CAROLINE WELLS CHANDLER / JENNIFER COATES / DAVID HUMPHREY / ANGELA DUFRESNE
Moderated and Text by Nicole Kaack
June 8, 2018
Caroline Wells Chandler: Didn’t you use to have a blog called, like, what was it? What was the blog?
Jennifer Coates: ‘Artistic thoughts. ‘
Caroline Wells Chandler: And Mountain Man was your alterego. And you realized that you wrote about this person, when was it, 2009?
Jennifer Coates: 2005, 2006. Back in the bloggy yesteryears.
Angela Dufresne: That’s how I met you.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah, so 10 years before you met me, almost.
Jennifer Coates: Right. But I imaged Caroline was this sort of strange visionary figure who wore pajamas with stains on them all the time. You don’t do this, but Mountain Man was a nudist and had an Airstream.
Caroline Wells Chandler: And took baths in Swedish Fish with chicken nuggets.
Jennifer Coates: And raw chicken.
Caroline Wells Chandler: And reached up inside of a pal called Loop of Jesus. That’s how he got his visions.
David Humphrey: But Chandler, did you read that blog back when it was rolling out?
Caroline Wells Chandler: No, I did not, but I was exposed to it later after I became friends with Jen.
Angela Dufresne: Is this called stalking? What’s going on?
Caroline Wells Chandler: I didn’t… I stalked you. [laughter] I remember I saw your show, I guess it was at Monya Rowe. I think it was maybe 2013. Was it ’13? ’14? I don't know. Anyway, I saw it and I remember I wrote you a Facebook message, and I was like, ‘You paint the best lambs and the best dicks.’ And you were like, ‘thanks!’ I really loved your paintings, and I wanted to see more. So I asked my friend—
Angela Dufresne: [bleating]
Caroline Wells Chandler: Exactly. Yeah. I asked my friend if she would accompany me to your studio.
Angela Dufresne: Yes, and you came. You mentioned Jen’s name, and that got me all excited.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah! So that was good. And David was my teacher in school.
Jennifer Coates: I met him through stalking him. [laughter]
Angela Dufresne: I met him through stalking him, too.
David Humphrey: I’m the stalked. I’m a stalk.
Angela Dufresne: You’re the top of the totem of the stalking horse.
David Humphrey: Yeah, each one of these encounters that I had, these three individuals, was, I would call a car crash. [laughter] Each one was a kind of a singularity that was moving at a very high speed, that collided into me in a way that left marks.
Jennifer Coates: You sound so passive in all of this.
Nicole Kaack: No agency.
Angela Dufresne: I have used and abused his masculinity on the dance floor often. He’s just this thing that I can jump up on and lean backwards. Grab onto him with my lady business.
David Humphrey: The legs, yeah, the legs are around the back. Shirt is moving south.
Angela Dufresne: We’re not actually exaggerating, that’s the sad part.
David Humphrey: These three characters are some of the greatest enthusiasts on the planet. They have boundless ecstatic potential and exercise. So I warm my hands on the three of them.
Caroline Wells Chandler: And David is a Pied Piper of weirdness.
Nicole Kaack: The four of you have collaborated many times?
David Humphrey: There are drawings in this world with the four of us on them. Coates and I have done tons. You [to Caroline Wells Chandler] and I don’t have any, I don’t think.
Caroline Wells Chandler: We have some. One that’s actually just us, it was a throwaway. I drew Bert and Ernie’s face, and you drew butts on them. It’s really funny. It’s on the black paper.
David Humphrey: Oh, of course.
Angela Dufresne: What I like to do —which David and Jen do, and I think Caroline and Manal would do if they had a kitchen area big enough— is make dinner and then have digestion drawing session. That lasts for way too long.
Jennifer Coates: And maybe there’s no pants on at a certain point.
Angela Dufresne: But these go back to the ‘90s with Amy and Elliot, right?
David Humphrey: Sure. It’s a great way to be with other people. So you don’t have to be thoughtful and sensitive. [laughter]
Jennifer Coates: You don’t have to hear about anything that’s going on in anyone’s life.
Angela Dufresne: I think Liz Collins was at one of these drawing things at my house, everyone did three things, and said, “It’s done!” I’m like, you guys haven’t gotten really sadistic enough to make this interesting. To break. And to damage.
Jennifer Coates: So there’s a punishment aspect.
Angela Dufresne: What’s wonderful about these, especially the duets I think, is this willingness to get up in each others’ business. Up in each other’s good stuff, and do some damage. Do some wreckage. Do some wrecking ball. Goodness.
David Humphrey: There’s also this other layer, too, which I know from having worked with Coates. There’s the intensifying. The loving and fluffing and delivering of a radiance to the having been in one’s business.
Angela Dufresne: Yes.
David Humphrey: That’s a second layer. That’s another love act on top of the other one.
Jennifer Coates: It’s a little, radiant halo around the torture.
Angela Dufresne: One needs the other for something really...
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yin and yang. I will draw something. It’s really heavy-handed, a little too saccharine. Then you’ll draw the most demented face on top of it and make it glow. It’s really nice.
Jennifer Coates: I’m also into skin conditions as abstraction. That’s one of my go-to moves.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Scars and bruises. LSD Kitty. I don’t like cats, but I drew a cat for you.
Jennifer Coates: Don’t ever say that to me!
Caroline Wells Chandler: I know, I know!
Angela Dufresne: They’re breaking up, they’re breaking up!
Caroline Wells Chandler: I like your cats, but cats in general… I make exceptions. Angela’s cat, Piggy, is cool.
Angela Dufresne: Piggy is the dense marshmallow. He’s large and white, about 18 pounds of dense pussy power.
Nicole Kaack: All muscle, yeah? I’m curious, you’ve been doing collaborative drawings for a long time, then. Have you framed them in this context of the gallery before?
Caroline Wells Chandler: This is our first time. Jen wanted to do something with me. I was excited because I thought it would be fun to make new work. So we did that. I’m so lucky for Karen, who’s been so generous and sweet and amazing to work with.
Karen Hesse Flatow: You’re teaching me how to be crazy!
Caroline Wells Chandler: It’s perfect timing.
Jennifer Coates: Buy the zine!
Caroline Wells Chandler: Oh, our zine’s really good! This is a 50-page, full-color zine. All of our drawings are in it except for one. There’s some text and a lot of collages that Jen made.
Jennifer Coates: We also have excerpts from— We text all the time.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Every day.
Jennifer Coates: We have a lot of theories about things. I tried to go back through and find the most illuminating things about queer formalism, and what else did we talk about? Coal miners in our vaginas.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Stinky body problems. There’s some lewd stuff in there. But that’s all in the drawings, though so it’s not that different.
David Humphrey: There’s a really long cavity narrative.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah, that’s what we start with. There’s a story about a penis falling off a cadaver, which is insane. I just found that. I heard that story for the first time after three years of friendship. I don't know what’s wrong with you.
Jennifer Coates: I save that for special—
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah, save it for later.
David Humphrey: Your drawing exercise —that is distinct from our collaboration— expresses this kind of fused play state of rolling fiction that you’ve both entered. Like kids or best friends with an ongoing play narrative. You just descend into the roles; you’re the evil dad, I’m the crooked mom, and off we go. For hours.
Angela Dufresne: I’ve always hated you. Always hated you.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah. That was one of the titles of the show. We thought it’d be funny to have a two-person show about—[laughter]
Jennifer Coates: We had this weird idea that we were going to make this shrine to Roberta Smith. We would write to her and be like, “I think you maybe want to write about our show.” Caroline made this T-shirt—
Caroline Wells Chandler: Did you bring it?
Jennifer Coates: No, I didn’t bring it. But there’s this famous photo of Jerry and Roberta where they’re both like this. [Mimes two people posing] Caroline superimposed my face on Jerry and Caroline’s under me, and we’re…
David Humphrey: It’s green. But they might’ve misinterpreted the word across the top, which was “slime.”
Caroline Wells Chandler: Slime. It’s on the cover of the zine, too. In the bottom corner.
Jennifer Coates: So far we haven’t heard from her.
Nicole Kaack: But you did reach out.
Jennifer Coates: We reached out in our minds.
Caroline Wells Chandler: You know, third eye.
Nicole Kaack: Well, when the transcript of this conversation goes up, maybe she’ll clue in.
Jennifer Coates: Yeah. I think she might. She might.
Nicole Kaack: I liked that point that you were making, David, about this idea of a play space or a mythology that you guys are working through in the drawings. How does that develop? Or is it just built on references that are re-emerging over time?
Jennifer Coates: Well, we just like to watch TV together.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah, we watch a lot of Sesame Street and The Muppets, hence the name Electric Mayhem which comes from The Muppets band.
Jennifer Coates: So we draw with the TV on and the sound turned down.
David Humphrey: Wouldn’t you say that the game comes from a shared narrative space? But there’s also an impulse to just amuse the other one. To do the thing that shocks and surprises them. Usually that involves cavities again.
Jennifer Coates: I think that’s the best part of collaborative drawing — to set something up so you can make your friend laugh. The conceptual framework of the show is really not that deep. It’s color, fun, comedy.
Angela Dufresne: But isn’t the underlying theme quite deep — an escapism to the psychosis that’s happening all around us? Isn’t that why we make play pens?
Jennifer Coates: Absolutely. The world is horrendous and sickening. So, goodbye.
Angela Dufresne: There’s potential. Last night I said something like, “How many times a day do you throw up in your mouth?”
Jennifer Coates: 24 hours a day, all the time.
Angela Dufresne: And then where do you want to put it?
Caroline Wells Chandler: In minty’s—
Jennifer Coates: Santa’s minty anus!
Caroline Wells Chandler: I was really excited about that. If you actually want to draw a good peppermint, you have to color the whole thing with marker first, and then go over it with white.
Jennifer Coates: You figured out a really good mint strategy.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I did. I was excited to share it. I thought you would admire it. But you like that drawing the most because of the fingers. She says it’s her favorite because he doesn’t have any thumbs.
David Humphrey: Here’s a straight question. I’m just going to pitch the ball. What is modern art to you guys?
Angela Dufresne: I agree. I think that question is screaming in this room.
David Humphrey: You’ve got this Matisse Luxe, Calme et Volupté thing going.
Jennifer Coates: I have a crush on modernism, on early modernist painting, because I teach it. The first year I taught it, I wasn’t feeling it. Matisse, Picasso, whatever. The dudes. But I crushed harder and harder the more I taught it. I just want to reproduce the utopian freedom of that moment with this kind of idealism.
David Humphrey: Didn’t you have books of modern art out while drawing? It’s almost a third collaborator. Sort of Grandpa Modern Art.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I feel like art history always is, though. At least for me. I know it is for you.
Jennifer Coates: We have fun giving each other assignments. I want you to find something from a Bosch painting or from Ensor, and just play around very irresponsibly.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Have fun with it.
Angela Dufresne: Irresponsibility —the uncivilized or uncolonized imagination— is a big aspect of many movements in modernism, right? I’m more in Northern Europe, right now, in my own understanding. From the perspective of a performative kind of space, though, how do you hide? Besides execution, how does this play out in your daily life and help you survive the madness?
Jennifer Coates: It just sucks up the seriousness a little bit. Put an erection on it and put a sock on the erection.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Or it could just be a floating sock. Either way.
David Humphrey: Pin the erection on the donkey drawing.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I haven’t answered your question. I don't know exactly. But I do think about the fact that the centerpiece of the zine is The Joi of Lyfe. Find the staples.
Jennifer Coates: The centerfold. No one can have that, by the way, because it’s mine and it’s not for sale.
Caroline Wells Chandler: In the original painting, there are two figures that look like that. The nymph with the broken back and a clock covering the crotch. I always think about taking things that feel like a hetero gaze and then queering it up for fun. I’m into a lot of it, but I like to do something that feels affirmationally queer as well.
David Humphrey: There’s something so funny about that moment where the most conventional idiom —nudes in the landscape, still life, pastoral scenery— is the location of avant-garde experimentation and innovation. You’re echoing that because now Modern art is in museums. Queering that work is doing again what they have done to Claude Lorrain, or something.
Angela Dufresne: Breton used the word “queer” in the Surrealist Manifesto. My friend Tomaso De Luca said that Picasso is the queerest artist he knows. And there is nobody more on top of G-A-Y than Tomaso in many ways. He’s a scholar of Patrick Angus’ work. He’s a total esoteric gay knowledge whore. I was painting his portrait not too long ago and, in this beautiful Milanese accent, he says, “Picasso is the gayest artist on the planet. Still!”
Nicole Kaack: What makes you say that?
Angela Dufresne: Many of the ways we think about transgression —or disidentification as Esteban Muñoz would say— is to shift the register of our perception of things. To reconfigure how we conceive of ideas and forms, all of these genres, all of these tropes. He did that to all of them, fucked with them. He broke down these normative ways of seeing bodies and cultures as separate, and fucked up the ontology of things, moving away from the logic of Enlightenment thinking.
David Humphrey: That’s what we try to do as artists more or less. It’s a rolling act of rebellion, which involves questioning all assumptions and shuffling them out to see what can emerge that is different.
Nicole Kaack: I was reading something about the figure of the trickster, this person stealing from god to give to the mortals. There are ways of subverting the systems and uprooting, that the artist’s role is to fuck things up. I’m wary of using the queer in the context of Picasso, largely for fear of overusing it in a way that devalues its meaning.
Jennifer Coates: Well, the etymology of the word “queer” goes back to the proto-Indo European word “terkw” which means twisted. Queer and distortion both go back to the same thing.
Angela Dufresne: It’s interesting that you say that. I’m thinking about Mannerism right now. Really, maybe, the Modernists started with the Mannerists. That distortion that identifies something interior which has no physiological articulation gets Mannerist.
Jennifer Coates: Right. Distortion —to twist, to torment, to torture— these are all the same thing. Poetry overlaps the things.
David Humphrey: Torque.
Angela Dufresne: I’m not even into S&M, but that sounds great. It sounds very useful.
Nicole Kaack: I was reading something that you wrote or contributed to, David, and in it you say something to the effect that painting is about memory, which I thought of as interesting in the context of these drawings which are about developing a language together. But also about this surreal forgetting too.
David Humphrey: I think I was making a point about observational painting. That you can’t really observe and draw at the same time because you actually look away from the thing while you make the mark, so you rely upon memory. That little space, opens up to what? Mind, association, convention, the whole world of interiority and the brain. Everything that we do, hopefully, as artists is tangled in a layered consciousness. Even the dumbest conventional activity is somehow tangled in subjectivity. I think what’s so mad about these is that you softened the boundaries between each other. These drawings potentially turn this thing of subjectivity collective.
Caroline Wells Chandler: One thing that happens when you’re drawing with somebody is that they’ll do something and you have to solve this pictorial space. As long as you insert references that you think the other will know, like Jen bringing this awesome Stonehenge. Then in “Muppets in Space,” Gonzo’s trying to get in contact with the others so “R U there?” is spelled out across the screen. Someone seeing it might think that’s an error in spelling. But I knew that you would know that that’s a screen capture from the Muppets. And I was working on it and sent it to you, and I thought, okay, that was funny.
David Humphrey: But it looks like the T is escaping from the word “there,” to kind of isolate the word “here.” Stepping onto the henge.
Jennifer Coates: It’s used like a standing stone there, too.
David Humphrey: So maybe it’s “rut.” “Rut here.”
Caroline Wells Chandler: Rut here. Rut-roh. Hope not. A lot of it is just making each other laugh. An art historian come by looking through some of the drawings, and she was like, “What’s the conceptual framework behind these?” I was like, “Having fun.” I teach drawing also, and I try to do this with my students. We’ll do a lot of collaborative drawing in my advanced drawing classes. It’s really important to me that they do that, especially for juniors and seniors. They’ll say that they’re concerned about being on-brand.
Jennifer Coates: If you’re an undergrad, you need to not think that way. You need to just be playing.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Just having a good time and making cool images. I don't know. I still think you can develop your work, but hopefully your work is going to be different from when you’re 22, 32, 42, 52, or 62. It’s going to shift. Teaching is good though. I’ll make them draw the entire time, until they’re exhausted. They’ll ask, “When are we going to crit these?” I’ll say, “Today’s about pleasure. We’re going to make some images and look at them.” We’ll end up talking about the drawings while we’re making them, what’s better, what’s working. But I want to actually get them in the zone.
David Humphrey: If identity and brand become synonymous, that just seems like a horrifying development.
Caroline Wells Chandler: That’s why I don’t like Instagram.
Nicole Kaack: As a mode of branding?
Caroline Wells Chandler: It’s tricky. I think it can be a sketchbook, but I don’t like being on that for those reasons. It’s a useful tool for a lot of people. You can share and build community and see what people are making.
Angela Dufresne: I think of Instagram like an anus. It comes out the other end. Who knows what’s going to come out.
Jennifer Coates: But the anus is also a point of entry, Angela.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Why do you have to say it’s an exit?
Jennifer Coates: Come on. The anus of the painting.
Angela Dufresne: We talked about this in front of Caravaggio. Find the anus of St. Matthew.
David Humphrey: Jennifer and I have a game. We go to a museum.
Jennifer Coates: We started at the De Kooning retrospective.
David Humphrey: It’s based on the assumption that every painting has an anus. We have to identify the anus.
Jennifer Coates: Sometimes the point of entry and the point of exit are the same. That’s a special moment in a painting.
David Humphrey: Or it could be just a little pucker. It could be a pinch in the membrane of the painting. So you sort of define yourself by the way you locate it.
Angela Dufresne: So you are branding your anus. You really don’t want to brand it because that heat on that tender orifice is really painful.
Caroline Wells Chandler: That’s one of the questions in our zine, too. It’s on the most religious-looking page. What happens when we die? It’s the beginning. Where is it?
Jennifer Coates: You know better than anyone.
Caroline Wells Chandler: He erased the universe. That was a funny moment. [pointing to a page] Jen was coloring this thing, and I was like, “Stop.” We have moments like that. It looked like he erased reality. He’s lost his mind.
Jennifer Coates: Well, also, do you ever feel lazy? I did not want to draw the cosmos in behind this figure. So we just came up with a little verbal, “Oh, look at the eraser! He just erased everything! I can stop working now!” [laughter]
David Humphrey: Chandler, does she do this to you? She does this to me when we collaborate. She’ll do something crappy and just throw it at me and say, “Fix it.”
Caroline Wells Chandler: I do that to her.
Jennifer Coates: You know who I got that from? Sarah Peters. I’ve also collaborated very wonderfully on fun drawings with Sarah Peters.
David Humphrey: I consider the oscillating between breaking and fixing to be the method. It seems like collaboration just thrives on that. Someone breaks, someone fixes, someone breaks that, re-fixed.
Nicole Kaack: Perhaps it is like creating premises and then following them or not.
Jennifer Coates: I also think that when you collaborate with someone then go back to your own work, you realize that you’re collaborating with yourself from day to day. You might have a certain mood or way of working. We have multiple selves in our ways of putting paint on a canvas. Returning to something from a few years earlier is like collaborating with another version of yourself. Collaborating with others has shown me how schizo I am.
Angela Dufresne: These collaborative drawings that I’ve been doing —not in this with y’all, but with everybody else that I hook up with— have completely changed my paintings. Not completely. But points of emphasis have become more scatological. Because when I try to create contained, holistic forms, Jeff or David destroy them. Thank you. This whole individualist thing is really not so sexy anyway. First of all, it might not have an anus, and that’s part of the problem.
Jennifer Coates: I think about the cave paintings a lot. Those were slow-motion collaborations over thousands of years, sometimes. People would go back, revisit a certain chamber, and add more information to it. Maybe that’s our natural art-making state.
Angela Dufresne: Yes. More so than the branding, and…
Jennifer Coates: Individual ego.
Nicole Kaack: This also comes back to what David was saying earlier about thinking of Modernism itself or art history as another collaborator. For context, what was the time scale of your collaboration, Chandler and Jen?
Caroline Wells Chandler: Since December. And we’ve been friends for three years.
Jennifer Coates: We’re also friends in the cosmos forever.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Like cosmic siblings. Celestial sisters.
David Humphrey: Is this a moment to maybe open it up to the room?
Karen Hesse Flatow: How do you feel about the end result of the collaboration? Does it contribute to the work that you go back to? Or does it stand on its own?
Angela Dufresne: There is no end.
David Humphrey: Their collaborations are much better than their individual work. [laughter]
Caroline Wells Chandler: I’m okay with that. I really love the drawings. I think it’s fun. I’ve drawn with all of you guys. I like drawing with friends. David and Jen got me really into it. I love going over dinner at Angela’s, she makes some fish that she caught with her teeth.
Angela Dufresne: Somebody asked me recently to describe the conversation of art history and painting. It’s so funny, but there’s still this romance that you’re going to innovate or come up with some new way of communicating in the field. It is so much like cooking. You can’t make pasta sauce without stock. Or, as all good cooks know, do not waste space in your food with water.
Art history is ideally not just a stock, but more this demiglaze. All the vapor has come out and hopefully cured some skin condition that Jen made a painting about. And the history has condensed into this oozy, bitchy, piss and vinegar sexy fluid that you can do something with. You know?
Caroline Wells Chandler: That’s going to be funny transcribed. [laughter]
Angela Dufresne: Cooking and painting are these knowledge systems that are physiological as much as they are philosophical. You have to understand the phenomenon as well as the strategies. There are these binaries: the strategy of the painting, the branding, and so on. You need a little bit of that to get in a fight with yourself and to make something happen. A strategy. I’m going to fucking try and do this. And then you’re going to fail.
Jennifer Coates: Failure is really the motivator.
Angela Dufresne: I was going to ask you guys what you think about FUPA? FUPA is the Fat Upper Pussy Area. In other words, muffin top.
David Humphrey: Known as the fat upper pelvic area, too. FUPAs can regender.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Teaching me something new all the time. FUPA. David will say, “I drew a pussy,” but I’m like, “That’s a tuck.”
Angela Dufresne: There’s that sense too of the knowledge boiling up, getting too big for the pot that it’s in. When you get two people or more in there, you force that scenario to happen. Artists need that.
David Humphrey: I’m trying to correlate history, knowledge, and FUPA. Like what is the folded part? What is the cleft part? The unshaved bits of history, as it sits on the surface of knowledge in the context of… I’m trying to riff off of Angela’s very broad and extended notion of the relationship between history and cooking. Somehow, it’s all sort of dripping on the FUPA, close to it or adjacent to it, and I’m playing the game of getting these incredibly ridiculously extended metaphors to make a coherent sentence. What happens, you know, the friction between two large thighs in a historic metaphor.
Jennifer Coates: Chafing.
David Humphrey: Yeah. Chafing is the glow, the radiance.
Jennifer Coates: Collaboration.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Chafing is the collaboration of two large thighs.
Audience member: You seem to be oscillating between the concept of collaboration as conversation or as a game of catch. Or maybe a game where you throw the ball so that the person can catch it and a contest, like a battle. A battle to what? To the death of the paint, the death of the work, the ressurection of the work? How much of that plays into your…?
David Humphrey: Like an agon, let’s say. A contest. A sport of mutually defining.
Audience member: Or trying to. But in painting or drawing, you can change the rules in the middle of the game.
Jennifer Coates: I would like to tell a little story about that drawing with the brown guy. There was a lot of brown oil pastel that got built up.
Caroline Wells Chandler: It was Hank Hill but it looked like something else. Not good.
Jennifer Coates: It just didn’t look right. I was like, “I’m going to go in the kitchen and scrape it down. No offense.” It’s a rare moment.
David Humphrey: So removal became part of it. Rather than just additive, additive, additive, additive.
Jennifer Coates: I shook my head in sorrow and shame when I saw what you made.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I don’t draw very well. I have a terrible drawing hand.
Jennifer Coates: But he loved that drawing.
Caroline Wells Chandler: That’s my favorite drawing. But it was upsetting when we were drawing it. I was like, “This is so messed up. We need to throw this away.”
Jennifer Coates: I felt like in trying to revive that brown shape, to delete it, scrape it down, obliterate it with scribbles, I also just pretended I was you. I made a Caroline Chandler face on top of it. If I was you, here’s how I would fix this.
David Humphrey: That’s a story about collaboration. You’re the buddies, the scrotal turd, and a Martian frog going out for a picnic in the woods.
Angela Dufresne: I think I can tie this back into the cooking thing. It’s this buttery, luscious but light thing, that makes you feel the death and the rot, the shit in your gut. Nonetheless, it has this bright, shimmery, enlivening tannin at the end. That’s what good cooks do. To a certain extent, it’s still about the balancing of —I wouldn’t say form or composition but— energies and phenomenons into these things.
The great thing about collaboration is that it doesn’t come with prescriptive balances that someone will already know how to do. Suddenly we’re in a zone that we really aren’t familiar with. It’s better than fusion food because you also have to recognize the lay of the land where you are in the present. If you’re not in the present land and you think, “I’m going to do put these two things together,” it’s also going to blow. It’s not going to be good.
Jennifer Coates: It was cool when we brought our work to the gallery, though. We didn’t see what the other was making.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I showed you drawings. We showed each other some sketches.
Jennifer Coates: But the color just woke up when we put the works near each other.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah. That was a nice mind meld when it happened.
David Humphrey: Vulcan mind meld.
Nicole Kaack: I feel like there are a lot more linguistic plays, also, in your collaborative works than in either of your practices individually. Is that just how you respond to a page? Or is that about conversing over time?
Caroline Wells Chandler: Like using text within a work? Or just even titles and stuff?
Nicole Kaack: Using text, but also using images as symbol objects.
Angela Dufresne: Allegory.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I think of symbols a lot. I think we both do. The titles and the word play is a way of incorporating our daily exchanges within the artworks. I don’t really like using text, normally, in work, but it was fun doing that with Jen. I don't know why.
David Humphrey: Maybe the space and condition of drawing is the condition of writing. Like having this thing on your lap…
Nicole Kaack: The scale of these pages, too.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Jen always writes funny. I feel like whenever you do have a bubble, you’ll write the weirdest thing coming out of a person talking. It always makes me laugh.
Jennifer Coates: Like “I’ve always hated you”? “#MeToo.”
David Humphrey: You both have a talent for non sequitur on demand. You just say something…
Caroline Wells Chandler: Off. But usually it’s on. It might be based on the conversation that was happening in the room at the time. You would say, “I just have to put this on here.” I would be like, “Don’t do it! The drawing’s finished!” You say, “I have to. You’ll like it.” You did it, and it was better. It was funnier and better that way.
David Humphrey: “#MeToo” has been a rolling comment that you add. You sprinkle it onto very inappropriate occasions.
Jennifer Coates: I try to.
Caroline Wells Chandler: That drawing was made on New Year’s Eve. David told me to draw a nurse sucking a thumb, soI thought of candy stripper, striper, striper, stripper. My brain already does wordplay stuff like that. So I did that and then we passed it around.
Jennifer Coates: I’m sure about the texture on the penis. I’m sure that was me.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah. That’s David’d drawing—you did that shading.
Angela Dufresne: That looks like a David penis to me.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I remember David saying, “I need a ruler.” And he did that. I think you did all this, Jen. That’s definitely you.
Jennifer Coates: I like the shading. That’s radiant light and contours. That’s my go-to.
Caroline Wells Chandler: [pointing] David, David, David. Then that’s mine.
Jennifer Coates: I made this awesome spaceship burger, and Caroline was like—
Caroline Wells Chandler: I was drawing stupid cats on everything.
Jennifer Coates: “How about these kitty cats? Playing a guitar?” I was like, “You fix it.”
Caroline Wells Chandler: Yeah. So put a Chris Martin painting behind it.
Angela Dufresne: So that they’re fixed.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I remember I drew the cats at your house, too. They didn’t go over well. [pointing] This is a good example of the cats. All the collages done in the background are just avatars for us.
Jennifer Coates: This one’s called How Hot Dogs are Made.
Caroline Wells Chandler: You posted that.
Jennifer Coates: I posted it on Instagram with “#hotdogs” and Ballpark Franks’ Instagram page came up, and said, “I can tell you right now that is not how we make them.” Then they started following me. I was like, I hate everything now.
Caroline Wells Chandler: There’s some really good storytelling in here. I brought this up earlier, but there’s this whole story about the time Jennifer saw a penis fall off of a person. It’s insane.
Angela Dufresne: You saw a penis actually fall off a person?
Jennifer Coates: Well, he was dead. [laughter]
Caroline Wells Chandler: I told her that should be in every artist talk.
Jennifer Coates: Here’s the story. I’m just going to tell, it’s a quick story. It was a hot summer day in Philadelphia, and I went to go draw cadavers with my insane friend from undergrad. We were in the medical school, and it was at the end of the lifespan of the cadavers. It’s like a six-week cycle, and they’re soaked in formaldehyde and they smell terrible. The medical students are reaching in, like that’s the spleen, and putting them back.
It’s just very rough and weird and upsetting. So I’m just sitting there, like okay, this is really important for me to kind of get over something here. And one of the medical students’ hands brushed up against the penis and it fell clean off.
Caroline Wells Chandler: I would die! I would barf.
Jennifer Coates: I just told myself, “It’s going to be okay.” Just, “It’s going to be okay.” Here you are with your drawings behind. Anyways.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Isn’t that nuts? That’s a crazy, I remember you were like, what’s your best story?
David Humphrey: I have a theory that it was already snipped off and had been placed back.
Angela Dufresne: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Jennifer Coates: I don't know, I thought that it was so brittle.
Caroline Wells Chandler: That makes so much more sense.
Jennifer Coates: It’s a dead person! You’re taking the magic out of this! You’re draining the power away.
Angela Dufresne: But cadavers — magic there.
Jennifer Coates: Anyway, that’s my best story.
Caroline Wells Chandler: It is a good story. It’s a gold medal story. This is also a list of our band names. It’s a long list. We did this for several weeks, but this is a page spanning only a couple of minutes. When I was on Facebook as Ongo Gablogian. I’m not on there anymore. All our different ideas for band names are on here.
A lot of the digital collages that are in this, Jen made because we were going to make a CD and fill it with slime and cereal. We’ll do it another time. But they ended up going in here. We had a lot of manic ideas for this. Here’s another digital collage. This one’s really good.
Audience member: Do you have a favorite band name?
Jennifer Coates: The Sad Vagina Syndrome Sisters. That might be my favorite.
Caroline Wells Chandler: Mine is, The Dorian Grey Pubis. That one still makes me laugh. I love that one.
Jennifer Coates: Spice Mix and the Grey Pube Dance Band. There’s a lot of pubes. Mind Control and the Sex Packs. Swiss Cheese Logic and the Fun Police. Anyways. Tory and the Tortoise Helpers. Dinner and the Black Hole Fancy. Turkey Invaders and the Devil Dogs. What’s that, Third Eye Butthole Yeast Infection and the Crusty Pineal Glands Starring the Runs. Brain Freeze and the Money Shots. The Runs and the Giant Muffin. Have fun with that.
Jennifer Coates: So anyways, thanks for coming. It’s hot.