by The Tears of Things
Back in January of 2005, we paid a studio visit to emerging-in-the-Burgeoning Phoenix artist Blue McCool. Almost eight years later she called us out of the blue:
Blue: Hey guys, listen, long time no see and all, but I'm on a tight schedule here and I need to know if you two could come down here to do an interview in, like, half an hour?
Tears: An interview --for who?
Blue: For you. For your blog. Because you've got that going again, yeah? --hey, good for you! Welcome back! This interview: it's a way of getting into New Times --the 100 Creatives thing--we'll plant it, you see? so they can't ignore it. But the countdown's getting into the single digits. I can explain more when you get here. Will you do it? I need to know in like, two minutes.
Tears: (murmuring in background, then) Give me the address.
Blue McCool opens the door wearing a white-on-black "I ❤ Misty" T-shirt and dip-dyed jeggings that match her ombre hair. Pin-up tattoos pose coyly on each bicep; a gold ring hugs her left nostril. A pair of pink tendrils lead from her ears to her left hand, which holds an iPad. She pops the buds and stows the rig in her baggy pants pocket.
Tears Blue! Good to see you again! You're looking wonderfull!
Blue: Hey, good, thanks. You guys are looking good, too.
Tears Too kind. So tell us what's new in the exciting world of Blue McCool.
Blue: Oh, you haven't heard! How'd you miss that? We're Blue Doodle McCool now. We just got married!
Tears: Well, we're kind of out of the loop. But how wonderfull for you! May we congratulate the lucky groom?
Blue: Absolutely! She's in the kitchen right now, baking cupcakes for First Friday at, of coure, Bragg's Pie Factory. Plug. (Yelling) MISTY! The Tears are here!
(From the kitchen): Hey, guys! Gimme a minute, my hands are full of batter.
Tears: Misty. That explains the t-shirt.
Blue: You got it. Corny, I know. I guess it's corny to even say "corny." But that's how I feel. And actually, I guess I'm the lucky groom.
Tears: We're talking about Misty Doodle, the artist?
Blue: You got it. See, you're not so out of the loop.
Misty McCool Doodle comes out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a rainbow-flag apron, a red t-shirt under it, Che in his beret peeking over the top of the rainbow. Black Betty Page bangs, a gold ring in her right nostril that matched Blue's left, and extremely plucked and arched eyebrows above black horn-rimmed glasses -- the startled look.
Tears: Congratulations, Misty!
Misty: Thanks, guys. We couldn't be happier.
Tears: How long have you two--?
Blue: Listen, here's the deal. This'll be like a combo studio visit and 100 Creatives interview, only longer. Then we've got to be somewhere else. So look around, why don't you, while I help Misty in the kitchen, take your notes, and we'll be back in a few minutes.
And they stroll away.
We turn slowly in place and then start off looking: a chalkboard framed with antlers; a pair of skateboards lean against the wall, under two classic Schwinns hanging from the ceiling, identical except for color, one black, one pink; she still had JenJusJen the jackalope skeleton, perched atop thick old library shelves, which hold a collection of obsolete cameras (including a Polaroid PX-70 mysteriously bound with twine every which way); next to that a long low oak table boasts a half-dozen manual typewriters, each with paper in the platen, ready to go. ("There's my tangerine Rocket.")
On a corner table she's placed a clutch of Santa Muerte candles under images of Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe. An exotic and sinister obsidian blade lies pointing to the sheriff's throat.
On a shelf at eye level sit two billed caps, side by side. Each is woven of some pale yellow-brown material, and each has a label lying in front of it. The one on the left shows DEA on the front, and the label explains it was woven from hemp. The one on the right shows USBP, and it's woven from tamale husks.
Tears 2: Well-made. . . . A bit heavy-handed. A bit on point.
Tears 1: I think they'd say that is the point. But still: Ouch.
Tears 2: Yes, thank you, ladies, for reminding us of what we have to live with every damn day.
Above and to the left of all this, from a hook in a corner of the ceiling, a long dock rope held a two-foot ball of multicolored string, twine, and plastic-coated wire about four feet off the floor. No explanatory label.
Notes/ideas on the chalkboard:
--Doodle & McCool --a brand --complete with logo
--a pop-up beading lab at MADE --crafting as performance art
--a hand-drawn map featuring every vegan restaurant, food-truck route, and farmer's market in CenPho
--curating an exhibition of Middle School art geniuses
--Trashy Culture --the next level? 2.0? One word--
--recreating our entire apartment totally in an exhibition room at SMoCA --living there--temp residence-- 2 wks
Tears 1: You know, that's been done.
Tears 2: Yes, but not by them. And no one else here locally has done anything like it, if I remember correctly. So that would definitely elevate their visibility. Hmm. A brand, eh? Damien Hirst, you better call Jeff Koons and warn him.
Tears 1: Think about artist pairs, too. That's popular. The collaboration, the teaming up, the ad nauseum community thing. The "&."
Tears 2: That's good, darling. That's right on, I think.
Farther along the wall, under the painted word INSPIRATION, we find:
--pinhole camera shots of wedding with Misty
--photobooth photos with each of her friends
--Polaroids of her residency at Zuccoti Park during Occupy in NYC
--"Chick-Fil-A Tastes Like Hate" stickers
--bumpersticker: "It Shouldn't Hurt To Be LGBT"
--a couple of Gregory Sale's Love Buttons
--wedding invitations embroidered on paper napkins
--original Jackalope Ranch First Friday sticker by Harriet The 11-Year-Old
--and, smack dab in the middle, a midsize poster made of framed downloaded rainbow typography:
Blue and Misty join us again:
Blue: So what do you think?
Tears: You've got a lot going on here. And it's organized, too. (Pointing at the chalkboard) You've got plans.
Blue: Absolutely! (Holds up her iPad) You've got to have an agenda. That's the key. We're going to get really known around here, known and respected. One step is getting on that 100 Creatives list. This interview is on my list.
Tears: So what do you mean by making Doodle & McCool a brand?
Blue: It's like, instead of the artist's signature stuck way down little in the corner, we make the whole piece about the signature. I don't mean literally, I mean that's the concept. We're foregrounding collaboration, for example. Hey, take a look at that Creatives List. They're down to about number five by now, and there's one collaborative pair on the list. A father-son graffiti team. Just one.
Tears 1: We were just talking about that, actually, when you guys were in the kitchen. So that's a selling point?
Misty: One of many. It's in the details. By the way, speaking of, our names? The middle name is in parentheses, okay? Misty (McCool) Doodle and Blue (Doodle) McCool. Also our composite name: (Doodle) & (McCool). We've made those legal, too, by the way. Like a trademark.
Tears: Like e. e. cummings.
Tears: Never mind. Like will.i.am.
Misty: Exactly. Or Ke$ha. Like that. That's part of branding.
Tears: Branding by punctuation.
Blue: You got it. Misty's designing a logo, for t-shirts and maybe bandanas. To sell at the SMoCA thing. And that's the big news, guys --you two are the first to know --we just got word earler today that SMoCA's gonna approve our live-in. Isn't that fantastic?!
Tears: It is. Congratulations. So you're really going to live there, in public, for two weeks?
Misty: Yup, doing what we would be doing if we were here,just going on with our lives, except for bathroom stuff. Not like that Marina Abramovic.
Tears: Does it have a title?
Blue: TOTALLY! All capitals, in italics, and don't forget the bang at the end.
Misty: One feature of the piece --I'm a detail person-- is that one of us always has to be there, but of course we have to go shopping and take care of bills and picking up art supplies and such, meeting people for our other projects --so if one of us has to go out, we'll be constantly connected with several cameras using smartphones, tablets, and mobile hotspots. So people in the museum can follow along with our lives.
Blue: And of course we'll be working on our projects and visiting with the visitors, watching movies, playing video games, just hanging out. It'll be fun. What do you think?
Tears: We're kind of private people. It seems voyeuristic.
Blue: Oh, for sure. Not only that, it's narcissistic. That's what we're aiming for.
Misty: Those are features, not bugs.
Tears: Understood. Going back to the notes on the blackboard: "Trashy Culture --the next level? 2.0? One word--" What are you getting at there?
Blue: More branding, really. It's kind of hard to narrow down. We're trying to bring a movement together, to name it. It has a wide range, from tattoos to hot rods to burlesque to cartoons and robots. Kitsch, too, but with a mean streak.
Misty: For example: We're working on a suite of bright contrasty Warhol-style prints of Snooki and the Kardashians, and of course LiLo --.
Blue: --and her mom and dad. People forget about them. You know, we're going to have to put Honey Boo Boo in there somewhere.
Tears: Don't forget All-Beef Patty.
Blue: I thought you said you were out of the loop.
Tears: It's a hard name to ignore once you've heard it. So can you give us other examples of this Trashy Culture 2.0?
Misty: Well, one of our touchstones is Koons's Michael Jackson and Bubbles. That piece just shouts decadence --literally outlined in gold.
Blue: So, somewhere between Mike Kelley and Noble & Webster, maybe. Really living it, like Gilbert & George, but not like those two silly bald women in New York, I don't even know their names. If we were talking about fashion, we'd be somewhere between Jeremy Scott and Heatherette.
Misty: Or between Rodarte and Norma Kamali.
Blue: And we're not bound by materials, either. You saw those hats: yeah, we know how to weave, and knit, and embroider --all those crafts. But we want to do some neon, too. Like our little poster over there: Your Rights End Where My Feelings Begin.
Misty: We came across another saying the other day we'd like to pair with that one: "Why should I take your bad trip?" That's a quote from--
Tears 2: Ken Kesey. From Tom Wolfe's book. He shut some fool down that way.
Misty: Right on. I'm impressed.
Tears 2: Well, that's my generation.
Misty: So then you'd have the two sentences staring at each other --and nicely rendered too, in legible script, not like that Tracey Emin with her scribbles.
Tears 1: How about, if you're looking for one word, KULTURE with a K, all capitals, don't worry about the italics and the bang?
Blue: Hmm, not bad. (Pulls out her iPad and taps the word into a search engine.) Hey, this might work. There's nothing big out there already. KULTURE. Yeah, it fits. We can use that, then?
Tears 1: Oh, please, be my guest.
Misty: You came up with that fast.
Tears 1: Well, being around you two, I was inspired.
Blue: (dead seriously) I can see that.
Tears: . . . Uh huh. So, do you mind if we ask how you support yourselves? I mean, do you have jobs or--?
Blue: We don't mind at all. This is really Misty's talent, you know, the detail person. We call it Milking the G.
Misty: I'm a really good grant writer. I've been doing it for years, since I was an undergrad at Hamberger. Also, I studied at the feet of the two Gregs --Esser and Sale. So we just go from grant to grant. And they build on each other. You know, if one organization is willing to take the chance, it makes the decision easier for the next one, to come out on our side.
Blue: And I'm going back to ASU soon, to get my degree in Sustainable Diversity Studies, so we'll have grant opportunities there, too --woman, gay, ex-Mormon, artist --there's a lot of categories.
Misty: Milking the Alma Mater. By the way, did you know that alma mater means "breast-milk-dripping mother"?
Tears:. . . No . . . Maybe we ought to get to the 100 Creatives questions. You said you were on a tight schedule.
Blue: Good idea.
Tears: So we'll put the question to you, you two confer, and give us a kind of composite answer.
Blue: Well, we two are one, as well as two, so go ahead.
Tears:. . . I see. Okay, here we go. (Doodle) & (McCool), you're on.
I came to Phoenix with. . . Well, as many of you probably already know, I came to Phoenix in a Mormon wagon train with a rainbow-colored head full of dreams.
I make art because. . . I'm a creative, so everything I do is just naturally art.
I'm most productive when . . . I put things off til the last minute, then just close my eyes and let chaos reign.
My inspiration wall is full of . . . See above.
I've learned the most from . . . the times the local arts community all got together and saw it my way.
Good work should always . . . serve the community. That's what Misty and I do every single day.
The Phoenix creative scene could use more . . . love of community, and less negativity and selfishness on the part of the haters.
Tears: There's also a new one, kind of mystifying: "I am a person of . . . " and you fill in the blank.
Blue: . . . Jeez. Talk about vague.
Misty: Yeah. We'll skip that one.
Tears: As you wish. Okay: (Doodle) & (McCool), thanks for giving us that call. It's been fun, and instructive, and we'll follow up as we agreed before.
Blue: Thank you so much. I know I kind of pushed it--
Misty: "Kind of"? I was there when she called, guys. I apologize.
Tears: No hay problema. Thanks again, you two. Keep your eyes open.
Blue: You got it.
As the door closes we can hear Blue yelling again:
Blue: Hurry up and get your pants off, Misty! We've got 5 minutes to catch the Undie Ride to Slutwalk!