After poor--but happy--frolicking years of
art school in Philadelphia at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
(and stints at Moore College of Art and The University of the Arts),
Erika was surprised to find herself out on the streets with a lot of
attitude and an inability to hold down a job. So after a couple of crappy
jobs, bad room mates, and a couple of days in jail, Erika was losing
the dream of being a rich and famous artist strung out on heroin supplied
by NYC gallery dealers.
Erika quickly adjusted her ambitions and aimed to become a famous cartoonist
for porn magazines. That didn’t go so well either. But her cartoons
kept getting published in San Francisco and so she moved there and
ended up living with a Gothic meth lap dancer and a bleach-blonde Eskimo
girl from Canada.
Soon after getting her own apartment with no job in sight, Lopez got
a couple of grants she’d--half-jokingly, but desperately-- applied
for during one of her previous “fired” periods back in
Philadelphia: She was a Pew discipline winner a couple of times, but
the Ludwig Vogelstein
Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts each gave her $2500
to write. Write? Write what?
So following through on her own dare and having nothing left to lose,
she learned to ride a crappy motorcycle in a week, and rode cross country
so she could at least write about doing something. When she made it
safely home, she penned her way through her first novel, “Flaming Iguanas,” sprinkling
it with enough illustrations to distract the reader from the writing.
It worked. It sold. Her editor at Simon & Schuster offered her
more money to write again and again, and so she wrote and wrote until
realized she was getting weird and creepy after so much time alone.
The future seemed so bright for young Erika, she thought she’d
have a Victorian house in San Francisco within an hour. But with a
shrinking economy and “creative differences” with her publisher,
the jig was up. She unwisely shot herself in the foot at the beginning
what was to become a massive economic downturn. In no time at all it
seemed she was going down in flames...
Again, Erika simply went with the flow. She embraced this challenge
with a pinch on the cheek and a pat on the head, by gaining weight,
to AM talk radio too loud, and calling herself “Grandma Lopez.” She
was going around calling people "toots", pinching their cheeks too
hard, and giving everyone unsolicited advice as she limped on over to the welfare
Becoming a burden to the state and calling the welfare checks her “special
mini art grants,” she turned those salmon-colored notes into "Nothing
Left but the Smell: A Republican on Welfare." As far as anyone knows,
the first known Food Stamp Variety Show with lots of theatrical complaining,
some papery cartoon moments, and tender, bitter singing. It's a show about
being a sorely-mistaken, middle class pipsqueak … one of those totally
unsympathetic characters who grows up thinking all the civil and voting fights
been fought so now she’s free to sit back and buy lots of crap from mail
order catalogues. Instead, she ends up in the welfare line so she can star
in her own variety show about it later.
This started a new chapter in Erika’s adventure, one that embraces a
multi-media approach to life. No one focus, but a broad view on that “what’s
next” question buried inside each and every one of us. This new and improved
Erika has been travelling around the world, Oslo, Edinburg, London and Manchester,
performing and inspiring other pipsqueaks all over the
planet. She has now set her sites on the big screen.
Yes, she’s gonna give Hollywood some new wood!
Her new goal in life is to one day be interviewed on American TV in 25 years
and laugh condescendingly at Leslie Stahl and her discreetly hidden colostomy
bag and sound like Tina Turner before her big comeback: "But I was always
big in Europe. In Europe they always loved me."