Shaemarie Skaggs

Revival

By James K. Galloway

Shaemarie Skaggs
Tennessee artist Shaemarie Skaggs, cancer survivor, bites the filter off a Marlboro cigarette during a photo shoot at an industrial park in Clarksville.

Hoses dropped from a chemotherapy bag stretch around a rosary and into the blood-soaked needle-fed arm of Shaemarie Skaggs, whose hand clutches the withering flower of life.

It is just after sunset when I pull into the front yard of the budding Clarksville artist’s home. Clarksville, Tennessee is the worst town I’ve ever been to. The chance to interview an artist is a relief from the brown solitude that comes with living in a dry, burned-out military town. I wonder how creativity can flourish in a place like this. How can she?

As instructed, I call to inform Shaemarie that I have arrived and I approach her front door. It’s a beautiful McMansion nestled within a sloping subdivision. If I hadn’t seen the other homes driving in, I’d be inclined to believe it’s a real original piece of modern architecture. It is the same as the others if not slightly different. It is a floor plan. From up high, I can see the lights from Wal-Mart, Kroger and whatever else every town keeps along Commercial Avenue.

She says we can’t do the interview here – this is where she lives and takes care of her mother who recently suffered a stroke.

We drive around the neighborhood as I look for an exit out of Skaggs’ labyrinthine subdivision. Right away, she unfolds a picture of her arm with a rosary and chemotherapy supplies, and jumps right into explaining it to me.

“The bitch nurse fuckin' put a needle in my hand for painkillers – for morphine,” Shaemarie says, “And she didn't put it in my vein, so the morphine soaked in my hand and it would sting every time it pumped through. So I didn't have painkillers or I didn't feel right at all, and it hurt like a bitch.”

Pointing to her artwork, Skaggs tells the story as she’s told it countless times before. She says flatly during her chemotherapy treatments, this picture hung on her wall as an expression of her own humanity – but that she took joy from others’ reactions to it.

“The doctors would come in and freak out, and I thought it was really funny when they’d freak out and shit,” she says. “I like how I wrapped it around the cross because I just hate religion.”

Skaggs was diagnosed December 2009 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer originating from white blood cells. Shortly thereafter she drew a relatively simplistic self-portrait featuring peeled-back skin and decay of a long-haired vixen – a living corpse aware of her own mortality.

Shaemarie Skaggs
The lips, rotted away into a grimace of a smile, represent Skaggs' morbid imagination of herself as chemotherapy took hold.

“It was really bothersome, but that was the point,” she says, looking out the window of my truck as we sit at a stop light. Then came a long silence.

We are headed toward a spot with free wi-fi where Shaemarie says we’ll access more of her artwork. She changes the subject to me and my work. I oblige but keep it ground-level, explaining that I’m a writer and editor. While booming down Clarksville’s main drag to the finer cuts of Led Zeppelin II, the sexy young artist asks more specifically what else I do besides interviewing her.

I explain how I write politics and local government articles for the newspaper, which gets her onto the subject of President Barack Obama and the superficial similarities between his efforts and those of Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR’s New Deal may have gotten us out of the Great Depression, but Skaggs believes Obama is an actor.

He’s trying to make it look good and doing this whole cover on it, like, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be fine,’ but really it’s starting to suck. It’s a fake aspect that he’s making everything look good but it’s not.

-Skaggs, on President Barack Obama

“He’s trying to make it look good and doing this whole cover on it, like, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be fine,’ but really it’s starting to suck. It’s a fake aspect that he’s making everything look good but it’s not.”

She says her grandfather was a lawyer for a Philippine president while his daughter spied against him, causing controversy within her family and within the nation. She says her pursuit of liberal arts made her a black sheep when everyone else went into politics or has an “amazing job” as educators and government employees.

“It’s because we [Skaggs and her sister] are liberal and – ‘Fuck the government’,” says Skaggs, “And because we grew up in a stern family and we’re just like anti-everything.”

By now, we’ve reached our Internet source where Shaemarie discovers she can find specific Tumblr compositions through a simple Google search. She exclaims, “Google is a fucking creeper!”

Skaggs is exceptionally proud of one of her pieces of writing, which was reblogged by a website called The Whiskey Monologues and subsequently reviewed by its followers. The piece is about a drunken night of indiscriminate sex with an unnamed lover, notable for its sensual, emotive language and highly-revealing self-analysis midway through the exposé on passion itself.

Shaemarie Skaggs enjoys a cigarette
While shooting at an abandoned industrial site, Skaggs informs me that she is in remission and healthy, in spite of a nasty cough acquired as a result of her smoking habit.

Shaemarie is forever affected by cancer, emotionally if not physically. Skaggs’ friend, Cara Roman, who she called “a fiesty little thing,” died July 2010 after a four-year battle with leukemia.

“She was my friend before I got cancer, I used to visit her all the time. And then one day I showed up to her hospital room and told her I have cancer. We both cried. I was the only one who spoke at her funeral. She was the closest person I had. She was so alive.”

Shaemarie says she will seek a liberal arts degree from Austin Peay State University but for the time being cares for her ailing mother at their shared home in suburban Clarksville.

Like a flash in a pan, the blinking of an eye, a star’s lifespan and all the time in the sky – Shaemarie Skaggs taught me that expression is only as beautiful as the time we have to appreciate it. That memories last as long as we can remember them, lest we mark them down.

On a long enough timeline, all things are finite, no matter what efforts we as human beings make to archive, categorize and chisel them into stone. On a short-enough timeline, all things last forever.

So do we.

NO NUKES LIKE GOOD NUKES!

LOCAL ART “MAGAZINE” CENSORS ANTI-NUKE STORY

Roanoke, Va.–Recently, a website dedicated to sub-par musical acts and local artists took down an article written by beloved Elf Wax Times reporter Billy Walshe, probably following a complaint that it challenged a reader’s ignorant beliefs.

In a move critics around the internet are hailing as “a relatively inconsequential hypocrisy,” art website Roanoke Revolution took down an “anti-nuclear weapons” article written by one of Roanoke’s finest underground artists.

It was a move not to keep from losing advertisers, nor did Billy’s article challenge the “magazine’s” ongoing narrative of reality, since as of June, they could not yet have one, this being only their third update. It hardly challenged any belief about anything whatsoever, unless of course their editor, Jovan Rahsman, doesn’t support nuclear non-proliferation.

Roanoke Revolution's Empty June 2010 Rant Section

But according to fans on his website, Billy Walshe is “not one to directly attack an issue head-on” in the way his article’s deletion suggests in the minds of some critical thinkers. In fact, Billy is oft referred to as the “Carl Sagan of Nukes” among those privy to his backward-ass ideologies.

“Billy loves nuclear weapons,” said Niall Coffey in an exclusive interview with The Elf Wax Times. “He talks about ’em all the time. He even describes what it feels like to be zapped by a nuke when I’m really stoned, and sometimes he won’t let me stop imagining it.” Coffey even went on to describe nightmares of a fictional nuclear holocaust Billy Walshe sadistically imposes on him, well after the fact, regularly in his sleep.

As of right now, the article is still deleted. However, an editor of Roanoke Jingodilution said they plan to replace Billy’s article with the following video “as soon as we learn HTML”:

Billy told Elf Wax he has notified his hate group of this injustice and now armed white supremacists comb the nighttime countryside, trying to help find the deleted article, or women to rape in his honor.

It is strongly suspected by Lebal Drocer Senior Executive Officers Walshe was targeted for who he is, or perhaps his affiliation with The Glorious And Infallible Elf Wax Times. It is for this reason the staff considers removal of his article a celebration of his apparent greatness and acknowledgment of their website’s inferiority, and embarrassing unworthiness of his material.

Billy Walshe is an accomplished Appalachian craftsman, woodworker, musician, visual artist and status quo minion. In his spare time, he collects pogs and marches to find the cure for Gross Lesbianism.

lol

Gaia Economy in Shambles

Gaia Online has suffered extreme hyperinflation in the past weeks, as the value of gold plummeted. The crux of Gaia’s economy is a steady flow of art-themed posting. Poetry, photography, and art of all kind and quality are equally rewarded. Through time, however, the quality of this art has completely degenerated beyond the point of recognition. For a minor amount of gold, a fraction of a fraction of what one needs to ‘buy’ accessories for their avatar, one user may copy-paste a Wikipedia article into the “non-fiction” category, or perhaps write a paragraph about their abusive families. Webcam photos of things in people’s computer rooms are also a major source of Gaia’s artwork.

Because the value of artwork has bottomed out, Gaia has begun coercing its users into posting even more worthless art to boost the economy. The fact is, that if a computer program were to continuously pick photos from google images, apply an Andy Warhol filter, and post it on Gaia, only to randomly give away all the gold it made, this whole system might be streamlined. Why should human beings post worthless art, when computers are so much more efficient at it?

People like speshelshell22 could continue to comment “i love pop art it looks good,” if they felt inclined, or this system could also be replaced by computer automation.

I will leave you with a poem from Gaia, written by xX_HyperSkittlez_Xx.

While it is not written directly about the state of art in Gaia, I think it’s apt.

youre walkin’ into town
then on your face there is a frown
its diarriayou try to poop it out
but you cant so you just pout
stupid diarria

no one knows how to spell it
so everyone just guesses it
diarria

you are in walmart
when you try and fart
uh oh
THERES A FREAKIN GLOB OF CRAP IN MY PANTS!!! WTF IS WRONG!!!!!! I FEEL ICKY

so you sweep it with a broom
when your in the bathroom
that diarria

you enter into a stall
then you give it your all
uuuurrrrrrrggggg

then you try to flush it down
but all it does is go around
diarria

 

Reporting live from inside Gaia Online

Gaia is great because it is full of people who just can’t seem to get a grip on real life at all. With all its fantasy role-playing, cliquishness, inside jokes, and the unending affection of total strangers, it is a welcome hideout for the socially awkward to escape to. It’s also a place, however, that some must inevitably escape from.

Gaia has its own economy, its own government, its own society, subcultures, and religion. It has all the inclinations of our modern-day, real-life architecture, but it exists entirely within a digital computer world in which everyone is rewarded for their contributions and participation. While this appeals to the same gear of human nature which likes videogames and play-until-you-win reward systems, some people replace real-life interaction with this alternative reality in which everyone can be a winner all the time. And because this is the new reality that replaced the old one, in which we used to have to be there for our friends and communicate with them and be good to them, help them out with their issues, and so on, its lack of social challenge perverts these users’ concept of what meaningful social interaction is, because there is no real basis for friendship anymore. You can now make friends by looking at their profile, making a comment about it, and then sending a friend request. This is easy to do and anybody can have thousands of digital friends and still speak to just a couple of people every day. So then social interactions start to mutate, and we begin replacing one emotion with another. Because a friend’s enthusiastic laughter no longer accompanies every interaction, we begin replacing one genuine emotion – happiness – with others: attachment, intimacy, joy from acceptance, and from sharing secrets or an experience unique to this kind of existence.

Just today I discovered two people playing out this weird mommy/daughter role-play fantasy routine where the daughter keeps asking mommy if she loves her enough, and taking issue with the fact that she is never there.

thx i just fekt out because u where never on and u where on when i was not V_V but now its ok ^_^

^in response to the following:

OK…I just want you to know that NO MATTER WHAT I am your friend/mom! ^_^ So I need to tell you that this weekend I won’t be on because I am going to my fiancee’s mom’s house and she doesn’t have interwebz…. crying BUT I will get on asap! ^_^ How are you doing??

The posts are being deleted every day or two, probably because the daughter doesn’t want the outside world to see what she has been doing with her internet time, especially not real mommy and daddy.


You see, this is just the hilarious tip of the iceberg. Between exaggerated realities like the example you see here, and the kid who posts in the non fiction arena about his dad beating him and his sister with a thirty foot extension cord, you have a bell curve of people who talk about goths, and how they aren’t goths, “emos”, their avatars, vampires, people who are vampires, people who love vampires, and people who wish they were vampires so they make vampire avatars.

You will find people who have absolutely no bearing on the art community, but post as feverishly as though there was a little publisher standing behind them, yelling, “Churn out more material! The kiln of the entire artistic community simply will not fire without your input! We need more shit faster!” And they don’t care that shitting out some half-assed blurry snapshot of their cat isn’t considered art, because to them, it IS art just so long as they have some bullshit reason to contrive and justify its submission to the corporate-owned art community they wish to be a part of.

As you have already figured out for yourselves, this is a website by adults, for kids. It purports to support creativity and self-development by selling fake, digital garments and accessories, backed by MTV/Viacom finance and style-marketing keywords, which can be bought with the fictitious gold either purchased with a parent’s credit-card or “earned” through the submission (spamming) of a picture of one’s eyeball, or a drawing of their own avatars, or copying-and-pasting Wikipedia entries (a known source of bullshit). Like real-life rap music and Britney Spears from the year 2000, people are now digitizing an existence in which they make art for Pepsi commercials and help to propagate the style and standard set by the “manufacturer of cool” where ten-year-old styles and attitudes that, in the circles that once pioneered them, stagnated within months of their inceptions but carry on through marketing, online advertising and PR. Subversive cultural dynamics submitted by the undercover hired geeks of Viacom keep the tensions alive and convince children that signing their identities away to a multinational corporation is how to rebel against mom and dad, and their vicious ADD medications. Paid strangers keep this shit alive, not regular people. MTV’s future and their ability to control ours depends on it.
We will see you next Friday when local media mogul Billy B will present his continuing investigation into the world’s most unprecedented cheapening of everyday reality. He’s looking into the bastardization of artistic standards and practices in their entirety as part of his investigation into the seedy microcosm mocking our very existence in all its capacity to do so by using us against our nonintellectual selves. We’ll report to you next week from inside the hellish introspective reality of Gaia Online.

This is all we are, in a nutshell, and all we’ll ever be. Tune out, jack in.

EARTH SAVED, ARTSIFIED BY NOTORIOUS PESSIMIST

EARTH, MW–In what appeared to be simple verbal observations of nature and it’s beauty, a notorious pessimist has seemingly mended the fracture of space-time continuum, sparing humanity’s precious existence. Not much is known at this time, but experts say by just sputtering a few thoughtful words on the fruitfulness of the mountain lands, this notorious pessimist, who remains unnamed, may have singlehandedly saved billions of lives from a mad world gone wax’d.

Tragically, as a result of the spoken examinations, the world has now become overly pretentious and artsified, leaving every solitary statement to appear groundbreaking. Scientists say it appears as if our planet is now one giant, spherical, art school. They have also dreadfully mentioned that this “artsy fartsy” Earth may be worse and more harmful than it was earlier today, before the pessimist spilled his heart out about nature.