Pat Oleszko is an accomplished performance artist whose work often trespasses on “forbidden” religious ground. Her sensibility is absurdist; her methods encompass raucous costuming, rowdy street theater, and puppetry of sometimes breathtaking complexity. Her prose reflects the same sensibility, a stream-of-consciousness torrent punctuated by audacious puns. Below, in her own inimitable words, Pat Oleszko reflects on some of the most blasphemous creations from her storied career. All photos were provided courtesy of the artist.—The Editors
Some picaresque investigations from a project titled “Saints Alive! From Unction to Function,” a roamin’ Roman project that involved updating the lives of the saints and taking them out into the streets and piazzas from whence they came. Eight characters surfaced, from Saints Agatha, Sebastian, and Lucia to the Tourist Grope, a Pilgrim, and the Garden Variety Glad-He-Ate-Her (who free-ly posed with the hordes, to the dismay of the real fake gladiators). To my consternation, every character was formally or informally booted off whatever premises they embarked upon, thereby fueling the continuing persecution of the saints but fortunately giving me enough material to do a piece. Special ire was directed at the Nincompope where this short subject was violently apprehended, strip-searched, and thrown in the Vatican jail for five hours for “impersonating the pope with an aqua pistole.” These street works were transformed from their peripatetic beginnings to a film and finally onto the stage, where on any number of occasions, some of the more religious members of the audience took exception to the poor-tray-all of the pope and walked out.
The trope for Nora’s Ark was under dire circus-stances, somehow I had been chosen to create an Ark to Triumph, cast for ark-e-types for the bum voyage, weather the media storm, and find an appropriate vehicle to Sail la Vie. An inflated female body naturally became the vehicle with the Chosen Ones entering through the vagina. As this ship o’ fools commenced into ribald debauchery, audience members lined up to insert their heads and see what a woman was really like inside. This was scene as sacrilege, despite our common birth rites.
On the anniversary of the conflagration of Giordano Bruno in Campo De Fiori, that prescient monk, poet, astrologer, and pioneer of free speech was here characterized as Giordana Bruna, who, after spewing blue and yellow red-oric, was captured and ritually burned at the stake. Curiously, the event was quite controversial, with Bruno’s dog-ed supporters of “free” speech, and I was banished from performing at the actual site of his fire.
The Many Phases of Eve was another attempt to go out on a limb to update a hysterical biblical concept of goods and evils. While no one specifically complained about the concept to the art department, there was still controversy.