Oldenburg’s Muse, Painter Patty Mucha

Posted by: Sid Sachs

Patty Mucha (Patricia Muschinski) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 26, 1935. She attended Wisconsin State Teachers College in Milwaukee (now the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee), where she majored in art. Patty first saw Claes Oldenburg while she was at the Oxbow Summer School of Painting and later went to visit him in his Chicago studio. In 1957, she moved to New York to become an artist and met Oldenburg by accident after being there for two months. At the time he was painting portraits, and Mucha became one of his nude models. The last painting that Oldenburg claims to have painted is of Mucha and is titled “Girl with Fur Piece, Portrait of Pat.” She and Oldenburg were married in 1960 and divorced in 1970.

Patty Mucha was not only Oldenburg’s muse for his main performance ensemble but collaborator for all of his early sewn sculptures. Her contribution to the invention of soft sculpture was the result of the immediate demand for Oldenburg’s first exhibition at the Green Gallery in 1962. She appeared in his Ray Gun Theater, which they produced in 1962, and collaborated in sewing costumes and constructing objects and sets for his Happenings and installations. She appeared in Oldenburg films made by Rudy Wurlitzer and Robert Breer as well as in films by Jean Dupuy, Rudy Burckhardt, Andy Warhol and Red Grooms. She also participated in the Happenings of Jim Dine, Robert Whitman, Dick Higgins, Alex Hay, Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, and Sally Gross.

Patty Mucha farms, writes and paints near St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Her essential role in the Pop Art and Happenings scenes is revealed in her as-yet-unpublished memoir, Clean Slate: My Life in the 1960’s New York Art World. Portions of the book have appeared in  Art in America as well as in the catalog “Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968.” Her poetry books include  Poems Traveling, 1971-1973 (Panorama, 1973) and  See Vermont: Poems, 1974-1978 (Poets Mimeo Cooperative, 1979).

Photo: Patty Mucha, in the mid-seventies, leaning against her old barn in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  Image courtesy of

Video: This excerpt of her interview from the film Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968 is being shown on MooreWomenArtists by permission from the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery at the University of the Arts and the film’s director Glenn Holsten. Seductive Subversion was supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The curator for the exhibition was Sid Sachs.

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