LOCATION East Village
RENT $781.02 [rent stabilized]
SQUARE FEET 240 [studio in tenement]
OCCUPANTS Barbara Monoian [artist; commercial fisherman]; Beth Monoian [artist]
You have a twin! [Barbara] Beth lives with me part of the time. She commutes from Pittsburgh. [Beth nods.]
Where are the hog parts? O-kay. [Takes a breath.] The hog intestines are these pieces.
You have the work of 90 artists in here! I’ve started a museum. That’s Beth on the video.
Beth is in a pink tutu. Tutu and you.
When did you turn your apartment into a museum? Last month. We have open hours.
Where do you keep your clothes? In a plastic garbage bag.
Are you sure you really live here? Yes! I’ve been here since 1996.
Where do you sleep? Beth’s on the couch. I’m on the floor. It’s like sleeping on my boat.
Ah yes, the fishing boat in Alaska. O-kay, my boat. [Takes a breath.] I’ve got a 36-foot, 1930 wooden hand troller. [She shows a picture.]
It’s like a boat in a murder story or where they smuggle things. [Beth] It’s not quite like that. [Barbara] I bought it in Hoonah, a Tlingit village I love near Juneau.
What do you catch? Salmon, crab, herring.
What’s your best catch in a day? Those are difficult questions. O-kay, it’s sold by the pound. All the fish are cleaned by hand—by me. Sixty silver salmon in a day would be fun.
Beth, do you help with this? [Beth] No. I fished once when I was 18.
You’re slapping a pit bull on its behind. Barb is an exceptionally tough person. [Barbara] I’m thinking of going back in December. The northern lights are out, lots of dark nights. Last year I drove across Canada, alone, in a week. Usually I sleep in the car.
In the middle of Canada, my god. I got inspired when you said about being in Alaska and there’s this story in Outhouses of Alaska about a woman who accidentally peed on a grizzly bear and then I started looking at those thousands of miles of empty snow and I thought about the Gold Rush and the people who climbed up and down the Chilkoot Pass, 40 miles up and 40 miles down, and the avalanches and scurvy. They brag about that.
Oh, what gold will do to a person. Anyway, back to the snow, and the shifting polar ice cap and the thought of being abandoned, lost alone in that empty whiteness. Once on The X-Files, this man fell through an ice hole into the earth below Antarctica. I can’t think of anything worse. [Beth] It’s not quite that way.
Are those more hog intestines over there? [Barbara] Rawhide. It’s a piece I did after September 11. After seeing a deer hunt, 20 deer hanging by the neck . . . [Beth] She has this photo of deer splayed. You should show . . . [Barbara] No, they’re too graphic.
These hanging bladders? This is a hunk of sausage casing.
Look, a haunted roller coaster. Such a brilliant work. Why did you go to Alaska? My grandparents are in Ketchikan. The other grandfather’s Armenian. He’s in Washington State. [Beth] He was a hop farmer. [Barbara] We’re from Yakima.
Is there a large Armenian community in Yakima? [Beth] Just our family. Our grandfather escaped the Armenian genocide. [Barbara] Hitler used it as a model. [Beth] Our other grandfather is part Cherokee. [Barbara] My mom’s health care clinic is in the top six in the country.
Who else lives in Yakima? There’s Mr. Paddock. He’s important.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 9, 2004