We’re lucky to have a cool (ish) day. The summer is slow as summer is meant to be. I’ve started to update my website and I’ve decided to use this blog to talk a bit more about my work. I make work all of the time and many times it just gets thrown up on Instagram where i don’t feel like i can really speak about it. (I’m not a fan of long captions. )

At the end of January of this year (2019) I began to paint. I had never painted before although I guess a lot of people have mentioned that some of the layered prints I’ve made could qualify as paintings, but this was my first time actually brushing paint to canvas. It began after I had read the Jerry Saltz article “How to Be an Artist” in New York Magazine. Here’s the link if you want to check it out. https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/jerry-saltz-how-to-be-an-artist.html I know I’ve been creating for a long time now but that doesn’t mean I don’t need some inspiration and encouragement. One of the suggestions he gave was to copy something by your favorite artist (or something along those lines). I had been obsessed with this giant cardboard cut out by Claes Oldenburg that I had seen at his show at the MOMA in NYC. When my husband and I saw it we were both totally blown away because we only knew Oldenburg’s soft sculptures. Here is a photo but I think it doesn’t really show the size well. It’s the dude on the right that I loved so much.

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So I decided to try to make my own version.

The first one looked like a robot or android. I have an obsession with otherworldly creatures.

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These are the 2nd and 3rd versions. They’re all hot glued together and I began to realize that there would be nowhere to put them. They’re each about 8 feet tall. My husband and I now sleep with them in our bedroom. They’re sort of our protectors i guess.

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Next I began to make some moveable pieces. I put them together with brads, but I have to say they’re not the greatest either. I haven’t really made too many since then because I’m running out of space and I’m worried they’re going to get wrecked in my storage space. I really prefer the hot glued pieces but I think I may also try some industrial strength Velcro.

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Finally i’d had enough of the cardboard (which by the way is everywhere now so if you need a cheap project just walk down the street.) so I decided to make a soft sculpture. I’m beginning to realize that perhaps Claes realized the same thing I did and wanted something that would last. But first here is a weird headpiece I made at the Painted Cloud in a class taught by Nick DeMarco a master of cardboard. It was meant to be turned into a paper mache but It would have taken way too long and I didn’t want to bring it home so i threw it in a dumpster.

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Here is the soft sculpture it’s in many iterations. I can’t stand to keep anything minimal or white even though sometimes I feel like it might look best. it’s just not my thing. i like color too much.

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Anyway, creating these pieces made me realize I could paint . I’ll talk about that more in the next post.