Exene Cervenka at The Chestnut Cabaret
Philadelphia, PA (July 1986)
|Birth name||Christene Cervenka|
|Also known as||Exene
February 1, 1956 |
Kill Rock Stars
The Original Sinners
- 1 Early life
- 2 Music career
- 3 Art career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Discography
- 6 Works or publications
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Born in Mokena, Illinois in the Chicago, Illinois area, Cervenka moved to Tallahassee, Florida with her family, where she lived from age 13 to 20. Cervenka dropped out of high school. After her mother died, she raised her sisters.
Cervenka is of Czech and Irish ancestry.
Cervenka had an older sister, Mirielle, a jewelry designer who lived in New York City. During a 1980 visit to L.A., while en route to the Whisky A Go-Go nightclub to see X, Mirielle was hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light, and was killed instantly.
Cervenka said that when she moved to California in 1977, she moved in with a friend: "I got a job program grant because I was a high school drop out, and there were poetry workshops and John [Doe] went the same night I went, and we met." The 21-year-old Cervenka met 23-year-old musician John Doe at a poetry workshop at the Beyond Baroque Foundation in Venice, California. According to Cervenka, they "went to see what this place was, sat next to each other, started talking." Cervenka started working there.
Billy Zoom and John Doe founded X. "A lot of people think John Doe and I formed X but it was really John and Billy." Doe asked Cervenka to join soon after. They released their debut album, Los Angeles, in 1980 and, over the next six years, five more critically acclaimed albums.
Dave Alvin taught Cervenka how to play the guitar. Cervenka said Alvin "taught me the main chords—D, G, A and E. And then I just picked it up from there. That was in the late eighties. We were on tour with the Knitters. He said, 'I'll show you some chords,' and he set me on my way."
Cervenka has been described as "punk-rock legend by night, schoolteacher and librarian by day." Cervenka worked part-time at her son's school library.
On the close harmonies that are unique to X, "It's been 20 years since they were married, but for the purposes of the set they might still have been. There was still the gliding in and out of harmony between the different voices: Mr. Doe hitting his pitches squarely, Ms. Cervenka indicating hers and then sliding off with an edge of complaint.... There is a grace in their connection, a kind of swing, eerily well preserved. It’s hard to look like a rock star in middle age, and some of the band members bore out that axiom. But one thing you can be is married, at least in a song." Cervenka said, "John taught me how to sing by pulling out an acoustic guitar, and we'd sing Hank Williams songs. That's how he was trying to teach me how to sing."
In 1982, Cervenka published her first in a series of four books, Adulterers Anonymous, in collaboration with artist Lydia Lunch. Cervenka described the collaboration: "Writing is what we both do all the time," said Cervenka. "We both do a lot of writing in notebooks and that's where our song lyrics come from. We just decided to edit some of that writing and put in a book."
In 1999, as Exene Červenková, she appeared in the cult video Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess, along with guests Karen Black and the band L7. She gave a reading of her poem "They Must Be Angels," and appeared in an interview skit with Decoupage 2000 hostess Summer Caprice.
On writing poetry: "What is poetry? It’s just words; I’m a writer. I don’t think there’s any difference in writing songs, or poetry, or letters. I’ve written letters that were turned into songs—two, as a matter of fact."
Asked when she started making art, Cervenka said, "I started when I was a small child, and somehow they never managed to beat it out of me, so I kept going."
I've been going to thrift stores since I was 12 and that was my first mind-opening experience: seeing all of this antique type stuff that was just for a quarter. "Here's Grandpa's old overalls." I'm like, are you kidding me? It's people's lives, just being discarded like that.... While I think that stuff is inherently beautiful visually, I think it has this other power because it has life. It's real, not manufactured crap.—Exene Cervenka, "Exene Cervenka on the Pending Alien Invasion and the Decline of Authenticity"
In 2005, her journals and mixed media collages were exhibited in a one-person exhibition titled America the Beautiful at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The exhibit was curated by Kristine McKenna and Michael Duncan. An expanded version of the exhibition traveled to DCKT Contemporary in New York in January 2006.
The exhibition featured a selection of journals from the collection of approximately 100 that Cervenka has completed over the past 30+ years, as well as 18 collages. Cervenka's journals combine rough drafts of songs and personal reflections rendered in a baroque calligraphic script with photographs, drawings and scraps of ephemera found while traveling as a musician. Similarly, the collages are created from found materials to form an interpretative composite portrait of the country she's come to know through her life experiences on the road. DCKT Contemporary continues to represent her artwork.
On doing collage: "It's really fun. I really love it. Making collages is just like gambling because when you're gambling all you're thinking about is the next card or the next roll of the dice. You can't think about your taxes. You can't think about your cat. You can't think about anything else except if those things are going to line up. It's a wonderful mental break from reality. It's the same thing with making collages because all you've got is millions of little things that you've collected and all you're thinking about is what to glue to the next piece. It's this wonderful respite from reality. All that matters is this thing you're focused on and making this beautiful piece of art. Generally it works out. Sometimes you make stuff and you go, Well, that's not so great. But I'm really addicted to it because it frees my mind from other things."
On where she finds collage materials: "It used to be stuff I found on the street, but America's garbage has changed in the last 30 years. Now all you find is McDonald's wrappers.... Now it's more like building things out of what I already have. It's hard to find stuff that's distinctively weird. Also things that are really mundane can take on this other aspect when it's juxtaposed to something weird. Collages are neat because all the elements can be meaningless, but once they're put together, then they can constitute something else."
Cervenka is a multi-faceted artist: "I have to go back and forth between writing, music, and art or I'd go crazy," says Cervenka.
For Cervenka, the collage format holds a special appeal: “It’s perfect for me,” she explains, “because it’s a mix of the past and the present. Everything Americana that I can find that I like, I can make art out of. The possibilities are endless. The mixture of coincidence and intent is just genius. I think the medium itself has got its own genius in it. Because there’s all this coincidence. You just find something off the street and you incorporate it in your art and it becomes this running theme. And then you have this whole new place to go.” 
Cervenka was married to John Doe from 1980 to 1985. Cervenka met her second husband, Viggo Mortensen, in 1986 on the set of the comedy Salvation!, a parody of televangelism. Mortensen played her husband, Jerome. They married on July 8, 1987. On January 28, 1988, Cervenka gave birth to a son, Henry Blake Mortensen. Mortensen and Cervenka lived in Idaho for three years. They separated in 1992, and were divorced in 1997.
Cervenka married musician Jason Edge, who went on to play in her band, Original Sinners. Cervenka and Edge met "in 1999 at a St. Louis concert by the Honkeys, a surf-punk instrumental band Edge played in. They married on a Mississippi River boat in a ceremony presided over by El Vez, a.k.a. longtime L.A. punk fixture Robert Lopez." Edge and Cervenka are now divorced.
Cervenka credited her ongoing successful relationship to her first husband and current songwriting partner Doe with this: "Thing is John and I are soul mates. His daughter and my son were born in the same hospital delivered by the same doctor on the exact same day. You can’t plan something like that. It just so happened the he and his wife had sex and me and my husband had sex on the same day and nine months later it happened. How do you plan that?"
On June 2, 2009, Cervenka released a statement revealing that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Well before this diagnosis, she and X have actively supported Sweet Relief, a charity that aids uninsured artists. Sweet Relief was begun by musician Victoria Williams when she herself was diagnosed with MS. In 2011, Cervenka said she may have been misdiagnosed. "My doctor doesn't think I have MS anymore. He thought I had a virus, like a killer virus, then he decided I don't have that either. All I do is get tested – blood tests all the time. I go to a different doctor and they tell you something different, go to another one and they'll tell you something different. I've had so many doctors tell me I have MS, then some say I don't … I don't even care anymore."
However, Cervenka had to cancel a Spring 2011 tour due to problems associated with her MS.
Cervenka, as a self-styled "conspiracy therapist" has recently provoked controversy on social media and on YouTube, under the name "Christine Notmyrealname" by advancing conspiracy theories including the view that the Santa Barbara shootings were a hoax designed to bring about stricter gun control laws. After the backlash, she has issued an apology on her Facebook and Twitter accounts and the conspiracy related YouTube videos are no longer available for viewing.
Singles, soundtracks, compilations, etc.
- 1978: Adult Books/We're Desperate 7" (Dangerhouse Records)
- 1979: Yes L.A. compilation (Dangerhouse Records)
- 1980: The Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack (Spheeris Films/Slash Records): "Beyond and Back," "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene," "Nausea," "Unheard Music," "We're Desperate"
- 1980: No Questions Asked by Flesh Eaters (Slash Records)
- 1982: Urgh! A Music War soundtrack (A&M Records)
- 1980: Los Angeles (Slash Records)
- 1981: Wild Gift (Slash Records)
- 1982: Under the Big Black Sun (Elektra Records)
- 1983: More Fun in the New World (Elektra Records)
- 1986: Ain't Love Grand! (Elektra Records)
- 1987: See How We Are (Elektra/Asylum Records)
- 1988: Live at the Whisky a Go-Go (Elektra/Asylum Records)
- 1993: Hey Zeus! (Big Life Records)
- 1995: Unclogged (Infidelity Recordings/Sunset Boulevard)
- 1997: Beyond and Back: The X Anthology (Elektra Records)
- 2004: The Best: Make the Music Go Bang! (Elektra/Rhino Records)
- 2005: X – Live in Los Angeles (Shout! Factory)
- 1985: Poor Little Critter on the Road (Slash/Rhino Records)
- 2005: The Modern Sounds of the Knitters (Zoë Records)
- 1989: Old Wives' Tales (Rhino Records)
- 1990: Running Sacred (RNA (Rhino New Artists))
- 1994: Exene Cervenka (Wordcore Volume 7) 7" (Kill Rock Stars)
- 1996: Surface To Air Serpents (213CD/Thirsty Ear Recordings)
- 2009: Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot Records)
- 2011: The Excitement of Maybe (Bloodshot Records)
- 1997: Life Could Be A Dream as Auntie Christ (Lookout Records)
- 2002: Original Sinners as Original Sinners (Nitro Records)
- 2006: Sev7en as Exene Cervenka and the Original Sinners (Nitro Records)
- 1985: Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka: Twin Sisters LP (Freeway). Poetry performance recorded at McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA on February 1, 1985.
- 1995: Lydia Lunch & Exene Cervenka: Rude Hieroglyphics (Rykodisc). Recorded live at the Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando, FL on March 20, 1995.
- 1999: Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess. Read poem "They Must Be Angels" and appeared in an interview skit.
- 2012: John Doe & Exene Cervenka: Singing and Playing (Moonlight Graham Records). Recorded at Way Station April 2–3, 2010.
Additional musical contributions
- 1994: Applegate, Christina, and Elizabeth Pena. Across the Moon. Los Angeles, CA: Hemdale Home Video, 1994. ISBN 978-1-569-20068-1 Music composed by Christopher Tyng & Exene Cervenka
- 1996: Honor: A Benefit for the Honor the Earth Campaign (Daemon Records). "The Future is a War" by Exene Cervenka
- 1997: G.I. Jane original soundtrack (Hollywood Records). "The Future is a War" by Auntie Christ
- 1999: One Man's Meat by Viggo Mortensen (Lightning Creek). Features Exene Cervenka on vocals, guitar
- 2000: Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors (Elektra Records). "Children of Night" by Perry Farrell and Exene
- 2001: Punk-o-rama 2001, Vol. 6 (Epitaph Records). "We're Desperate" by Pennywise with Exene
- 2002: Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three (Sanctuary). "Wasted" by Exene Cervenka
- 2009: The People Speak original soundtrack (Verve Records). "See How We Are" by Exene Cervenka & John Doe
- 2011: Kings and Queens by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (Dramatico). "Made of Love" featuring Exene Cervenka
- Urgh! A Music War (1982)
- X: The Unheard Music (1985/1987, video; 1986/1987/2004, DVD; re-released 2011 Silver Anniversary Edition)
- X - Live in Los Angeles (2005) – Shout! Factory: Concert by X in Los Angeles recorded live on November 26 and 27, 2004 ISBN 978-0-738-93185-2
Works or publications
- Lunch, Lydia, and Exene Cervenka. Adulterers Anonymous. New York: Grove Press, 1982. ISBN 978-0-394-62412-9
- The 1984 Calendar of Olympic Games, Music & Orwellian Dates. 1984, n.d.. Produced by M. Hyatt, Exene Cervenka and 53 mail artists from around the world.
- Bad Day: A Short Film by Modi Frank and Exene Cervenka. (1986)
- Mohr, Bill, and Sheree Levin. Poetry Loves Poetry: An Anthology of Los Angeles Poets. Santa Monica, CA: Momentum Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0-936-05450-6
- Jarecke, Kenneth, and Exene Cervenka. Just Another War. Joliet, Mont: Bedrock Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0-963-47840-5
- Cervenka, Exene. Virtual Unreality. Los Angeles: 2.13.61 Publications, 1993. ISBN 978-1-880-98515-1
- Cervenka, Exene. "Consumption." Details Magazine, July 1993. (poem)
- Cervenka, Exene. "Acres of Defeat." Raygun Magazine, Dec./Jan 1993. (article)
- Cervenka, Exene. "Midnight Black." L.A. Weekly Magazine, Best of L.A. Issue, 1993. (poem)
- Lake, Bambi, and Alvin Orloff. The Unsinkable Bambi Lake: A Fairy Tale Containing the Dish on Cockettes, Punks, and Angels. San Francisco: Manic D Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-916-39742-5 Introduction by Exene Cervenka
- Snowden, Don, and Gary Leonard. Make the Music Go Bang!: The Early L.A. Punk Scene. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997. ISBN 978-0-312-16912-1 "Halos Above Our Horns" by Exene Cervenkova. (essay)
- Rollins, Henry. The Best of 2.13.61 Publications. Los Angeles: 2.13.61 Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-1-880-98562-5 (excerpts from "Virtual Unreality")
- Maybe, Ellyn, and Exene Cervenka. The Cowardice of Amnesia. Los Angeles: 2.13.61 Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-1-880-98558-8
- Hyatt, Michael, and Exene Cervenka. Lucky 13 Postcards. Los Angeles, Calif: s.n., 2000.
- Cervenka, Exene. A Beer on Every Page. 2002.
- Jocoy, Jim, Thurston Moore, and Exene Cervenka. We're Desperate: The Punk Photography of Jim Jocoy : SF/LA 78–80. New York, NY: PowerHouse Books, 2002. ISBN 978-1-576-87156-0 "Slivery Moon" (essay)
- Kihn, Greg. Carved in Rock: Short Stories by Musicians. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003. ISBN 978-1-560-25453-9 features short story "Perfect World from Virtual Unreality" by Exene Cervenka
- Cervenka, Exene, and Viggo Mortensen. Magical Meteorite Songwriting Device: Collages. Santa Monica, CA: Perceval Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-976-30092-2
- America the Beautiful. Santa Monica Museum of Art (September 17 – November 26, 2005)
- America the Beautiful. DCKT Contemporary (January 7 – February 11, 2006)
- A Fifth of Tomorrow. Collages and journals. Western Project (June 9 – July 14, 2007)
- Sleep in Spite of Thunder. DCKT Contemporary (May 23 – July 18, 2008)
- Exene Cervenka and Wayne White: We’re Not The Jet Set. Paintings, collages and sculptures. Western Project (July 25 – September 5, 2009)
- Hollywood Satan. Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (December 5–25, 1998)
- Forming: The Early Days of L.A. Punk. Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (April 10 – June 15, 1999)
- Capital Art: On the Culture of Punishment. Track 16 Gallery, Santa Monica, CA (February 3 – March 31, 2001)
- Cruel And Unusual: A Benefit For The West Memphis Three. sixspace, Los Angeles, CA (2003)
- Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk. Claremont Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (May 18 – August 31, 2008); Museo de las Artes, Universidad de Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico (2008–2009)
- Yard Dog, Austin, TX (2009)
- Celestial Ash: Assemblages from Los Angeles. Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA (April 11 – September 13, 2009)
- Western Project: The First Six Years. Western Project, Culver City, CA (November 7 – December 30, 2009)
- Tanya Batura / Exene Cervenka / Amir H. Fallah / Will Yackulic. Western Project, Culver City, CA (August 14 – September 11, 2010)
- Never Can Say Goodbye, No Longer Empty. at former Tower Records Store, West 4th Street & Broadway, New York, NY (2010)
- Girls Just Want to Have Funds. P.P.O.W Gallery, New York, NY (2010)
- DCKT @ Miami Project. Midtown Art District (December 3–8, 2013)
- Bessy, Claude, and Edward Colver. Forming: The Early Days of L.A. Punk. Santa Monica, CA: Smart Art Press, 2000. ISBN 978-1-889-19544-5 Track 16 Gallery (April 10 – June 5, 1999). Cervenka was co-editor, essay: "Forming: the Early Days of L.A. Punk"
- Botey, Mariana, and Pilar Perez. Capitalart: On the Culture of Punishment. Santa Monica, CA: Smart Art Press, 2001. ISBN 978-1-889-19546-9 Track 16 Gallery (February 3 – March 31, 2001)
- Cervenka, Exene. Exene Cervenka: America the Beautiful. Santa Monica, CA: Smart Art Press, 2005.
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