Do What You Love: An Interview with Artist Vicki Berndt

Published on March 30th, 2008 in: Art, Feminism, Interviews, Issues, Music |

Vicki Berndt: (laughs) Okay, here’s a parallel story. In about 1982, in San Francisco, I was going to be Tiny Tim for Halloween. So I got a wig and an old suit and I borrowed a ukulele and my friend taught me how to play “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” on it. So I walked around playing and singing in a really high voice. I went to parties and nobody got my costume. And I would say, “You know, Tiny Tim!” and I’d sing the song and they’d roll their eyes.

And then we went down to Castro Street which is the big gay neighborhood where they have these crazy, all-night Halloween parties. And everybody knew who I was! And they were like, “OH MY GOD! IT’S TINY TIM!” And they hugged me and I sang “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” and I was like, “Oh, finally.”

Popshifter: Something I didn’t realize that you had done was make fanzines. I went to look them up and found some quotes from your friend Devorah [Ostrov] on the Idol Worship fanzine you had done.

idol worship
Idol Worship

Vicki Berndt: Oh yeah!

Popshifter: One of the things she said about the zine was, “For some reason, rock stars found our approach to journalism charming,” which is really funny because I did a paper zine about ten years ago and someone described it as a cross between Creem and 16.

Vicki Berndt: Oh that’s fabulous!

Popshifter: I’ve always thought, even as a kid into Adam Ant, that you can be serious but also light-hearted. You don’t have to get into the whole “Who’s got more B-sides argument?” which to me is such a waste of time.

Vicki Berndt: (laughs) Yeah. . .

Popshifter: So obviously that was your approach with your zine, but do you feel like that’s something you approach your art with now? And just in general?

Vicki Berndt: Oh yeah, definitely. My “mission statement” (laughs) is to still be able to have a fanzine approach, but also make a living, so I don’t have to go work at an office. It’s definitely trying to blend the two: the enthusiasm and the love of what you’re doing and not taking it too seriously. I think a big part of it is not making money the number one goal. Money is number two or three because you still have to make a living to be able to spend all your time doing it. Unless you have a trust fund or something. And it seems like the kids with the trust funds don’t do anything with their time! (laughs) Very few of them are working industriously at something they love.

Popshifter: I agree, if you like what you do, if you love what you do, even if it is a job, it has to be a job—

Vicki Berndt: But you know, I enjoy working, I enjoy doing it. I love having something to do and I’m enthusiastic about it. Like, “Ooh, I get to finish this painting today; what a good feeling!” I don’t hate to work and I think a big part of that is that I get to work at what I love to do. So work is not a bad thing.

Click to read more from Vicki Berndt on. . .

Tiny Tim
Art as commerce
St. Johnny Thunders
The fanzine approach
Photographing bands
The punk rock aesthetic and what’s next

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