Somebody peed in it.
The story of Peggy and Pegeen Guggenheim, as told by the Situationist painter Ralph Rumney, reads like Shakespeare: court intrigue, backstabbing, madness, and suicide. Rumney’s book The Consul provides a critical point of view on this fraught mother-daughter relationship cracking up at the cutting edge of the art world.
(Part One of an essay series on women of the avant-garde.) Born Eliane Papai around 1935 in Spain, Eliane married her way into a couple other last names; she is mostly referred to as Eliane Brau, using the last name of her second husband. I think of her simply as Eliane — not to pretend to some intimacy, but in deference to her singularity. Below I argue that her role in the “Letterist” movement of early 1950s Paris has been diminished; conversely, the achievements of the Letterist men have been overblown. It has been too easy to write her off as a passive “muse” for these men who indeed loved her fiercely. She deserves parity. Sadly, unlike her lovers, there is a distinct lack of information about her on the internet. I cannot even determine if she is still alive. Eliane is an invisible icon.
My favorite musicians are women. Who’s the coolest member of the Pixies? Kim Deal! You don’t even have to think about it for a second. And my favorite genre is indie rock. Indie is not major label, and not pop enough to score strings of giant hits. The term is frequently applied to punk-lineage garage-y guitar bands, but not exclusively.
The past few years I’ve discovered many indie chick rockers and all-female bands. Here are some highlights. This (not comprehensive!) list showcases indie women who play guitar or bass, either solo or in bands, who have been active in the past five years. Therefore many of my classic faves have been excluded — for instance a suite of 1980s and ’90s rockers. I will write about them one day, but here the focus is on contemporary artists.
My descriptions are fleshed out with links to music videos, interviews, rig rundowns, and live performances. Consider this part one of a projected series as I have more to write about, including Duluthians who will get their own essay. Here goes — some of my indie rock guitar goddess she-roes:
The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen reminded me of a favorite topic: the musician as inventor. I refer to the invention of objects, techniques, and concepts. It’s invention in the service of an art form. For instance, musical instruments are invented, then shaped with further inventions which make additional modifications possible. Musicians have always been inventors. Here are some of my favorite examples.
Rock and Roll Itself
The invention of rock music, with its pedigree of blues, gospel, and so on, is these days commonly attributed to Chuck Berry in the early 1950s. Berry produced the musical mutant that would conquer the world when he combined rhythm and blues with country and western guitar licks, then packaged it with guitar solos and other showmanship. His signature duck walk may be considered a lasting invention, still in use by Angus Young of AC/DC who credits Berry for, well, everything. Berry was influenced by Sister Loretta Tharpe, whose 1944 song, “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” is sometimes considered the first rock record.
The “impudent phallus.” Like many mushrooms, they have both uh masculine and feminine qualities; in their egg stage they are called “witch eggs.” They also have qualities of both life and death: although uh generative in appearance, they have the strong stench of carrion — which attracts the flies which spread their spores. Wikipedia entry.
I confess to creating and posting the “Lake Superior Bull Shark Encounter” video which has rocked this community, even though, as is widely known, I have no credibility. This essay offers a full accounting of the affair, which caused a four-day firestorm as the video propagated online, through the media, and into the hallowed halls of academia. I will debunk my own video to demonstrate it is, in fact, a poorly-made fake. In addition, I will carefully document my utter and total lack of credibility. Hopefully this will be enough to assuage an alleged army of enraged Redditors devoted to my destruction, the undead army I accidentally raised when I strapped on a toy shark fin.
My confession begins with my purchase of the toy. On Aug. 8, I posted a picture of myself wearing it on my personal public Facebook page and my public “Lake Superior Aquaman” Instagram account. The text of those posts reads, “It’s unclear where these rumors of sharks in Lake Superior originate. But I will be swimming up and down the beaches until I get to the bottom of it.” It was an open joke, a lark, an entrant to a well-established Duluth tradition of joking about sharks. You see variants on local bumper stickers such as “Shark-Free” on a map of Lake Superior. Keeping Lake Superior shark-free has even become a running joke among the mayoralty.