Art Studio Frequencies Music

Performance Artist Jibz Cameron Does a Killer Martha Stewart Impression

Jibz Cameron-art-studio frequencies-music
Portrait of Jibz Cameron.

An artist’s studio is a haven—a sounding board for ideas good and bad, a companion on dark days and inspired ones. These spaces play occasional host to curators, collectors, and friends, but in the day-to-day hum of creation, they wrap their protective arms around their artists, enveloping them. CULTURED asked six makers whose work spans the disciplines of architecture, performance, painting, and sculpture to reflect on their relationship to music, and share the sounds that keep them company in the studio.

As a 10-year-old, Jibz Cameron wrote in a poem, “I am the wolf. I run / through the forest. / I howl / back / AND forth / through the forest. / looking for that place / the place where I / can let it all out.” In the nearly four decades since those words flowed out of her, Cameron—better known as her high-camp alter ego Dynasty Handbag—has found myriad pockets and platforms of expression, from her Los Angeles variety show “Weirdo Night,” which was resurrected this summer, to a topsy-turvy take on Titanic this past May at New York’s Pioneer Works. This fall, the artist’s visual practice will be on view in the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.” biennial. Cameron’s musical landscape is as riotous and polychrome as her persona.

What is the role of sound/music in your practice?

I could talk all day about music and sound and how important it is to my work—inside the work, getting me to work, and getting me THROUGH the work. I have done performance pieces that were just movement to sound effects, and I often build shows around sound. Sometimes I just play sound effects in my headphones, and it makes me laugh so hard. Sometimes that can actually give me a story.

What music has influenced the work that will be on display at "Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living"?

About two-thirds of the drawings in the show were made during the pandemic, so here’s what I was listening to in 2020/21: I got a subscription to Mississippi Records, and they sent me a bunch of amazing shit, notably the comedy blues musician Abner Jay. I’m So Depressed is a perfect record. My boss Spotify says I was listening to Austra, Patrick Cowley, Dicks, Cardi B, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Charlotte Adigéry, Pere Ubu, Can, Normani, Sneaks… I guess a lot of “keep going” vibes. 

The more recent work has been drawn from Sonido Gallo Negro, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Latto, Free Kitten, Fever Ray, Ray Lynch, Donny Hathaway, and Pink Floyd—LOL. Obscured By Clouds is an amazing record. I get a lot of my new music recs from my friend Emilia Richeson, who teaches Pony Sweat Aerobics, which is a non-competitive dance aerobics class where she curates incredible playlists monthly. Imagine an exercise class where in one hour you get to do sloppy grapevines to Deerhoof, Cameo, Ibibio Sound Machine, Tina Turner, Killing Joke, and Whitney Houston. It’s heaven! 

What's the best soundtrack to get dressed to? 

Before a show, I need something mighty, like the Stooges or Megan Thee Stallion, to get me doing air kicks, gnashing my teeth, and stomping about with borrowed confidence. If I need to get grounded, I listen to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mass in B Minor.” One of my favorite compositions of all time is “India,” by John Coltrane. I don’t want to sound like a dick. This interview is like, “What music do you like?” And I’m all, “Bach, complex jazz?” But there you have it. I love Bach, and I love John Coltrane. Do I understand it? No, and nary shall I try! Whomst cares!

First sonic memory?

I was obsessed with the radio and never wanted to miss a song, so I would record it at night. Like, I put a tape in the tape deck to record the radio and then flipped it in the middle of the night. I also called the radio a lot and demanded that songs be played. I was about 7 or 8 when “Cum on Feel the Noize” by Quiet Riot (best band name of all time perhaps) was on the Top 40, and I remember calling the radio station telling them to play it again. I remember this really well because it’s also a shameful memory—they laughed at me.

Favorite sound?

I bumped my head into a gigantic wind chime recently, and it was like I was scoring my own cartoon. The sound of an outdoor concert from far away is a great, sad, weird sound. Dogs howling with a siren. Any double bass drums. Frogs. Getting up to pee at 3 a.m. and hearing an owl. Windshield wipers.

Weirdest sound you can make?

I can do a decent Martha Stewart impression.

What musicians have inspired your work?

Too, too many to count, but I’ll just rattle off the long-timers: Prince, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Black Sabbath, Yoko Ono, Funkadelic, Janet Jackson, the Pointer Sisters, Nina Hagen, Grace Jones, early ’70s punk, early ska and rocksteady, experimental noise-y shit like Boredoms and Melt-Banana. Lately, I have been obsessed with new, freaky experimental musicians like Holland Andrews, eddy kwon and OHYUNG, and I have been listening to a lot of North African desert blues. I love the label Sahel Sounds. 

What’s happening for you this summer before the biennial?

I’m gonna go back to doing my monthly, wonderful variety show “Weirdo Night” in Los Angeles, which will be really fun because it’s been on hiatus. I am also releasing a comedy record in the fall with Seth Bogart’s record label Wacky Wacko, which I wrote with Amanda Verwey and is produced by master engineer, DJ, and the Dirtbombs/Gossip guitarist Chris Sutton. It’s inspired by Lily Tomlin’s incredible 1975 experimental comedy record Modern Scream. In August, I hope to take a break in the woods and use the shit out of my bird identifier. Maybe I’ll get binoculars—it might be time to just surrender to that time in life “when a lesbian gets really into birding.”

What song or album represents where you’re at in your life right now?

“Tired Of Being Alive” by Danzig.

Below, listen to a playlist of Jibz Cameron's favorite artists and songs.