Claymation is an abandoned art form. It does not pay the bills. My clay-animated depictions of raw sex and violence might get me street cred at the film festivals, but come Monday morning, I’m a slave like all the other sheep. My honky brethren don’t quite understand why I work so little, why I don’t apply my intelligence to climbing the corporate ladder. My boss complains that I sound exhausted when I answer the phone; what am I doing all night, partying? Watching TV? (Certainly not writing or shaping clay figures, which I’m too old for.)
I’m not an artist by cracker definition. Doesn’t an artist get a summer internship with Disney, swallow their boss’s nut, and work on the latest meaningless CGI animated blockbuster? Not me. I make claymations for wolves and collect rejection letters for unpublished books and short stories.
On the weekends I help Bear, an aging drug dealer, move into his new home. I work with Sprigs, the neighborhood guardian/ex-con/bullshitter – the guy who’s going to rob my house when he catches me and my roommates gone at once. Sprigs thinks there’s something wrong with me because I don’t know how to properly load goods into a truck and because I open my wallet while others are near. He knows I have a computer; he thinks I commune with other white people in some virtual money-spouting whirlpool. In reality, he makes more money hauling garbage out of people’s yards than I probably ever will as an artist. Not that I understand him, either. He used to work at a McDonalds, and when I asked him if he ever spat in the food, he shushed me and said, “God’d punish a nigga f’that.” I know God would laugh.
I like my neighborhood because 1) it’s cheap, and I don’t want to sell my soul to men with no vision just so I can sleep in a Martha Stewart showroom, and 2) I’m living with quietly desperate people who are sliding into extinction just like I am. But things are changing. Now white people who are doing a lot better than me and responsible gay people are moving into my area. I’m going to have to evacuate eventually, along with my white trash roommates and most of the black people here.
Until then, I’ll continue living with my two childhood friends. We’re former rednecks from Pigshit, Kentucky, victims of a white trash diaspora. One roommate is a starving director who, sadly, is managing a shitty movie theatre; the other is a promising painter who is currently a lackey to wealthy artist Ben Edwards (whose soulless work can be seen at www.benjaminedwards.net).
I am a representative of the starving artists who live in the Underground. I don’t have the skills or patience to deal with the McCorporate world. I live in a poor area of DC, the modern Death Star of an evil empire. My neighborhood brothers and sisters are devolving into something almost subhuman, forgotten creatures starving for sex, drugs, money. They’re hungry as a people, and I’m hungry as an artist. If it’s true that the victors write the histories, then we will be forgotten – but that’s a rule made for a world I don’t believe in. I can listen and I can write. I can immortalize our struggle.
Or I can just make us laugh as we’re flushed down the crapper together.
By: Kyle B. Stiff