Following, a character piece I did for the sci-fi edition of Struck a Nerve. EnJoY, nerds.
My name is Andrea Mulder.
And I am here to save you.
Now before you take one more sip from that bottle of satan’s semen, let me tell you about my father.
I discovered God’s salvation because of my of-flesh father, Fox. Fox was not a believer.
I grew up in a trailer in the middle of a New Mexico dessert. My parents were loners, and my father was often not around.
My mother, Dana, was a simple woman, particularly adept at homeschooling me in math and science, but she was quite depressed—bored, she often confided—and very, very paranoid.
She spent a lot of time inspecting the few tchotchkes in the trailer to see if they had been bugged with recording devices… as if anyone ever came out to our neck of the dessert.
< snort laugh >
And father, well, he would disappear for long stretches of time, claiming to have been “abducted by aliens.” My poor simple mother believed him, bless her soul.
Fox and Dana, my earth parents, never told me what their lives were like before they had me, but I figured it out. I’m a pretty good detective.
My father was a drug addict.
See, when he would return from these absences, my mother and him would go to their bedroom, close the curtain door and talk in hushed whispers of the “black oil.”
They could only have been talking about one thing.
My parents thought I would never figure it out. As if code words could delude me.
It’s like when the church elders secretly discuss the “kool aid” and I know they mean the communion wine. They’re right! I did drink it.
Or when they talk of the “secret room for the little boys in the back”… they mean the bathroom.
I first discovered Jesus when I was trying on my mom’s jewelry. Dana had a beautiful gold necklace bearing a charm of the crucifix. She kept it hidden in her drawer of the trailer restroom, and I snuck it out one day while playing dress up.
When father came inside, he was so angry that I was wearing it. My parents then got in a fight about whether they should teach me about God. I knew right then I needed to know everything about this man, if for nothing more than to punish my wayward father.
One day, a short while later, I was studying behind a cactus from my bootleg bible when a giant helicopter landed next to our trailer and big men with boots and guns kidnapped my parents and flew off.
Scared and alone, I traveled one dessert over and found my flock. I quickly learned the ways of our Shepard and I now tour the country spreading the good word. I was lost. And now I am found.
And you can too!… live a life of salvation despite the troubles that befell you in years past and the cravings for debauchery that present themselves now.
To believe, all you have to do is want it.
Not to worry, though. I believe they are now fine and father is up to his old tricks. Last I heard, Fox is an alcoholic sex addict in California.
Thank you for your time. I will have trifold pamphlets describing the miracles of Christ in the back. They are $20 each.
Thinking about Daddy as the ground gets cold, as the cows gather for comfort, as my roots are as warm as ever, as Tupac’s on the radio.
“Chicago” by Carl Sandburg
Talk to Nikolaos Hulme about his latest series of watercolor paintings, and it becomes fairly obvious he’s been wrastlin’ with some demons… wrastlin’ and learning where they go on the memory board and then putting and leaving them there to gather dust.
A curated version of the series is showing this month at Brothers Drake Meadery. The images are object memories watered down by time but ever as colorful—a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, a whale, a heroin needle and spoon.
“Some of the work is really racy,” Nikolaos said. “It will either offend people or they will look at it with an open mind.”
Of course, I recommend going in with an open mind so you can experience this artist’s great ability to tell a story with just a few objects. This series is a stark departure from his usual bold poppy subject matter (which is also so fun and gorgeous for their jagged line work and the way he’s able to inject his own voice into a popular or recognizable image without shouting over it and without ripping off the original idea).
I think it’s part of the mid-twenties life crisis. Nikolaos just turned 27. I think after 25 you start to learn to settle into past pain, or figure out a way around it, through it, over it. Whatever. You recognize that pain will always be here, but how can you manage it best? What do you want to say about it? How is it not anybody’s “fault,” per se?
When I talked to Nikolaos for this interview, he was still developing the series. Not in the final show, but part of the process, were other images reminiscent of his childhood but with a knowing grownup touch. The trailer he lived in when he was a kid, a grief stricken but acceptant Mary and Jesus.
What I love about this series is that I don’t think he’s judging anyone or anything related to the iconography, even if that iconography is a bottle of prescription pills, which likely holds a painful memory if you’re associating that with your childhood. There’s a humility and acceptance in the paintings that is comforting, and watercolor proves to be a very effective medium in balancing subtle power through color.
Nikolaos, 1. Demons… eh, .5?
“I don’t look at art as a way to make money. I look at it as my therapy,” Nikolaos said. “I want to leave something behind when I’m not here anymore. It’s nothing else. It’s what I want to do, what I’m passionate about.”
Love it! But, of course, y’all got bill$. We talked about that, too; balancing freelance work with personal projects. That and more below. Read it, then go see the show.
What’s your artist origin story?
I was just always drawing. It’s a natural thing for a kid to draw but it just always stuck with me. My grandma Hulme would sit down with me and draw batman and mermaids. I had a very supportive family. When I was very young they put me in the Saturday morning CCAD classes. I won a scholarship and it was a big deal to my family. I was always involved in contests. It was always an escape thing because I was never into sports and my dad would try to push my brother and I into boy scouts and football but I never connected, never really stuck. Art was always the outlet. I was always the weirdo drawing Garfield in class.
What mediums do you use?
Right now just water color and Indian ink. That’s what I’m mainly using. I love acrylics and oils. Oils are also therapeutic to me I just hate how long it takes for them to dry. I’ll just set it in the corner and run into it and ruin it.
I’m obsessed with these watercolors. I was just playing around one day. I fell in love with the technique. It’s easy and it’s natural letting the water move the paint. You end up with this beautiful, organic-feeling piece of artwork. If you don’t do it right the first time, you have to do it again. If I don’t like something I’ll just do multiple versions of it or I’ll scrap it all together.
Did you study art collegiately?
I am self-taught. I think if you’re passionate about anything the drive will push you to become better at whatever you’re into. You’re going to get better if you just keep doing something. I think art school’s an awesome thing, but I think we have an issue where we’re taught we have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars and put ourselves in debt to do what we love to do to survive. If we’re given a gift naturally, if you have a vision, you should pursue it, whether you have schooling or not.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene?
I think it’s amazing. There’s a lot of diversity. The art scene’s growing. And it’s nice to feel appreciated. There’s so many people that are into art. They like to follow what you’re doing and that’s nice and it’s motivating. I think that helps give me drive.
Can you describe your artistic process?
Sometimes I’ll paint nonstop. Watercolors are so therapeutic and so simple. It’s easy to bust a couple out in a day. I like to incorporate things that stood out to me as a kid or teenager. Things that represent family members, good and bad experiences growing up. It’s me confronting demons, confronting things I struggled with and tried to hide or keep in. It’s me coming to terms with who I am as an adult.
I didn’t go to art school, I’m struggling to do what I love. Do I need to go school to get a piece of paper to do a job that I already know I’m qualified for? Painting is me coming to terms with who I am and learning to love myself and accept all that I’ve gone through.
What has painting this series (now at Brothers Drake) revealed to you? (Part of the show is pictured above.)
I realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m painting a trailer. It’s something I didn’t really think about, but once I painted it and thought about it, any shame I had about it came to the surface and I was like, “Who gives a fuck?”
It’s weird how we just tuck things away and forget about it and then you talk about it and you’re like, wait I feel so much better now that I told somebody that.
This series is the most personal I’ve gotten with my artwork. After I painted it and let it out, I realized something I didn’t realize was bothering me. I like the mystery.
Painting this series, I started off with the whales and the marine life. I was really intrigued by mermaids and fish and whales as a kid. My favorite animal is the humpback whale. I love their fins and how they swim and jump out of the water. I was just always obsessed with them and the idea of living underwater and all that weird stuff. Then I started painting palm trees, which led into my pre-teen years of living in Florida and then that all led into the bad experiences of living in Florida, and then it kind of took off from there and getting really personal with all the work. It’s fun. It’s weird because when you have this theme just start pouring out of you and stay on track. I haven’t thought hard about what I’ve been painting, I just let it naturally flow.
What other work have you done that you’re really proud of?
I’m obsessed with pop art. I did a series of Wizard of Oz paintings [that showed at The Candle Lab in the Short North]. The mechanical guy for Steve Aoki, when he was in town, he bought them all. It was awesome. That was the biggest sale I’ve done so far.
I have a problem with committing to one series. I’ll paint and paint and paint and then decide the next day, yeah I painted these 12 paintings but I don’t think I want to show them, and they’ll get tucked away in the attic. I do that all the time. If I don’t like and I’m not happy with it I won’t show it.
I did this series of circus illustrations that were weird and quirky. I didn’t do anything with them. I just become interested in different styles and I like to evolve my work. It’s my therapy.
How do you deal with painters’ block?
I get bored easily. I like having a distinct style that’s recognizable, but if I work on something too much I lose interest and I have to start doing something different. I just move on to something different. I go through spells where I won’t paint for a few months. I’ll just live life. I’ll work on projects Nina West or other local assignments or travel. I want to travel more, see more and do more things. That alone is inspiring. Life experiences are what I’m inspired by. There are stages where I don’t want to do anything or have a lot going on.
How do you balance freelancing with personal work?
Even when I do freelance work, unless they let me have free rein, I’m not completely happy with it. I’m learning as I get older how to be better at making time to paint for myself. If I have something bad or stressful or even good in my life, it’s good to paint it. It’s something that symbolizes it. I’m getting it out of my body. It’s just like a journal.
How do you get freelance work?
People just contact me and ask me to do paintings. If you’re involved in the community and do good work, your name will get around. It’s nice. I’ve been privileged to be able to do the freelancing. But again, I don’t do it all the time because I can get lost in it.
I’m horrible at procrastinating too. I embrace it. I wish I didn’t. I wish I would do what I was supposed to be doing. But I work really well under pressure. If I’m reaching a deadline, I will bust it out in a few days, which is kind of nice. That adrenaline and that motivation forces you to come up with an awesome project…. And lots of caffeine.
What do you want to do next?
I’ve already started working on my next series, which is a series of inkblots. I’m really obsessed with psychological things right now. I’m doing the water colors again and I’m letting them do their own things. So I’m examining these inkblots after I make them and try to figure out what I see in them. Then I will add to that. And I’m trying to give something to the audience too and give them something to see and explore too.
I want to experiment with more, or different elements of art. I want to learn how to get really good at oil and other mediums.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
I’m crazy. My emotions are up and down constantly. You’re very in tune with everything around you and it kind of drives you insane sometimes. At least that’s how I feel. I think maybe we’re all just a little crazy. We’re expected to be robots or be a certain way. We have to be a certain way to succeed. Some of the most successful people in history were insane! Why can’t we all be insane? Being an artist pushes us to have our own identity and be ourselves.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I’m really into, this sounds tacky, but scientists and Nostradamus. I love watching those documentaries on Netflix. I am obsessed with how a lot of things were discovered by star gazing and studying the stars. I’m really inspired by what drives us to do certain things or live certain lifestyles and how it affects us.
What three artists, living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d probably have to go with David Lynch, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí. I’m sure that this mix would make for an interesting evening.
‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year! Halloweeeeeen season! Here are my favorite spooky videos to watch every fall.
An appetizer: The Skeleton Dance, 1929. Disney does it best.
First course: The cutest little ducklings visit their stingy Uncle Donald, a perpetual bachelor because he was kind of an asshole, as deftly evidenced here.
Main course: My favorite! We watched this every October when I was a kid. Autumn is so exciting when you’re young. There’s so much adrenaline to be found in everything… you’ve settled into school, it’s homecoming season and you probably have a new crush, the weather is cool and you can play outside for hours, there’s something magical in there air… danger lurks just around the corner and mother nature is setting the mood, but a warm bed and hug are just inside. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, 1949.
Dessert (a Reese’s Cup of a video, obviously): The music video for “The Ghost of Stephen Foster,” by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. This song is The. Best.
Camptown ladies never sang oh dah doo dah day!
I am the Joe to your singing cockroach as you settle in, making a nest of my banana’s ripening skin. Bananas I promised to turn into smoothies a week ago but ordered pizza instead.
Open a cupboard door, and there you all swarm. Your ability for reproduction is admirable, wasting none of your short eight-day life span, 10 if you’re lucky and find a good banana, 12 if you live in my place.
Internet says you are dumb little buggers. Then why can’t I manage to fend you off? You were too smart for my Farmers’ Almanac-found recipe to drown you in simmered milk and sugar and flakes of ground pepper. More probable: I just made the trap wrong. The bad cook is a lonely hunter.
I could make a vinegar trap, but I don’t own vinegar, just bananas longing to be pulverized in my blender. A red wine trap with perforated plastic wrap would do, but who wants to enlist a good Cab to the mercenary business? So cheers to your science and survival. I’ll just squash the stinkbugs instead.
While looking for something to listen to this morning, I found this website. The Library of Philadelphia offers free podcast downloads on topics of literature, life and culture. If you’re a fan of “The Great Gatsby,” check out the lecture by Maureen Corrigan, an author who has studied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The work has lent Corrigan powerful theories on why the book has had such longevity with the American public and on symbols that Fitzgerald worked into the story that are not as obvious as, for example, the eyes of TJ Eckleburg. Not a fan of “The Great Gatsby”? That’s OK–neither were most critics when it first was published. Even more reason to listen. She might convince you to try the the great American UnAmerican novel another go.
From the fake shy guy beginning all the way to the giant bubbles at the end… and every disco effect in between. This is what Fridays were made for.
Does this use of the word bitch offend you?:
What about this one?:
The top image is a quote I have in my bedroom. Kate Nash said it. It’s not the real quote. The real quote asks you to call yourself “a badass bitch from hell,” but the scared ex-Catholic girl force in me is strong sometimes. I’m just a badass bitch made from the golden nectar of goddess mother earth, Kate…
The second use of the word bitch is an advertisement that was in Outlook magazine, Columbus’ fantastic pub that reports on issues affecting the LGBT community and its allies. The ad is to promote HighBall Halloween, a Columbus Halloween party that’s way fun by Halloween party standards.
There has been some ado about this ad being offensive and sexist. I don’t get it.
Bitch has many meanings. Here are uses of the word Bitch a HighBall ad that would have been likely to offend me because their intent would be to demean and rooted in the violence of the word:
“Come to HighBall. Don’t be a little bitch.”
“HighBall Halloween: There will be so many drunk bitches here to fuck!”
I understand where the angry perspective comes from. The use of bitch in that ad is an appropriation of gay men’s use of it. But even when saying bitch is used as a means to assume power over it, the word is indeed loaded with dehumanizing intent because of its history of being used to put down women (and gay men or any man who reveals a feminine trait).
Eliminating a word from our lexicon is unrealistic, though. Despite many insightful arguments against this point, I really believe there *is* power to be found in dismantling a word, repurposing it for power, creating a new use of it to be entered into Urban Dictionary for generations to come. It’s like we’re guerrilla marketing the word. We use the tools of the master’s house because it’s what we were given and we found a way to fuck with the master by using his tools—he’ll listen a lot more that way… or feel just as powerless with it as he makes us feel when he uses it against us. I think that’s awesome. I think it levels the playing field. And I think that’s a very resourceful way of fixing a problem.
Saying we should never use the word bitch even when it’s a means of empowerment is one-sided at best, classist at worst. It’s like telling poor people to not eat fatty foods even when it’s all they can afford or find available near them. In the gritty day-to-day life of most people, this word is everywhere and trying to shame people into never using it is too academic for something so personal. Regulating language is a move of the elite.
The other day my friend asked me if a woman we grew up with who just got married “was slutty” in high school. I nearly laughed out loud. Not at her, but at how I now felt about that term that once felt incredibly powerful. “Slutty” was a tramp stamp of a word to be avoided in my small town high school. I thought, after she asked me this, “if by slutty you mean having sex outside of wedlock and exploring her sexuality before she was of legal drinking age, then yes, she was slutty. And so was I.”
Slut was a term of endearment for my friends and I during that time. Having been called it enough or become so tired of living in such fear of its label, “hey slut” became powerful because we were mocking how ridiculous and one-sided that word was—we dressed it up to make it less scary, like imagining a crowd is wearing nothing but their underwear. Problematic, sure, but that’s the way social struggles go; calling it sexist would be completely missing the complexity of a young female’s struggle against it and instead just impose even more guilt for having used it in the first place. We refused to use the term as a means of debasing another woman though, and if a guy called a girl slutty we would call the dude she hooked up with slutty right back, even though that felt futile. Never would I call a woman a slut in a derogatory way. It was all about intent.
The intent of this ad was not to demean women. The HighBall ad is an empowered use of the word bitch. To me it says, “You may have been called a bitch before and we fucking love you for it.”
Because I have seen and heard the word bitch used so powerfully and positively (bad bitch, bossy bitch, fierce bitch, you my girl bitch, Bitch magazine), it means less to me when it is used to impose a sense of violence. So even if I were to get called a bitch tomorrow by someone trying to make me feel bad about myself and “put me in my place,” it wouldn’t hurt as bad. I can counteract songs about bitches and hoes with songs about owning and loving everything about myself that makes me a bitch or a hoe. More of that, please!
Realigning our perspective of and thoughtfully using a word to make it work for us and rendering powerless the people who use it negatively is not blanket sexism in my book. I think it’s smart. And taking a powerful or fun use of it and deeming it sexist because it is simply using a word that is often used to subjugate sets up a side that is unattainable and alienates a whole facet of the feminist and ally community. You’re just giving it even more power to be violent.
SPOILER HIGH VOLTAGE ALERT
1) The book’s narrative creates tension that the film doesn’t deliver. In the book you believe the husband may have killed his amazing Amy. The first part of the movie, however, he just looks like a dope unwittingly setting himself up to go to jail for a murder he didn’t commit. In the movie, without that tension, the twist doesn’t feel like a twist, just a watered-down strawberry daiquiri presenting itself as a gin and tonic. Instead of an insightful and thrillingly dramatic portrayal of a marriage gone horribly awry with a psychopath at the wheel and a cheating husband, you get a two and a half hour Lifetime movie. Some books just don’t make good movies.
2) The social commentary did more harm than good. Here I point to the recurring role of the cable news host who publicly skewers Nick Dunne, the husband, before he’s been proven guilty. She even hints at incest with his twin sister for ratings. This is clearly a jab at Nancy Grace-types; that very well could have been a segment from a newscast Grace has done before. At one point the mock Grace character interviews Amy’s fake best friend, who’s says, “Amy would really appreciate what you’re doing and how you empower women.” This is a sly nod to the smart audience. “SEeeeEEeeeee! Women say they’re empowering each other but they’re really not! They’re just stoopid! Periods are gross, right?!” This interaction between two minor characters could have been smart and funny if the rest of the film hadn’t felt like a dramatized version of a Men’s Rights Activist conference topic panel. Instead it just felt like lazy hack.
I thought of that moment in the movie this weekend while comparing two comedy bits I saw on TV Saturday night. I always feel defensive against the anti-feminist remark that we can’t take a joke. We can. It just has to be smart, something we’ve never heard before. I watched part of a set by Jerrod Carmichael and after a couple minutes of pretty blasé jokes about women making less than men and Beyonce setting women’s standards too high, he says something like, “One more thing about women. How is the WNBA still a thing?” UGH. Dude. Hack. Not original. And so demeaning of people who could kick your ass. But I always feel pressure to question my initial reaction that I don’t think it’s funny because I don’t want to be a humorless feminist. Well, fuck that. Because about an hour later I watched SNL do a hilarious sketch that *was* funny and making fun of how far left off the deep end feminism can go. This, Garage + Her, is how you make fun of feminists. Progress the conversation forward in a thoughtful, non-counterproductive way, and we can take a joke.
3) So how did this movie feel like an MRA circle jerk? Everything about Amy was a threat to men, a realization of their worst fears—trap pregnancy, fake rape, fake stalking. The situations where Amy faces violence are all brought on herself or her perpetrating violence against herself. Her “kidnapping” is a result of her faking her death; she’s a victim of her own choices. Yes, her husband cheats on her with a younger woman, but that’s easy to forgive when you see the crazy shit she does. At worst it’s misogynistic, at best it’s disappointing as fuck. This movie is really, really popular, and that’s fine, but it’s disheartening that it’s a portrayal of very real female experiences faked in a time where we’re still struggling for equality on the social front. Women are human and can be just as vile as men, sure, but stories like this—mixed into such an already shaky, volatile social equality struggle—can create seeds of doubt when women report that they’ve been raped, stalked or hit in the real world. It also creates a seed of doubt in the women and girls (and boys and men!) when considering reporting violence against them… lest they unknowingly be crazy Amys or considered as such. We can see the deeply rooted, overbearing trees these seeds create in our own backyards. All of that is counterproductive to a cause the author, Gillian Flynn, says she is for.
4) SO Gone Girl starts this infighting. Flynn also wrote the screenplay for the movie. She has stated in interviews that she’s tired of the cheerleader-y types of feminism. Isn’t it more feminist to buck the trend and show women as a people with diverse experiences, even psychopathic experiences? Yes! But this one just felt like more crap to add to the pile of brain candy, not a feminist overture. The fact that some are calling Gone Girl “the most feminist movie of the year” while others say it is misogynistic garbage just underscores how confused we are about what that word even means anymore. Gone girl? Gone feminism.
Kind of related: Twilight is getting a feminist reboot. Le sigh.