Nao Bustamente by Coco Fusco

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 57 Fall 1996

New York Live Arts presents

Marjani Forte
Nov 15-19

​Nao Bustamante 01

Nao Bustamante and Coco Fusco from Stuff, 1996. Photo by Sven Wiederholt.

When I first arrived in Los Angeles a few years ago, a rumor circulated that there was an outrageous Chicana performance artist who had strapped a burrito to her crotch and invited audience members to take bites. Her name was Nao Bustamante, and her irreverence towards Mexican indigenism was a breath of fresh air in an arts milieu mired with New Age goddess worship and sappy tales of Mesoamerican grandmothers grinding corn to make tortillas. A 1980 runner up for San Francisco’s Miss Cow Palace and a former cheerleader from California’s Central Valley, Bustamante went through stints as a postmodern dancer and sex-toy salesgirl in the past decade while she was establishing herself as an underground star of the Bay Area performance scene. In the past year, Bustamante has taken flight, traveling with her latest hit, America the Beautiful, to such far-flung sites as Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Mexico City.

In America the Beautiful, Bustamante stretches the comic possibilities of feminine rituals to the limit. Performing the entire piece in the nude, Bustamante holds her audience spellbound as she transforms herself on stage into a kitsch version of a Rubenesque blond with wild cascades of curls, cherry red cheeks, and high heels. Binding her abundant flesh with transparent tape, she proceeds to perform ludicrous feats in the style of a wacked-out circus performer. Without uttering a single word, Bustamante offers an eloquent commentary on the abject dimension of female experience.

–Coco Fusco

Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña by Anna Johnson
Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña 01
Kembra Pfahler by Brienne Walsh
Kembra Pfahler Bomb 1

Kembra Pfahler is a downtown legend: a punk rocker, screen goddess, curator, and performance artist who moved from Los Angeles to the East Village in the early 1980s. Over the course of her time in New York, she’s modeled for Calvin Klein, sang lead in the death punk metal band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and founded a performance art movement known as “Availabilism.”

Hidden Histories: Mary Kelly: The Practical Past by Jessica Holmes

From the laundry room to the streets.  

From Absence to the Living Body: Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 by Ellie Robins
Radical Women1

Recovering global feminism. 

Originally published in

BOMB 57, Fall 1996
Read the issue