(Interview 4/2010. Oil on canvas, 40 ins. x 30 ins.)
Chrissy Tashjian is a singer/songwriter/guitarist for Thin Lips, a punk pop band. I interviewed her for the Healthcare in the US painting series in 2010 when she was in the band, Dangerous Ponies. In 2010 Chrissy was 25 years old, uninsured and hobbling together healthcare where she could get it. Most of the time her ailments remained untreated.
Some portraits make me smile -- that is, the paint on the canvas delights, not the story. This is one of the earlier Art As Social Inquiry portraits.
I was a new-ish portrait painter in 2010 but not a new artist. I had spent 20 years writing plays. As a playwright, I had negotiated the artist's life from booby trap to euphoria-- angst, hope, fear, effort, exaltation, resilience, success, delight, despair, regret, ecstasy, all in the service of wresting an idea from the ethers and birthing it in the material world. I had only to learn the tools of the painting trade. I had already been baptized into the artist's life.
I knew straight away I had her when I started the painting. I've had the feeling before with other paintings and then ended up overworking them to the point where I painted the life out of them. But not so with Chrissy. The final portrait fulfilled the promise of the beginning sketch. At least to me.
Chrissy speaks openly about her agoraphobia now. In a 2019 WHYY interview Chrissy said "Music has helped me overcome so many of my fears." It's important for me to do the things that scare me. Or else...what's the point? I make music because I have to. Music is my therapy."
Chrissy and I have not yet talked about how she's doing today. Health insurance? Health problems? I'll update this story when I know.
(from a 2010 interview)
Musician, Songwriter, Band Manager, age 25, Uninsured
Chrissy works and has worked many part-time jobs. Dog walker, house painter and restorer, nanny, wood shop technician, line cook, waitress, studio assistant, booking agent.
She has relied on a friend's father to correct botched dental care. She previously paid $300 for a partial root canal. The dentist snipped the nerves. The tooth rotted in her mouth.
Chrissy has used the emergency room for bronchitis. She uses Planned Parenthood for gynecological care. A torn ligament and other ailments go untreated.