As a teenager in 1972, I watched with disappointment as the Equal Rights Amendment was not passed. In 2023 it will be 100 years since the ERA bill was first drafted, and still is not accepted law. After several failed attempts to pass the bill between 1972 and 1982, ERA was considered dead in the water, thanks to a coalition between a new religious political movement and Phyllis Schlafly, who fought successfully to squash the passing of ERA. One year later in 1983 I formed my first band, Art Sluts in reaction to my experience as a young woman.
Forty years later I am again releasing the Art Sluts’ in-your-face music and message. The Art Sluts message is an unfiltered, unapologetic message challenges the ignorance of women’s assumed equality. A communication even more relevant today, as Roe V. Wade is officially reversed and a vigorous movement to limit the human rights of women continues.
Art Sluts was started by myself and my best friend, Sheila Brynjulfson. We were roommates and ran a vintage clothing store in Columbia, MO. Curiosity drew us to an underground punk show in the basement of Club Decrepit in 1983. The music was so bad, we turned to each other and said, “we can do that!”
Each night after work we turned on the tape recorder, lit the pipe and made-up songs…from “Maggots in Potatoes” to “Nice Girls.” In the morning, we would play the songs we wrote for friends at Ernie’s, the local diner.
By the time we played our first show – in the basement of the Chautauqua Center, (a hippy artist co-op) we had 30 songs and played to a packed room of artists and musicians. We opened the show with our in-famous Art Sluts theme song -- “Do it for the Inspiration! Do it for Investigation! To find out how they tick! Then we found they has a dick! (pause) So we fucked it…. cause it was there. We’re Art Sluts.”
The Art Sluts were Ann Wood, Sheila Brynjulfson, Teri Ciacchi, Pam Demonium (Dougherty) and Lori Creason. Although we were all very different people, we shared inspiration from fellow female artists: Laurie Anderson, Raincoats, Slits and B-52’s.
In 1984 Art Sluts recorded their only studio album live to ½ inch reel to reel tape in Ed Hermann’s studio. Pam Dougherty spliced the songs at the local community radio station, KOPN after hours. The tapes were passed by hand to every band touring through town and mailed to every zine and record label.
The Art Sluts fans included fellow feminist musician, Gretchen Phillips (Two Nice Girls), Dave Dictor (MDC) who passed it onto the Yeastie Girls, Kramer of Bongwater who recorded the feminist anthem “The Power of Pussy” with Ann Magnuson in the early 90’s, and Daniel Johnston as captured during a 1985 interview with Ann and Sheila.
Years before the Riot Girl movement, the Arts Sluts were making waves. It was the power of turning language upside down, adding comedy and raw emotion, that impacted audience members in a variety of ways. Some were angry, some cried, but everyone laughed. Our first official headline show date drew students, frat boys, hippies, punks, and feminists.
Some songs were super silly like “Monobrow” or “Chinese Guitar.” Other songs brought listeners to tears, like “We are Not Equal.” Our name drew everyone – to find out what these Sluts were all about.
These underground regional “art scenes” in the early 80’s were rarely documented by photos, film, or press. We all did “art for art’s sake.” Fortunately, Art Sluts were featured in the college newspapers and interviewed at the local alternative radio station, KCOU. Early hopes of national attention fell short when the original video copy of four music videos were delivered (or not) to the NBC offices of David Letterman by an Art Sluts fan (slab). Whether Dave heard us or not is a mystery. And the only video copy is missing still.
Shortly after the video was completed in 1985, each songwriter was branching in different directions. Their original agreement was they would stop when it was no longer fun. So, the group ended but the friendship remains.
Ann and Sheila continued performing and recordings as “The Ann and Sheila Show” – with many guest musicians. Their comedic songwriting continued with “Sperm in the Big Canal,” “Couples from Hell” and “I’m a MOFO Joe.”
Art Sluts reappeared for a final two-hour farewell show at the Blue Note in January of 1986 – “Art Sluts – A Resurrection”. Fortunately, the live show audio was recorded and included pretty much every song we ever wrote. (2023 release)
After quitting music for good, Sheila went on to write the quintessential encyclopedia of Wrestling, became a leading scholar of Medieval History and an early internet artist before dying of Cancer in 2005.
Ann Wood went on to perform and record (ironically enough) instrumental music in Atlanta with her long-time partner Jeff Perkins. They also own and operate a long-time Atlanta music store.
I have over 30 cassette recordings, posters, press clippings, journals, and a few photos. I will be releasing more digital albums that showcase the full experience of seeing and being an Art Slut. My aim is to partner with a filmmaker to document this time, place and group of women who so influenced feminist art, comedy, and music. All proceeds from the sale of Art Sluts music will go to The Abortion Fund.
Read TERI'S STORY
Read PAM'S STORY
Ann's Instrument: Toy Piano