I saw Onsen‘s Subaru from the balcony of my apartment, so I ran down the steps and hopped in to the passenger seat. We were running late to meet with the artist Thea Wolfe, creator of the WEEN coloring book.
A week earlier, I had received a Google instant message from a friend and staff member at Cornish School of the Arts here in Seattle. He informed me that there were some really great paintings of WEEN posted up at the institution and suggested that I come down and see them. In all honesty, I was a bit leery about the validity of the work. I knew that it was probably either going to be amazing or fucking terrible. For me, it’s hard to find any gray area with that sort of subject matter. I was sent a couple of iphone photo images and quickly realized that the artist was no joke; the paintings were, in fact, much more than I could have ever expected.
I wanted to help the student get their work to the source and I quickly had delusions of grandeur, in which I became like Maurice Starr when he discovered New Edition and NKOTB. I’ve been in semi-regular contact with WEEN‘s management since the site began and I knew that, if I forwarded the images of the painter to them, the work of the artist that I was “discovering” would be undeniable. “What’s her name and contact info?” I asked my friend. He went to check and typed back the name “Thea Wolfe“. I recognized it immediately and knew that she didn’t need any help from me; I already owned a copy of the coloring book that she created for the group last year. She wasn’t a current student at all, her paintings were posted up on the alumni wall.
After checking out her site, I headed down to see the paintings in person. They were much more impressive than any still frame camera could represent. Colorful and full of motion, many of the paintings had reflective iridescent shapes and pentagons within them that shifted depending on the view, lighting, and angle. I had never seen a simulation of psychedelic experiences portrayed that way through paint, or any that more accurately conveyed them. The artist statement explained that the series was based on what Wolfe refers to as “The Year of the Wrong“, a period of time in which she traveled thousands of miles to attend a number of performances on WEEN‘s “La Cucaracha” tour with a primary focus of doing what she felt inside, regardless of how unreasonable, ridiculous, or “wrong” it may seem to the outside world. Based on her work and various statements and views that she’s expressed through interviews, her website, and elsewhere, I knew that there was the strong probability for a good conversation to come from meeting her in person.
When we reached her home, we were greeted by her husband, photographer/artist Lars Peterson. The couple graciously welcomed us in and gave us a tour of their Northgate, Seattle home. The upstairs walls were each painted with the type of colors found in a Crayola BOLD box. The hallway doors were left open, exposing glimpses of the different colored rooms inside. Staring down the length, it gave off the impression of a jacob’s ladder. Lars explained to us that their bathroom, which was painted with multiple layers of metallic gold paint, shines like the suitcase from Pulp Fiction when the sun light hits it. At the end of the hall was their Dance Dance Revolution room. 2 large dance pads laid on the floor and the back wall was tiled with the original framed images from the WEEN coloring book that Wolfe had created. After showing us the large basement with a mural on the wall, we headed back up to the large upstairs room for the interview. We sat amongst various paintings, one of which was placed horizontally next to me like a table with a smaller one laying on top of it. I was drinking the black coffee that Thea offered me and was told that I could set it down anywhere. I placed my mug on the floor. She placed hers directly on top of the painting that I had purposely avoided. Onsen turned on the camera and we got started.
Dead C: All right, I have questions for you now
Thea Wolfe: Cool
Are you ready for this?
So, I wanna ask you about… You went to Berklee (College of Music), right?
I did. Briefly, I dropped out pretty early on
What were you studying there? What brought you there?
I always wanted to be a musician as a kid. That’s totally what I thought I was gonna be doing. I’ve been playing guitar, pretty seriously since I was 13 and really started performing a lot as a teenager so, by the end of high school, I was totally sure that I was going to be a musician and totally felt positive that Berklee was the school that I wanted to go to. I was really kind of off the mark in what I was picturing that Berklee was going to be like . And it definitely made it a lot more scientific and math-based than the intuitive sort of approach that I’d been taking so… I dropped out and just focused on my band and started a tattooing apprenticeship
Well, you went to Cornish later
So, how did that work for you? ‘Cuz, when I play music… and I’ve kind of approached a lot of things myself -and sometimes it backfires- but with the whole rejection of music theory and art theory-
You seemed to give it another chance, ‘cuz you went to art school. Did you have different expectations again?
Um..it was like, with the music, the situation that I was in, I was working with other people that-
[a distracting and cheesy ringtone comes through on Lars’ phone]
*sarcastically towards Lars* That’s a good ring.
*laughing* He loves the cheese.
I was kind of working under people, in a way, and working with other people. And the people that I was working with were really kind of encouraging me to be open to a more conventional route. Like signing a record contract and going, sort of, that way with things. And I really knew always that I didn’t want to do it but… I don’t really know. I think that art for me just- It was something I could do more, completely on my own. I don’t know why I had that image, I guess I probably could have done the music stuff on my own, but I just never figured out how to do that. So, the art felt more private. Like I could be more authentic, because I didn’t have to feel obligated to play these few songs that everyone wanted to hear when I played. Y’ know, everytime, even if I didn’t want to fucking play them ever again
Does the art also make it feel like you could finish a piece without having to rely on anybody?
You don’t have to try to figure out how to record anything or mess with the audio engineering?
Totally. I mean a lot of the music stuff- that’s a really good point- was just really out of my control, and I kind of realized about myself that I am somebody who does a lot better when I am just left alone to do my own thing.
As far as Cornish, and the few things that I have read that you’ve written on your site and elsewhere about your experience there, it seemed like you had a positive experience with the critiques. Because I’ve had experience (in my own schooling) where it didn’t seem like people were critiquing my intention or pushing it forward; it seemed like they were critiquing what they would rather have you do
So, if you were trying to do a dark piece someone would say, “I like it lighter” but that’s not pushing you forward. But you’ve made comments that your critiques and your professors were helpful. Is there anything specifically that sticks with you? Like something that somebody said?
Um.. yeah. Actually- kind of what I just said. One of the teachers that was amongst the most amazing teachers that I’ve ever had in my life, was my sculpture teacher for the beginning part of Cornish, Ron Lambert. And, I remember one time (when) I did a piece and he gave me a lower grade on it than I really wanted to earn and I was like, “What’s that about!” and he was like, “C’mon, you didn’t give it your all. Do it again and I’ll change your grade“. It wasn’t about the grade, it was just about wanting to really “go there” with what I was trying to do. It was summer time so the grades were in and everything and he didn’t give me an assignment. He just said, “Give me something that’s really real for you” And I made something and he came over and he just… he kind of smiled and said, “I think you do a lot better when nobody’s telling you what to do.” And that really- that made me see myself in a different way. It’s really true. There’s something that shuts down in me when people are trying to guide me or tell me what to do
That actually makes me think of another question that I had for you as far as the whole WEEN coloring book thing that you made. Because you did that on your own, correct?
So, if you were commissioned or, beforehand, didn’t give them a close to final product and you thought they wanted something (specifically), do you think it would have been a lot more difficult for you to create something, if you were asked to make it?
Yeah. It really wouldn’t have been the same thing. It would have been like WEEN asking me to write them a love letter, y’know. I would have just been really corny and, maybe that would have been okay for some people, but what it turned out to be was so sincere from me, that I don’t think it would have been in any way the same.
I’ve been offered from various groups and people- I’ve been asked if I would be commissioned to do coloring books since the WEEN coloring book and I’ve said no. ‘Cuz that’s really like something that’s actually extremely important to me and my work now, is just not doing anything that’s isn’t completely real and soulful. Y’know, it sounds corny, but I feel religious almost about it.
Yeah, well as far as what you’re saying, it sounds like…. also along with that whole “Year of the Wrong” concept that you’re writing about- and I may be wrong- but it sounds like it kind of falls within the same realm of trying to work on things from a pure space
-and block out the idea of trying to appease anybody?
Is that a big thing for you?
That’s a huge thing. That’s one of the biggest things, because I think that’s the only way that you can really be real with what you’re doing. If you just don’t worry about anything but your internal compass. Trust that you are perfect exactly the way you are from the universe, and meant to be here to do something. And I just decided to follow that notion and really try to be as righteous as I can be to what I believe is good and what I believe is true and do that. And I will do it until I *laughs* am beyond eating sandwiches off the sidewalk. But I really think that if you do that and you are following your compass, things will work out… I think. They have so far, we’ll see.
Do you have a problem seeing what’s wrong- with seeing what you meant to do? Or have you gotten better with accepting praise on this and this, and….
I’m really good with detaching myself from the process and then the symbol that the piece is to other people. And once I’m done with a piece and I feel like I’ve gone through a sincere process with it, I’m totally through with it. I am happy to see them go, I don’t give a shit about them. It’s over for me. And I’m always equally interested in the negative feedback as I am with the positive. I’m just always interested to see what my work means to other people. And often I’m very surprised, but… whatever.
Anything specific that you’ve gotten that was completely not what you were even thinking?
Well, I’m always just surprised at how dark or scary people think some of my work is, when it’s really really not about that at all for me. But, I mean, life is scary and dark and stuff sometimes, but it’s not meant to be like horror or anything stupid like that. Yeah, what I’m often surprised by is how much people read into the work. Sometimes it means a lot more to somebody else than it even does to me.
Well even the concept of “Year of the Wrong“, it kind of seems like the exact opposite (than how it sounds) at the same time.
Yeah. I feel that way, definitely. I’ll be a wrong rider for, probably, my whole life. I’ve always been a wrong rider but, it was like “Year of my True Self“, in a way. Just like… fully commit to the rodeo. I’m still at the rodeo.
Duality. Is that an important concept to you? Does that play into anything?
Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. Although, that’s an extremely difficult concept to even disc-
It’s really general-
No, but that’s a very very dramatic them, I would say, in my life.
So let’s talk about WEEN for a minute.
‘Cuz, I like WEEN
I was wondering if you could mention when you first heard them or how long you’ve been listening to their music
I’ve been listening to them for like, 6 years. I always tell this story because I’ve never had anything do this to me before, but the first time I heard God Ween Satan -it was “Fat Lenny”, the first song I heard- and it was like he came out and punched me in the throat. And I just like… flew backwards onto my back in our apartment. It was the most retarded thing ever, but I couldn’t even get up afterward. It was like it knocked the wind out of my soul. I just laid there and listened to the album and was like, *with a slow shaky emotional exhale* “Wow.”
And I am not exaggerating when I say that for the next, probably 2years, I listened to 99% WEEN. Just all the WEEN. I did so many art projects to WEEN and they felt like a huge cosmic key to me.
Well, it’s not that weird to me. But it’s weird that so many people can say things like that.
I mean, even the fact that they can play where they can play, is amazing to me. ‘Cuz they always still seem like something that nobody else was listening to.
The first time that I was listening to them… I think I was like, 16? Everybody I know has this story- I was doing a lot of mushrooms and I was in a Datsun. I was listening to Pure Guava and I kept thinking, “Does this really sound like this, or am I creating this, because I am out of my head?“
That’s what that true essence is. They are just doing something that is their own fucking visceral catharsis for all of this shit that comes through them as artists. And it’s amazing and it’s beautiful and it’s totally unique, because they’re not trying to do anything other than play. Yeah, it was not even in the realm of the kind of music I really listened to before, but it really, totally changed everything
One of the longest things that I’ve been doing, as far as this website is concerned, I’ll always write something about WEEN. It’s been so easy to say, “Hey, we need Gene Ween tickets in Brooklyn” (they answer) “Okay“
It’s been so easy that it’s always been sitting there; this concept of , “I guess I could always go do an interview with them“, but I’ve always been hesitant about it. It’s always a little weird to me. It’s almost like, uh… I don’t wanna “get to0 close to the fantasy“. You made this thing and it was great, but were you hesitant about that idea that you were working with collapsing?
*laughing* I would say “hesitant” is much too weak of a word.
I was petrified, I was scared shitless. I mean… yeah. WEEN is definitely very significant in my symbolic reality and I didn’t ever imagine, “Oh, I wanna be best friends with them“. I’m not somebody who feels I need to meet people. I’m not that social, honestly. I was honestly trying to find as many excuses not to meet them as I could and then there came a point where I had to. You know, we had been working together and stuff and I was at a show. But I had opportunities to meet them long before I did
LARS: Thea totally ran and hid in the bushes after shows
*laughs* Yeah it was, uh..
We would hear stories of other people that knew Thea and knew that WEEN was probably expecting or hoping to meet her. And that she would be there, because they knew she was at the show. That was not something that she wanted to be a part of; that scene.
At the end of the show that inspired the coloring book for me, I had sent a couple pieces to Mickey (Melchiondo aka: “Dean Ween”) and he’d always written back, “I love them, I’m hanging them up in the studio” or whatever. And at the end of this show, he was leaving the stage and I just threw my hands in the air, and was screaming. He turned around and walked back and grabbed my hands and said, “Are you the artist?” and I thought I said, “Yes” but, apparently, I just said *drops jaw in silent awe* ‘cuz he said it again “ARE YOU THE ARTIST?!” and made a painting gesture and I just nodded and he was like, “Good shit.”
And that was just so overwhelming to me. I’m even shy standing in the front, although I like to because I really like to watch their faces. But it is weird, and it is weird now that I know them a little bit. I’ve never met Aaron (Freeman aka: Gene), um.. I’ve talked to him a bit, briefly back stage after shows. (I’ve) walked by him and been like, “Great show” and he’ll just go *does her version of big Gene Ween smirk*
So, a lot of your paintings, or your work with markers and what not, has a lot of these light beams or these things that cross in kind of an abstract fashion, just because it changes within the beams.
They’re almost like X-rays. I was wondering (about) the story behind the Pipeline Cafe image.
Gener or Deaner at Pipeline? Because there’s two.
The one with Mickey standing-
With the lions and stuff?
That was uh… Awwww…… I guess all I really can say about that is that was a version of “Don’t Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy” that I will never forget
So you remember the minute- these paintings are specific…..songs….?
All of my paintings are literal to me. Literal symbols, but literal of something that has actually been real in my life
Do a lot of them capture a moment? They’re not generally like “This show” or this-
No, no, they’re moments. Yeah. I mean, they’re moments with narratives but, thick moments.
You’ve got a lot of centaurs and animal heads in your paintings.
Is that just something you like to paint or is there something more to it?
Um, well… You’re talking about all my Danzig ponies?
Well, not just the Danzig ponies. Just that you have a lot of them where they are like centaurs or unicorns-
Yeah, I guess that’s true
And then you have animal heads-
Oh yeah, that’s true…. I like unicorns. But that’s getting really popular now, so I don’t like unicorns as much as I used to, but… I have a thing with carousels and I have all these carousel beasts that I really wanna make. I have a very strong vision of this unusual elevated carousel that feels like it’s in the sky. And it will be the best party *laughing* I’m really excited to make that some day.
I’m always leery of asking too specifically, because some things are intentionally symbolic and some things are just “Maybe they are and maybe they’re not” but you made them from some where. But I’ve noticed a lot of people wearing bear’s heads
Yeah, that’s true. I definitely relate to the spirit of animals -that sounds so corny, but that really does mean a lot to me; the animal spirits, and what not. Maybe that’s- my mom’s half Native American and I grew up with a lot of that… sort of, those stories. And just even fairy tales, there’s a lot of that animal spirit sort of thing. And yeah, so I do use certain animals to symbolize certain things. Most specifically, wolves symbolize death in a lot of my paintings and lions symbolize destiny. But, yeah… that’s all I can really…
It just seems to add some kind of strength in a lot of them or- It seems like sometimes you have to try to find it. You know how simplifying things sometimes can just kind of steal the soul out of them?
You kind of see it and then you have to break it down. I’ll try to break it down to form a question and then I’m kind of like, “Y’know, I really didn’t want to ask that question?“
There’s a lot of death in the art
A lot of grim reapers and things like that. It seems like it is really cathartic to create some of this stuff. (If) it’s a moment, is it a moment for you when you’re creating it also? Because, you’re capturing moments that happened-
-and then you’re in the moment you’re creating it. Are you putting these concepts out that are in your head like, “Death, let’s get this out here“?
No, I don’t think about- they’re like moments and feelings, actually. My different bodies of work really symbolize different processes, honestly. The more difficult work for me is the stuff when I’m trying to figure out my feelings with work. Because I don’t have a very good emotional vocabulary but, it’s definitely almost a journey into myself with some of these paintings. And as a result, I honestly -this is so true- I hate almost every single piece of work I have ever done. I think it’s ugly and I definitely wouldn’t choose to hang it in my house *looking towards Lars* even though this butthole goes around and hangs it up all the time. Yeah… it’s work….kind of.
Okay I read that you analyze- I don’t know where I saw this, where you said that you could tell a lot about people from the….. center of the face?
Oh yeah, definitely. I think probably everybody can though.
Is there more to that?
Well, it’s something that I’ve been really paying a lot of attention to my whole life and I got really into, as I started really paying attention to portraiture. And just kind of categorizing different shapes and different energy’s of peoples- that sounds kind of weird and crazy but it is literally something that is almost full proof for me and I go by it really really strongly
Is it just kind of an abstract thing or do you have a system at this point?
I mean, it’s an intuitive system. It’s not a system that I could probably teach or anything, although sometimes I’ll say to Lars, “Oh, y’know, see this? It’s the shape that means this or that“
She’s gotten better and better at calling it out in advance before you find out, because she so often guesses accurately. Whether it be specifics or astrological signs or something, but she’s definitely got a knack for it.
I want to ask you about astrology too, because I’m trying to keep it corny
Cool, because I’ve been studying astrology since I was a kid so, let’s keep it corny. I’m way big into astrology, yeah.
Well you keep saying, “This is corny” but, I’m so used to that stuff.
It’s real to me
So, you put a lot of stock in that, then?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve read as many books as I’ve been able to get my hands on about it since I was a kid. And I think that’s the only real way to start to understanding it, because the real fuck-ups happen in the language; the way people deliver this energy that has been studied for thousands and thousands of years about the cosmos. Y’know, one person’s delivery in a book can really fuck up the way people perceive the notion of that energy. But, I make most, if not all, of my major decisions based on the stars. Maybe it’s corny or whatever, but it works for me and I do feel the difference in my life when I ignore that stuff.
Um.. yeah, yeah. *with a somewhat devious look* Although, I feel like- No, the Danzig thing is just gonna make me seem crazy so, I don’t really know. I have special love for Glenn ,that’s all. And he is really shaped like a pony so I do like to draw him as a pony a lot because I just have this-
What, just like his stance?
His small muscular body and his dance moves. Have you seen that video for “She Rides”? The dance; he’s like, *simulating the Danzig jerky upper torso thrust*
He did that weird stallion pony move
I actually did see that about a week ago
Dude, that video is excellent. It has the classic 80’s thong in your face… man. But yeah, I love Danzig. And I love Danzig in a funnier way than Danzig loves himself, but I do actually love Danzig and a lot of it is because, I’ve watched a lot of Danzig interviews. I’ve watched the youtubes about Danzig talking about his book collection and talking about all of his martial arts and shit, and that guy does not give a FUCK what anybody thinks of him. He’s not trying to make friends, he’s just doing his thing. Danzig 1, Danzig 2, Danzig 3, Danzig 4, y’know? I don’t know, I kind of appreciate that. I really appreciate that. *giggling* He loves himself a lot.
You were a body builder?
*laughing* I WAS a body builder.
When was that?
I was really into lifting a few times a week- I think it was like-
-when we first got sober. And then I was like, “I’m gonna be a body builder“. I just- I DO love muscles. That’s part of why I like drawing horses and stuff, and watching rodeos-
*laughs* And Danzig, exactly. I wanted to sculpt my body. Being a crazy machine and just see how far it could go
You said it was once you “got sober“. Was it just a good place to channel your focus?
I was just… I needed to really regain some discipline in my life. I’m not sober anymore, but I was for like, 4 years. In that time, I really did a lot of work to build my personal will. I was in a really dark place and I just really needed to… to take a breather.
Did you get into the whole scene, or did you just work out?
I trained for a competitive fitness competition and I worked with some local champions. And it was really a bummer because they were totally positive that I was in better shape than anybody else who would be competing, because I build muscle really naturally, which is really fortunate. I did it totally supplement free. But these dickheads canceled the competition two days before the competition. And I had my ticket to San Francisco, Fitness America, and I had spent like- You don’t even want to know how much I- I had spent like my whole savings, at that point, on trying to do this. They canceled it and then they didn’t give me my money back and then they- it was really fucked up.
Was that the end of it for the fitness? Or, I mean, not the fitness but-
No, no. That was the end of the… I thought maybe I would do it again, but it was so much harder than I thought it was gonna be. I mean it was fucking insane. I ran for an hour every single day. I lifted weights for an hour and 20 minutes every other day, non stop. And I practiced my fitness routine, which was obscene. I did it for 8 hours a day. I have a lot of energy that I really need to manage.
Was that something that you created for them?
I did. I was needing to take a break from- I like writing love letters to people. I like sending anonymous cookies or drawings or stupid things to people. I can’t remember what it was, some show we were watching, and we watch a ton of South Park. I had this idea of the Matticorn and I did it and I dropped it off at the William Morris Talent Agency, when we were in L.A. I don’t know if it ever got to them. I’m assuming it did. I got a lot of hits on my website the next day from L.A. I just walked in and I asked the girl, “Can I leave this here for Trey and Matt” and she was like, “Oh, yeah” and I was like, “Are you sure they’ll get it?” and she was like, “Oh, yeah.” So, I’m guessing they got it. I hope they laughed. There was a Thomas Kincaid puzzle on the back. I didn’t do that intentionally, it was just the frame we found at Goodwill. It had a glued Thomas Kincaid puzzle on the back.
Your marker work looks a lot like the coloring book. I was wondering if those things came from each other. If, maybe, you outlined something and thought, “Yeah, this looks like a coloring book” or you were making the coloring books and you just colored them. Or are they just completely separate?
They’re really separate. I mean, I made the coloring book intending to make a coloring book so-
Was that the first one you’ve made?
Yeah, it was a totally random idea. And the marker stuff, I started it around the same time. I’d never done drawing, graphic shit. I mean, I’ve done a little when I was tattooing and that was the extent of my graphic experience, and it was really a different sort of thing. Yeah, the first marker drawing I ever did, I actually gave to WEEN. And now that I look back at it, I’m like, “That was so crappy”. But it was with tequila so it was okay *laughs*
So you painted the acrylics just thinking, “This needs to be in acrylic“?
I don’t even think about my images. I just start with a canvas and I just start painting. I don’t plan anything, but I do use acrylic exclusively because I’m too impatient for oil and I’m too messy for oil. I mean, there’s paint on the outside of our fucking door. I don’t have any idea how it got there. There’s paint on leaves on plants. It would be a disaster.
Do you think about that at all, as far as what medium you want to use? Do you have something you are comfortable with, like the acrylics, or do you really think about if you’re gonna- I mean, because some of the earlier stuff that I saw had like, paint chips on masonite and the one in there [the bathroom] has the ripped paper.
Was that like more, I don’t know, college oriented projects, things you were trying? Do you really think much about, “Hey, I need to mess with another medium“?
I just like change a lot. I don’t know. I just kinda go where I’m feeling. I mean, when I need to work more cerebrally in myself, I do drawing and, when I need to do work that’s really deeply emotional, I have to use paint. But, I mean, I can see myself using a completely different medium in a year and not be doing any paintings at all, it just depends. Honestly, a lot of the reason I choose the mediums that I’ve been choosing over the last year is just because, this is the space that we have and these are my financial constraints.
I’ve noticed that it always seems difficult to photograph paintings. Especially, the ones you have up at Cornish because they have that re-
What is that? You have those little-
It’s interference paint. The interference paint almost disappears from certain angles and pops up in different angles, so I always try to tell people, “Come down to the show because it will be really different in life” But yeah, it is really hard to document, but that’s all we have, since I don’t really show THAT much.
How important do you think it is, your trip? I mean, you did a road trip when you followed WEEN?
Mmmhmm. Well, we did one road trip only. And that was just one of the- We saw 9 shows in 9 months and the second to last show was a secret Myspace show that they didn’t announce until, like 2 days ahead of time. And it was a 19hr drive, so we just got in the car and drove out there. I was like, “Oh man, there’s no tickets. What if we don’t get it in?” Lars called Mickey and Mickey was like, “No problem, we’ll get you in.” So, we were just so excited. We were on cloud 9 the whole time, because I hate crowds. It’s really hard for me to go to those shows because it’s so intense being in those crowds and this was a 300 person venue, it was tiny. It was literally the best night of my life.
We didn’t start out planning to go on a tour. We did the one show and we were like, “Oh, we’ve got to go to another show” and then after that it was, “They’re playing in this place too“
Fucking addiction. And then we rolled through Europe
Well, Europe was planned, because we were like, “If we’re going to go to a show in Europe, then we’re going to hit all the shows in Europe. So how are we gonna do this?“
Oh, that hurt sooo bad.
That was a lot of planning and preparation down to the minute. We’re like, “Okay, shows over. We’ve gotta run, grab our shit, get on the train, leave the country, passport time, get ready for the show, here we are again. Hey!“
It was so intense
So that was kinda nuts, but other than that, all the shows have been like, “You wanna do another show?“
You’ve got a lot of tattoos. You don’t have a boognish or anything?
Never gonna happen? I didn’t think, so.
I respect everybody who wants the boognish but that is- I would never get a boognish
Just too cliche?
It’s just like, my tattoos are my symbols, y’know. Boognish is tattooed in my soul
A couple of people have Thea’s symbols tattooed on them now.
Yeah, that’s kind of weird
I just have 2 more questions I think. Obviously, you approach art from a personal place, like you were saying, “Your own symbols“.
Is there anybody that you have gone to just strictly for, maybe even technique? Anybody’s art that you refer to? Or maybe not even art, just something that you use as a reference.
*Thea pauses in thought*
I mean, I never really liked the questions about, “Who are you using for inspiration” because it always feels to me like you’re saying, “So who’s work are you trying to bite” but I just thought, maybe there was something
Yeah, for me there’s nothing that inspires me more than standing 4 feet in front of Dean Ween’s guitar, when he’s fucking going off live. That’s like my number 1 artistic inspiration of all time. I mean, I’ve never have found any artist, and I’m not really into art, honestly, for being an artist. I think most art is really… I just am not into it. I don’t know. I’ve gone to all the art museums. I went to New York and went and looked and spent the days in the art museums and it’s cool, but it doesn’t do it for me the way that that sonic awesomeness (does). It changes my brain to see that stuff live. It’s crazy. I’m just inspired by seeing people in the world that are doing something wholeheartedly. I think that that is so rare right now, that it doesn’t matter what form it comes in. I’m inspired by… I’m inspired by cowboys, bull riders. I’m inspired by people who do something that they believe is really righteous, y’know.
The whole WEEN connection makes sense to me, just because they’ve been doing it so long. It’s gotta be more difficult to try to do something if you “TRIED“
And I don’t think there’s anybody, except maybe The Talking Heads, that I’ve listened to consistently longer. To me it’s just this thing where, “Okay, that exists and that’s what it is” and they don’t really know how to look at it any other way.
And there are so few bands that can be around that long and not get lame. And when a band that’s awesome gets lame- Literally, every time I see Metallica I feel a little sick to my stomach now.
Don’t do it.
Oh, I don’t see them live, but just on commercials-
-or just see their fucking faces, I’m just like… Because I remember the long hair days. They were fucking siiick.
Before the eyeliner and the velvet shirts?
Before, they just SUCKED. And it’s so much worse to be awesome and then just suck.
I also think I read that you’re putting everything into a book
Yeah, we were actually gonna look at that today. We have it all together on the computer. We’re gonna order that, yeah. “Year of the Wrong“
And is that writing with that?
There’s a little bit of writing in there. I have a really good intro written by my, I guess, partner. He was my partner in crime for much of “Year of the Wrong“. Yeah, it’s gonna be “Year of the Wrong“. I don’t know, it’s crunchy and weird.
There’s a really good intro and it’s mostly a picture book, with photos of art-
There are some captions though
-a lot of excerpts, and kind of some explanations to tie it all together.
But I leave it pretty vague
I think I’m done
Most interviews, whether they are conducted via email or just prior to a musical performance, don’t allow for much time afterwards. The interraction ends when the camera or recorder is turned off. This one was different. A close friend of the couple showed up and the 5 of us continued to talk and hang out for a while. The conversation went in directions such as beaches and sunsets and I did a miserable job of trying to explain that cheesy-ass sindicated TV show Dance 360 to a room of blank faces. Thea stressed the immeasurable help that Dean Ween provided in making the coloring book a reality, as well as what a vital role Lars plays in her career, especially the technical aspects. Onsen helped the other 2 men fix a mailbox, while we were there, and the post-interview conversation with Wolfe covered everything from becoming lounge singers to Jehovah’s Witnesses to creating new terms in slang. I suggested that she become an artist who creates the paintings for the cover of Watchtower magazines and she assured me that she would try to start spreading my phrase “Terminal” (as in extremely ILL) around, before we left their house and headed back.
About a week later, I received an extensive and heartfelt email from Thea. She explained that she will often “clam up” in interviews and that she wanted me to know that she, somewhat, avoided the “honest answer” in reference to the death theme, because it can be hard for her to talk about. I don’t want to get too into it, but she explained that much of her art and imagery, especially the cloaked figures and wolves, are symbolic and have been used to help her grieve the passing of a someone incredibly close to her a few years back. She credits this person, “Will“, as one of the “biggest reasons” she’s doing what she is doing. From her message, his memory seems to provide a huge guiding force behind her work and she speaks of him more with inspiration than from a place of tragedy. I feel the importance of adding this because, in her letter she stated, “i felt like i should expound on just because it is important to me and my artwork“.
A month from now (May 23rd) Wolfe will be having a huge ONE NIGHT art show in Birmingham, Alabama, and it sounds amazing (show flyer in gallery below). It will also be the debut of her new book “Year of the Wrong“. She also states the following about the event:
“This party will not only feature art, but fireworks, cotton candy, meat, moonshine, whiskey, beer, music and a jousting castle. Oh yeah, and lawyers with bongo drums. Bueno?
If you are able to make it out, please do. If you are from out of town, there will be “plenty of room for tents (two acres!)“
For more info on Thea and the event, peep out these links:
(click images to enlarge)