There’s a lot going on in Katrina Del Mar’s head. Take the time she was driving from a funeral in Louisville and passed a sign for a town called Tracy City.
“I’ve never been there, but in my mind it’s a sad little place full of girls named Tracy, who are a combo of Ramona the Pest and a Riot Grrrl, full of adolescent longing and anger, ready to beat you up,” Del Mar says. “I thought it would be a great name for a band.”
Now Del Mar fronts a combo named “Tracy City,” and it’s just the latest step in her artistic development.
Since moving to the East Village from New Jersey in the late 80s to attend NYU, Del Mar has constantly been involved in the arts one way or another.
“I always wanted to be in New York City, where the culture was,” she recalls. “I was fascinated by Andy Warhol, etc. and I wanted to be where the artists were. Also, I was a queer kid and I wanted be where I felt safe.”
She “fell in love and dropped out” of NYU, where she had “majored in German, art history and drugs” and started to concentrate on photography, which she had originally picked up as a teen. Del Mar began photographing performances in places like the Pyramid — Karen Finley was one — and hanging out in edgy spots such as King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and 8BC.
A series of self portraits, done when she was feeling low, got her friends excited about her talent and led to photo sessions with people like Kembra Pfahler (“The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black”) and Theo Kogan (“Lunachicks”).
Working on hip-hop music videos gave her a chance to grab behind the scenes shots of the various artists, including Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim , which she sold to magazines on the side. Other gigs helped pay the bills — gardening, decorative painting, stencil work, dishwashing, video editing, product photography, even a stint working in a cornfield.
But one the worst gigs was ironically her “only paparazzi gig — waiting for hours in a car for the boyfriend of the Princess of Norway to come out of a hotel.”
Del Mar stretched out into filmmaking in 1999 with a seven minute short, “Non Dairy Creamer,” made on expired film and shown once at P.S. 122 before being stolen on Avenue A. Inspired by John Waters and Russ Meyer, her second film, “Gang Girls 2000″‘ was helped along by Kembra Pfahler, who loaned her a Super 8 camera and appeared in it as well along with a bunch of Del Mar’s friends.
“That film got me flown to New Zealand, England and Germany!” she marvels. “It was really fun being in that little world.”
At the dawn of digital age, “photography took a big hit – print media imploded,” she recounts. While she was still employed doing set dressing, scenic painting and a variety of tasks on reality shows, she received a suggestion from a gallery owner in Provincetown, MA that led her to a new artistic pursuit.
“My father, an artist, taught us all how to paint and draw when we were kids, but I put that aside when I picked up a camera,” she explains. “I realized then that I had mastered a craft — photography — that no longer required mastery. I figured that everyone is a photographer now, so I guess I’ll paint.”
Del Mar started with a “kitschy” series of images on black velvet of “sexy selfies ” that had been sent to her.
“I used to work in copy shops,” she recounts. “I made zines and band flyers — everyone I dated was in a band — and I was used to the instantaneousness of it all. With painting, I relished the slowing down of the process.”
In 2015, after having ” played guitar really badly for 30 years,” she joined The Shirtlifters with Craig Flanagin (God is My Co-Pilot), which resulted in a few gigs (and a Facebook page). After leaving, Del Mar decide to write a screenplay about her father but she couldn’t get the movie made, so she started her own band.
Which brings us back to Tracy City, a hard-rocking “queercore” quartet featuring lyrics by Del Mar and music by Genny Slag (drums), Monica Falcone (guitar) and Betsy Todd (bass). The band gets a big thumbs up from the noted Irish musician Cait O’Riordan, the DJ behind the “Rocky O’Riordan Show” on Sirius and bassist for Poguetry, who claims that, “If Katrina came to Dublin, she’d be treated like a goddess!”
A few tunes are available now on all the streaming services and there’s more to come. Of everything, most likely, as Del Mar is not one to sit still.
“Having done most of my work on the margins of a working class existence, time is of the essence,” she muses, adding, “and I have the patience of a hand grenade.”
More about Katrina at katrinadelmarphoto.com and on Instagram at @katrinadelmar.
Tracy City will be at Bowery Electric on April 10. You can find them at tracycityband.xyz and on Instagram at @tracycityband.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.