I think I’m failing Christie Blizard.
Once, while Blizard was teaching art at Texas Tech, we sat drinking watery coffee in a bakery. She told me I needed to move somewhere away from Lubbock. Somewhere bigger. I told her I wanted a chicken coop. She ignored that and told me I’d have to be some kind of genius to make it as an artist.
I think about that conversation often.
I sell work on Saatchi Art Online, which we all know is shorthand for “slightly desperate.” And I’m not supposed to talk about it yet, but a major retailer that rhymes with Smanthropology is selling prints of my paintings this fall. I wonder if this would irritate Blizard. She tends to cooly ignore institutions in favor of making her performance work in person, at UFO festivals and in parking lots and on sidewalks and billboards, and inside cars and flea markets, and oh my god, even directly on Instagram. But institutions should, and do, want her work. All the while she seems to have genuine fun, be it while wrestling, puppeteering or just walking. For her, it’s all art and life.
But Blizard has told me she’s glad I’m selling work, that maybe that’s the way I get into a museum collection someday. She’s unnervingly un-ironic in her love of painting. She frequents museums and even offers certain paintings acts of devotion, like bouquets of flowers. She commissioned high schoolers to paint her portrait while she was in her android Elle Fanning mask, holding her Lyotard puppet. She remarked that the paintings were almost too good.
She painted portraits from Facebook one summer. I reposted the one she did of me, and my grandpa thought I painted it. He commented: “The right direction!”
If I sound resentful, I’m not. In my devotion to Blizard, I feel touched by her greatness. Maybe something even bigger than that.
Not long ago, she commissioned me to write about her work. It was exhausting to look at her oeuvre, much less imagine doing all that shit. She has insane energy. She once (that I know of) sent in an audition tape to the TV show Survivor. Even if this was a performance for her, I think it was also earnest. I’d kill to see that tape.
For me, the hardest a thing about Blizard is that she doesn’t explain herself. I think I’ve blown her up to mythic status. I’m not sure what I know of her is even real. Surely she has ugly or arrogant thoughts about other artists, maybe even her about own superiority. That’s the thing though, even when she is being a shamanic DJ, or riding around Burning Man in an oversized Katie Couric mask — she doesn’t seem to be mocking anyone, really. She inhabits these frothy cultural things the way Andy Kaufman did. She’s weirder than Kaufman. Jim Carrey, too. Like a stand-up comedian, she finds her audience. She is recorded, revisited. Then she flies the coop.
She is a fervent believer in art and artists, monastic in her focus even if her gaze shifts over the cultural landscape. She once laid out the reasons, in great detail, of how she is the reincarnation of Vincent van Gogh. It has something to do with her name, Blizard. Something about the Blizards who married the Foggs (of the Fogg Museum at Harvard). They have two Gs and she has one Z. I know it doesn’t make sense as I type it, but I believe in her. She reads theorists like their words are treasured personal correspondence — messages to her from her old friends. I marvel at how she, too, changes my understanding of the universe.
When I was her teaching assistant, I stole her demonstration paintings. I still have them in my studio, talismans to ward off my bad art, my bad instincts… as if that were enough.
I don’t have chickens anymore. I have a kid, though. And I did move. A lot of places, but recently back to my hometown in New Mexico. I’m starting over at square one. I’m painting from family photos. I’m good at rendering now, but I have a suspicion that my best work comes from collaborating with others — meaning, giving someone else my work to tear apart.
Christie Blizard is the devil on my shoulder, nudging me and whispering: “Destroy it.”
Christie Blizard’s March 2019 appearances include Sinusoidal (the milkmaid) at the Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, Texas, on March 1, and a performance in Denver, Colorado at Peralta Projects on March 15.