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Art HERstory: Niagara Detroit


“As a kid, I thought women artists, who made it, were serious and wore no makeup.”

I have to admit, growing up, I didn’t think “women artists, who made it” wore makeup either, but when I first discovered Niagara Detroit, all my ideas of what a women artist should and shouldn’t be went out the window.

Hailed as “The Queen of Detroit Pop Art,” Niagara Detroit is drop dead gorgeous. Her name alone is cool. She walks with a feminist swagger and also happens to be Punk Rock royalty. This lady can rock eyeliner and vocals like it’s nobody’s business—and her art—breathtaking!

Get familiar with the iconic Niagara Detroit in today’s brief but image heavy Art HERstory post, after the jump!

Niagara Detroit was born August 23, 1956. In 1973, while attending the University of Michigan, Niagara formed the punk band, Destroy All Monsters. She was the lead vocalist while they were active until 1985, earning big attention due to the presence of former members of The Stooges and the MC5. Niagara soon after fronted the super-group Dark Carnival (also with Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton). Niagara still does occasional rock performances in Australia and Tokyo.

Niagara utilized her art school experience in creating album and promotional art for Destroy All Monsters’ /Dark Carnival performances. Combining an illustrator’s hand with some collage and pop iconography, Niagara’s style began to take shape during these years, and by the early 90’s she was beginning to show in small exhibits and cafes around the Detroit area.

Niagara teamed up with the Detroit gallery for her first exhibits “All Men Are Cremated Equal” (1996) and “Faster Niagara, Kill…Kill” (1997). They were breakout shows that gained her much praise. Soon art mags like Juxtapoz were calling her “The Queen Of Detroit” and many successful exhibits would follow in other cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Tokyo to name but a few. “The Niagara Girl,” who appears in many female guises, would come to represent feminist swagger with drop dead gorgeous looks and an equally dangerous demeanor. Hard-boiled, tough talking gals who would rather dispatch a man than put up with any of his shit. Her bold and colorful post-pulp comic strip style of femme fatales in various depictions was culturally solidified by Callie Khoury’s Thelma and Louise, which shares a kindred spirit with Niagara’s subjects, along with the bad side of 40’s and 50’s film icons such as Bette Davis, and Lauren Bacall.

In 2002, Niagara’s work began to stray away from the gun-toting, booze swilling Femme fatale to a more intricate “Opium Series”. Still decidedly feminine, but the violence was turned inward, as world-weary, flapper-esque beauties are depicted in druggie repose amidst swirling opium fumes, full of Chinese patterns and applique make the series her most detailed and introspective work to date.

In 2006, a career retrospective of her art and music was chronicled in her coffee table book “Beyond The Pale” on 9mm Books.

On the tail of her sold out Japanese tour and her Hysteric Glamour release – the Detroit city pop art Queen returns to Australia for more impressive art touring at the Outré Gallery. Niagara “From Detroit with Love” is showing in Melbourne from Saturday, February 16th until March 11th, 2008.

If you’ve already fallen for Ms. Niagara and want even more of her, drop by PussycatMagazine.com to read their interview with the queen of Detroit. Also, check out Niagara’s amazing website. It’s jam-packed with visuals and information and I promise you’ll leave the site feeling empowered (I’ve bookmarked the site for future inspiration!)—NiagaraDetroit.com!

NOTE: All of the images posted are prints available for sale via the Outré Gallery website.

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14 Responses to “Art HERstory: Niagara Detroit”

  1. Gabriella GDK says:

    Wow. She’s amazing! I think Hysteric Glamour did a collection a while back with some of her art on it.

  2. Detroiter says:

    Sorry, that woman(Niagara) only had a musical “career” because of who fucked her. How dare you detract from the genius of Mr. RON ASHETON and the MC5 guys and Carey Loren by crediting her as leading those bands!?!?! Just as, how dare Niagara delusionally accuse Debbie Harry, Madonna, and Chrissie amongst others of ripping her off(on her website)?!? And calls herself the “Queen of Detroit”. Being the Queen of Detroit is about as easy a as shitting your own pants, but not merely as cool. ANd why does she need a body guard, anyway?(according to her website)
    And you open the article with a line about how “gorgeous” she is. I guess that’s all that really matters, huh?
    Speaking of rip off, you call that art? Soem of it is cool. But, ever seen a a “Pulp” fiction cover from the 40’s-60s’? Andy Warhol ring a bell?
    As a female rocker, I can adamantly say that the only influence Nigara as ever had on me(as a role model and I had never heard of her until I moved to Detroit)is what not to be: A coke head whore hack whose ego is bigger than her brain.
    oh, and 60 year old and claiming to be 32?! WTF!
    Wish I had the money to buy myself “legendary status” in both the punk rock and art worlds and to publish my own biography.

  3. Chris says:

    I dont know about her musical career or her personal life or what she has done in either to make you write such a negative post about her, but to call into question her artistic abilities is rediculous. “you call that art?”, yes i would and to question that escapes my wildest imagination. Yes i have seen the “pulp” covers, which while resembling her artwork (for good reason) are not even done in the same style. Those covers were done in a much more naturalistic style while Niagara’s work is paying homage to these feminine iconic images in a much more contemporary/pop medium. ughh, “andy warhol ring a bell?”, really? It is only once in a blue moon that a single artist comes up with an entirely new medium and style of expression. To expect this from any artist is asking too much. Where would we be artistically today if you were only considered a great artist if your artwork were completely original instead of be praised for your talent as well. Should michael angelo have given up because Da Vinci was breaking grounds first? Should he have stopped his work on the David because the Greeks had already been there and done that? Hell if your perception of art were valid then the entire rennaissance may as well never even happened. Bottom line is stick to what you know. As far as Niagaras personal life and musical career goes, i have no comment because i dont know of either. But as far as being an artist goes, she is very talented and has a very bold, fresh, and appealing artistic style.

  4. ladylexx ladylexx says:

    Well put, Chris.

  5. WOW….NICE JOB…..SHOULD CHECK OUR GOOGLE IMAGES MORE OFTEN. WE EVEN ENJOYED ”DETROITER’S”
    COMMENTS IMMENSELY. AND I WOULD BE REMIS IF I DID NOT ANSWER. 1) AS NIAGARA’S ”BODY GUARD”
    AND HUSBAND, I CAN TELL YOU SHE HAS A KNACK FOR GETTING INTO TENSE SITUATIONS…..NOBODY EVER
    SAID, ”HERE COMES NIAGARA…..EVERYTHING SHOULD GO SMOOTHLY NOW.” 2) SHE DID NOT ”PUBLISH HER
    OWN BIOGRAPHY” 9MM BOOKS DID. 3) NIAGARA DID NOT AUTHOR ONE SENTENCE ON HER WEBSITE, ALL
    COPY IS DONE BY VOLUNTEERS. 4) WHERE & WHEN DID NIAGARA CLAIM TO BE 32 ? 5) NIAGARA IS GLAD
    TO BE ”DETROITER’S ROLE MODEL” BUT REALLY WONDERS IF SHES TAKING THIS STUFF TOO SERIOUSLY. WE
    WOULD LIKE TO THANK LADY LEXX AND ALL THE PARTICIPANTS IN THIS FORUM. WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO
    EXPRESS OUR REMORSE FOR OUR BEST FRIEND RON ASHETON’S PASSING. HE WAS TRULY ONE OF A KIND.

  6. ladylexx ladylexx says:

    Colonel Galaxy: Thank you so much for dropping by our site and thank you for addressing Detroiter’s comment.

    It’s an absolute honor to have you drop by our site. We definitely wanted to give Niagara some much needed shine!

    Also, on behalf of M.I.S.S. Crew, I offer you and Niagara Detroit our sincere condolences on the loss of Ron Asheton. He is truly rock royalty and will not be forgotten.

    Thanks again for the comment.

    ~Lexx

  7. Beret says:

    Well, well…if isn’t Dara Detroiter, showing the world once again how truly pathetic she is. You gave yourself away with all those typos and anti-Niagara diatribe. You really need to live your own life and stop obsessing over Niagara. I know you’re bitter because Ronnie loved Niagara most of all, but this hate tirade is merely a sad display of your jealousy.

    I pity you.

  8. Erin says:

    Dear Detroiter,

    It’s sad that your life is so boring that you feel the need to spend so much time talking shit about someone you’re obviously just jealous of. Niagara got to where she is because of her raw, undeniable talent. She is a musician and an artist that I have great admiration and respect for. Your comment does nothing but make YOU look bad. You are obviously ignorant and unhappy with yourself. Niagara is an accomplished, SELF STYLED artist and a veteran in the punk rock world. You, my dear, are nothing but a loser. Get a life and quit talking shit.

    p.s. Niagara obviously needs a bodyguard to fend off assholes like you.

  9. N. Neutron says:

    As for the comments about Destroy All Monsters, Ron Asheton certainly was the musical force behind that group, but Niagara provided the creative spark that transformed what otherwise would have been a set into a show. I know this to be true having seen the band perform many, many times.
    As for the collection, thank you so much for sharing this retrospective. Ultimately, I think the most anyone can truly say about such works is what they mean to that particular person. When I look at them I am reminded of many things from Art Nouveau to Lichtenstein, Warhol and by purpose Gary Grimshaw.I like them, and the next time I’m in the States I’ll see if that book might still be available.

  10. Monk says:

    I would like make this statement to all the Morons that have no art ability or knowledge of Art. Must of you so call shit house art critics do not know the difference between a Picasso to a Sunday comic strip.
    Here you sit and make judgment on a “Talented Artist” like Niagara and her art work! I would like to ask you can you paint 20 pieces of art in 2-3 months. And then haul them to another country for a showing. Then jump on a plane and fly to another country for another showing. Well, I bet you cannot even travel to your own toilet without complaining.

    The ones who are making these disgusting statements about Niagara are the ones who cannot make it as an artist, singer or even a clothing designer. But the only thing you can do is sit here and criticize Niagara! I bet you cannot even paint your own house if you had too. And as for a blowjob, you are probably sitting at home beating your meat just wishing you can have a wife like her. And if you ever had a chance to sit down and talk to her on a one on one conversation. Like I had the chance to after a showing, I would like to say! She is a little sweetie! But in reality, I bet she wouldn’t give you the time of day!

    No matter what you assholes are saying. I will keep on collecting her work until the day I die! If you are a serious art collector like you are trying to claim to be or even if you can afford any of her art work. Then you would be smart enough to have her in your collection! What a shame that all these people who writing on this blog are a bunch of jealous has been artist’s that cannot even sell their artwork at the local flea market!
    So why don’t you shut the fuk up and worry about your own broke ass life!

  11. DARA says:

    I’M SICK OF GARY HENDERSON TRASHING ME:
    What?
    You assume that every negative remark about your wife is written by ME?! And to accuse me and Ron of stealing from ppl? WTF?! You are desperate.
    That one post if not others was by Kathy Asheton;
    Remember her? She said that you tried to “force yourself upon her one night during a coked out snowstorm at her house”? She made you leave. (She told Ron this). That’s why you were going to leave if she came up north. Well, turns out she was never welcome up there.
    I don’t care anymore what any of you dumb $888+ think about me. You ALL have bullied me for far too long.
    I don’t even live in Michigan(full time) anymore.
    Niagara ROCKS. You, Gary Henderson, do not. You don’t even let Ni do her own interviews.
    Here’s what I told “The Beret”(aka Kathy Asheton after being referred to as “Fat” among other things and having to sue her for slander in two newspapers.

    Dear Kathleen(Asheton)

    Really? JUNE 2009?!?!?!?! Doesn’t sitting on the deck of Ronnie’s and my house up north make you feel good(evil=good in your case)?!
    I’m a size 4 and 5’10 didn’t know that was fat! Thanks for informing me!.
    I have no time. To stalk anyone. I basically live in NYC, working as a choreographer and personal trainer. Remember you told Ron that Gary tried to force himself on you one night? He’s not that nice at all is he?Take care of yourself. Your anger is going to kill you(Ron told me about your blood pressure issues).
    PS Happy impending 60th.
    Also, EVERY band involved in that Blind Pig show told me how you went to Mosaic Feline Shelter and demanded the money back that was donated in Ron’s name. Tsk Tsk.
    Also, sorry for calling you “Fat Kathy” in that post .I should’ve referred to you as your brother Ron did:
    The Red Faced Beast, The Chancre(Scotty, Eric, and Gary and Niagara ALL use that one, too), Two Tons of Blubber and Shit, and lastly… The Beret.
    And please DO still think of me every time you set foot into my house at Sturgeon Point and stand on the deck looking at the view of my beach. You were never welcomed there and you know it. Now it’s time you feel it, as well.
    After 12 years together I was his “wife”. You are a angry miserable lonely thief.

    All of you make not just me sick, but you’re just plan disgusting..it’s like the john waters movie “Female Trouble” was based on all of you.

  12. OK….well…all righty then…
    Now if you excuse us Dara…we have to get back to planet earth.

  13. Radio Beacon says:

    I don’t normally reply to posts but I just had to in this instance. Really great article!

  14. Michael Graham says:

    I am a new convert to Niagara and her art. I know what I like and her art is just the right mix for me of many of the pop master who preceded her. I think that art should be of a style that appeals to you and that a well known name should not be the controlling factor in the purchase decision. Honestly the art should come to you. Bravo on a great article and an estimable career.

    BTW the U-tube clips of her band certainly are a testamony to Ron’s genius.

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