Inside the mind and journals of Exene Cervenka

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Exene Cervenka: Punk rocker, collage artist

“It’s a strange time in which we live,” says the punk rock singer and visual artist Exene Cervenka as we sit inside the gallery at Bergamot Station that’s readying an exhibit of her artwork. “I’m glad I didn’t grow up now.”

Cervenka says she couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be on the road with her band, X, now. Back in the ’80s, she found herself so inspired by the local curiosities that dotted the roads and towns they traveled en route to gigs that she recorded what she saw–Exene-style–in journals.

She’d tack odd ephemera she collected into the books, ticket stubs and cocktail napkins and the like and embellish them with writing, all the while developing a style of collage. “Our road manager found a waitress schedule. That’s a shower cap from the room, and I had some red construction tape,” she said, showing off her journals. “Back then glue was better, just like hairspray.”

Ten journals will be on display; the pages will be turned each day throughout the exhibition
Ten journals will be on display at Sloan Projects; the pages will be turned each day throughout the exhibition

If you’re not familiar with Cervenka, or her more recent notoriety in propagating conspiracy theories, she is nonetheless an interesting example of someone who made it in one art and managed to cross over into another. She shrugs it off. “Why would you not want to draw?” she wondered. “Sometimes people look at artists or musicians as being extraordinarily gifted people. We’re just people who never grew up.”

Starting this Saturday at the new gallery called Sloan Projects, you can see evidence of Cervenka’s visual art. Curator Kristine McKenna has culled 10 “shimmering stars of genius” from among hundreds of Cervenka’s journals, as well as some of her larger works.

“She has a very sophisticated collage sensibility,” said McKenna, who has known Cervenka since right after she arrived in LA in 1976 from Florida in a yellow Pinto “with a paper bag and a tweed suitcase and 180 dollars.”

As for Cervenka, she’s just happy to have experienced the U.S. pre-globalization. “I didn’t make the f-ing reality on the planet,” she said. “But I can make art out of it.”

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The Dust of Sunlight: Exene Cervenka Journals and Collages 1974-2015 Sloan Projects, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, Building B opens this Saturday June 6.  Reception and book signing 6-8pm.

You can hear X at Sound in Focus on August 8.