Thirty-odd years ago Kim Gordon was an L.A. girl fresh out of art school and set loose on the New York City art scene. She co-founded the influential band Sonic Youth in 1981 has since issued 15 studio albums with them, as well as several with her side band Free Kitten. Today Gordon is an icon of both music and fashion; she is also a painter and has designed two clothing lines: X-Girl and Mirror/Dash (the latter for Urban Outfitters). She has written about music and art (a memoir is forthcoming), sung songs that spotlighted women’s lives (Karen Carpenter’s life and death in “Tunic,” sexual harassment in “Swimsuit Issue,” and resisting objectification “The Sprawl“), and inspired many other women to pick up some instruments and start their own bands. Along the way, she ditched the Manhattan rock scene for the familial idyll of Northampton, Massachusetts, and scheduled Sonic Youth’s tours around the school year while she raised her daughter, Coco, who is now in college.
Since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011 on the heels of Kim’s split with her husband and bandmate Thurston Moore, Gordon’s creative output has only increased: A survey of her artwork opens at White Columns this fall, and she’s been busy performing with her new duo, Body/Head, a collaboration with the guitarist Bill Nace. Together the two make ragged, minimal experimental unrock that features Gordon howling, whispering, sounding alive and driven. After decades of hearing Gordon as part of an ensemble, it’s thrilling to hear her this new way, in the spotlight but cool as ever.
Kim recently talked to Rookie about what it was like to be a young artist in New York, drawing power from your weaknesses, and her well-documented obsession with the Friday Night Lights hottie Tim Riggins.