"Mulletpony" sounds like something you'd find on a T-shirt at Urban Outfitters. The back-to-back hipster buzzwords practically scream "fashionista."
Carla Naden and Kelli Bratvold giggle when asked about the name they've given their collaborative art project. Turns out they weren't trying to be too cool for school. They just couldn't draw horses very well.
"I'd been sketching these horses and they just didn't look right," says Naden, who fights off her best friend's playful cunt-punch as she describes her inferior drawing skills. "So I called Kelli and I said, "All of my horses look like ponies with mullets!' And the name stuck."
The two girls have been BFFs since they met in an illustration class at college in Bozeman, Mont., several years ago. Though Bratvold now lives in San Francisco and Naden in Pacific Beach, they fly back and forth to spend time together and work on what they call their "art hybrid." On the side, they're both freelance graphic designers, which gives them the flexibility to make art without starving for money or time.
In their pink and black, handwritten website manifesto, the girls proclaim: "Because creativity must come out or it destroys you" and "Because we need to make art, not war."
And among such profundities as "Because all the unicorns are dead" are cutesy-free statements about animal cruelty.
The manifesto says a lot about Naden and Bratvold and the art they create. In their gorgeously illustrated collages-which often have the feel of "60s rock posters-fashion, pop culture and advertising collide. There's a clear obsession with all things girly, but Mulletpony doesn't joke around when it comes to animal rights, even if they get their point across with clever titles like "I Want to Fuck You Like a Vegetable" (a vegan take on Nine Inch Nails jam).
Naden-27 and pretty in a slightly scrappy way, battered shins and all-is quick to discuss her vegan lifestyle and the dogs she rescues from El Salvador. Her library shelves are lined with books depicting slaughtered and tortured animals (Sue Coe is her favorite artist).
She's not a finger-waving pusher, though. When she discovers her guest isn't vegan, she offers up some tasty animal-byproduct-free food and says: "That's OK, we'll work on you." When her own five rescued pooches pile into her garage-turned-art-studio, tails wagging excitedly, she beams.
Bratvold-"26 and a half, thank you"-gives the dogs a good cuddle and pours another round of white wine spritzers.
"These are our old lady drinks," she says in her husky voice, which is all the more alluring coming from someone so petite. "We're practicing to be old ladies."
Of the two, Bratvold is decidedly more feminine. Her hair is styled in a bob, which makes her doll eyes look even more gigantic. And she wears a vintage minidress, which she pulls up to flash her chonies at least three times.
Together, they have that kind of friend chemistry that baffles parents and boyfriends. They buzz about Naden's studio, finishing each other's sentences, showing off sketches and their collection of random stuff that will eventually find a place in their artwork.
Propped against the wall is an oil painting of a slender, blonde nude in a reclined pose.
"Oh, my god!" exclaims Bratvold. "We got this from a lady who had it painted with the idea of eventually putting her face over the face of the model. She never got around to it.... Maybe we'll put your face on there instead!"
On the floor is a pile of vintage posters they found for free that very day on craigslist, a favorite resource. The erotic prints feature Chinese ladies in Sapphic poses. They flip through the pile and pick out the ones that best depict their relationship, as Naden's boyfriend shakes his head in bemusement.
They even have matching tattoos: Both of their forearms read "Avant-Garde" in the famous typeface by the same name.
"We were so nervous about getting these tattoos," Bratvold recalls. "We kept asking the tattoo guy: Are you sure you can draw straight lines?"
Spoken like true graphic designers.
"I make straight lines," says Naden. "And I make squiggly," finishes Bratvold.
Just as their conversation bounces back and forth organically, they pass their pieces to each other and eventually come up with something that pleases them both: straight and squiggly.
One of their favorite projects is the Golden Wenis-which looks as amazing as it sounds.
"We were in San Francisco, and were looking through this old gay porn shop," recounts Naden. "I bought a deck of cards that I thought just featured hairy-chested men."
"But they were actually big, glistening, hairy cocks!" adds Bratvold, her eyes wide with delight.
"It was so nasty we called it a wenis," continues Naden. Adds Bratvold: "That's what my brother used to say for penis."
The girls painted the penises-er, wenises-gold and gave them bird heads and scientific names, genus and species. It's the kind of piece you can't take your eyes off. And the story only gets better.
Says Bratvold: "We had this art show in San Francisco at a salon that was pretty cool, but the lady was kind of conservative. We were worried about how she'd react to this piece, but of course we hung it anyway."
"The painting fell off the wall onto the owner's head!" cries Naden, and they both erupt into laughter. "The golden wenis fell on her head!"
Naden and Bratvold decide it's time for a dance party and put on some Dolly Parton. As they spin around to "Jolene," the dogs yelping in excitement, the Mulletpony manifesto-art, not war-makes more sense than ever.
These girls might not save the world with their mix of silly and serious, but as Naden points out: "It's a lot easier to change minds with love than by commanding them to do what you say."
Recent works by Mulletpony will be on view at TVU Review at the Whistel Stop Bar, 2236 Fern St. in South Park, at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9. Check out www.mulletpony.com, www.carlalovesponies.com and www.kellibrat.com
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