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DARNELL, ROBERTSON, CASHBOX, KLINK

Whatever, they’re all the same person. When working as “vice-president and fine crystal buyer” at George Watts and Son’s Jefferson Street emporium, the lady who lives across from Gordon Park is Chrisanne Robertson. When exhibiting her pen and ink drawings and other of her art works about town, she assumes the persona of “Ilse Klink.” This isn’t as odd as it sounds, and actually makes a kind of funky sense because it rhymes (a coincidence?) with the last name of her artist spouse, Matt Fink. Okay, so that’s not his real name either. For those in the know, the real Ilse Klink is a South African television (soap opera) actress named Vanessa Booysens. Chrisanne claims the Ilse Klink thing came from “Hogan’s Heroes,” an oldie teevee show. Her “Cashbox” moniker was inspired by membership in a street gang. We meet for the interview at Nectar on Milwaukee Street, promptly at 8 a.m.The interviewee sips green tea to give her a spiritual boost before she strolls a few blocks north to Watts, where she’ll switch to coffee. From my perspective, she resembles a cross between Courtney Love and Madonna. Bell-bottomed black and white pin stripe trousers, a zany multi-hued thrift-store blouse layered with a shiny black vest, and a hefty amber-hued ring and pendant complete her ensemble. Pointy-toed black boots pull it together. With her long blonde hair wild and loose, this mid-forty lady could be anyone’s rockstar. Please don’t call her a “hippie” just because she dwells in Riverwest. Or a “feminist,” even though she ground through her Fine Arts degree at UW-Madison in the turbulent years when wearing lipstick and looking good signaled that hey, you were against the reigning political grain, and by God shaving your legs marked you as a woman. Chrisanne is beyond that. Born in Michigan of parents who were employed by the CIA, she’s cautious about what she says, but is liberated, opinionated and irritated by those who ramble on about the “unfairness” of our recent elections. Living each day as it comes is her get-on-with-it mantra, perhaps because she’s overcome breast cancer. She says she unloaded a lot of anger (centered around family issues) during treatment, but never participated in being one of the “Pink” ladies who swallow whole the highly lucrative and sometimes controversial marketing of cancer-oriented pink items. Nor does she like being called a “survivor,” a tag which to her independent mind, conjures images of persons “beaten-down.” Summon up an idea of the works of Otto Dix, a German artist who walked the edge between cartoonish and political renderings, and you’ll be on the trail of her current pen & ink and watercolor drawings produced under her Ilse Klink guise. During last summer’s group exhibit at the staid Charles Allis Art Museum, the mostly small pieces electrified not for their size but for their radical content edged with eroticism. Fairytales of a sort, perhaps they’re best compared to those of the Brothers Grimm who knew how to make the most of things creepy. You’ll have to wait until next summer to see more of what Chrisanne the chameleon is about. You’ll find her at Luckystar during Summer Gallery Night & Day in 2005. Meanwhile she labors in a small studio at her Riverwest home. Before interview’s end, Chrisanne whips out a photograph of Matt Fink holding a large gun during what appears to be a target-practice session. She blows it a kiss through her crimson lips, whispers “I love you” to the image of her artist/spouse, then brings forth another photograph, this one of a 40’s movie star, Linda Darnell. “My dad’s last name was also Darnell,” she quips. “He won a date with Linda (in Hawaii!). And they both had the same last names. Isn’t that a coincidence!”