Cody Critcheloe is the lead singer and mastermind of the band SSION (pronounced “shun” as in passion, confusion, illusion) which he began in Kentucky at age 16 when he wrote, performed, recorded and made videos for the songs on his first album Fucked into Oblivion. Leading an ever-changing punk/dance/HI-NRG band that sounds a little 1970s, with a bit of 1980s á la Cindy Lauper, Debbie Harry, and Madonna, he has since recorded four additional albums. Critcheloe produced I Don’t Want New Wave, I Don’t Want the Truth, Opportunity Bless my Soul, Glory Wound and Fools Gold with a rotating roster of members and performers.
SSION’s hybrid performance art/pop music crossover falls into a loose genre that might include other bands/artists such as Scissor Sisters, Dirty Sanchez, Fischerspooner, Los Super Elegantes, Forcefield (now disbanded) and My Barbarian. These groups, who often dissociate the individuals in favor of the group, create theatrical costumes for their performances as a visual and conceptual strategy. Many of the young artists in this genre, including Critcheloe, also identify on some level with a punk ethic. For such artists, who weren’t even born during the original punk movement, and instead are part of the MTV generation, punk has become an attitude more than a particular sound or aesthetic; an attitude that is very DIY (do it yourself) and involves artists writing their own lyrics and music, making costumes, recording and editing. With limited resources, Critcheloe has been amazingly productive. He started his current project, an album and musical film Fools Gold, earlier this year with many of his friends as actors.
Critcheloe describes his work as “generally about a Queer utopia and the rise and fall of the American dream.” His videos are hilariously cheeky, peppered with characters in drag, elaborate costumes, and hand-drawn background scenes. His work has a sketch comedy element like Saturday Night Live, where, for example, the lyrics of his songs are enacted literally and humorously. The liner notes for the CD cover are reproductions of Critcheloe’s pencil drawings that are quite amazing in person and demonstrate his skill as a draftsman.
Critcheloe cites a great admiration for women in rock, including Courtney Love, L7, and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. In an interview with kittymagik.com he said, “Sonic Youth were primarily responsible for exposing me to ‘fine art’ as a teenager. I had no resources growing up in Kentucky, so their albums became a key to discovering really great artists, writers, filmmakers, etc. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t heard of Lisa Suckdog! Maybe a successful lawyer?” Strong women are prominent in his work as a quasi-feminist subtext. In Fools Gold, the lead character (played by Critcheloe) and his friend, the WOMAN, join the church of Satan as a joke. His friend gets kicked out of the house, and then he looks for her on a rebellious journey of platonic love. For this exhibition, in addition to a mockumentary, Critcheloe will include an element of performance rumored to involve the WOMAN eating four boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts “in an act of defiance and devotion to womankind everywhere.”
-Julie Rodrigues Widholm