Found family photos of Justine and Richard’s porch (undated), with my notes c. 2014
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My maternal grandmother, Justine, died in September of 2003, weeks before my mom outed me at 16. The same year saw the release of a film that had been shot on my step-grandfather Richard’s defunct farm, where Justine also lived, in rural central Vermont. The Mudge Boy stars Emile Hirsch as Duncan Mudge, a fey fourteen year old reckoning with his strict and emotionally unavailable father in the wake of his mother’s death. The film is spare, and explicit. Duncan’s closest companion is a rooster named “Chicken,” whose head he (both suggestively and forebodingly) places in his mouth several times throughout the film, “to calm him,” according to the advice of his late mother. The film traces the sexually charged relationship between Duncan and Perry, one of Duncan’s bullies whose own father routinely beats him.

I’m not sure what Justine and Richard knew about The Mudge Boy when their property was scouted, or whether they saw the finished film. I assume they needed the income from the shoot, which must have been burdensome to undertake given Justine’s hoarding tendencies, and the routine grime of farmhouse living. After attending a local screening, a disgraced relative recounted The Mudge Boy to my dismayed mother. Various family members felt violated by the film, which includes a (gay) rape scene involving Duncan and Perry, among the hints of bestiality. Though I doubt she ever saw it herself, my mom forbade me from seeing The Mudge Boy. As a newly emboldened queer cinephile, I naturally ordered the DVD.

The sequence of these events is hazy to me. I assume that The Mudge Boy was shot in 2002, and that I obtained the DVD in 2004. I haven’t visited Mount Holly – where the farm was, and where my mom grew up – since Justine’s funeral in 2003. I visited Justine during her last summer, but only because I had a meltdown at the debate camp I had received a scholarship to attend, and quit after coming down with an interminable stomach ache. Quitting debate induced my resolve to become an artist, which also corresponded with my queer revelation – just before Justine died in heart surgery.

I don’t have many photographs of the inside of Richard and Justine’s house, but I revisit it – rendered unnaturally spartan in film – seventeen years after my first viewing of The Mudge Boy.

Wilder Alison is an interdisciplinary artist and a graduate of the Bard MFA Painting program. In recent years, Alison has exhibited work with Gordon-Robichaux, Gaa Gallery, Rachel Uffner, CUE Foundation, 247365, Primetime, and Garden Party Arts, among others. Recent solo shows include Slit Subjects at White Columns (New York), $PLIT $UBJECT at Marlboro College (Vermont), and new wools at the Hudson D. Walker Gallery in Provincetown, MA. Alison was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 2016-17 and 2018-19, and has also participated in residencies at Triangle France-Astérides, Lighthouse Works, Fire Island Artist Residency, and Lower East Side Printshop. Alison performs as N0 ST0NES, with recent engagements at SUBLIMATION Projects, H0L0 NYC, CUE Foundation, and LaKAJE in New York. Alison will be a fellow at Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart in 2022.