Patty [Oldenburg] Mucha Archive
New York City Art World in the Sixties & Seventies
The Patty Mucha Archive features correspondence, manuscripts, artworks, documents and ephemera from a wild index of artists, poets, dancers and performers active in the era of Pop Art, Happenings, E.A.T., Yippies and Punk including: Olga Adorno, David Bradshaw, Joe Brainard, Gregory Corso, Jean Dupuy, Bob Dylan, Kenward Elmslie, Deborah Hay, Richard Hell, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Ruth Kligman, Billy Klüver, Frosty Myers, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Clarice Rivers, Larry Rivers, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann and Andy Warhol to name a few.
Patty Mucha Biography
Patty Mucha (Patricia Muschinski) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 26, 1935. She attended Wisconsin State Teachers College in Milwaukee (now the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee), where she majored in art. Patty first saw Claes Oldenburg while she was at the Oxbow Summer School of Painting and later went to visit him in his Chicago studio. In 1957 she moved to New York to become an artist and met Claes by accident after being there 2 months. At the time he was painting portraits and Mucha became one of his nude models. The last painting that Oldenburg claims to have painted is of Patty Mucha and is titled “Girl with Fur Piece, Portrait of Pat.” She and Oldenburg were married in 1960 and divorced in 1970. “It was really clear from the start that there was only room for one artist and he considered himself the artist,” Mucha acknowledges. “I very willingly accepted that because he was so powerful and wonderful as an artist. And then, after a while, I became part of it anyway.”
Patty Mucha was not only Oldenburg’s muse for his main performance ensemble but collaborator for all of his early sewn sculptures. Her contribution to the invention of soft sculpture was the result of quickly needing to produce large sculptures for Oldenburg’s first exhibition at the Green Gallery in 1962. She appeared in his Ray Gun Theater, which they produced in 1962, and collaborated in sewing costumes and constructing objects and sets for his Happenings and installations. She appeared in Oldenburg films made by Rudy Wurlitzer and Robert Breer as well as in films by Jean Dupuy, Rudy Burckhardt, Andy Warhol and Red Grooms. She also participated in the Happenings of Jim Dine, Robert Whitman, Dick Higgins, Alex Hay, Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, and Sally Gross.
Patty Mucha farms, writes and paints near St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Her essential role in the Pop Art and Happenings scenes is revealed in her as-yet-unpublished memoir, Clean Slate: My Life in the 1960’s New York Art World. Portions of the book have appeared in Art in America as well as in the catalog Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968. Her poetry books include Poems Traveling, 1971-1973 (Panorama, 1973) and See Vermont: Poems, 1974-1978 (Poets Mimeo Cooperative, 1979).
Selected Highlights from the Collection
(Unless otherwise noted, quotations in the following descriptions come from correspondence with Patty Mucha and from her unpublished memoir.)
Patty was visiting various Greek islands and spent a week with poet Charles Henri Ford at his home in Khania, Crete. Although Patty did not officially drop the Oldenburg name until 1980, Claes has addressed her in this letter “Dear P.M.”
According to Patty: “It was during the series of ten Happenings that took place at his studio/store front on east 2nd Street in 1962, which Claes referred to as the Ray Gun Theater - his name for happenings - that I felt an acting bug nuzzle its way into my being. The ten separate works were entitled: Store Days I & II, Necropolis I & II, Injun I & II, Voyages I & II, and World’s Fair I & II. These names held special meanings to him, however obtuse they might have seemed to the rest of us. Actions, visual effects or sounds, may have reflected the titles and individualized each particular set. For me, however, in the end, all ten titles seemed to merge into one. To me, they were simply the ‘Store’ Happenings.”
Patty has written, “...it was always a pleasure to be around Jasper’s evil wit.”
Patty and Andy Warhol were friends from the early 1960s. She writes, “My friendship with Andy led to our participation as singers in a pre-’Velvet Underground’ band, which we dubbed ‘The Druds’. It was lots of fun. We rehearsed downtown at Walter De Maria’s loft on Walker Street.” Other band members included Walter DeMaria on drums, LaMonte Young on saxophone, and Larry Poons on guitar. Lucas Samaras and Warhol were back-up singers. [Warhol’s 1962 portrait of Patty sold at auction in 2011.]
Patty appeared in Warhol’s film “Tarzan and Jane Regained, Sort of…” along with Taylor Mead (to whom she was once ceremoniously “blessed” in marriage by Allen Ginsberg), Dennis Hopper, Gerard Malanga, Claes Oldenburg, John Chamberlain and others.
Samaras participated in Allan Kaprow’s original “18 Happenings in 6 Parts” (1959) and shortly thereafter became close friends to Claes and Patty.
Excerpt from a Robert Ayers iinterview with Claes Oldenburg:
How collaborative were your happenings? Were you very much in charge?
Well I was definitely the director. Of course I had Lucas and I had Patty, and they were the center of it. You could do anything with just those two. They related very much to one another. At that time Lucas was planning to be an actor, and he mainly wanted to be seen.
The archive also includes other items from Lucas, including several handwritten postcards, a handwritten letter, a photocopy of “For Patty,” a poem by Lucas, an additional Polaroid photograph, and an announcement for “Lucas Samaras: Chair Transformations,” at Pace Gallery, October 3-31,1970.
Larry Rivers married Clarice Price, a Welsh schoolteacher who cared for his two sons, in 1961. Rivers and Clarice Price had two daughters, Gwynne and Emma. Larry and Clarice were close friends of the Oldenburgs. The Rivers lived above the Oldenburgs in a Fourteenth Street loft building and were close friends of Kenneth Koch, Kenward Elmslie and the rest of the New York Poets at that time. After six years, Clarice and Larry separated but were never legally divorced. Patty and Clarice spent much time together after Patty’s divorce from Claes and Clarice’s physical separation from Larry.
There are approx. 20 pages of letters from Larry Rivers in the archive.The archive contains 18 handwritten postcards and approx. 50 pages of typewritten and handwritten letters from Clarice to Patty.
Patty met Richard and “Tommy Miller,” the future Tom Verlaine at the artist’s bar, St. Adrian’s at the Broadway Central Hotel in early 1969. Richard was 19, Patty was about to turn 35, and they were soon living together. It was an important time and an important relationship for both. Richard has written: “The two and a half years from early 1969 through summer/fall 1971 that began when I met Patty and ended with the composition of Wanna Go Out? (a set of collaborative poems written by Tom [Verlaine] and me in the persona of a despairing, faux-vicious hooker named Theresa Stern) were probably my most formative.” Patty and Richard continue to be friends in regular contact with one another.
There is extensive Richard Hell material in the archive including letters, drawings, manuscripts, photographs and more: 15 postcards and approx. 110 pages of letters, as well as approx. 65 pages of poems and drawings by Hell.
.. . . .
Patty was introduced to the Swedish artists Öyvind Fahlström and his wife Barbo Östlihn through Billy Klüver shortly after their arrival in New York in 1961 .
The Patty Mucha Archive is divided into three categories:
1) Patty Mucha manuscripts, journals and related items: one carton
2) Correspondence, manuscripts and ephemera: four cartons
3) Artworks, relics and oversize: one carton
Approximately 6 linear feet
. Folder List
Atkinson, Brendan and Janet
Atlanta Public Library
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Davis, Bevan and Michele
de Kooning ,Willem
De Maria, Walter
di Prima, Diane
Dix, Byron E.
Ed (from Corfu)
Eisenhauer, Lettie Lou
|Guerilla Art Action Group
Huang, Al Chung
Klüver, Billy and Julie Martin
Kron, Joan and Audrey Sobol
Mikolowski, Ken and Ann
Milwaukee Art Museum
Miscellaneous New York
Miscellaneous–Poets and Authors
Miscellaneous (unknown author)
Myers, Frosty (Forrest)
Oldenburg, Gosta and Elsie
Oldenburg, Richard and Mel
Ono, Yoko and John Lennon
Poets Mimeo Coop
Press, David (Jazz Gallery)
Shameless Hussy Press
Springs, L.I. Poems
St. Johnsbury Television Co-op
Stern, Jane and Michael
Tyler, Richard O.
von Born, Heidi
Young, La Monte and Marian Zazeela
Youth International Party