The culturally transcendent Breadwoman explains her mysterious character

Breadwoman is the utterly fascinating brainchild of performance artist and vocalist Anna Homler. More than just a stage name, Breadwoman is an entire character, an alternate poetic persona born from the jungle of art, music and culture that surrounded LA in the 1980s.

The character and her music symbolise transcendence. Not bound to any time, genre or culture, when she is Breadwoman, Homler sings in her own ominous language. The symbolism of bread is drawn upon to shape the character of Breadwoman. The history of bread and what it means to people as a food source, currency, and ritual is central to the character’s role as a storyteller and healer.

You’ll never think about your humble loaf the same way.

After 30 quiet years, Breadwoman is back. Her timeless character has been making waves through art scenes around the world, and she will be appearing along with various guests in Hobart in 2018 as part of MONA’s MOFO festival.

MOFO is the powerfully provocative annual Festival Of Music and Art held by Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Entering its tenth and final year at MONA, the festival has built a reputation for showcasing an extremely diverse range of international artists across an equally diverse range of art forms. Nothing lies out of the scope of what MOFO will feature.

We interviewed Anna about her sound and character ahead of her upcoming performance there.

What has lead to the rebirth of bread woman 30 years after her first appearance? Does she represent the same concepts as when she came about in the 1980s?

“The rebirth came about through the re-release of Breadwoman and Other Tales in 2016 on the RVNG label in New York. Breadwoman is the same, she’s timeless. The music was on a cassette in the 80’s. Only the format has changed.”

Breadwoman and Other Tales has a rich mix of heavily synthesised electronica, and earthy, spiritual vocals, what is your process for creating such balanced and dynamic pieces?

“I had a wonderful collaborator, Steve Moshier, who died suddenly last year. He composed the electronic score around the chants I had given him. I created the vocal music and then he chopped it up and arranged it.”

How do you go about sourcing the bread masks for the character? Do you make a list of bakeries wherever you travel?

“When I first performed as Breadwoman, I wore an actual round loaf of bread on my face by hollowing it out. I lived in Venice, California and there was a really good bakery nearby. Eventually, the bakery closed and I had a mask made.”

How much of Anna is in Breadwoman, and vice versa?

“That’s a good question, but I don’t know how to answer. We are intimately connected, but I tend to think of her as a separate being, an ancestor. She communicates in a melodic phonetic language that feels cellular, so she must be in my DNA. When I first started to sing, I could taste the sounds and they were delicious.”

Anna will be performing as Breadwoman at the MOFO festival at Mona on January 19 and 20. She will also appear as herself to give a talk before her performance on the 20th. You can find tickets, more details, and some of the other artists heading to Hobart for MOFO on MONA’s website.