Performance art is taking baby steps in the Denver area, with such standouts as former RedLine resident Esther Hernandez and the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design New Genres Collective. But we haven’t yet seen the likes of Christie Blizard, a San Antonio-based artist who will bring her art to Denver this week. Her mesmerizing performances as an alien DJ who inhabits the bodies of celebrities within a multimedia backdrop are blowing minds in art museums, at Burning Man and, randomly, in morning talk-show videotapes.
Blizard didn’t start out as a performer and maverick pop-culture critic; painting was her specialty in grad school at Georgia State University, a performance-oriented program. “I did a lot of traditional painting through school and then moved into more concept-based work,” she says. “That helped me get a tenure-track job in west Texas, which I left, and then I got another job in San Antonio.”
In Texas, her performative practice blossomed. “It was the move that helped me in my work,” Blizard recalls. “I learned to confront my fear. When I moved to San Antonio, I started doing various acts where painting and performance overlap: I sky-dived with a painting. I mud-wrestled with a painting. I ran a marathon track with a painting strapped on my back. lt’s been a long journey.”
Influenced by the experimental work of pandrogenous occultist Genesis P-Orridge and outsider cult figure Daniel Johnston, Blizard overcame those fears to develop her own bizarre performance style and characters.
“It’s a hard thing to be a real artist,” she says. “It’s kind of otherworldly. [P-Orridge and Johnston] seem to have crossed over in a way that’s rare — one that I aspire to, too. They are visionary without being commercial. They haven’t compromised their work to the detriment of their lives. They are so committed.”
Working toward her own commitment to art, Blizard began to channel stolen and anonymous personas. She started showing up in multiple audience shots on Today and Good Morning America, boldly displaying anomalous hand-painted signs with slogans like “Born to Run” or “I Feel Like You Know.” Then the networks caught up with her shenanigans, putting an end to that two-year run. “NBC did facial recognition on me. GMA asked me to leave the audience,” she notes.
Since then, Blizard has persisted in inhabiting celebrity characters like Matt Lauer (as “an expression of media as a facade, like the face we wear”) and movie stars including Elle Fanning, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence: “I found an oversized, flat Scarlett Johansson mask from the Internet — I can get anybody's face online.”
The masks form a portal through which her “android avatar” persona can inhabit celebrity bodies. “Media silences the artist, but as an emotionless alien, I’m able to express much more,” she explains. Movement, video projections and her own electronic soundscape magnify the surreality of the moment, taking a darker turn.
“I try to channel what I refer to as spirits that can help people transition after death, as a harbinger of transition,” Blizard continues. “It’s dark but optimistic: The idea is to shock people in order to disarm them.”
In the audience, you might feel uncomfortable, Blizard admits: “Often there’s weird laughter, but I’m interested in the idea that it’s a border between funny and insane. Ultimately, it’s a way to connect with people in a way they’ve not experienced before.”
She’d rather keep quiet about most details regarding the Denver version of Sinusoidal, an ongoing project for Blizard since 2017. But she does reveal that she’ll be wearing a new costume, and she'll definitely be performing her experimental music series with a video loop on the projector. “I would say it’ll be the most complex performance I've done to date,” she says.
Prepare for a preternatural experience.
Christie Blizard will give an artist talk and performance demo at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16 (postponed from March 14), at Black Cube Headquarters, 2925 South Umatilla Street; learn more on the Black Cube website.
Blizard will perform Sinusoidal on Friday, March 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Peralta Projects, 747 Elati Street. In addition, Peralta will screen videos of her work on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. through April 7. Learn more about Sinusoidal online.
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