Remembering Mangina, the Performer Whose Scrotum Is His Art

April 10, 2015 | Reverend Jen

A chill ran up my spine, as I lay naked upon an inverted plank. Not because there was no heat in the Brooklyn loft, but because Mangina was approaching me with a bucket of hot wax. My legs were elevated and my clit had just been engorged thanks to Mangina’s fluffing. Yet, despite my hooded Jawa’s now inflated state, I was not there for sexual pleasure; I was there for art.

With the precision of a surgeon, Mangina then lifted the heavy bucket and poured the wax onto my love cave. It was hot but thanks to the aloe coating my skin, not sizzling. I lifted my head slightly and watched it dry, noticing the many other prosthetic vulvas hanging from his wall. Within minutes, we had a cast with which Mangina could make several wearable Manginas.

At this point, you might be wondering exactly who or what Mangina is. Mangina is both a who and a what. “A” Mangina is a wearable vulva while “Mangina” is an artist named Patrick Bucklew who invented and wears said device during performances. A Mangina features openings on the sides, which Mangina then pulls his scrotum through, thus creating a “Lotum” which looks like labia. During performances guests are sometimes invited to fondle the Lotum. Occasionally, Mangina pairs the Mangina with a “Bubble Head” which is a round fish tank he wears over his head that an assistant fills with water.

(Photos: Rosalie knox)
The person Mangina is many things to many people. A, tall 50-something with a frame like Iggy Pop and an impish smile, he is former fixture in Downtown New York. He was exiled to Portland, Oregon in 2012. But even on the other side of the country, he is still a coveted member of the Art Star Scene. The Art Stars are a group of eccentric, multi-talented artists who all basically met through the Lower East Side open mic scene that burgeoned in the early ’90s. Many Art Stars, like Mangi, have been exiled due to New York’s soaring rents and the inability to find inexpensive venues in which to put on shows. (My own open mic, which ran for 2 decades, is one such casualty.) In 1999 there were 7 storefront theaters on the Lower East Side. Now there are none. We still do shows, but they are less frequent and most often held in bars serving overpriced drinks.

Despite the move, Mangi still paints, sculpts and is well known for doing pet portraits. He has collaborated with Fiona Apple, who can be seen here holding a Mangina painting of her now deceased pit bull, Janet. However, when asked what impact he feels he’s had on the Oregon art scene, he simply said, “I haven’t done shit in Oregon.”

I met Mangina through author Jonathan Ames, who’s chronicled some of the pair’s adventures in his books. It was through Ames’ What’s Not to Love? Confessions of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer that I first learned “Mangi” has one leg, which he lost in an accident. This led to his interest in prosthetics along with his interest in hijinks performed for shock value and yuks.

Artist David Leslie, who built & curated the “24/7 for one month one night only nightclub” at Josh Harris’ QUIET / WE LIVE IN PUBLIC spectacle, mentioned that part of the club’s installation was all 53 of the first Manginas ever made, acquired for $2,000. Mangi also did a performance at WE LIVE IN PUBLIC. Of it Mangina says, “I was performing in a pod…Dynamite, the editor of Black Tail magazine was going to receive my stump in her vajayjay and the were 5 other couples in the other pods and when Dynamite and I began our performance everybody gathered around US ignoring the porn couples…it was way cool as I inserted my stump in her. (She put 3 extra extra extra large condoms on my stump.)”

When Leslie did a teaching stint at University of Texas, he told his students that he would bring in whichever performance artist they voted on to be a guest performer. They unanimously voted on Mangina. Says Leslie, “I loved the big posters all over the campus announcing that The Mangina was coming to perform.”

Everyone who offered stories about Mangina said basically the same thing: “New York isn’t the same without him.” My friend Abby Hertz, who also does vulva-inspired art, said of him, “His departure from NYC left a giant, gaping hole in the Art Star Scene and the underground art world in general.”

Though Mangi and I will always be friends, when he left New York, I not only lost a collaborator, New York lost a slice of the weirdness that makes it awesome. And here is a big problem; not just for NYC artists but for anyone who comes here to escape boredom: The city is becoming normal. Instead of going out to strange dive bars or art hole theaters, people are holing up in their shoebox-sized rooms typing Facebook status updates about what they baked that day. There’s an app for everything except personality, which is what Mangina has in spades. Everytime you sit on the subway and stare at your iPhone, you are missing the chance to see someone possibly as dynamic as Mangina. Technology and Landlordism have wrought havoc on this town, but not the kind of havoc I like.

Mangina recently succeeded in raising funds for a new prosthetic leg and is finally able to work as an artist full-time, but like anyone who is still truly creative, he is struggling. He’s had his ups and downs, but as my friend, Bruce Ronn, said, “Until you’ve walked a mile in his one shoe, you can’t really judge.” You can check out Mangi’s Twitter feed, maybe buy some art and help support the avant-garde.

When asked if there was anything Mangi wanted to share with his New York friends, he simply said, “I miss and love you all dearly.”

(Photo: Steve Kosloff)