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gutter grrls

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It’s easy to spot a couple of the gutter grrls at the local coffee shop — they’re the only ones in the place having a good time and laughing at 10:00 on a Sunday morning. Maybe it was the gutter grrls T-shirt that gave them away. These Photoshop provocateurs prefer to remain semi-anonymous, “working behind the camera and exploiting others.” Their subjects always receive the disclaimer — “We will exploit you.” “We have definitely pushed copyright laws,” gutter L said, “another good reason to be anonymous.” The gutter grrls, who changed the spelling of their name to avoid being confused with a porn site, the Ryan Stiles Fan Club, an Extreme Bowling league as well as a B-movie from the ’60s, make sure that they’re the ones having fun in the creation of their art. They describe what they do as a “way to play.” “When it becomes more work than play, then it’s time to stop and take a break,” explained gutter R, who is quite fond of naps herself. Most grrlies feel that this creative outlet is somewhat therapeutic and makes them more expressive in their art-connected jobs, which range from metal work to construction. “It’s about the friendship we have,” said gutter L. “And the magic of the moment,” added gutter R. Their work is mostly improvised, so they never know what’s going to happen. Things almost always come together, though, so the novelty “hasn’t worn off yet.” For the gutter grrls, the art itself is merely a byproduct of the collaborative process. “The beauty of it is that we have no vision,” stated gutter R. “It constantly changes, which gives us freedom.” The gutter grrls provide a vehicle for “people’s wonderfully twisted sense of humor,” stated gutter L. “We do horrible things to people and they love it. They think it’s hilarious.” There is always an interactive component to their art, thereby “bringing art to the streets and making it accessible.” “We are giving people permission to get dressed up and be different than who they are, and life doesn’t allow that.” The subjects usually have some input on the content of their pictures, and never cease to surprise the grrls. “We are constantly amazed at people’s ideas and inspirations. They start spilling these stories and we’re like — WOW!” Some of their favorite shows were inspired by the people and establishments in their Bay View neighborhood. One of their first projects associated with the Bay View Arts Guild asked local merchants which person — living or dead — they would want to visit their place of business. They also worked on an extensive photo shoot for the Boulevard Ensemble’s show Bridesmaid Revisited, which involved a number of men in dresses and hula hoops. Their “gutter Tarot” fair featured “magic 8 balls,” fortune cookies and someone in a squirrel costume doing tarot readings. The gutter grrls tend to hibernate in winter, “None of us like the cold, and none of our friends would come,” claimed gutter L. One can always count on seeing them, however, at the annual Bay View Arts Tour, where they feature theme team bowling at Bay View Bowl and display their work — though none of the grrlies bowl themselves. People can dress up in costumes and the grrls take their pictures. Area businesses donate prizes, and the winning team gets a personalized photo shoot. One of their more controversial shows was “When Beasties go bad” — a tongue-in-cheek nose-thumbing at what gutter R describes as the “whimsical, cute, corporate ‘art’ that is, sadly, representative of ‘good’ Milwaukee art.” People were able to vent their anti-Beastie feelings by chomping the heads off Beastie cookies, portrayed in various compromising situations, such as being impaled on the Di Suvero “Sunburst” sculpture, stuck in the Miller Park roof, gored by the Chicago “cows,” and getting ejected from Potawatomi Casino for public drunkenness. Their disclaimer assured people that “no actual Beasties were harmed, so get over it…” As for upcoming gigs, the gutter grrls try not to plan too far ahead — “We don’t know what’s in our future — who wants to?” For more information and images of their work, contact the gutter grrls at www.guttergrrls.com.
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