When I was growing up my family moved often. My Mom is an artist and so she could paint anywhere and we spent the summers traveling all over the country to art shows and galleries where my mom would sell her work and we would make it through the rest of the year on the summer's income. Sometimes we lived on prayers and pocket change, other times we had it all. It's the life of an artist it seems. But home was not a necessary place for our livelihood the way it is for many who commute to nearby jobs. Our commute was all over the country in an old motorhome with my sisters and usually a cat or a dog. We would stop at museums all over the U.S. I loved the Art Museums best and my mother and I would spend hours wandering through them drinking in the work of the great artists. Art is not just something I enjoy - it is my heritage, it is my family, it is how we got by and the reason for so many unique experiences in my life - Art is what I love and an intricate part of who I am. My Grandfather was an artist, I love and miss him dearly and my Aunt Suzi M Mather, as well all my sisters and a string of others throughout my family and history. I love the smell of paint and sitting in my Mom or Grandfather's studio just quietly watching worlds unfold on the canvas have been some of my favorite childhood memories. It will never cease to be a miracle to me the way our imagination can take solid form in a painting or a sculpture, a dance or a song, a book and of course one of my favorite art forms - a poem.
Now as I have mentioned in the past I have strict religious parents and this is true also. Another reason we moved often and easily is because my Father's commute was all over the country and world as well. My Dad is a Military Man and a Missionary Preacher. My Dad's Air Force Career and interest in the missions is how I was able to live in Korea among other places as a small child and I love that experience. I do not agree with my parents fundamental religious views but I also cannot complain too much about the way that I was raised as Art, culture, travel and exploration were a part my daily life. I recently created a Pinterest board just for kicks displaying pictures of many of the places I have been and was amazed at what an incredible life I have lived thus far.
The arts and travel is everything to me and exploring various cultures and art forms fascinates me to no end and has since I was a small child :). Despite my various disagreements with my parents I will always, always be thankful for this.
Anyway my point of writing this particular blog is to explain not only my attraction to all the various art forms but to talk about the day I fell madly in love with poetry. My parents moved so often I went to 4 different high schools and one of them was called Mariemont. It had been built in the late sixties or early seventies and was an experimental school where there were no walls or halls; there were all these big circular rooms where back in the day kids had sat on bean bags in circles instead of rows of desks. The arts were a strong focus, so the art classroom was giant with all sorts of creative options (I loved it there), the theater for drama was the center of the school, the band was excellent and the library, oh my god the library... It was this big beautiful library with books like I had never seen in any other school. Someone with a passion for the arts had seriously stocked that library with rare and unusual poetry books, art books, travel books like you would never find in a traditional school library. Now by the time I had gone to that school much had changed - there were partition walls for various classrooms in what had once been open circles and there were lines of desks within them. Apparently it had been decided at some point in the 80's that kids actually learned better that way. I don't know as I have never experienced the previous option, I believe we all have different ways of learning though. But the one thing that had been left relatively untouched was that brilliant library.
I often poke fun at myself for being shy and somewhat socially awkward but the thing is, it is true, I am. I have always preferred my own company or the company of one very close friend to a large group. I read people’s emotions quite easily and in large groups there are so many mixed feelings and messages, it tires me. So naturally as I don't care for groups and all of my family's various moves made it challenging for me to get too close to any one friend for very long I spent most of my high school career skipping lunch and hanging out by myself in the library.
And this is when we come to my first true meeting with some of the most powerful poetry I have ever read in my life. In that amazing library, in that wonderfully artsy school was a little poetry book called "I Am a Black Woman" by Mari Evans
The book was small with no flat binding, almost like a pamphlet, if I had not been so antisocial and lonely I would never have spent enough time in the library to discover it at all. I was reading some of my favorite poets - Frost, Keats, Lord Byron and then I pulled out an old Shakespeare book from the shelf and there fell that little poetry book by Mari, right into my hands and I began to read it. I remember just sort of sitting down right there on the floor in the aisle of books as I could not take my eyes off of the words. I think I was even late to my next class. I was about 15 years old, I had been writing poems since I was 9 or 10 but I had always thought there were rules to follow, like I needed stanzas, phrases, lines, perfect rhymes and here I was reading this woman’s poetry that flowed like music through my mind and there wasn't any particular order to it at all. I read the whole book but I did not check it out and I did not purchase a copy for myself. I never wanted to accidentally copy another poet's style, not even at that young age, so I never wanted to get to know one poet very well, not even my favorite. There is a style of poetry that flows freely from me and it is my own and I never wanted that style to be affected by rules or influenced by my desire to be like any single artist.
But reading that woman's poetry changed my life. I realized I could ignore the rules, I could write about pain and distasteful subjects, I could write about love even if I did not understand it, even if I had been hurt by it, perhaps especially then.
I have realized over the years when I have looked for more work by Mari Evans that sometimes it is hard to find and any one I have ever mentioned her poetry to has not known who I was talking about. This may just be the case among people I know but anyway this is the poetry that awoke my writer's spirit and taught me exactly what I wanted to do with my life and that is why I want to share it with you. Writing is my passion and my purpose and if some day in the future a tiny poem book of mine could fall off a shelf into the hands of a lonely young girl and give her life meaning and purpose, then I have served mine.
Where Have You Gone
Where have you gone
with your confident
your crooked smile
why did you leave
when you took your
are you aware that
went the sun
and what few stars
where have you gone
with your confident
crooked smile the
in one pocket and
in another . . .
Written by Mari Evans
If There Be Sorrow
If there be sorrow
let it be
for things undone . . .
to these add one;
Love withheld . . .
. . . restrained
Written by Mari Evans
A really fun interview about my project: Punk Rock Girl Art in Morpheus Magazine
That punk rock girl you see hopping the fence and slogging through mud in order to snap a photograph of rusted metal– that’s Charity Janisse of Punk Rock Girl Art. She has a passion for all things creative: art, photography, poetry, and music. Grab your flyer and your combat boots and head for the stage because up next is the art of a punk rock girl.
Morpheus // What happens when punk rock meets art?
Charity // One of my favorite quotes about punk rock is this one from Patti Smith: “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
Basically that’s how I feel about my artwork. I don’t care if people like it or not. I don’t care if people buy it or not, I make what I make for me, to express myself, to express my individuality and my perspective, that’s all. I began taking pictures of rusty dumpsters and presenting them as abstract art because I saw a unique beauty there and I wanted to show it to other people and also because I was sick to death of pictures of palm trees and skies. I wanted to do something different and I wanted to show others that art can be found anywhere, I wanted to make people question their own idea about what true art should be.
Another favorite quote is by Henry Rollins: “Questioning anything and everything, to me, is punk rock.”
Is it art, is it not art, can art truly be found on the side of a dumpster…? Questions. I like to push boundaries, raise questions, but mostly just express myself even if people hate what I do, I love it and that’s how punk rock and art together as far I’m concerned.
Morpheus // If your art was a punk rock song, what song would it be?
Charity // “Punk Rock Girl” by The Dead Milkmen of course. One of the reasons I call my art “Punk Rock Girl Art” is because that’s me. I spent the 90’s with a Mohawk, thigh high black boots and fishnets – working in a coffee shop, marching for Green Peace, dancing on the table at Goth Warehouse Clubs, making outwith my blue haired girlfriend on street corners and generally causing a scene wherever I went. I saw Blondie with The Ramones, 7 Seconds, Social Distortion etc. Slam danced at the G.B.H., Agnostic Front show and spent the hours after school crammed into my best friends Gold Mustang with 8 other punks, blasting Suicidal Tendencies as we were cruising downtown Cincinnati and Over the Rhine simply because our parents told us not to go there. As I grew up I did not give up the punk rock life style and continued to live exactly as I chose… I refused to work a standard 40 hour a week job and instead chose a career in the arts even though it has been a tough as hell way to go. Self expression and individuality have always been more important to me than a secure, cushy life or living by anyone else’s standards or expectations. My work has gotten pretty popular which is awesome and people seem to like what I do even if they don’t always get it and when people see the name of my art biz and quote lyrics from “Punk Rock Girl” to me I smile and the tune runs through my head all day. So yep that’s the song.
Morpheus // How do you find this shit?
Charity // That’s the best part of my job, I get to travel all over the place looking for abstract art in the most unusual places. It started out when I was living on a couple acres of property and my landlord had a bunch of weird industrial equipment on one part of the lot. On the other side there was the most beautiful field of grass and trees everywhere. I had just signed up for Instagram and I wanted to take some cool pictures. I looked at the pretty field, the sky, the trees and thought of all the millions of pictures of nature and was bored to death before I even snapped my first shot… So instead I turned to the old industrial equipment rusting away on the other side of the lot and started taking pictures of it from various angles. Rusted chain, bolts, gears what have you… and then suddenly I noticed that the rust itself created the most amazing designs!! I was amazed! I am a child of an artist, I grew up running around art shows and in art museums, studying modern art, history and the masters all my life. We made our living from art, my Mother’s an artist as well as my Grandfather, Grandmother and Aunt.
I began creating art and doing art shows myself when I was ten. I know art, it’s my life and there I was seeing it on the side of a piece of an old mechanical equipment. I photographed it, cropped it, high-lighted the texture, posted it and people couldn’t believe it when I told them what it was. I fell in love with rust from that day on and after that rusty old cars, fire hydrants, junk yards, abandoned warehouses, old train stations have been my favorite haunts and subjects to photograph. I trespass, I get covered in mud, I get in trouble… I actually got kicked out of a train yard once but it was so worth it for the shots I got. I confuse people when I pull over to the side of the road just to take pictures of the bottom of a telephone pole or the side of a dumpster… but that’s where I find my art, it’s fucking everywhere.
Morpheus // For a lot of your work, you have to either discover or seek out your material. What would be a “holy grail” for you? Is there anything you haven’t found yet that you would be psyched about?
Charity // I often go out driving looking for cool shit to photograph but my eyes are always open whenever I’m out anywhere. I’ll pull my car over for any subject that catches my eye and seems like it might have potential. So I suppose I often seek material but I get lucky and discover it randomly very often as well.
And as for my “Holy Grail” I actually felt like I found my it one day, it was the luckiest thing! I am obsessed with street art, trains and rust and there was this train with the most amazing street art stuck on the tracks. I had to pull my car over, jump a ditch and climb a really steep hill but there was rust, street art, everything! I got one of my favorite photographs that day!
The one thing I would like to photograph that I haven’t found yet but would absolutely love – is a junk yard full of old cars. I’ve snuck into junk yards with industrial equipment but not cars. I adore old cards and the rust would be everywhere. So yep that’s on my list!
To see more of Charity’s work visit her site.CULTUREINTERVIEW