Three words that describe you?
Organized. Enthusiastic. Colorful.
What’s your first artistic memory?
My mom makes quilts, sews and does fiber art. The first thing I remember making is a doll costumes. I had a stuffed Tweetie doll in the 1990’s that I made little outfits for out of felt and whatever scraps of fabric my mom had around.
And as far as a piece of art that moved me at a young age, something that stands out is R. Crumb. I loved his style of comic drawing and the way he represented woman - he drew them as strong women with thick legs and he could ride on their backs. I was so into it. I feel his influence on my current aesthetic and the way I want to portrayed women as well.
I also remember John Waters’ movies inspiring me with all the strange characters and their particular way of speaking. I feel his movies are total Art. He considers all of the elements and he had a specific style. I feel R. Crumb and John Waters informed by aesthetic vocabulary with their outlandish personalities and unique female characters. I wanted to be in this world with these strange people.
When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?
I was always doing creative things because I grew up very isolated and there weren’t a lot of people for me to interact with. We weren’t allowed to play video games in my house and I was the last generation born before the internet. It was pretty much me and old Alfred Hitchcock movies on VHS and a big corn field. It was a different time - we had encyclopedias in the house and you would only have access to images you could find printed in big art books or at the library.
Neither one of my parents would call themselves ‘artists’ but they’re both very creative, multimedia, problem-solving individuals with a specific visual aesthetic. They both have a strong visual preference and voice in the way they make things. I feel I was supported in making things, being creative and decorating. I grew up having floor-to-ceiling posters and colorful art and objects all over my bedroom, so I’ve kind of always been a maximalist you could say.
As far as being an artist as a career - I remember one day in my high school drawing and painting class the teacher asked what we’d like to go to college for. It was a conversation with all the kids who were extremely interested in art. My school was very poor and barely had any art classes, so there were only a handful of real artist kids. Graphic Design felt the most “creative” as far as “jobs” go and I felt like I could still use my skills as an artist. It was the most practical creative job I could think of, so I said I would like to study graphic design because “I didn’t want to be poor”. My other interests were costume design, horror/theatre/elaborate film makeup and interior decorating, but I ultimately ended up studying Graphic Design and graduated at the top of my class in college.
I thank my lucky stars every day for my graphic design skills and I attribute a lot of my success as an event producer to my poster design. I am able to translate my visions directly onto the poster. With events, I am able to use my training as a graphic designer, my intuitive skills as a curator and my organizational nature to get people together behind a concept. I combine my feminist agenda and environmentalist tendencies to throw parties that are a cumulation of all the different forms of art (fashion, healing, music, dance, 2D, and 3D) that I like and work with all the artists I want to support. To me a party is total art. The music, the lighting, the people, the setting...it’s all these things before, after and the moments within that people are encouraged to be part of. It really all starts with a poster - showing the world what I want to create.
When we first met I remember thinking, “Wow, I don’t know anyone who lives out loud” as much you do. Have you always been this way? Tell us about your journey to this level of radical self expression and body positivity.
I have definitely always been this loud haha. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to wear costumes, be topless like the boys, and just be one with the world and roll around in the grass. My parents told me “You have always been unconventional. You didn’t want to do anything how anyone else wanted to do it.”
Remember those shirts that were popular that were off the shoulder and had one sleeve? As if a tube top and an one shoulder top had a baby that had their moment in the early 2000s? I got one of those at H&M and secretly wore it to high school. The teacher told me I had to go put on a different shirt and I thought to myself “God Dammit! This is cool fashion!” I didn’t see it as promiscuous or suggestive - to me it was just crazy fashion. I wasn’t getting dressed up to “impress boys” by wearing a “revealing” shirt.
My parents didn’t want me to dress crazy because they say that they didn’t want me to get made fun of. They said that I was already so different, outspoken and opinionated. I understood that, but I also thought “you need to let me be who I am going to be.”
As soon as I got to college I said fuck all the rules and started wearing whatever I wanted to. I was going to art school as an 18 year-old independent women and there was nobody to tell me “you can’t wear that” anymore. That’s when I began wearing pattern-on-pattern, lots of vintage clothes - and mixing every pattern and color together. This is how my room looked, too - everything I did shared that same maximalist aesthetic. My first apartment had different brightly colored walls in every room and every object was a piece of art.
You’re currently living between LA and New Orleans and have spent a lot of time in Austin. How has each city shaped you as an artist?
The reason I went to New Orleans originally was that I had friends who were displaced in Austin after Hurricane Katrina and they were throwing warehouse parties with crazy costumes. That was the first time I ever went to costume party that wasn’t for Halloween and it was a revelation, an epiphany. There were sweaty people of all gender expressions dancing with their boobs out. I couldn’t believe that this could exist, like the John Waters’ movies in a way. I knew I wanted to have more of that energy in my life.
I started my very first dance party at a gay leather bar in Austin 10 years ago with a bunch of friends who also wanted more New Orleans style dance parties in Austin. It was raunchy, it was crazy, it was wild, and everyone was very much living in the moment and grateful for this energy in Texas.
Coming to New Orleans and seeing the freedom of expression inspired me to start my own DIY strip club called Big Dicks House of Big Boobs in 2012. It was a response to not feeling that it was fair that only one type of person could make money showing their body (mainly skinny blond white women) even though people like to see all different types of people getting naked and dancing.
Moving to New Orleans was a free pass to try anything - the flood gates were open. It was like, “Have your titties and your ass out in the streets during a parade! Wear whatever insane costumes you want! Paint your whole face blue! Cover yourself in glitter and sequins!” There was no one saying “That’s too much…” It was like [clapping enthusiastically] - “Go further! Do more! Be extra!” I brought that energy with me when I moved back to Austin and then to LA. I knew this was my calling and that there would be people who didn’t get it or didn’t like it, but that there were plenty of people who got it and wanted it and we could create these worlds together in any city.
Coming back to New Orleans 4.5 years later, I now have a more highly evolved sense of style and self expression and who really knows where I’ll go from here. It’s life long. I see the creative energy as a snowball - the more I am free, the more people around me are free, and we’re all inspiring each other to be the most extra.
Before Pussy Power House I was already doing women’s empowerment and body positivity events. I started with body positivity and started to incorporate more a women’s empowerment vibe once I started doing a ladies-only no-alcohol dance party called Pretty Witches. Imagine amazing, strong, topless women freaking out on the dance floor, rolling around twerking and dancing so hard and being so free, all with no booze. I thought - “This is it. This is what we all needed and never even knew we could have.”
Taking all these experiences from the freedom in New Orleans and the strong female community in Austin, I was able to create a scene in Los Angeles that brought women together to co-create these types of freeing environments and then also bring in the educational and healing component. LA brought the healthy community vibe to another level and I started having cannabis at my events thank you to Lizzy Jeff and her wisdom sharing a plant medicine bar instead of an alcohol bar at the parties.
Women seem to be the primary subject in your work, and are often portrayed nude. Tell us more.
I feel that if we (women) want to be seen differently in the world, then we have to create that vision of ourselves. When I met [New Orleans’ based photographer] Leone Julitte, I saw that she had a very special eye and I knew I wanted to make art with her. We started collaborating on Pussy Power House photoshoots together for the zines (now in it’s 5th issue). Whenever I am at my photoshoots, I look at what we are creating and think “A man would not take this art. It wouldn’t even occur to him.” We are not showing a woman in a way that’s controlled, in this fake sexy, posing for the male gaze kind of way. It’s each unique women, in their own power, going “cheers to me.”
If you don’t see pictures of people who look like you living how you want to live and you don’t have those friends - you can’t really ask for what you can’t imagine. By creating these images where women and men see a different way, they have the opportunity to think - wow that is sexy and that looks like fun. They feel the power and confidence of the women in the photographs. A male friend of mine once told me “the thing about your photos that’s so unique is that everyone looks like they’re having the best time. You are all clearly enjoying yourselves and it translates.”
To show all different types of women in their ecstasy and in their nudity, you can’t help but think, yeah that’s what I want. I want to feel like her. I want to embody that natural spirit, this is me and I feel excited about it. I create images of women being worshiped and elevated like in a classical painting, but in a contemporary art form like fashion photography. These are real women in their real bodies, no photoshop and no waist-syncing belts to conform to this bogus Hollywood standard of “beauty.”
To me, the ‘Free the Nipple’ movement is a protest of the policies of the internet. I talk about this on my instagram a lot. If instagram is saying we are “violating community standards” by showing images of our nude bodies, then come on over to one of the events and let’s make up some new community standards where we support each other and don’t shame anyone. If I can’t put my work on social media, then I’m going to make my own magazine, throw my own party, and create my own community in real life. Instagram is only one place that we all meet, but we can get together in other places to challenge the status quo and what happens at the events in these real face to face moments will eventually affect the greater idea of what are our “community standards” across cultures.
As the founder of Pussy Power House, what is its mission and how has it changed your life?
It started as just a little house party art show experiment but it’s clear now that we cracked open a portal of a new way of being. We could all exist freely in this world, where we could be comfortable with who we are, not have to drink alcohol... really connect with one another, share art, massage each other, etc.
The mission of it stems from a community support environment. Pussy Power House is a community of women embodying self love through personal expression and direct community action. We are about the environment and we each share our skills and gift so that we may all heal, grow and evolve together on our individual paths.\
Before I had the name “Power Power House”, I was just Corinne Loperfido, the crazy artist who would throw parties once in a while but you had to know about it and be on a secret list to be invited. It was cool, people like to feel special and get invited to the weird freaky thing that no one else know about, but having a public platform - now anyone can “follow” me and see the content I put out there and what I’m about. I’m basically opening the doors and saying, “Who wants to come play?” It’s creating culture with real people that want to have a real conversation - that’s how it’s changed my life. I now have a “[online] persona” which is me. Actually the real me. People that know me know that what is on instagram is very much my real life. I really know all these artists and am in this community orchestrating events and supporting a broad network of people all over the country and the world.
Having a name like Pussy Power House - you either fuck with it or you’re like that freaks me out. Or people can view it from afar and say that’s so cool, I like seeing what people are doing out there even if they can’t ever come to an event in real life. It’s given me the opportunity to really explore all my ideas because now I have access to all these people that understand the vision. The ideas can get bigger and better because the network expands. I can reach further and more people can bring themselves into the mix with each new event and zine.
You’ve worked with some powerful mentors in your life that have influenced your work as a feminist artist and community builder. Who are they and what wisdom do you wish to pass on?
As far as mentors go - Carol Downer [Feminist lawyer, author and co-founder of The Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Center in Los Angeles] I would consider my main mentor as far as organizing, women’s empowerment and education. She came into my life at a time when Trump was getting elected and it was time for my events to evolve.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with my parties, as this was when the Ghost Ship fire happened and a lot of DIY venues were getting shut down. Times were changing and I was changing. I don’t personally love nightlife or staying up super late, and I don’t drink alcohol anyway, so Carol and her influence of doing community organizing work in the arena of women’s health was really inspiring to me. It is something that brings us together and things that we all need to know. We as women have an experience in our bodies and how we’re treated differently because of our bodies. We’re not allowed to show it, we’re not allowed to talk about it and we don’t get to celebrate it like men do. It’s a triple-edged sword. Carol has an angle of community building through sharing knowledge and experiences outside of medical community or outside of any establishment that has to do with men. Just regular women getting together talking about our experiences. I saw the profound power of having open dialogue about these issues and I wanted to create more opportunities for it.
Around the same time that I met Carol, I started going to women’s only camping trips in Northern California. Because of that, I started to shift how I did events, keeping the things I liked: costumes, body positivity and freedom, and creating something more educational as well. Having it during the day, without alcohol, was leaving people feeling recharged and spiritually, psychically, + intellectually nourished. I’m creating my own lane by being an artist and a community organizer through events.
Now with the photos in the zines, there’s a tangible result of our work. Doing the photoshoots for these zines is some of the most potent medicine. Everyone that experiences the shoots, they’re all so supportive and telling each other they look great, doing each other’s hair, and helping each other get dressed up. There’s a real community that is being formed just in the creation of the zines and parties and we are all there to help one another get through this human chapter of capitalist patriarchy one moment at a time.
For other mentors, I would say my ex boyfriend Jay Pennington, aka DJ Rusty Lazer. When we got together, he was 17 years older than me. I was in my early 20s and he was in his late 30s. He had lived in New Orleans for a long time and had experience doing weird performance art parties, making music and traveling the world. He brought me into that world when we met and fell in love. He had already been honing his craft as an event producer, and I was of a younger generation, so his wisdom and my youth / enthusiasm made an amazing concoction. I really appreciate people who are older and have more experience than me. They push me so much further.
What are the threads that connect each medium you work in (graphic design, collage, wearable art and costume design, styling, performance, dance, event producer, dj, curator, etc)?
It’s definitely a lot of categories but the thing that unites them is the connection to Earth’s cycles, community support , and self expression.
I know radical self expression is kind of an ambiguous burning man phrase, but I do believe it’s worth saying “radical” because of the degree of which I take it with all of these different mediums. Being exactly the person I am has enhanced my life tremendously because the people that I meet, they meet the real me. When you can be more yourself in your fullest expression, the people you actually want to meet are going to gravitate towards you. You don’t need everyone in the world to like you - everyone has different tastes. If you can be true to what makes you happy, you can meet people that you can connect with and create a community out of what is most authentic and important to you. For all the different things that I do, I bring my own flavor to each element and so all the different threads are connected in that they are all a reflection of me and who I am as a person and as an artist.
What advice would you give others who want to feel as free to express?
I would say first of all, think really hard about what turns you on. When I say turns you on I don’t necessarily mean in a sexual way, (but yes also in that way too). What excites you? What brings you joy? What do you gravitate towards? Take away any societal opinions, your family’s opinions, your friend’s disapproving comment. Whatever it is, take it all away. What makes me smile, what brings you life? Take risks - maybe you’re going to try a new fashion style and you’ll fumble as you figure it out. But at least you’re on a journey and you’re on the path to becoming whatever you will be in your next chapter. Identify with what you like and be patient with yourself as you becoming of the person you want to become. Beyonce wasn’t built in a day. I didn’t turn up like this overnight and neither will you, and that’s ok!
Last night I went to Twelfth night, the official start of Carnival season in New Orleans. Everyone is dressed to the 9’s wearing last year’s Mardi Gras costumes. The party I go to has a very mixed age range - old men with white beards and 18-year-olds coming out for the first time. Everybody is in their elaborate costumes and all those facts about “who you are” disappears. Everyone is in character - in their pure essence of expression and dancing. People are smiling, beaming with life because we all feed on the energy, giving and taking from each other with joy.
My advice is to be patient with yourself on your journey. Seek out opportunities to interact with people that you share interests with. You are the only ruler of your life. Of course that’s easier for me to say as a white middle class American woman and I also want to acknowledge my privilege in that I didn’t come from a family who told me I was evil for wearing revealing clothing and what I was doing with my life was a sin. I definitely live in a reality that’s different from most people. I get to be around the people who “get” me and I “get” them. We have the opportunity in the arts community to create these little worlds, whatever it is that we feel inspired to do.
Don’t give up. Enjoy being by yourself. The more you can enjoy yourself by yourself, the more likely you will find people that really see you and love you because you’re being your most authentic self.
What are you working on right now? Any exciting upcoming projects?
Right now I’m working on a breast education health empowerment event and zine called Boobs. It’s going to be the first time I’m doing the same party in two different cities: January 19 in New Orleans and February 2 in Downtown LA. I’m creating a ‘Free the Nipple’ fashion show, using second-hand lingerie that people from the community donated to the cause. It’s also a conceptual art protest of the sexualization of women’s bodies - asking the question: What’s really so “wrong” about a woman showing her breasts? Is it the side boob? Is it JUST the nipple that’s the “problem?” I cut holes out of the center of some bras and created the ‘Free the Nipple’ bra where only the nipple and areola are exposed.
I’m making deconstructed bras for a new generation where women aren’t expected to hide our breasts. Who first designed lingerie, a for what purpose? Was it made for women to feel good about themselves or to mold our bodies into a shape that men think they want? Why do we feel we all need to have upright, perky boobs? Whose idea was that and who does it serve? The Free The Nipple fashion show is an anti-fashion movement that criticizes this idea of the “community standard” (on Instagram + Facebooks photo policies) that a male nipple is not sexual or inappropriate, and that a female nipple is automatically sexual and that sex is bad so we must banish all sex from sight. Sexuality is life. It is water for our souls - it is our birthright! You can’t have life without it, so to criminalize it or make it bad, who is that serving? We might as well enjoy it, it’s the body’s ultimate gift. These events are about breaking stigmas and writing a new narrative for our contemporary society.
Your fantasized collaboration (anyone dead or alive)?
Oh my god there are so many people… I would love to do something with Manish Arora, maybe work on a collection with him, make head pieces for the runway or something. As far as contemporary musician goes, I would love to work with Doja Cat and make stuff for her videos and photos. I feel very aligned with how she speaks about female sexuality and I get so much energy from her music.
Another idea I’ve been brewing on for a long time is that I want to work with Meagan Boyd, (@yinshadowz) on a series of wearable art costume pieces based on the characters in her paintings. I want to bring them to life. I also want to get into family-friendly theater productions where I work with artists like Meagan to create fantastical sets and characters and incorporate live art, puppets and costumes.
What would you imagine your last words to be?
I would say : Relish every moment. I woke up this morning and thought life is so good if you keep good people around you, you’re turned on, in tune with the earth and its seasons. Whenever it is that I go, I know it’s going to be a high note. Life is so precious. I do think of dying from time to time - and at each moment that feeling of if “this was it”, how would I feel about it? Not that I’m dwelling on it, but if this is all I have, well then I feel like A +++, job well done. The more people that can live in that expressed, challenged, evolving state of mind, the more people who will end on a high note. So drink the sweet juice, the nectar of life, and celebrate every moment you get to be alive.
Corinne Loperfido is based between New Orleans and Los Angeles.