It’s been four years since the underground has heard from Los Angeles-based nü-gazers SCARLING, while the members of MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE followed up their last album (2007’s If) with a long break that found some of the members procreating and raising kids. This week at Dark Dark Science Gallery in Los Angeles, fans of both bands can have their eyes rocked out with Smile Even If It Hurts, a joint exhibition of visual works and mixed media sculptures by Scarling singer JESSICKA ADDAMS and MSI bassist LINDSEY WAY. The show, curated by counter-cultural bon vivant Lenora Claire, runs Nov. 13 through 20 and will also feature collaborative works with Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Liz McGrath, Louis-Marie de Castelbajac, Joshua Petker, Austin Young, Piper Ferguson, Tarina Tarantino and Jared Gold. “The reason Lindsey and I ended up choosing the name is because the transition between musician and artist has been filled with some serious highs and lows,” says Addams. “The name itself denotes the quiet endurance of one’s pain. Although we know how lucky we both are to be able to show our art publicly, it doesn’t make the journey any less beautiful or painful.” Jason Pettigrew chatted with the duo regarding their friendship, their methods of working and the psychic pachyderm in the room that their respective fans want to know about. (Photo: Jennifer Emil)
Let’s get in the wayback machine for a moment. How long have you two been fast buds?
JESSICKA ADDAMS: Lindsey and I met on May 2, 2004, at Coachella through a mutual friend.Our friend, Karina, had her 30th birthday party in August 2006 in Los Angeles. It was one of those rare occasions where Lindsey and I both attended, since Lindsey wasn’t living here at the time. After a few drinks, we both revealed we were beginning to suffer serious wear and tear from touring. Both being artists before we had joined our respective bands, we talked about having an art show together. A few years later, Lindsey moved to L.A., and the conversation we had years before would actually become a reality.
LINDSEY WAY: It’s a pretty magical situation, actually. I was working for Ron English, Jess was friends with Mark Ryden and Marion Peck and we were both in bands that had some cult success. We had a mutual love of art that got sidetracked due to our musical careers. We were at the same place at the same time and we have similar backgrounds. After I had Bandit [her daughter with husband Gerard Way], I decided that I needed to start now, because if I didn’t start, it was never going to happen. It was important for me to start making a new life for myself immediately.
ADDAMS: Christian [Addams’ husband/creative foil] was working on a movie, so the band were on hold. I started doing art in our living room and he wasn’t a big fan of me wrecking our house. I ruined a lot of furniture. [Laughs.]
What kind of works will you two be displaying?
ADDAMS: My pieces are all mixed media sculptures and collaborations. The thread between all of them is that they’re all wearing bunny masks. For years, I had been noticing the symbol of the rabbit occurring in unlikely places. The name of my exhibit, “What’s Behind The Bunny,” was chosen for several reasons. One of my first happy memories is the Easter Bunny; I was also fascinated with the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland and Bre’r Rabbit as a child. More recently, rabbits just kept popping up in my life. It just felt right to use the bunny mask as a central theme tying all of my work together. The Easter Bunny has roots that go back to pre-Christian, Anglo-Saxon history. The holiday was originally a pagan celebration that worshipped the goddess Eastre. She was the goddess of fertility, springtime and her earthly symbol was a rabbit—a perfect symbol to use when covering artists’ work I find sacred. The white rabbit can symbolize the awakening of spirit or resurrection.
WAY: I’ll be showing a series of 13 dioramas made entirely out of paper. They’re fairly large and they’re basically a funeral procession: When you start at the beginning, you don’t really know what’s happening, it kind of abstract. It’s only after you get through the pieces that you realize when you get to the end that it’s a funeral. They’ll be displayed in individual wooden boxes—they kind of look like movie stills. They are very inspired by George Méliés.
The two of you share a studio space. When it comes to your own work, are you your own worst critics? Do you riff on each other’s work, like, “What the hell were you thinking”” or “Damn, you should finish mine and I’ll finish yours,” or some other kind of critic-coach-sisterhood kind of discourse?
ADDAMS: We completely respect each other’s opinions, and there have been times on both sides where we’ve said things like, “That’s too much.” I think the hard part is when you’re over-thinking and not really knowing when something’s finished. What’s been so great about sharing a space with someone you respect as an artist is they can help you let go of the piece.
WAY: Jessicka has such an intense love of art and she’s got great taste. It’s nice when she gives me the thumbs-up on something.
ADDAMS: Even if I wasn’t actively participating in this show, I’d be just as excited to see Lindsey’s show. It’s really special; I’ve never seen anything like this before. I think she might be reinventing the wheel. You can see emotion in every piece—that’s hard to capture. Not to get too overtly feminist, but I think a lot of times women are their own worst critics. Here, we’ve been able to nurture and allow each other to grow as artists than tear each other down. Coming from similar musical backgrounds, she’s the only woman I can talk to who knows about touring or the different struggles [surrounding music], and it’s really great to have a partner like that.
WAY: It’s really fun to be able to say things like, “Hey, did you play that one dump in Kentucky?” and she’ll be like, “Yeah, I did!” [Laughs.] And of course she will know exactly which dump I was talking about. [Laughs.]
You both are excited and immersed into what you’re doing. So let’s address the elephant in the room: Are you both done with music?
ADDAMS: I am not in the slightest done with music. Scarling is a 50/50 partnership between Christian and I. He’s been really busy [with movies] and it was hard from him to do his Scarling magic while he was stressed out working on movies. We’ve been working and we do have songs written and completed for the next album. The art show has been all consuming, so we plan on going into the studio with Rob Campanella sometime next year. Believe it or not, there was a time I actually thought I could do the art show during the day and then meet Christian at the recording studio at 8 o’clock at night. [Laughs.] How exasperatingly naïve of me!
WAY: Mindless were up and running for a really long time and at the end of our last run, I personally felt like I was ground down to dust. Plus, the last show I played, I was in Mexico, two months pregnant. By that point, everybody in the band kinda wanted to live life a little bit. It’s been a couple years now; sometimes I do miss it. There’s a good chance [Mindless] will probably do more music. Sometimes you have to leave in order to come home. You know what I mean?
Absolutely. You both seem very pleased with how things are turning out with regards to both your art careers, as well as in your individual universes. It’s impressive, considering you two are maniacs on the rock ’n’ roll stage.
ADDAMS: I think both Lindsey and I learned a lot about what we want and don't want when it comes to our future art careers. I know how incredibly lucky we are to be able to show our work publicly; a lot of really talented artists never get that chance. There were many trials and tribulations to get to Nov. 13, but I believe the payoff—just being able to do what we set out to do on our terms is more valuable than anything tangible or monetary. It is so important to me to show young women to stop blindly following pop-lebrites, stop criticizing each other and start writing your own lives. This is exactly what Lindsey and I did with this art show: We became artists and didn't allow anybody—even our own self-doubts—to tell us we couldn't. I'm just so excited to see what happens next for both of us.
WAY: There are a couple kids who want to wear our respective skins as clothes. [Laughs.] I don’t know what I’m going to do this week. Jessicka and I have been to art shows together in the past, and I’m always hyperventilating in the corner—and it’s not my show. It’s bright lights, it’s crowded and all I can think is, “I’ve got to get the fuck out of here.” [Laughs.]
That’s not art criticism. That’s agoraphobia.
ADDAMS:I’m going to be tap-dancing through this situation completely panicked, and Lindsey’s going to be in the corner, breathing into a paper bag. [Laughs.]
WAY:We’ve had a couple conversations about this. “Can I be late? Can I leave early?” People tell me it’s no different than being on stage. Totally different situation: [Onstage] I have a bass in front of me, and I can hang back if I want to. [Laughs.] Maybe I’ll wear a bass to the show. alt