Exene Cervenka

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Exene Cervenka
Exene.jpg
Exene Cervenka at The Chestnut Cabaret
Philadelphia, PA (July 1986)
Background information
Birth name Christene Cervenka
Also known as Exene
Exene Cervenková
Born (1956-02-01) February 1, 1956 (age 58)
Chicago, Illinois
United States
Origin Los Angeles, California
Genres Punk
Folk
Rock
Singer-songwriter
Occupations Poet
Musician
Visual artist
Collage
Instruments Vocals
Guitar
Years active 1978–present
Labels Bloodshot Records
Rhino Records
Kill Rock Stars
Nitro Records
2.13.61 Records
Rykodisc
Freeway Records
Associated acts X
The Knitters
John Doe
Auntie Christ
The Original Sinners
Website exenecervenka.net

Exene Cervenka (born Christene Lee Cervenka, February 1, 1956) is an American singer, artist, and poet, best known for her work as a singer in the Los Angeles punk rock band X.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Mokena, Illinois[2] in the Chicago, Illinois area, Cervenka moved to Tallahassee, Florida with her family, where she lived from age 13 to 20.[3][4] Cervenka dropped out of high school. After her mother died, she raised her sisters.[5]

Cervenka is of Irish and Czech ancestry.

Cervenka moved to Santa Monica, California, in the summer of 1976.[1]

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.[6][7]

Music career[edit]

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."[4] The 21-year old Cervenka met 23-year old musician John Doe at a poetry workshop at the Beyond Baroque Foundation in Venice, California.[8] According to Cervenka, they "went to see what this place was, sat next to each other, started talking." Cervenka started working there.[9]

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."[10] 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."[11]

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.[3]

SXSW 2010

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."[12] 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."[11]

Collaborations[edit]

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."[13]

From 1996 to 1999, John Roecker and Cervenka co-owned Los Angeles store "You've Got Bad Taste." The store specialized in kitsch and various "off-color" novelties.[14][15]

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.[16]

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."[17]

Art career[edit]

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."[4]

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"[4]

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.[18]

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."[19]

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."[19]

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.[20]

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.” [21]

Personal life[edit]

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.[8] Mortensen and Cervenka separated in 1992, and were divorced in 1997.[22]

Cervenka married musician Jason Edge, who went on to play in her band, Original Sinners.[7] 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."[2] Edge and Cervenka are now divorced.[23]

Cervenka moved from Los Angeles to Jefferson City, Missouri[8] for four years, and then returned to Southern California.[24] She now lives in Orange County.[25][26]

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?"[10]

Health[edit]

On June 2, 2009, Cervenka released a statement revealing that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.[27][28] 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.[29] 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.”[25][30]

However, Cervenka had to cancel a Spring 2011 tour due to problems associated with her MS.[31]

Notable performances[edit]

Discography[edit]

X[edit]

Singles, soundtracks, compilations, etc.[edit]

Albums[edit]

The Knitters[edit]

Solo[edit]

Bands[edit]

Other[edit]

  • 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.[16]
  • 2012: John Doe & Exene Cervenka: Singing and Playing (Moonlight Graham Records). Recorded at Way Station April 2–3, 2010.[37]

Additional musical contributions[edit]

Video[edit]

Works or publications[edit]

Exhibitions[edit]

One-person exhibitions[edit]

Two-person exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]

Exhibition catalogs[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Exene Cervenka: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Scher Zagier, Alan (June 11, 2008). "Exene Cervenka: Exile in the Ozarks". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Burk, Greg (July 24, 2002). "She Had To Stay". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Laughlin, Jamie (December 30, 2013). "Exene Cervenka on the Pending Alien Invasion and the Decline of Authenticity". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Shein Win, Maw; Kathleen Munnelly. "La Boheme: Checking in with Exene Cervenka". Comet Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Darling, Nikki (July 14, 2009). "B-Side Stories: X, the Whisky A-Go-Go, a Tragic Night, and 'Under the Big Black Sun'". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Yokoland. "Exene Cervenka". Swindle Magazine. Archived from the original on February 28, 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Trucks, Rob (May 20, 2008). "Interview: Exene Cervenka of X". Village Voice. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "Exene Cervenka - Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Artist" (audio interview). Storytellers. Blog Talk Radio. July 3, 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b http://www.rockerzine.com/index.php/2011/03/exene-cervenka-high-priestess-of-punk/
  11. ^ a b Kay, Tony (April 24, 2010). "More Fun in the New World: Exene Cervenka of X, Interviewed". The SunBreak. Archived from the original on April 24, 2010. 
  12. ^ Ratliff, Ben (August 18, 2006). "X Serves Up Nostalgia for the Good Old Days of Punk and Poverty". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Palmer, Robert (November 3, 1982). "The Pop Life; 2 Rock Queens Turn to Literature". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Business: Diary; Who Says 'Nobody Ever Went Broke . . . '?". New York Times. March 21, 1999. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Lecaro, Lina (February 28, 2006). "Punk Puppet Apocalypse". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Decoupage 2000". Decoupagetv.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  17. ^ Geller, Lynn (Winter 1992). "Exene Cervenka". BOMB (38). Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Saidi, Janet (July 9, 2008). "Exene Cervenka: From X To Missouri". NPR. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  19. ^ a b Epstein, Daniel Robert (April 9, 2006). "Exene Cervenka". Suicide Girls. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  20. ^ Cruz, Araceli (May 20, 2008). "Double-Exene-rated". Village Voice. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Reyes-Kulkarni, Saby (June 4, 2008). "Magical Meteorite". New York Press. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  22. ^ Heller, Zoe (December 2, 2011). "Viggo Talks and Talks". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  23. ^ McCall, Michael (February 4, 2010). "Somewhere Gone from Exene Cervenka". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  24. ^ Lewis, Randy (October 6, 2009). "Keeping up with Exene Cervenka". L.A. Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Fadroski, Kelli Skye (June 1, 2011). "Exene tells it straight on X, illness and O.C.". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Zaleski, Annie (October 21, 2009). "Somewhere Out There: Exene Cervenka's new solo record, Somewhere Gone, has strong roots in Missouri". Riverfront Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  27. ^ "A Statement from Exene Cervenka". Bloodshot Records. June 2, 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Radford, Chad (February 1, 2010). "Despite her MS diagnosis, Exene Cervenka lives for the moment". Creative Loafing. Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  29. ^ Cervenka, Exene (June 2, 2009). "A Statement from Exene Cervenka". ExeneCervenka.com. Archived from the original on July 30, 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  30. ^ Ohanesian, Liz (October 6, 2006). "Exene Cervenka Returns to Southern California". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "Exene Cervenka Cancels Tour". Bloodshot Records. April 4, 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  32. ^ Palmer, Robert (June 23, 1982). "Pop Life; New Album Shows X Has Grown". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  33. ^ Pareles, Jon (July 20, 1995). "Pop Review; John Doe and Exene Go a Little Bit Country". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  34. ^ Pareles, Jon (October 29, 1989). "Reviews/Music; Half of X Equals Cervenka". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  35. ^ Gray, Chris (January 27, 2010). "Inquiring Minds: Exene Cervenka on Losing a Friend, Weeping Willows, Albums as Collage and Her Good Buddy Biscuit". Houston Press. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  36. ^ Steffens, Charlie (March 2011). "An Interview with Exene Cervenka". AMP Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  37. ^ Bose, Lilledeshan (May 23, 2012). "How Exene Cervenka Came to Rule Over the Boy's Club". KCET. KCETLink. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  38. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 21, 1986). "Film: 'Unheard Music'". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  39. ^ "Kevin Costner in a "Lost" Western Movie Found and Released Exclusively Online". Bad Day Movie. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  40. ^ Derrick, Lisa (July 20, 2010). "Bad Day: Kevin Costner's Secret Movie Released Online". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  41. ^ Bartruff, James (August 17, 1986). "Fiction : Poetry Loves Poetry, edited by Bill Mohr; photographs by Sheree Levin.". L.A. Times. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  42. ^ "Exene Cervenka Interview". Shaved Neck. June 26, 2002. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  43. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 1, 2006). "Viggo Mortensen’s Unusual Role: Indie Publishing Mogul". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 

External links[edit]