You’re an Artist, Keep Making Art

The realization that art could first save and then expand my life came when I was a teenager in a troubled home. Life with my mentally ill mom and alcoholic dad near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before the Internet, was difficult. A smart, queer feminist without the language to talk about any of it—let alone identify with those lineages—I was profoundly depressed and mostly miserable. I ached for art and counterculture (remember that word?), but they were really hard to come by in small Rust Belt towns in the nineties. I read books, made zines, bought 45s, and ordered Sub Pop record catalogs out of the back of SPIN magazine, which at the time was a wonderland filled with mysterious ads for things like The Anarchist Cookbook.

 

“Anytime you’re playing music for the crowd instead of yourself … you’re fucked.” … Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, in I’m Now.

Who the hell is Mudhoney?

I asked that same question of my students. I teach American history and music at a small college near Philadelphia. Last week, before mentioning Mudhoney, I asked the 18 to 20 year-olds if they had heard of Pearl Jam. Nearly every hand went up. I then inquired about their familiarity with Mudhoney. Blank stares. So, as with my students, I will provide you with a little Grunge 101.