Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lana Gramlich Interview, Part I

Mississippi Queen Lana Gramlich (used by permission).

After checking out the "Artist Interview With Lana Gramlich" at Whopple recently, I was too intrigued not to seek an additional interview:

Using that interview as a baseline, I asked Lana several new questions, and she graciously answered all of them, including a follow-up.  Links to her sites are provided at the end of each part. 

Erik: When you decided to become an artist, were you inspired by other artists and their work, or did you just take to it?
Lana: It was a combination of those factors, really. I was always artistically inclined, but I was particularly inspired by a poster of a unicorn in my 2nd grade art teacher’s classroom. I wanted to produce beautiful things to decorate with and look at, too. I wanted someone to be as moved by my work as I had been by that poster.
Erik: By what arc or path did you find yourself also working in a library in Louisiana?
Lana: Around the time of Hurricane Katrina, I had a fairly stressful, low-morale job that really wasn’t worth the money, as far as I was concerned (particularly as new hires post-Katrina were immediately making a LOT more than I was, after 2+ years on the job and repeated “employee of the month” awards.) I was coming home utterly exhausted every day, and hadn’t felt good mentally or emotionally in a long time. Knowing I was reaching the end of my rope, I started looking for other opportunities. I was delighted to see an opening at the local library system. It was only part-time, but after reviewing my financial needs, I realized I could make it work. I’d bring less home, but I’m not much for material goods, anyway, and I’d have much more free time. It would be perfect; I could still cover my bills AND I could fully engage in my long-neglected art career. Within just a few weeks of starting at the library I was feeling a whole lot better and more energetic. My manager told me they had a spot at the branch in my home town, if I wanted it. I jumped at the chance and have been there ever since. Ironically, when I first moved to the area (in 2006,) I once daydreamed about how cool it would be to work at our local branch. In retrospect, my daydream was right.
Erik:  Can you say more about working as a carny, or other jobs?
Lana: When I was about 13 or 14, my mother was dating a gangster gun-runner. He worked at fairs throughout New York running a (bogus) handwriting analysis machine as a cover for his less-than-savory exploits. Most people would probably be surprised at how infiltrated their local and state fairs are by organized crime, but that’s another story. Unfortunately my brother and I were forced to work the handwriting analysis machine (and later other booths,) during the summers. We’d pack up and leave the day that school got out & we’d get back home in the wee hours of the 1st day of the next year of school, so we literally had no free time over the summer. Instead of hanging out with friends, etc., we were working 14-16 hour days for no real pay. Unfortunately we weren’t the only child laborers there. Children were everywhere—running rides and games, vending food, jewelry, etc., even participating in shows. Representatives from the state taxation department usually showed up early at every fair to make sure the state would get its fair share, but they didn’t seem to mind all of the child laborers they saw.
Not only were conditions generally dangerous where the fair was concerned (i.e., set up & take down of rides, working around hot oil, etc.,) but other carnies were dangerous, too, not to mention the potential for harm I endured living in a tent next to a motor home full of guns. In one instance an undercover officer stopped my golf cart, jumped in and insisted that I chase down someone with a gun. One summer someone poisoned our dog. That same summer I was raped by a carny. He was 25. I was 15 at the time, and a virgin. My “mother” (who was merely married to the lawyer who purchased my brother and I on the black market years before)* dismissed my accusation with derision and ridicule. She and her gangster boyfriend were raking in the dough at our expense, and she never cared much for me, anyway.
*[Follow-up]: My brother and I were both bought virtually as soon as we were born. I don’t know the exact details on him, but I was NY-bound at 3 days old (even though I was a 3lb preemie,) so my deal went down within days (if not hours,) of my birth. Growing up we were always told we were “adopted,” but as I got older (particularly in my teens,) I realized that the story didn’t add up. There was nothing about paperwork, waits, interviews or adoption agencies. It was just “we got a call that you were born and we went down to get you.” Years later my Aunt confirmed my suspicions and told me much of the story. My brother had cost $30K. I was a bit more, since I was a second child going to the same person. With the advent of the internet I did some research and learned that there was a HUGE black market for kids in the U.S. (right up until 1990, actually.) I unearthed particular information about babies of unwed, teenage mothers in South Florida (where my brother and I were both born,) being sent to NY (where we were raised,) ASAP. Horrifically, in some cases the mothers were left completely out of the decision.

Eye Candy Visual Arts:
Lana’s Personal Blog:

Today's Rune: Possessions.

Scenes from the Ame...
By Lana Gramlich


the walking man said...

The more fucked up the childhood the broader the possibility for the better movement to break free the chain that binds you to it.

In spite of it all you have found your place and are content in it Lana and that is far and away better than most.

Be Well


jodi said...

Erik, congrats on a great interview! No wonder Lana's art is so rich, what with her vast experience and eye on the world. Lana, amazing! You better get Charles to pen that intriging story!

Charles Gramlich said...

Yep, my wife is tough as they come, although she seems to be a bit of a softy when it comes to her hubby.

Great interview, although hard for me to read in places certainly,

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks, y'all. I appreciate the kind comments. :)

JR's Thumbprints said...

JeezzzzzZus ... halfway through your interview and I'm thinking about the f'd-up job I have, then I read about your origins. You're a better person for it. Damn fine interview!

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks, JR. We all have our "stuff," certainly. I'm just glad I got out alive. ;)

skdd said...

Great interview and sweet Lana and your brother, I wish you hadn't had to grow up this way. The true inspiration is how you have blossomed into the light you always carried within! Warmest hugs.


Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks, Theresa. :) I'm glad I turned out the way I did, so perhaps there was SOME benefit to having it rough early on.