Early in 1962 Claes Oldenburg offered a series of ten ‘Happenings’ in a store on East Second Street in New York City. The audiences were kept small to heighten the intimacy of the experience.
Featuring Claes Oldenburg, Patty Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann, Jackie Ferrara, Billy Kluver, Lette Eisenhauer, Johanna Lawrenson, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Irene Fornes, John Weber, etc. in ten different performances: “Store Days I & II”, “Nekropolis I & II”, “Injun I & II”, “Voyages I & II”, and “World’s Fair I & II.”
According to Patty (Oldenburg) Mucha: “It was during the series of ten Happenings that took place at his studio/store front on east 2nd Street in 1962, which Claes referred to as the Ray Gun Theater - his name for happenings - that I felt an acting bug nuzzle its way into my being. The ten separate works were entitled: Store Days I & II, Necropolis I & II, Injun I & II, Voyages I & II, and World’s Fair I & II. These names held special meanings to him, however obtuse they might have seemed to the rest of us. Actions, visual effects or sounds, may have reflected the titles and individualized each particular set. For me, however, in the end, all ten titles seemed to merge into one. To me, they were simply the ‘Store’ Happenings.”
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 Claes by accident after being there 2 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 Patty Mucha and is titled “Girl with Fur Piece, Portrait of Pat.” She and Oldenburg were married in 1960 and divorced in 1970. “It was really clear from the start that there was only room for one artist and he considered himself the artist,” Mucha acknowledges. “I very willingly accepted that because he was so powerful and wonderful as an artist. And then, after a while, I became part of it anyway.”
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 quickly needing to produce large sculptures 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.