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May 2004 / a day's work :: email this story to a friend

Eleven Questions with...Mallarie Zimmer
By Amanda E. Doyle

1) Give us Venus Envy, in a clamshell.

Venus Envy is like Woodstock without all the mud, hippies and brown acid or better yet it's like an indoor Lollapolooza without Perry Farrell and a bunch of hyper-hip teenagers to make us feel we should just pack it up and head to a Florida retirement home.

2) Do you ever slip and say "penis envy" when you're talking about the event?

Mallarie Zimmer What's penis envy?!? I've slipped and said a few things I probably shouldn't have, but amazingly, that's not one of them. During a couple of interviews, I managed to slam both football and Mardi Gras — as big, sweaty, hairy man (to borrow a phrase from Rose Martelli) spectacles that don't get the same kind of attention for their big sweaty hairy man-ness that Venus Envy gets for its feminine slant — in two separate newspapers that ran within days of one another. My significant other is a big fan of both so he was probably the inspiration for those comments. We laugh about it now.

3) What are some of the most memorable artworks, performances or installations over the years of VE that stand out in your mind?

Most recently, I celebrated Venus Envy in Baton Rouge last year. A bunch of friends went with me, including two from my checkered youth: one who flew in from Oakland, CA, and the other from Austin, TX. We had a blast! The night of the show, my Texas friend and my previously mentioned significant other bought a piece of artwork. They argued over who had the best artist all night; the argument ended with one of them (I won't say who) getting a glass of wine dumped in his/her lap. I like art fights; they're funny.

There are so many memorable works from the shows. Catherine Cathers' "Clit Cozies" were totally freakin' brilliant. I bought one, of course, the party dress version. I know what your next question's gonna be. Forget it! That's nobody's business but my own!

4) How did the other two cities come to be involved in this event?

I lived in a small Arkansas town 80 miles west of Memphis, TN, for 22 years before I moved to St. Louis. My mom's a very talented fine artist, and she was pissy that I wouldn't let her into the early St. Louis shows, so like so many of the motivators in our lives, I pursued Memphis for my mom. Thankfully, there's a lot more to the story than that. A lot of it was kismet, and I loved the idea that they are similar in size and located on the Mississippi River. I considered New Orleans, but they don't need us there. Clare Bramlette, an amazing woman and Venus Envy founding artist, is from Baton Rouge. A friend of Clare's came to visit me one day at my office. We discussed the next city, and she reminded me of Clare's origination. Clare started recommending women back home who could direct the show. When I told her I'd prefer a woman who is not a working artist, a light bulb popped up over her head and she began telling me about her daughter Briana. Briana owns a boutique in Baton Rouge, and she's the best. This year is her second year directing the show. Now we're looking at cities up north — the Quad Cities, to be exact. We just need more kismet to point us to a woman in that area who can help us in our efforts to take over the world. Someday, we hope to have a boat tour that will stop at all the big river events.

5) You've recently been hired as the full-time executive director for Venus Envy, which we bet means the board will be expecting a lot of work out of you. Besides the annual main event, what's on the drawing board for the organization?

Our board is awesome. They are totally supportive, and they know that 1) I'm only one person and that 2) I'm going to work my butt off for this organization. So, they expect a lot of themselves too, knowing that without their support while we grow up, I'll either never be able to sit down again (after having totally worked my butt off) or our dreams won't be realized. We share the same dreams and they're pretty big. Workshops, lecture series and additional exhibitions year round for young women, women in crisis and women who want to empower themselves through creativity are probably first on our list. We're also discussing a film series, traveling exhibitions, and an outdoor market and/or festival. We've even been bold enough to briefly mention a bank, a health insurance company and a TV station in our long-range plan.

6) Are you an artist yourself?

I call myself a recovering artist. I fall off the wagon every two years or so. I took art classes from my mom all my life then went on to get a BFA in studio art. Making art is like torture for me. I envy those who make art to relieve stress or because they can't stop themselves. I admire and respect artists who pour their hearts and souls out onto canvases and pedestals only to leave themselves open to criticism and rejection. I couldn't live that way. I prefer to live vicariously through them and do whatever I can to get their work out there and appreciated. That's a lot more fun for me.

7) If you could be any ancient goddess, who would you choose and why?

Isis, because she had wings. I am fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture and the women in power at that time were worshiped as goddesses — none of that otherworldly, untouchable, supernatural deity worshipping. I've never understood that.

8) We also hear you're a huge Corvette fan. What's up with that?

1973 Stingray.  Mmmm ... curvy I'm a product of the late seventies, a heavy metal fan, and I like muscle cars and motorcycles, too. A '67 GTO or one of the new Buell bikes would be cool. But I really like the body of the 1973 Stingray with the handles on top instead of on the side. I like smooth, curvy surfaces in general. Materials like fiberglass and chrome turn me on. Oh, and I like shiny, sparkly things, too. Think I'll get presents from any of your readers now? Venus Envy's a non-profit; they might get a big, fat tax deduction!

9) What are the best and worst things about St. Louis?

The best thing: its cheap and accessible opportunities for a hyperactive, creative, ADD type like me are endless. The worst thing: how badly the inner city is neglected and the hoops you have to jump through to prove to the local powers that be that even though what I'm doing with Venus Envy is kinda far out and completely new to the area, it is also a very worthy cause with great potential to make the world a better place.

10) Do you have days when you can't get that Bananarama song "Venus" out of your head? And do you walk around, looking in the mirror and thinking, "She's got it, yeah baby, she's got it"?

Yes, I do!!!

11) What's the cure for Venus envy?

Give us some money and we'll do what we can to help you. Actually, I don't think there's a cure. We recommend figuring out a way to make the best of it. If you have any sense of humor at all, that shouldn't be too hard.

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