The Pink Nun, who drives a canary-yellow pickup with flame decals, can be spotted interviewing young people in and around Chicago about their attitudes toward sex and marriage or selling her signature Purity Products-t-shirts and underwear with slogans like "Keep it tucked, Brother!" and "Nature Preservation Site." We interviewed Bulten recently about her nun, her art, and the faith that lies behind them.
What is your relationship to the Pink Nun?
I work for her.
Okay. Well, can you confirm what the Chicago Reader said about you and the Pink Nun, concerning your identities?
What was that?
It says, "Bulten and the Pink Nun, who have never been photographed together, bear an uncanny resemblance to one another, right down to their identical nose rings and tongue studs."
Yeah, that's basically right.
What's the Pink Nun's mission?
She's mostly trying to promote the idea that saving sex for the right time is a way to respect your body, your mind and emotions. She's not just tied into virginity. It's more about not wanting to have sex when it's not the right time. Sex is not just a physical act for enjoyment, it's an actual sacred thing to be used to bond you to someone else, spiritually, mentally and physically.
How long has the Pink Nun been around?
I guess almost four years. She helped me at my MFA thesis show [at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago].
But she's not a real nun, right?
She's not in a cloister anymore. She did take vows at one time. But she left it because it was a little too traditional for her, and she wanted to do more of an edgy thing than was accepted.
How long ago was that?
That was about six years ago.
Can you say where that was, or what denomination?
I can't say where, but it was part of the traditional nuns of the Catholic church.
You've said you think the nun is a good symbol of chastity.
When we met up, I thought the Pink Nun was a good person to represent my messages. She had a lot of similar morals and ideas of the way sex should be looked at.
Nuns have been traditionally seen by many as anti-sex, which is not the same as chaste, right?
She's never gotten that response, maybe because of what she looks like, and the fact that she's blatantly talking about it. People see the irony and find that humorous. Some people might think it's sarcastic, but she's not going against any morality that a nun would have. She doesn't plan on being married herself. She's still a nun in that sense that nuns sacrifice that part of their life. I don't know that it's because they can't deal with sex. It's just that they don't find it the most important thing in life.
It really depends on a commitment. You can't be flighty about it. It's more than a decision, it's a certain kind of lifestyle. You have to protect your heart and mind in certain ways. If you want to make it easier, you can't be filling your head with a lot of the crap the world puts out there that continually trains your mind to think that you need it.
For a while there was this vogue for chastity going on, and singers like Britney Spears were saying they were chaste. But she seems to have fallen off the chastity wagon. What happened?
It seemed to me to be a way to make the music more acceptable for their target audience, most of whom are 13 anyway and shouldn't be having sex yet. Meanwhile, MTV is filled with shows with plenty of sex. Even Jessica Simpson's show is pretty disgusting. She used to promote the idea of chastity, but she doesn't care about her husband going to strip clubs. It totally falls apart.
People think sex sells, but I think it's a temporary thing. People are always looking for something to fill a void, and sex is the current trendy thing to catch onto and to experiment with, in any way, with whoever.
I'm not saying we need to run into a cloister. But be more picky about what you watch. Don't watch "Friends" thinking this is the way the world really works, or the way your friends are. It doesn't mean everyone is having sex just because they make it look that way on TV. Blatant sex in the movies or any popular media was always for an adult audience. Now, more and more, it's aimed at a younger audience. They've come to think it's expected of them.
So many girls and boys in high school already don't talk to each other about it. They pretend they are having sex even if they are not. One girl told me, "I didn't even think I had an option." That seemed bizarre to me, that you wouldn't even realize you couldn't say no.