Would You Marry Your Art?

A Seattle artist married herself 10 years ago today.

It’s technically impossibile to marry oneself, but Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger did everything she legally could to be “married to her art.” On September 18, 2004, she made a Public Declaration of Commitment to My Creative Self at a Seattle art gallery surrounded by bridesmaids, friends and patrons matrons of the arts. She legally changed her name. Art critics at the time were hardly amused, blasting her for half-baked performance art. But while a lot of performance is ephemeral beyond the point of documentation or conceptually incomprehensible, Trefsger’s piece is a pretty cut-and-dried act of duration and commentary on commitment.

Trefsger says that just a few months ago she started wearing a ring on her ring finger and is considering a small tattoo of a diamond (the modern 10th anniversary gift) because “a tattoo of a diamond is forever.” Here’s what she has to say about the committed life ten years in.

Trefsger with her matrons of art. Photo by Debbie Ableson.

Tell us about the ceremony.
I wore a wedding dress. My father flew out from Pennsylvania to walk me down the aisle. I read vows. There was a cake (made out of cement) and a reception where someone caught my bouquet. It took nine months to plan and I spent a lot of money on it relative to my income at the time. It was originally scheduled to be outdoors at Golden Gardens, but it rained so it was held at the Center on Contemporary Art at their Dexter Avenue location.

Walking down the aisle with her father. Photo by Debbie Ableson.

Kevin Cook catches the bouquet. Photo by Debbie Ableson.

Reading the vows. Photo by Debbie Ableson.

Tying the knot. Photo by Debbie Ableson.

I felt very supported by my family, friends, coworkers and creative community. I knew I had surrounded myself with amazing, talented people, but today, when I list everyone involved, it sounds like I’m gratuitously dropping names from Seattle’s literary, movement, music and visual art scenes, which is awesome. Poems were written by Karen Finneyfrock and Maged Zaher. Music during the ceremony was performed by Monica Schley and Julie Baldridge. The Butoh dancers were Sheri Brown and Alan Sutherland. The five Matrons of Art were  Cat Bozek, Andrea J. Gardner, Erin Norlin, Eroyn Franklin and Tory Franklin. The wedding dress train was made by David Herbert. Bands that played the reception were the New Death Show, DJs on trikeS, Dalmatians and DJ SuperJew. OntheDouble (dutch) performed. The programs were letter pressed and created by Marianne Goldin and Dawn Cerny. Postcards were designed by Sam Trout. Event managers were Matthew Parker and Sam Trout. Photos were taken by Debbie Ableson and Erin Shafkind. Kevin Cook caught the bouquet.

What’s been the best part about your union?
The name change, hands down. At the time I wanted to showcase that I was serious, that some sort of change would occur and that the commitment would last beyond the ceremony. I couldn’t legally marry myself but I could legally change my name. So I changed my name from Amy Ellen Trefsger to Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger, adopting the artist moniker I had been using for two or three years. The name change has been a daily reminder of my commitment, sometimes good and sometimes a bit awkward. Dealing with bureaucracy is a whole lot more fun. Two years ago, to celebrate the anniversary, I got a personalized license plate.

The times when the name is awkward usually involves my day job, where it may feel appropriate to share that I am an artist but not appropriate to share the moniker. The State of Washington recently ran a background check on me so someone in Olympia had an interesting day on the job.

Have you ever considered separation or divorce?
I’ve been joking that divorce would get better press. My productivity ebbs and flows over the years but I value my creativity and know, as a practicing artist, that I’ll continue to make things as I get inspired and have the time and energy to do so.

Today Trefsger vlogs her dreams and sends love letters via semaphore.

Wanna celebrate Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger’s 10th anniversary with her? Tonight she hosts a book signing (BYOB: Bring Your Own Book) at Two Bells Bar and Grill between 6-9:00 pm. Paintings from her Love Poems to Sailors series will be on display. The artist will be decked out in her finest wedding attire and invites you to wear your favorite wedding dress as well. Original paraphernalia from the Commitment Ceremony will be distributed gratis (while supplies last) and remaining Cement Bakery items will be on sale. Two Bells Bar and Grill is located at 2313 4th Ave and is a 21+ establishment.

Top image credit: Ryan Crase, 2007