JEFFREY DEITCH I’d like to talk first about your early artistic formation. People think of you as the ultimate downtown New Yorker, but you surprised me once by telling me you’re a Southern California girl—and, shockingly, a natural blonde. Tell us about the transformation from California blonde to one of the people who shaped the New York downtown underground.
KEMBRA PFAHLER Oddly enough, where I grew up resembles the Lower East Side a great deal. I was from Venice, but where I spent most of my time was below 14th Street on San Vicente Boulevard. So I always had a reference to being below 14th Street there. I never went to Hollywood or the Valley; I was a real small town beach person who just stayed in one little area. There was a lot to learn there, though. I was fortunate enough to grow up near Kenneth Anger, and hung out in the same spots he did. The Dogtown scene was all around me; they surfed and skated the pools around my school. In Malibu, there was an incredible nest of fantastic artists that used to enchant me, and I dreamt of growing up to be an artist. Being a goth trapped in a Southern California girl body, doing artwork was like a way to reinvent myself, to really express myself freely. I always enjoyed drawing, making things with my hands, creating new objects, little sculptures. Being creative was just part of my DNA, and being exposed to all these other artists around me, I started becoming aware of a historical trajectory and applying that knowledge to what I did. When I was asked by older people what I was doing, I would say, “I am experimenting. I am an artist.”