“I feel like I am Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins living in the body of Howard the Duck…. with a vagina” — Kembra Pfahler
Karen Black is a feline-looking actress known for her Oscar-worthy (ha, not) work in the 1970′s made-for-tv “Trilogy of Terror.” It’s no surprise that in 1990 downtown Manhattan bricoleur and all around rad bitch Kembra Pfahler chose to name her transgressive glam-rock/performance art outfit after the campy horror queen. Called The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, the group pushes boundaries of brutality and taste by mixing up campy horror,anti-naturalism, satanism, “beautalism” and burlesque into one sparkly Suzi Quatro-esque stew. The group is comprised of three ladies (including Kembra), who perform their raucous glitter rock au natural save bright-colored body paint and various costumes constructed via Pfahler’s artistic process of availabilism (basically using whatever is available.) The girls — who usually perform with teased-out black hair, blacked-out kabuki teeth and high black boots — challenge notions of gender and sexuality by doing things like smashing paint-filled eggs on Kembra’s nether regions or forming a “Wall of Vagina” by piling atop of one another spread eagle. Kembra also once — gasp — in an act of anti-sex had her nether regions sewn up while wearing a t-shirt that said “Young Republican”. It was filmed by Richard Kern.
Kembra was born in LA to surf god Freddy Pfahler and attended the infamous McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach where satanic ritual abuse was said to be performed. Pfahler once expressed disappointment because she doesn’t remember anything of the sort occuring. She became a fixture in post-Warhol downtown NYC in the 80s acting in various low-budget horror flicks and softcore pornos. In 1990 she formed “The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black” taking on the persona of “Karen Black” whose aesthetic she based on the Femlin she-devil sexpot cartoons by LeRoy Neiman. Over the course of its two decades in existence, TVHOKB have released four albums featuring smash hits like “Chopsley; Rabid Bikini Model”, “Gotta Get My Eyes Done” and “Honky Tonk Biscuit Queen.” Pfahler also works as an installation artist and has had her drawings and installations displayed at Deitch, Art Basel Miami and in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. In 2009 Deitch released a book entitled “Beautalism” documenting Pfahler’s work with The Voluptuous Horror as well as her truly spine-tingling body-art performances.
My personal favorite Pfahler moment, relayed via thenunu.com by an old design assistant, depicts her in full on Norma Desmond eccentric diva mode:
“We spent most of a bitter winter in her bare apt, empty and painted brown from floor to ceiling, except for an old wrought iron clawfoot bath in her kitchen that she was often bathing in when i would arrive in the morning with coffee.”
We love her.
More pictures after the jump.