Gretchen Seichrist: “People don’t like artists”

Some artists are happy staying in their own niche, whether it’s musician, painter or dancer.

Then there are those who defy categorization, who see everything as potential tools for artistic expression.


Poster for Patches and Gretchen’s new variety show

Gretchen Seichrist falls into the latter category. As the creative engine behind the band Patches and Gretchen, she’s now taking the music and combining it with theater in a new variety show called “Headquarters and Dime” at the Loring.

MPR’s Chris Roberts reports “As a performer, Seichrist is like an absurdist incarnation of Lucille Ball. As a singer, she’s Marlene Dietrich’s bluesy, drawling, American cousin.”

She’s viewed by some, including writer and musician Jim Walsh, as one of the most interesting, poetic, provocative performers in the Minnesota art scene.

Walsh remembers one Patches and Gretchen show, in which Seichrist carried around an oversized water bottle. Walsh laughed when he realized it was a comment on the ubiquity of water bottles, and the commercialization of water.

“You could take that right now and put that in the Walker, that water bottle,” he said. “Whether or not that is a validation of art, it’s really funny. And that’s the other thing that Gretchen is. She is really funny, and a very wry observer.”

As a songwriter, Seichrist doesn’t provoke mild responses. Those who are drawn to her claim they’ve never seen anything like her. Seichrist is aware others may not like her style. But she also suspects they’re put off by her devotion to being an artist.

“People don’t like artists,” she said. “They’re suspicious of artists. They resent them, if you’ve figured out that the people saying that they want to be an artist because they’re going to their job every day, and they’re resentful about it. I understand that. ‘Well how come she gets to do that?'”

Do you think Seichrist is right? Do people resent artists? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

You can listen to the entire story by clicking on the link below:

  • Tammy

    Oh, yeah. Nobody likes artists. They were ever so resentful of Picasso, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Tennessee Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Rembrandt, James Dean, and, come to think of it, Lucille Ball.

    This woman just can’t handle it that there are people in the world that don’t care for her schtick. This makes me so angry. People love artists, or they wouldn’t have stalkers.


  • Carolyn Penzey


    I would like to point out that you just posted a long list of artists who were definitely resented for being different and innovative in their respective fields. Picasso? The art world persecuted a whole movement of artists who pioneered cubism. Elvis? He was banned all over the country. Michael Jackson…? Come on. Marilyn Monroe? They badgered her until she killed herself.

    And here you are very willingly leaping to an angry stance about a simple statement from an artist. Knowing Gretchen, what I think she was trying to say was more along the lines of questioning why artists need to justify themselves to the world at large. The insurance salesman doesn’t have to justify why he goes out and sells insurance, but people who blaze their own trails are continually required to explain why it is they are doing what they’re doing. Why are you different? Why are you gay? Why don’t your shoes match? Why don’t you speak my language? Why are you coloring outside the lines? Why don’t you use mustard in your meatloaf?

    People generally develop a disdain for the things they don’t understand. You are missing the point if all you see here is a “schtick.” Those lyrics hold their own against anything out there–past, present, or future. Great music, great songs, great art, and her show the other night was funny and heartfelt.

    Carolyn Penzey

    Eden Prairie, MN

  • Michael Dill

    Well spoken, Carolyn. Gretchen is a unique artist, who combines comedy, commentary, music, and visual art in a very interesting manner, though not in a way the entertainment industry can easily exploit.

    And as to stalkers, aren’t you confusing celebrity with artist, Tammy?

  • Tammy

    You guys are totally missing the point. Of course every artist is going to have haters and critics; Gretchen needs to understand that some people don’t like her music, and that’s all. Not everybody is going to get it, not everybody is going to think it’s great, and it’s not because they don’t trust her or are jealous of her because she gets to do what she wants. That was a crappy statement to make is all I was trying to say.

    My guess is that she can’t handle it when people don’t like her, so she is trying to justify it any way she can to make herself feel better. I’ve heard her music and I think it’s simply awful. That’s my opinion. You can have one, too, and you obviously enjoy her work. That’s your opinion. But Gretchen is an artist and she needs to get used to hearing people say she sucks; there’s always going to be somebody, and they might actually just think you suck!

  • Jessica

    Is someone an artist just because they call themselves an artist?

  • Laura Dyer

    Everyone has artistic potential of some kind and those who feel motivated to become full-time artists should be supported as much as possible. A healthy arts community means economic and social prosperity.

    The decision to define oneself as an artist must begin internally, and it takes great bravery to come forward and allow the external part of the process to begin.

    Taste is always subjective, but Patches and Gretchen has been criticized on a very emotional basis. I think this is because Gretchen is strong, ambitious and, like Madonna, has a highly visual talent for cultural synthesis with a particular genius that runs deeper than formal technique. Her work is warm and emotionally connected, though her style is the very opposite – like Dylan’s is. This is confusing to some audiences, not to mention even more challenging from a female artist.

  • Aimee

    Dear Readers, Is Chris Roberts seriously drawing any comparison between Gretchen Seichrist and Lucille Ball and Marlene Dietrich? The latter were 2 important artists whose work was not only wildly popular, innovative and influential in their own lifetimes, but has withstood the test of time.

  • Jennifer Doyle

    Going back to what the original question was…”Do you think Seichrist is right?” Do people resent artists?” I think Seichrist thinks she’s right and isn’t that all that matters? I’ve heard Patches and Gretchen and I can understand why she would make this comment. It’s all about her and how she feels she’s perceived. Imagine being a middle-aged woman and wanting to be a rock star? She picks a musically talented band of fools who can drown out her lack of musical ability and while she paces the stage like a rabid dog, she degrades her band mates who she has dressed as women. They respond to her give me this and get me that while she bemoans the fact she’s a woman and a single-mother at that and oh yeah, she’s depressed! Woman is the – well you know what – of the world, afterall. That’s her “schtick”, Tammy, and it works for her because that is how she defines herself as an artist. I perceive her as an avant-garde artist, which is not my personal preference and she certainly couldn’t be put in the category of any of the artists she has been compared to since she lacks polish and professionalism. I don’t exactly understand her comment about being resented, because I respect artists and I respect Seichrist for trying to be an artist. Now, that’s entertainment!

  • Kathy

    Thank you Jennifer Doyle. I couldn’t have said it better.

  • Tommy Tousey, Drum Player

    1. This whole thing was triggered because Gretchen was asked her opinion about why it’s difficult for artists to find credibility with the mainstream, and she gave it. So of course it’s her perception, she was the one being asked. Was she supposed to answer with somebody else’s opinion?

    2. Everybody is free to pursue his or her dreams: male, female, middle-aged, infant, or otherwise. I see no reason to portray somebody’s ambition and tenacity as a fault.

    3. I appreciate being labeled “musically talented,” not so appreciative of being called a “fool,” but as I stated above, everybody has an opinion.

    4. Gretchen has tons of musical ability, and in no way does her band ever attempt to drown her out. Quite the opposite–we aim to lend support to her performance.

    5. “pacing the stage like a rabid dog” is a pretty cool image, and it makes me think of other great front-people, like Iggy Pop.

    6. What you might perceive as “degrading the band” is actually “leading the band.” It’s Gretchen’s band–always has been–and she’s in charge. It’s serious business to her, and she is getting the job done. period.

    7. The band willingly dresses up. Sometimes like women, sometimes in nice mens’ suits, sometimes like prison inmates or pine trees. It’s fun, and it’s an interesting visual to go along with the sounds. None of the band members cried when she handed them a balloon shirt to wear.

    8. I don’t perceive Gretchen as bemoaning womanhood or motherhood. I see her being empowered by those things. She is relentless and driven; “woman” and “mother” are two of the factors that keep her so focused and strong.

    9. I’ve never known anybody who wasn’t depressed.

    10. Yes, Gretchen has avant-garde leanings. That doesn’t make her any less of a professional. Her complete uniqueness makes it difficult to compare her to anybody else, so naturally comparisons to other one-of-a-kinds are going to fall short of the mark. It’s also my opinion that polish is overrated. First thought=best thought, as Ginsberg said. It may be harder for people get at first, but those willing to hang on for the ride will be rewarded.