Sunny Taylor,


Sunny Taylor is a painter who grew up in Athens, Georgia. She moved to New York for a few years, but returned to Georgia to finish school at her correspondence college, where she studied political theory and disability studies. In the years since this interview, she attended graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley; and has been featured in her sister Astra's film Examined Life. To learn more and view her paintings, including those interspersed throughout the interview, please visit her Web site. Also read an article Taylor wrote, published in 2004 in the Monthly Review

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Sunny Taylor: (talking about the micro-cassette recorder used for the interview) ...David has used these before too. We spent one car trip... driving to Atlanta, and we had one of these, and we were both kind of nervous of it. So we both talked into it about why we were nervous of it. I think it helped.

Jill Carnes: So you got used to the machinery.

S T: Yeah, a long talk about it.

J C: Okay, cool... this is my interview with Sunny Taylor. The date is March 30, 2005.

S T: (whispering) 31st.

J C: Oh, March 31st, 2005.

S T: I could be wrong.

J C: No, I think you're right; it is the 31st. So, anyway, Sunny, what is your given name?

S T: My given name is Sunaura Celeste Taylor. Sonora is usually spelled with o's... because the word sonorous and there's the Sonora desert in Arizona and I was born in Arizona so that's why; but then they changed it to the sun's aura just because they're hippies.

J C: Okay... and Celeste because that kind of goes with it; it's celestial maybe - the sun and the whole planet thing.

S T: Yeah, I think my dad came up with that.

J C: That answers my second question: do you know where your name came from?

S T: I think, yeah, I think Celeste my dad just came up with.

J C: Now... what is your favorite type of climate? What kind of climate are you most comfortable with?

S T: Yesterday was really awesome.

J C: Which would be like... I must say, let's get more specific for the climate, maybe like a terrain: if it's hot, arid desert, or if it's cold, winter mountain. That kind of thing; put it in haiku form or something.

S T: Can I have a few? I think I like hot, ocean weather. But not damp... I'm thinking specifically of Brazil, because it was really dry and really hot and the ocean was...

J C: So that's one of them: hot, ocean, Brazil. Does that do it?

S T: Um-hmm. And then I like really windy weather and really stormy weather.

J C: Wet?

S T: Yeah, wet and stormy and really windy and loud and thundering.

J C: Oh, cool - wet, stormy, moody weather.

S T: Moody weather. Yes, I like that kind of weather.

J C: Wet, stormy... now I put in the word, "moody," but I don't want to throw words into you.

S T: It's totally moody.

J C: Does that work for you?

S T: Yep... I was surprised... I've been going to Vermont, you know... I've been going when there's tons of snow. And there's something about the snow that makes it not quite so cold. I really love the snowy days when it's really bright and sunny but there's lots of snow - really deep snow, soft snow. The only things I don't like are just when it's really cold, when it's really cold and grey and depressing, for a long time, a very long, long time.

J C: Do you find talk about weather dull or interesting?

S T: I actually find it really, really fascinating, and then I get embarassed because I bring it up all the time. It's supposed to be something that people talk about when they're being shy or proper or whatever.

J C: Right, it's a subject people resort to out of nervousness. They feel awkward but have to talk about something.

S T: Exactly, but I actually find myself excited about the weather.

J C: I like weather too. I love to talk about it with people. It's fine with me.

S T: Because you're in it, it's all around you. So I actually find it really fascinating but then I get embarassed.

J C: Right, you get embarassed because you think of how it's the typical thing to want to talk about?

S T: Right... "let's talk about how beautiful it is," and then I get embarassed.

J C: Well, I think it's good... Do you paint most days, or what's your painting schedule roughly like?

S T: My painting schedule is unfortunately sporadic. Sometimes I'll paint a lot. I think it's more that I have painting months. And if I'm in a painting month, then I'll paint every day, for all day, religiously.

J C: Will you go through times when you're maybe getting visual information for future paintings?

S T: Yeah, and I might touch the paintings every few days. I painted two days ago and I haven't since then.

J C: Because you're also in school so it takes up some of your time.

S T: My schedule has changed since school.

J C: It's hard to fit in everything all the time. I know, I have that problem too.

J C: What books are on your bookshelf?

S T: Oh, I just moved them all

J C: Oh, no! So there's no books on your bookshelf.

S T: No, actually I moved the bookshelf too.

J C: I guess my first question should be: do you have a bookshelf and if so what books are you on your bookshelf?

S T: (joking) I don't know how to read! ...Tons of art books; I have one book-shelf that's just filled with art books... classical art, art philosophy. One shelf that has lots of my books that I've gotten for school - lots of Carl Jung, political theory, and right now lots of books on military pollution and Marx. And what else? Oh, lots of books on apes and monkeys because I really like apes and monkeys.

J C: Yeah, they're pretty cool.

S T:They're really cool. I have one book on organgutans and one big book on bonobos.

J C: Bonobos? That's a kind of ape, or primate?

S T: They're kind of chimpanzees.

JC: I've never heard of that one.

S T: Oh, they're cool.

J C: You got to show them to me.

S T: They don't fight at all. They just make love all day instead of fighting.

J C: Oh, man - total peaceniks.

S T: They are, they're hilarious. If there's any arguments, they just... they're hilarious, they're totally "make peace, make love, not war" monkeys.

J C: Where do they live?

S T: I'm not sure exactly. They live similar places as chimpanzees do. For a long time, they thought they were chimpanzees. They're just smaller and they walk up-right too. They're just beautiful, they're so cool.

J C: When you were in Brazil, at the hot ocean (laughing), did you see any monkeys of any kind - maybe not by the ocean, but maybe in nature ventures or something.

S T: Actually there were monkeys that lived in palm trees on the property, in the hazelnut trees - I think they were hazelnut trees. There were actually trees right on the beach, right on the ocean. They were these little teeny, teeny monkeys that kind of look like squirrels. But then you'd look up-close and they had little monkey faces.

J C: They're as small as squirrels? Or they just resemble them, but maybe slightly bigger...?

S T: They resemble them in the way they moved.

J C: Sort of a running, hopping thing?

S T: Yeah, they were the same size though. They were little, teeny, teeny but they had monkey faces.

J C: What kind of monkey was that again?

S T: I'm not sure.

J C: That was a different type from the one you were just describing, the bonobo.

S T: The other monkey... I asked, but they only knew the Portuguese name for the monkey. So, I don't remember what it was. But they're really, really little.

J C: That makes me want to ask you another question: how many languages do you speak fluently? Or, if you don't like to use the word, "fluently," how many languages are you at least on a street level familiar with, so you can...?

S T: I'm taking Spanish right now and so I can say stuff like, "I like my mom," or "how are you doing."

J C: "Where's the bathroom?"

S T: Like, "where's the bathroom." I'm learning, so I could get by I think... not actually getting close to anybody, but getting very basic information. But that's it, I wish I knew more.

J C: I'm about the same.

S T:Spanish too?

J C: Um-hmm...

J C: Are there any books that you... say, a friend tells you that this book is really good, and by their description, because of their recommendation, you read the book, and when you read the book, at the end, or maybe you just got half-way through it, you thought, "why do they like this? I don't like this." Is there any book you can think of like that?

S T: I'm trying to think, I'm sure there have been.

J C: (joking) You don't have to say who recommended it.

S T: I'm trying to remember. I have to say, usually people give me books and if I don't automatically feel intrigued by it, I just won't read it.

J C: Yeah, I'm the same way; it has to grab my attention.

S T: I'm sure that has happened but I can't think of any right now, at the top of my head, that I actually read part of. Has that ever happened to you?

J C: I probably don't read as much as you. I'm very curious, I talk to lots of people; I learn a lot by talking to people and watching PBS or CNN. It's not that I don't read - I'm more of a short-story reader, biographies... I love biographies. And I like reading magazine articles, things that are more factual. I've never been much of a novel reader. I have read some, but that's not my favorite.

S T: I'm not either, I really need to be interested in the subject.

J C: It's too demanding for me. It's different from watching TV but it's the same as watching TV. It just makes me feel like I have to focus my attention on it and it's taking me away from what I should be doing; in that sense, it's like TV for me.

S T: I kind of agree.

J C: What music do you listen to while you're painting? What's some good Sunny-painting music?

S T: The painting music I listen to obsessively is Neutral Milk Hotel. I know so many painters who do exactly the same thing. And I was listening to your CD the other day.

J C: Oh my!

S T: I'll usually listen to things... I'll get into a phase where I listen to something over and over again. I'm listening to Erik Satie a lot.

J C: Oh, I love him

S T: A lot of gypsy music. I have such a soft spot for... I love Cat Stevens and Donovan.

J C: Me too.

S T: I love them. I used to wake up every single morning and play Donovan.

J C: Donovan... have you ever heard The Hurdy-Gurdy Man? I love that album.

S T: Yes. I have it on MP3. I have all the good Donovan songs. I just love him, so my brother went and got all the Donovan songs. Have you ever the one, "There Is a Mountain"?

J C: Yeah. (Both start humming the song).

S T: And the "I love my shirt" song and all the corny songs.

J C: I don't know "I love my shirt."

S T: It's like, "you have a shirt which you really love..." He's so cute, supposedly he home-schooled his kids and he's a vegetarian.

J C: He did? He home-schooled his kids?

S T: That's what I heard. I haven't actually looked it up, but that's what I've been told. I listen to lots of music, though those are probably my favorites... the Harold and Maude Cat Stevens. (Both sing, "if you want to say no, say no"). Sometimes I feel so corny because I listen to that and then Donovan and I'm like, "oh my gosh."

J C: What is your favorite color today? Don't think about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow - what is it today?

S T: Red.

J C: Red, and you're wearing red.

S T: I was wearing more red earlier but then I had to get changed.

J C: Can you describe red for me?

S T: I like deep, velvet-y red. Really red. Not really a fire-truck red, not just pure red, I like read mixed with brown or something. Or a fire-truck red if it were on velvet.

J C: A velvet painting of a fire truck.

S T: Yeah, I like deep-red red. I like to wear red with pink or orange. It balances out the red.

J C: That is a nice combo. That makes me think... lately I like seeing pink next to brown. You know what makes me think about it: my job... you know, I'm a gardener. I'm always seeing color combinations out there when I'm working. And just recently, within the last six months, I saw a crepe myrtle down on some wet pine straw. You know how pine straw looks when it's wet and fairly new, so it's that nice brown color with the pink blossom laying on it.

S T: That is a beautiful combination.

J C: I like your red-and-pink thing too. Isn't Paul [Thomas's] house red and pink? [Thomas is an Athenian visual artist, musician, and shopkeeper who has been active in the city's music and arts scenes since the early 1980's.] Have you been by his house?

S T: I've never actually been in it. I've been outside. It is pink.

J C: I think it's pink with red trim on the windows.

S T: I think you're right. I remember seeing it and being really surprised: "Paul's house is pink."

J C: Does your favorite color vary from day to day?

S T: I think it does. What I realized I like doing... I like having a specific color for each painting. I'll have a pink-ish painting, everything will be based around pink... or brown, or a tan-ish color, or blue. I like to get into a color and have that be the main color. Not throw tons and tons of colors into the same... though I love that too. This is just what I've been exploring recently. Just picking a color and exploring the variations within that color.

J C: Yeah, It's like jumping in a color, and swimming in it, and seeing all the different variations.

S T: And mixing different colors with that color to keep that color; it changes from day to day.

J C: Do you have a favorite color scheme?

S T: Well, I guess I would go along with that: just that I love to have the same color but in variations.

J C: Right, I got you...

J C: If you could snap your fingers and be in another dimension or realm, where would that be?

S T: You know what... yesterday I was researching on the Internet and I found this place that will take disabled people to Egypt and take them on safari, and now I'm really obsessed with the idea of going to Africa, so I think right now my fantasies are in Africa.

J C: Do you have a chair that can - this might sound like a silly question - maneuver through the sand?

S T: Usually that would just be solved with taking a push-chair and then going with friends. But I would really love to go on some kind of crazy adventure by myself; that's just really hard for me. But what's so cool about this organization... there are people who will drive this wheelchair-accessible truck and set up the wheelchair-accessible tent and help me through sand and stuff like that. So I'll be with people, but they'll be strangers; they won't be my friends. I mean, they might be by the end of the trip. So I think that issue will probably be solved.

J C: So they're there to assist when need be, and that includes maneuvering through sand and stuff.

S T: Also, to help me... normal safari guides. Guides through the pyramids or whatever you'd have.

J C: That sounds good. I hope you can do it. Have you looked into it?

S T: I emailed them. I was so excited. I mean, it's expensive, it's very expensive, but I feel like it's worth it. Mostly I'm just really happy right now here, so I'm not sure if it's the best time to do it.

J C: And there's no age limit on that. You could do it five years from now.

S T: Yeah, exactly.

J C: What kind of toys did you play with as a child?

S T: At my house? Okay, my best friend from when I was 6 until about 13 was this girl Erin and we had three games that we'd play. One was... there were these little, teeny creatures that were little, plastic... but they had fur on them and they were like bears or rabbits. And they wore clothes, farm clothes and stuff, and they were called Sylvanians. So we played with these Sylvanians in our doll houses. They were great, they were all just really cute, they were all sorts of kinds of animals. They were old-fashioned-looking and they all wore clothes.

J C: Did you make plays up with them, have them say things to each other? Scenarios...

S T: Yeah, exactly. And at her house we'd play with Playmobile.

J C: What's Playmobile?

S T: Playmobile is little, plastic figures that have all sorts of insane accessories. They're really, really cool, you can still buy them.

J C: Do you mind if I put what your age is?

S T: My birthday was actually a few weeks ago. I'm 23 now.

J C: And what sign are you then? You're a Pisces?

S T: Yeah, actually born right on the cusp.

J C: So, you're between Pisces and Aries.

S T: And then we'd just play fantasy games.

J C: And the reason I ask your age is because... I'm 41 and I might not know some of the toys you played with and vice versa.

S T: Well, Sylvanians I think were really rare. I don't think they were very popular. It was really hard to get them. So whenever we'd find them, we'd buy all of them we could find.

J C: Do you have any of them around still? You've kept some of them?

S T: Yeah. The dogs have gotten a lot of them.

J C: The poodles...

S T: The poodles. There was one family of moles that I really liked and I think I still have a few of them.

J C: And does that friend still... do you still keep in touch with her? You see her sometimes?

S T: Yeah, she still lives here. We try to see each other. She's been in school, she just graduated; so we've had different schedules and we don't get to see each other that much but when we do... we're like sisters...

J C: She home-schooled with you?

S T: On and off... she did when I was littler... I think she home-schooled, for a few years anyway. But then she went to middle school and high school.

J C: What kind of games you did enjoy, or dislike, as a child... I mean, you strongly liked them or you strongly disliked... "ah, put that away, I can't stand it, I don't want to bring that one out"... any kind of strong leaning, either way?

S T: Actually, with these games - these games I just described - we'd play the same thing. We'd have the same fantasy. The fantasy was that we were kids whose parents had died, we were living on an island... the typical kind of kid fantasies. So we played that game, it always had the same pattern. That was probably our favorite game. I never really... actually, when I was little, I liked board games, but I think because they're so much about using your hands I never got into them.

J C: I didn't get into them because I thought... I don't want to say all of them - I like Scrabble; I always liked that.

S T: I came here the other day and played Scrabble with David actually.

J C: That to me was fun, but I never liked Monopoly...

S T: (joking) So capitalistic.

J C: I couldn't get into those games.

S T: Yeah, they always seemed kind of boring.

J C: You enjoyed fantasy games more than board games, basically is what you're saying.

S T: Yeah. And we'd play sports, but I'd have to make up my own rules. My best friend's brother was Alex's best friend... we played kickball but I'd make up rules because I obviously wasn't very good at it. I had a lot of fun, we'd get incredibly competitive.

J C: Do you have a favorite memory that you'd like to share? And you can separate that into early memory and late memory and have two different ones if it makes it easier, because it's really a pretty demanding question.

S T: That's a really good question. Memory's funny because you have so many but then when you try to think... they're all just there, piled away, and you almost need something to make them come back.

J C: Right, you need a trigger to make them come back...

S T: Can we come back to that one?

J C: Yeah... I want to get a little political here. Do you have any current events you'd like to discuss or bring to the table - things you're concerned about... it could be local or national or international...

S T: For school this semester, I'm studying polllution, and military pollution: pollution specifically caused by the U.S. military and by big U.S. corporations. And that's partially because of the fact that my disability was caused by military pollution. There was a place in the town where I was born that made and cleaned and did all the up-keep of airplanes and different things that are used in warfare; and they for decades and decades have been just burying those chemicals in the ground illegally, and it got in the groundwater and tens of thousands of people in the south side of Tucson were infected. And lots of people became disabled or were born disabled or got cancer and died. So what I've found out through my research (and I think this is common knowledge) is that the U.S. military is a huge polluter - in fact, according to some things I've read, the no. 1 polluter in the world.

J C: Of all kinds of environmental...

S T: Yeah, all different angles... the air, the water. I read something that was about space, how outer space is being polluted by the U.S. military.

J C: How's that?

S T: Just all the space junk that's floating around with all sorts of different horrible chemicals and things.

J C: Oh goodness.

S T: The military too... the thing about the military is that all stages of it are dangerous. The making of the thing, the cleaning, the testing of bombs. And then, war of course is incredibly damaging to nature and to people, and its purposefully so. And it just seems all that much more hypocritical considering that right now the rhetoric of the country is that we're making our military stronger to protect us, when in actuality it's causing so much harm to millions of millions of Americans and other people.

J C: To hypocritical proportions...

S T: To hypocritical proportions, yes, it's crazy.

J C: And before, we discussed the possibility... did you know whether it was some kind of group in Arizona where you were born that gets together and discuss what happened and you said something... that you believe they are working on making the situation better?

S T: Yeah. It's kind of gross because Hughes Air Force, which is the main place, has now become Raytheon. Raytheon is getting paid tons of money to clean up its mess. So now what they're doing is something very prominent called "green-washing": where a company will donate to Earth Day or whatever to overshadow the fact that they are horrible, horrible polluters. They have this whole part of their building which is about how Raytheon is good for the environment. I'm not sure whether this group that meets... who organizes i; I've never been part of it.

J C: So you're not clear on what their angle is...

J C: You were home-schooled as a child.. and you were telling me that you were in Montessori school for...

S T: 6th grade, I think.

J C: ...middle-school years?

S T: Just for half a year.

J C: In Montessori for only half a year... and you did kindergarten in public schools, but other than that everything else was home-schooling.

S T: There was high school in public school: 8th grade, 9th grade, and 10th grade, but only for half the days.

J C: Oh, I see, the other half of the day you were...

S T: At home.

J C: But no home-schooling during that time at all.

S T: Well, I did this thing called Homebound, so that I didn't have to be in school all day. I'd have to do my work for the class at home, so it wasn't home-schooling but I did do it at home.

J C: Okay, I got you. I guess your parents are pretty...

S T: Eccentric?

J C: Instrumental in teaching you in home school, that's how it goes.

S T: Well, they did this thing called "un-schooling," where they didn't teach us. We had an environment with lots of books around and people who would answer questions, but they never told us to sit and read or go and study. The thing about un-schooling is a belief that if a kid is curious, then they'll learn. So we never had textbooks and our mom never sat us down with lessons.

J C: I agree that if you don't have any curiosity for a subject, you're not going to learn anything about it. Sunny, do you want to say something about food? What are some of your favorite foods?

S T: I really like food...

J C: Because we know you're a vegetarian...

S T: Yes, but I'm not a vegan unforunately. I'm trying to figure out how to be a vegan but the problem is that I really, really love ice cream, especially Ben and Jerry's. And I love Indian food. I love Thai of Athens [a restaurant in Athens with plenty of vegetarian options].

J C: Love it, Thai food's good.

S T: I love Thai food, I love vegetables, I love pears, and oranges, and bananas. And I love chocolate and I love cake and cookies, lots of cookies. I like a lot of food. Indian food, that's probably my favorite.

J C: You do eat dairy, because you couldn't eat your ice cream if you were.

S T: No, I couldn't. And I really like cheese too. I'm trying to figure out ways of cutting down, that is something I'd like eventually.

J C: What would be the reason why you'd want to do that? Is it ethical reasons, or health reasons, or a combination of the two.

S T: It's basically all just ethical reasons. I'm a vegetarian because I don't like hurting animals, and the whole process of getting milk and eggs hurts animals.

J C: Yeah, you dou don't want a product from the animals.

S T: But my big problem right now is that I can't cook. I'm trying to learn how to cook. My big secret right now - actually, it's not a secret because I tell everybody - but I'm slightly embarassed of it, is that I got a George Foreman grill.

J C: I have one of those.

S T: Really?

J C: Yes, they're great.

S T: Aren't they great?

J C: It makes cooking - grilling stuff - really simple.

S T: So I've been learning how to grill things. I boiled water for the very first time. I made spaghetti. I made David, my boyfriend, a birthday cake.

J C: You put the candles on and what not?

S T: I actually even didn't get to eat it with him. Because he had to spend dinner with his parents, and then I went out of town. But he ate it. But it was a Betty Crocker cake, so I have to say it wasn't my own.

J C: Well, that's probably about the best I could do. I'm not the best cook either.

S T: Using diary makes cooking, when you're a bad cook, a lot easier.

J C: It helps bind things.

S T: Yeah, and it helps to be healthier at this point just because I can't cook well. So what I'd like to do is learn how to cook more and figure out ways I can cook and still be healthy and be vegan.

J C: Maybe it would make you more aware of ingredients that you're putting into your food, rather than relying on restaurants. What's your favorite kind of cake?

S T: I really love carrot cake. My friend came over and gave me carrot cake today. I was so happy. Carrot cake, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, red velvet cake...

J C: But carrot cake's on the top? Do you like German chocolate cake?

S T: I love German chocolate a lot. I love that Vegan Death cake at the Grit [a vegetarian restaurant in Athens]. Yeah, I love cake.

J C: The girl loves cake. So you made some spaghetti today? Did you make a sauce?

S T: Yeah, just noodle sauce; I did make some fake meat to go with it.

J C: Any kind of spices you added to that?

S T: I didn't add spices but I have before. When I grill stuff, I like to use all sorts of different spices.

J C: What are you top five favorite spices?

S T: I love paprika. What are some spices in Indian food?

J C: Curry?

S T: Curry's probably up there. Rosemary. Cinnamon.

J C: Do you like cilantro?

S T: I do like cilantro a lot. What else? I like dill if it's in the right things.

J C: It's good in sauces.

S T: Basil is one of my favorites.

J C: Okay, want to talk about movies a minute? Getting into the more fun-loving part of the interview... Any movies that you want to see that you haven't seen yet, that have been recommended to you...?

S T: There are lots of movies that are recommended to me but I never remember. I'm not good at remembering directors and stuff like that. And when I go to the video store, I get incredibly overwhelmed and I'm really only good at picking out movies if I've already seen them.

J C: Are you a repeat watcher?

S T: I am.

J C: If you find a good one...

S T: I get really overwhelmed by movies too, kind of how we were talking about books.

J C: You feel like you should be doing something instead of watching a movie.

S T: Yeah. I get really antsy, but then I also feel too emotionally involved with someone else's emotions. If it's a really great, beautiful movie, then it's something... Movies are so powerful, because it can be the stupidest, dumbest movie and yet you still get sucked into the melodrama of it. And I don't like that. It makes me slightly uncomfortable. But sometimes I'm in a mood where I want to be in that...

J C: In that space?

S T: Yeah.

J C: What are some movies you do like? What's a visually beautiful movie you like? Sometimes I think things are good as eye candy: the plot is dumb, or you don't like one actor in it, but you might like the way it's visually put together.

S T: Probably lots of movies. My favorite visual movies are Emir Kusturica's movies, like Time of the Gypsies [Dom Za Vesanje, 1989] and Underground [1995]. They're so visually beautiful but also musically they're so beautiful. They're just beautiful, story-wise.

J C: Where is he from?

S T: I used to know, I don't remember anymore. I mean, they're all about gypsies...and then Harold and Maude is one of my favorites.

J C: Oh, I love that movie.

S T: And... what else? I've recently become completely infatuated with Jimmy Stewart.

J C: Oh god, love him, have you seen Harvey?

S T: Harvey is one of my new favorite movies. Jimmy Stewart's awesome. I really like old movies.

J C: Did you see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the filibuster scene....

S T: Yeah, that's a great movie. I had a Jimmy Stewart week, where I was discovering Jimmy Stewart. I rented that and Harvey, and I had never seen It's a Wonderful Life. There was one other one that was about a family, a really eccentric family, that was really awesome but I can't remember what it was called. So him and... I don't know, I like all sorts of movies.

J C: You like Cary Grant?

S T: I do, but I don't know too many movies.

J C: Oh, you should check Cary Grant out. A lot of them are really good. I just thought of a question. Sometimes my sister says about somebody she thinks is really cool... it's a famous person, depending on their age, she'll say that's my uncle, that's my grandfather. Thinking it would be cool to have her as a father. Would you think Jimmy Stewart... could he be your grandfather?

S T: Or my uncle. I would love that, if he were... from how he looks, from how I remember him, I think he would make a good uncle. He could be my uncle, I would love that. The woman from Harold and Maude is my grandmother. Harold is my brother.

J C: Bud Court?

S T: Yeah. Who was the old guy with the really big nose in Grumpy Old Men?

J C: Is it Walter Matthau?

S T: He reminds me of my grandfather - just his nose and how grumpy he was. Yeah, I like that question.

J C: If you were to make a protest sign at a rally - a peace rally - what would you want your sign to say?

S T: The sign that I have, that I put on my wheelchair sometimes, says: "the U.S. military and its garbage made me disabled." But that's when I'm feeling very political. What else? I like the bumper sticker that says, "love animals don't eat them." I like one that says, "why be normal," I think that's nice. These are the ones that I've seen. Sometimes I think the most powerful political statements are also done through art, so maybe I could figure out... one of my favorites songs is "Imagine."

J C:That makes me think about artists... these times, and the way the are - the politics, how things are going... I personally feel like it's a job for artists to provide escapism for people who don't... maybe job might not be the best word... not a job in the sense that we have to do it, but a job in the sense that hopefully our outcome will have been that we were able to do that for people. Do you agree with that?

S T: I get confused because sometimes I feel really spoiled and I think I shouldn't be sitting here making art; I should be out protesting, or writing an article on something. But then at the same time, I think exactly what you said... artists create - often anyway - they can create so much beauty, or at least something really sincere, even if it's not beautiful. In a world that's so full of suffering and of things that are insincere, disposable and plastic, I think it's incredibly important to fill up the world with beautiful things. I think art is absolutely essential and the fact that it isn't seen as being essential is part of the problem with the world.

JC: Going back to the subject of curiosity, I think if they could make curiosity a drug, it would sell more than cocaine; I think it would sell more than pot. It would be such a fantastic thing, it would be so exciting, that people would be besides themselves and they would have no need to resort to any other kind of thing. If they could bottle it...

S T: I think you're right. The highs that go along with being excited about something, intellectually excited, or emotionally excited, or just curious, are just the best. Even when they're incredibly depressing topics, they can be incredibly consuming things.

J C: And just because something's a sad-looking painting doesn't mean it's not an excellent piece of work that speaks volumes to someone and opens up their mind and their heart and their soul.

S T: I'd agree with that.

J C: Do you have a favorite memory?

S T: One of many, multiple favorite memories... I was in France, with my sister and her boyfriend and my best friend. We went to this city, kind of the size of Athens, and its on these old, inactive volcanoes; it's where my brother is living right now. It was pouring rain, it was really late at night, and my friend was slightly drunk, and we went wheelchair-skiing. The place was really hilly, so we'd go quickly up and slide, and it was super-dangerous on the cobblestones, but it was fun.

J C: It wasn't like sliding...

S T: Yeah, he'd run really, really fast, then tip my chair and just glide because it was slippery.

J C: Was he holding on to your chair?

S T: Supposedly. I was a little bit freaked out. So that's probably one of my favorite memories. I like playing in my wheelchair. David pushes me through the woods, which is wonderful.

J C: Did you like being in New York?

S T: I loved being in New York. I had a lot of really fun times there. A crazy, sweaty dance party we had - probably one of my favorite memories. My brother just danced like a mad man all night. When my little sister was born...

J C: Tara?

S T: When Tara was born and going to the IHOP after she was born and thinking she was really funny looking. When all the poodles were born. Being in Brazil and sitting in the hammocks watching the monkeys - that's a good memory. Playing with my brother, and building forts with my brother and sister. When my brother and I decided we were going to run away.

J C: Did you get very far?

S T: No, we decided that we'd live in the backyard and just hide from my parents. When they'd go to the grocery store, we'd jump onto the back of their car so we could go to the grocery store too; or when they left the house, we'd sneak into the house to go to the bathroom because we didn't want to rough it that much. I have lots of good memories with my siblings, and my friends, and my boyfriend...

J C: You're a lover, not a hater.

S T: I hate lots of things actually, I'm just not focusing on those things.

J C: Okay, I guess that's the end of the interview. Thanks, Sunny.

S T: Thank you, Jill.

May 2005