Animal X and Daimon were the talents behind Asphalt Jungle, a clothing store in the Chelsea section of New York that featured Animal's designs. Alice Denney, the director of the Washington Project for the Arts, had long been interested in the intersection of fashion and art, and encouraged us to give fashion a prominent place in the Punk Art show. Animal and Daimon were responsible for the gallery's front window display on G Street, and staged the fashion show in the upstairs theater on the night of the opening.
The flamboyant Animal, always in costume, was a magnet for attention. Her description of her fashion line as projecting "the savage look, like you've just been raped" was one of the most frequently repeated sound-bites of the exhibition. Not all the attention was good. Animal was given a jay-walking ticket after causing a commotion at the local copy center when she insisted on making body print Xeroxes for her window display. In the 1980s Animal's designs were featured in music videos by Madonna, David Bowie and others. She recently won a lifetime achievement award from the International Costumers Guild.
There is a look to the clothes at Asphalt Jungle which I think is a very animalistic look; and the name of the store expresses that, having to do with an animal in the city, and that's my name "Animal." All of our clothes generally have a ragged type of look. Everything has its own idea but they are all held together by the fact that they are all rather ravaged. You know what I mean, the savage look, like you've just been raped.
I love all the energy... it's alternative energy. Rather than going to record companies, people are cutting their own singles and distributing them themselves. This store is my alternative. I've put every penny I've got into this thing.
- Animal X
Craig and Marcellina came from England and opened a short-lived clothing store, Next Empire, on the Bowery across the street from CBGB. They were interviewed for the catalogue but did not participate in the exhibition.
I think more about how things can be used in a new light. Fashion is like that. All the time things just keep turning up again because there's nothing really that new. It's just presented at a different time so it will be affected in different ways. Animal skins... that's always been a great one. The same with black leather. You're talking about classics at this point.
Punk fashion has nothing to do with sadomasochism. Too many people say that. It has nothing to do with the West Village. The West Village has always been doing that. That scene is always going to be there. The Hell's Angels are always going to be the Hell's Angels. This is completely different. It's youth-oriented.
Steve Kramer came to New York from Minnesota and in a very short period became one of the leading personalities of the downtown art scene. Kramer fronted his own band, The Wallets, acted in Amos Poe's film "The Foreigner," and contributed illustrations to New York Rocker and other alternative publications. As if that weren't enough, he was part of the scene's most glamorous couple: his wife was Patti Astor, the underground film star and later co-founder of the Fun Gallery in the East Village.
Kramer had been an assistant to Red Grooms and created kinetic sculpture that was both dark and funny. His tank-like Destructive Mouse, designed to cause maximum damage as it scurried erratically around the gallery space, was the "hit" of the Punk Art show. Kramer's art career seemed assured but it took a dramatic turn soon after the show when he fell from a roof during a party and was seriously injured. His music talents, however, carried him forward. He now enjoys success as a jingle and music writer for some of America's biggest corporations.
I don't want to be known as a Punk artist. I think I'm more or an inventor, a mad scientist. I like that image better... I have created a little monster... my "Destructive Mouse" is a punk in the best sense of the word. He's an apartment destroyer. You bring him over to your friend's house or your enemy's house, plug him in, and in two hours he completely destroys everything... I think this guy is funny. I probably wouldn't really put him into someone's apartment. I just think the idea that some guy may buy this metal mouse that's a destroyer is funny.
- Steve Kramer
Even at a time when many people were creating extreme art pieces, Christa Maiwald's film "Screwing the Camera" stood out. Equipping a camera with a special attachment, she literally had sex with it, as it filmed the action. At the time of the Punk Art show, Maiwald was working on "Nuclear Head," a video documentary about an "artist" who knew how to build a nuclear bomb.
In "Screwing the Camera" I had this tube attached to the front of the camera and then I did the act. The first time it was interesting, it was so weird, sort of exciting and stimulating. Then after that it just became like, "Here's another camera, I hope the footage turns out. The point is the love-hate relationship that goes on between an artist and the materials that he tries to work with."
"Nuclear Head" is about an artist who used to build nuclear weapons. He was trained in it. I thought that was incredible. It amazed me, this artist who is walking around with a head that can actually make a nuclear bomb.
- Christa Maiwald
Neke Carson's participation in the Punk Art Exhibition was a memorable, angst-filled experience. As we searched for artists who connected with Punk, the performance artist Carson was a natural choice. Not only was Neke a former rock band drummer, he was then staging mosh-pit-like performances where audience members ransacked rooms as they searched for hidden drawings for cash rewards.
For the Punk Art show, we chose one of Carson's earlier works, a "rectal realist" portrait of Andy Warhol. A videotape displayed next to the painting showed Warhol posing as Neke painted the portrait with a paintbrush stuck up his ass. Not surprisingly, the painting was one of the show's most sensational pieces. Then suddenly, disaster struck: in the course of a crowded weekend featuring punk acts from Baltimore (John Waters presenting films and Edith Massey's rock group, Edith & the Eggs), the painting was stolen! It did not take long for the horror of it all to sink in. This was a valuable, irreplaceable work of art and we had no insurance.
Fortunately the bizarre nature of the piece was its salvation. For the next week rock 'n roll radio stations in Washington DC and Baltimore made Carson's painting a cause célèbre, with hourly pleas for its return. The media blitz worked. To everyone's relief, the culprit apologetically returned the painting after being assured that the gallery would not press charges. A traumatized Carson would keep the painting securely stored behind locked doors for nearly 30 years before agreeing to exhibit it again. This time it was at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh with appropriate security and insurance.
I was at a point when I didn't want my hands to control what I was doing... I wanted to insert something, and I kept asking everyone... where should I put it... finally my wife said, "Put it up your ass!"
I had these pencils; I wanted to use Pentels or something. The original things was to put an El Marko... but an El Marko was too big... and then they, the paintings, started coming out looking like the people they were supposed to look like.
Everyone can figure out their own attitudes on why... it's very funny because people still have hang-ups about it... it hasn't calmed down... the asshole issue has not calmed down... People are not as comfortable with their assholes as they were in 1973. Every person has a different attitude on why I would do something like this. If they were to do this, they would have to figure what their attitude would be, but everyone's attitude is different. You form your own conclusions.
- Neke Carson
For our display at the show, Bettie Ringma and I covered a wall with color snapshots showing Bettie posing with punk rockers. Each picture cost a dollar and was sold on a cash and carry basis. For the first time we were joined by Curt Hoppe, as the third member of our art team. His large realistic paintings based on our photographs not only provided scale to our installation but also added to its ironic conceptual logic. The centerpiece was Curt's painting "Bettie and the Ramones" that just a few weeks before had been signed by the group at CBGB.
On the opposite wall was Hoppe's oil based on a photograph of Bettie with a nameless punk in a stocking mask at a Screamers concert in Los Angeles. We called him "Omar Bizarre," pilfering the moniker of a kid from Wisconsin who once bought pictures from us. Publicity from the show brought his true identity to light as a Hollywood film music coordinator named Stephen E. Smith. Years later he showed up in New York and added his signature to the painting.
When Bettie and I take pictures with different people, it's a way of getting out there, seeing things and meeting people that we otherwise wouldn't meet. It's a way of integrating, an attempt to put ourselves into the broader currents of society.
- Marc H. Miller
People might look at my work and think it's strange. They might say, "she must have a low self ego, that she can only get a sense of herself by putting herself in photographs with famous people." Maybe that's true to a certain extent, but I know what it means to me, putting myself in a photograph with different types of people. It means that I feel best who I am, by contrasting myself with other types of personalities. No matter what kind of group, there are similarities as well as differences, contrasts. Both aspects fascinate me.
- Bettie Ringma
You have this woman who appears in photographs with famous people. And it's sort of like... what is that person doing there? It seemed crazier to me and funnier to me if I did a painting after Marc and Bettie's pictures. It extends it a lot further. It makes it really important. It makes it look a lot more legitimate. I find that if you lay someone down in oils and take a long time to do it, that it seems like it has a great deal of importance. Why else would somebody take so much time to portray it?
- Curt Hoppe