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How my art show became a shrine / by Faye Orlove

I had a religious experience when I was nineteen. I cried until my body shook and I’d wept my weight in salt-water tears. I cried for four hours and when I got home, I cried for four more. I fell into the shower, rocked myself back and forth, and hugged my knees so tight they bruised my chest. The bathroom became so thick with steam that I couldn’t breathe. I had seen god. I had seen Patti Smith.


Before that day I guess you could say that I had a few bones to pick with religion. Growing up god was a dude, looked mostly like Santa, and seemed for all intents and purposes to be kind of a dick. I was born into a faith, but all I learned from Jewish Day School was how to roll my eyes.

In a totally not-yet-realized fit of feminism, I remember asking my Hebrew school teacher where all the damn women were. I honestly have no idea what her answer was. I think I was too busy reading the authors of my textbook -- oh happy day, they were dudes, too. I guess I answered my own question.

I scrawled into my desk: fvck religion. fvck god.

Fvck, I wasn’t even ten yet.

I’d been force-fed faith and fallacies since I was six, and led to believe that anyone worth idolizing earned his merit through being absent and withholding. I’d been taught to find morality in some all-knowing spirit who seemed to me to be pretty pro-war, pro-violence, pro-widespread oppression. For every wasted hour my parents made me search for some moral compass in the Torah, I’d have been better off in Tower Records. Because it was within those walls of songs and memoirs that I found north. A true deity among mortals. I found Hole.

Are you there Courtney? It’s me Faye. I made, like, a ton of paintings for you.


So this art show is my shrine. An ode to the faith I’d lost and then found. Portraits of the three artists who never demanded I have faith in anything but myself.

Which truly is why I love them, why I hold their work sacred. Through them, I discovered the person I want to be. My gods are non-judgemental. They are vulnerable. They are emotional. They are strong. They are passionate. And above all, they are true to themselves. And so, my worship has never been about mimicry or a need to change myself to fit their molds. It’s more of a thank you, an undying gratitude for their guidance whenever I need a northern star. Gratitude for allowing me to mess up, to have flaws, to come as I am.

The shrine is a mixture of things. I guess it’s how the inside of my head looks. It centers around three big paintings, all in shades of pink, of Courtney Love, Patti Smith, and Stevie Nicks. Painted as saints, their heads surrounded by three gold halos. My high priestesses of rock n’ roll, of feeling stuff real hard, of not giving a fvck.

Then there’s torn out composition book pages, stuck with stickers, scrawled with the lyrics to Patti’s song “Easter” and the Fleetwood Mac song “Storms,” so obviously written by Stevie it’s haunting. One composition book page is framed, hopefully drawing attention to the Hole lyrics I recite to myself daily, “Oh stop your crying, you could be happy.”

I also put together some clipboards collaged with pencil drawings, old photos, pins, and my rabbit’s foot. The rabbit’s foot I had to find after I’d seen a photo of Patti wearing her own on a thick strip of leather, tied around her bare chest, looking defiantly off camera in a pose that infiltrates my daydreams.

Also around, an acoustic guitar that I bugged a friend to teach me to play, but instead found myself drawing on, covering that guitar in jewels and photos and stickers of Courtney I made myself.

I think my favorite piece, and the one that took the longest to finish, is a three-tiered banner of silver-glitter letters that read CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS, a tribute to the very same silver-glitter letters that stood much taller behind Hole in the music video for Miss World. A music video that has inspired me to one day very soon -- maybe, just maybe -- buy a dress.

And lastly, among other trinkets, sit my very favorite possessions: a pink velvet heart-shaped box, a porcelain doll arm, Horses on vinyl, brass candlesticks, and a pink plastic microphone (thanks, Aurore) that I embellished with flowers and the the Hole lyrics: “I’m Miss World, watch me break, watch me burn.”

I’m not sure if these pieces will be for sale, or heck, if anyone will want any of it. It’s all pretty personal, a tribute to my idols, to the great fortune in having rejected religion only to find god in grunge.

*The opening for Are You There Courtney? It’s Me, Margaret is Monday May 20th from 5-8pm at Zuzu in Central Square/Cambridge. The installation will be up until the end of June.

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