Welcome to “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” GO Magazine’s interview series that profiles a different queer babe each day, by asking them seven unique (and sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.
Esther Mathieu is an immensely talented artist and poet. We met at creative writing camp when we were teenagers (how gay is that?) and I have been in awe of Esther’s beautiful words, wisdom, and grace ever since. Esther had her first full length poetry collection, Constellations, published by Hunt and Light in 2015. I literally burst into tears whenever I hear Esther read; she is that good. Like her presence, her words are gorgeous, ethereal, complicated, dark, hopeful and mysterious. GO is thrilled to feature Esther for Seven Minutes in Heaven!
GO Magazine: Who are you and what do you do?
Esther Mathieu: My name is Esther Mathieu, and I’m an artist and writer born, raised, and currently living in New York City. Beyond my photography, illustrations, zines, and writing, my passions are for urbanism, sustainability, intersectional feminism, prison abolition, mental health and accessibility, social justice of many stripes, the queer community, and Lady Grey tea.
GO: What is the driving force behind your activism/career/art?
EM: I think it is a combination of my experiences of injustice and my knowledge of my profound privilege that keeps activism central to my life: I have seen what it is like to be treated differently because I am a woman, or because I have chronic mental illnesses, or because I am queer. But I am still a middle class, white, cis, thin, ablebodied, educated, straight-passing woman, and I have countless privileges besides, all of which have made my passage through the world to where I am today possible.
Finding my way to photography and zines stand out as the moments that taught me whole new ways of speaking, and those are the art forms that have become central to my work. My experience of mental illness in particular drives me to do the work that is important to me.
GO: Who are your biggest queer lady role models?
EM: Willow&Tara (they may be fictional but it’s true). Tegan and Sara. My friend Lydia, who has been with me through much of my queer self-discovery. Ali Spaltro aka Lady Lamb. Alison Bechdel. Frieda Kahlo. Audre Lorde… there are so many and not enough. I always feel hungry to discover more queer femmes, and I feel so lucky for all the idols I’ve had exposure to.
GO: Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged or depleted?
EM: To be honest, sometimes I go nowhere and let the discouragement swallow me for a while. Then I return to music I love. I reread old and new favorites (Tracy K. Smith’s poetry, The Phantom Tollbooth, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, to name a few) or, more often, read a new novel. I watch old episodes of Buffy or Twin Peaks. I journal endlessly—my journals are full of a lot of my ugliest thoughts, the thoughts I struggle through talking about in therapy and am constantly working to overcome, because I am dedicated to a fierce honesty in my journals, and also because writing through the darkness sometimes helps me find the other side. And I try, as often as possible, to look at art and writing that is beautiful to me. I pray, and sometimes read scripture or the words of other, wiser people of faith who have already rejected the closed and violent parts of the Church and accessed its love and beauty. I get in bed and let myself feel the hurt I am feeling, and get enough sleep, and figure out something to get out of bed for in the morning.
GO: Describe your style in three words.
EM: Femme glamour punk.
GO: What music are you listening to right now?
EM: Diet Cig, Mitski, Lady Lamb, the Killers, Foxy Dads, Regi Rkt, Waxahatchee, Adult Mom, Kesha, Haim, St. Vincent, Chance, Lizzo, Sylvan Esso… there are too many more but those are the recent highlights.
GO: How can people find you?
EM: My website, which has links to some of my art and writing, is ehlmathieu.com. You can also read my sarcastic and pointless thoughts, as well as my jokes about politics and my own mental illness, on twitter @ehlmathieu, or find my Instagram and its countless pictures of my cat @ehlmathieu.