Section 5 - Animal X, Destructive Mouse, Rectal Realism
Page 6 of 6
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.
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.
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.
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.
Miller, Ringma & Hoppe
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.
Punk Art Exhibition Catalogue
Copyright © April 23, 1978, Miller & Ringma and Washington Project for the Arts.