Image rights: Courtesy of the artist
About Kembra Pfahler from The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
A leading figure in New York’s performance art scene in the 1980s and ’90s, Kembra Pfahler is the co-creator and lead of the burlesque freak-show-punk-rock band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. “I grew up in a small surfing town…and all the other kids were swimming and tanning, and I used to like to watch horror films,” she has said. Pfahler took early inspiration from the Viennese Actionists, whose extreme manipulation of their own bodies served as her framework. After making her own horror films and performance pieces, she formed her band in 1990. With sets and props composed of found materials, in keeping with a notion she calls “Availablism,” Pfahler commands stages worldwide (including at the 2008 Whitney Biennial), upending feminine ideals, and challenging viewers with her tantalizing blend of pleasure and horror.
American, b. 1961, Hermosa Beach, California, based in New York, New York