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Randy Burman: Unconditional Love

31 Dec

I met Randy Burman on Facebook. Met him in real life a few months after that. Then I left the country fearing for my life, but then I returned, and took a second look at Burman’s work and works-in-progress. Each work reflects the sort of innocent, perverse inner child that lives (thankfully) inside this charming artist. Even though it took Burman 2 years to complete this interview, he is da’ bomb and the shelter. Yes, he has been very busy fighting the Taliban (more on that later) in the U.S.A. He has also been busy working (yes, some people are employed these days). He has also been busy supporting the arts. I see Burman everywhere—scaring and scarring children at gallery openings, closings, parties and even Taco Bell. Seriously. Seriously, Burman is an engaging humane being—kind, wise and funny. He is always ready to start an engaging conversation about art and politics wherever he goes even when no one is in the room. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to interview Mr. Burman, but you may call him Randy Unicorn.

Randy Burman

Almost Dorothy: What makes you Randy and why are you a Burman?

Randy Burman: If you’re referring to the UK English term “Randy” as a person who is sexually aroused or horny, yes, I do have a horn, thanks, in no small part to my parental unicorns. As to why I am a Burman, my choices, at the time, were limited, again in no small part to my parental unicorns. I have to admit that all this talk about small parts is making me feel very inadequate. Is that normal? I hope not.

AD: I love unicorns. And corn! On Facebook I noticed a series of serious portraits of American Talibans—the Republicans. Should you really insult the Taliban by calling them Republicans?

RB: I hope history will show that I did my best to insult both the Taliban and Republicans equally. I purposefully chose ‘Taliban Republicans’, as a social experiment to see how Republicans react when their own methodology of using deliberate and calculated language to demagogue their opponents is used against them.

Gingrich by Randy Burman

AD: I have no idea what a demagogue is, but it must have something to do with a synagogue. What are you trying to say about American politics?

RB: The GOP’s list of phrases and loaded terms is huge: pro-life, death tax, activist judges, big government, death panels, death tax, energy exploration (in place of oil drilling), government-run health care, government-run health insurance, or government takeover of health care, Ground Zero Mosque, legislate from the bench, tax and spend liberal and many more.

Leading Republicans repeat these phrases in a disciplined manner every chance they get, such as on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, on every news television interview program on which they are invited, in newspaper and online articles, etc. The result is that the messages, which are framed in a manner favorable to Republicans (and often focus group-tested beforehand), are echoed in the mainstream media, and they sink into our subconscious mind, thereby tilting the political battlefield in the Republicans’ favor.

AD: My friends at school talk like that too, and they only watch youtube. What’s your goal for this series?

RB: All sixty portraits will be mounted on one wall of a gallery and in front of the opposite wall, a ceiling-high pile of shoes will be available for visitors to throw at the portraits… a “Preserve the First Amendment Fling”, if you will.

So while the work is ultimately about language and fair play, it’s also an opportunity for patriotic and cathartic participation.

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AD: Hot. Any plans for a sex change in the near future?

RB: More likely to see a text change.

AD: What’s your first memory as a child?

RB: My Aunt’s legs walking by as I looked out from underneath my crib.

AD: Ok, that must have been creepy or sexy. What’s the last memory or image you’d like to have on your last day on earth or in space?

RB: I’ve always imagined it’s going to be like Ambrose Bierce’s ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’, except without the loud snap of my neck at the end.

AD: You told me once, twice, or three times a lady that you ‘became’ an artist or resumed your career as an artist at 60. Do mean 60th street? Explain. Because I thought we are all born artists.

RB: That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked. There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

AD: What? I’m lost. Anyway, do you think we are all born artists, inherently creative and artistic, and that our creativity is slowly and mercilessly driven out of us by the American education system or even by our misguided parental unicorns? Or, do we become artists?

RB: I don’t believe that everyone is born as an artist. Those who are born as artists, however, have no power to resist expressing themselves. When I first saw the film Close Encounters I related to Roy’s obsession with subliminal and mental images of a mountain-like shape which he began to make models. The obsessiveness was similar to what I experienced as a young artist except for the part about being abducted by aliens. I just don’t think aliens are all that interested in unicorns or messy children.

I didn’t receive encouragement from my old world parochial school teachers. In fact, they frowned on my creative expression, presumably because I was making graven images. Their admonishment, I believe, set the course for my anti-establishment predilection.

AD: I was just abducted by aliens. They’re cool. Proudest moment ever:

RB: During my second year in college, a large 8’ square painting I entered in the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Maryland Regional Painting Competition was selected to be in the show. My proudest moment had to be taking my Dad to (his first trip there) to see his son’s work hanging in the museum. Walking up those steps I knew the sense of pride was swelling his heart to match those enormous cement lions flanking us on either side.

Randy Spoons

AD: Wow, almost made me cry. Saddest moment ever:

RB: When at the birth of my grandson, Orion Marvelous Burman, we found out that he was born with multiple birth defects. He spent most of his young life in a hospital and passed away before his first birthday. I had never experienced such excruciating and overwhelming sadness. I learned more about unconditional love than I ever imagined possible.

AD: Made me cry. Someone told me that after 40 we pretty much stop dreaming. I’ve got a year or two or thirty-two to go. Is this true? If not, what are you (re)dreaming about these days?

RB: That’s just plain silly. The dreaming bus stops at 40th Street not at 40 years of age. I have done the math though, and It is true, that if you’re 38 now, you most likely will be 40 in two years.

In my dreams, time, place and people display amazing fluidity, so that people I presently know may be cast in a situation in the past in a place unrelated to either. The plot, if it can be called that, usually has to do with me being in some intense untenable situation where my only escape is to wake up. My waking state is very similar, except I have to go to sleep to escape. This is very monotonous. I used to dream of flying a lot. I would just be able to will myself to do so, and I enjoyed flying back and forth low over the bay between Miami and Miami Beach. In my dreams I was a 100% convinced I had mastered the skill of flying.

AD: Tell us about your process when it comes to your installations verses your paintings. Or is the creative process the same?

RB: It really is all over the map. Sometimes I have ideas that I sketch in one of my notebooks that later I’ll build or at least use as a reference point. Other times, I just immerse myself in what’s around me and construct a work (or several) using the materials on hand. And still other times, I’ll begin a work with one intention and as I progress the focus of what I’m doing changes, as in the case of the Taliban Republicans. While the basic concept remains unchanged, showing displeasure by throwing (originally turd-shaped bean bags and later shoes) at pictures of Republicans, I was simply going to do a Google search for existing pictures of the Republicans I wanted to include, enlarge and adhere to the boards. A confluence of things happened, mostly that I found an old set of acrylic paints and decided to test painting one portrait. I enjoyed the painting process so much I decided it would be a great exercise to paint all 60 individual portraits. Now that I’ve painted almost 30, I have a genuine sense of connectedness and elation when I’m sketching the charcoal under drawing and in the painterly modeling of the personages. For the most part, I’ve always thought about my own art in conceptual terms (even my very first painting had the unfinished sentence, “This is the last day on Ear…” with the paint brush glued to the painting). Yet, painting these portraits has convinced me that I could be quite satisfied if all I ever did was paint.

Having said that, I realize that would be a discipline I’d find hard to comply with. I simply have too many conceptual ideas. I think what’s going to happen is a convergence of processes, very much like the Taliban Republicans, where I get to create the conceptual and integrate the painting.

AD: What’s your favorite juice?

RB: Do you mean Jews?

Jew cocktail recipe:

2 parts Fran Lebowitz
1 part Leonard Nimoy
1 part Peter Falk
1 part Woody Allen
1 part Houdini
pinch of J.D. Salinger
smidgen of Alfred Stieglitz

Shake
Serve in martini glass at room temperature
Garnish with Sarah Silverman

AD: No, I meant juice. Three artists you’d like to wipe off the map or kick out of the Metropolitan Museum?

RB: That’s a trick question isn’t it? You know there’s an expression about something that has nothing to do with this question. Since I don’t remember it, is it really important? Also, even though I may know what I like, is it art?

AD: Even bullshit is art if it dents one’s i(dent)ity in some fashion. Even fashion is art but only if it doesn’t fit. Final words. (You may use a curse word.):

RB: Look ma, no hands. I dare you to pull the trigger. You’ve done this before, right? I feel kind of strange strapped to this big spinning wheel, what are all those knives for? Which cord do I pull? This is safe, right? The End. EXIT. Death. Goodbye. $%&#.

AD: One more word, what would you like to accomplish in the next six months?

RB: Complete and exhibit the Taliban Republicans.

Paula Kolek Is Almost In·di·vis·i·ble

9 Oct

Paula Kolek is complex like the rest of us. This, of course, makes her interesting and fun to talk to. (Full disclosure: sometimes I doze off when she speaks just to make her mad. But, she doesn’t get mad. She is humane and full of patience and wisdom.) What you need to know about Paula Kolek is that she is a dedicated, hard-working adjunct professor at Miami Dade College and Barry University, a comic (I almost wrote communist) enthusiast, an excellent cook, a semi-expert hula hooper, a writer and a visual artist. She is also an astronaut who has traveled to Pluto and several unmanned moons orbiting the cosmos. I tied Paula up and interviewed her over chicken kabobs and (gross) plum wine at her lovely new home in Hollywood, FL, where I tried to steal two comfy patio chairs. We spoke about her latest art work, a humorous art book, which is on exhibit at Humatorium, an exhibition of humorous art curated by Lisa Rockford at the 1310 Gallery in Fort Lauderdale. FYI: there’s a nude pic of Paula in the book. I swear.Welcome to Paula Kolek. She’s way better than Paula Abdul.

Almost Dorothy: Hi Paula, I hear you’re an artist and a poet. Explain the difference?

Paula Kolek: Who told you that? No really. I want a name, number, address, social security #, pets’ names, favorite breakfast cereal…The Works!

I don’t accede to being either, but from what I’ve observed, artists generally run around wielding oils, chalks, charcoal, newsprint, Exacto knives, old photos, urinals, fake teeth, rubber chickens, and poop (I swear I’ve seen all of the above!). They generally make a mess of any space they occupy. Poets, on the other hand, kill trees.

AD: Murderers! So, tell the United States about your upcoming art exhibition or the one that just passed. It all depends on how fast we get this interview up.

PK: Well, the opening was last week, but the closing is October 15th. The title of the exhibit is Humatorium and it’s curated by Lisa Rockford who based the show on art for art’s sake, whimsy, silliness, and of course controversy! My piece is an artist’s book created for the show, booklets for the audience, and a chance to participate in an art installation. There’s also a giant, blue, well-hung blow-up horse at the gallery. Who doesn’t want to see that?!

AD: Uhm-hmm…

PK: The closing is part of a larger art festival called Art Fallout where the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale and local galleries are open for free. That night there’s a shuttle bus so people can go from one gallery to another without worrying about parking or the price of gas! It should be pretty cool, so come out if you’re in the area.

AD: Are you a true artist? If yes, prove it. If not, prove that too.

PK: You prove it! What kind of interview is this anyway?

AD: It’s a potty mouth interview, so you should use potty mouth language when answering these questions, ok? How does your writing influence your art or vice versa or are the two mediums inseparable?

PK: What does inseparable mean? Indivisible, Indissoluble, Undividable. Nothing’s forever. Except Twinkies and cockroaches.

AD: What?

PK: [silence]

AD: In life, we have two choices, left and right. Which did you chose and why?

PK: It’s quite obvious that I chose South; this meant I had to use a precise number of lefts and rights in an exact order. Although I won’t cop to being an artist, I will state that I’m an excellent map reader. When the internet and all the satellites fail (and they will) I’ll be one of a handful of people left who can still read maps. And then I’ll be rich because people won’t know where they’re going and they’ll have to come to me for directions! My time is almost here.

AD: As a poet, you deconstruct memory and turn them into rememberings. Do you remember when and why you started to write this way? Or, am I totally wrong?

PK: Well, it’s your blog, so you’re never wrong.

I learned recently-ish that I don’t have to use personal experience or memories to create (of course you can argue that even our imagination must come from our experiences). Last week I listened to back to back NPR segments – don’t judge me, there were FIVE accidents within a one-mile stretch of 95 and I’d played Tool more times than I could handle. The first segment was an interview with John Lithgow who’s publishing a memoir. The following segment was a conversation about Twitter, Facebook, and blogs and how these mediums are making our world more and more autobiographical. Although I do participate in these mediums (not Twitter, though, I hate Twitter.) and admire writers and artists who put themselves out there, the push to “spill” can be incredibly overwhelming for me.

In my book for Humatorium, I drew from photographs I’d taken, drawings, scientific diagrams, children’s games, and online images (Here I have to thank Wikimedia Commons, a compilation of images given freely by contributors without copyright. This allowed me to use these images without feeling as though I’d “taken” from the work of others). I attempted to create the silliest, most disjunctive pairings possible. And I finished this piece without having to think about high school or grief or hospitals or family arguments!

AD: Which planet inspires you the most?

PK: Pluto! Just because he’s no longer a planet doesn’t mean he can’t inspire. And what about all the moons, planetary dust, supernovas, black holes, quasars, or Dr. Who telephone booths? This is a very narrow question. I object to the insinuation that I have to be inspired by big things.

AD: Have you ever run away?

PK: Yes, and despite rumors to the contrary, sometime running away IS the healthy choice. A dignified walk is better, but sometimes life doesn’t allow for that. In the event you want to run away, I’ve found it helpful to have a waterproof tent, flashlight, some MREs, and a stuffed bunny to take with you.

AD: Biggest accomplishment:

PK: In my artist’s book for the Humatorium exhibit, I have a nude (naked) bookmark of myself which appears opposite the first page of the Instructional. I noticed throughout the night that people (mostly old men) were stroking my bookmark chest.. When one of my friends did the same thing before jumping back and saying, “Ummm…I know you!” I realized the instructions on the opposite page began, “Put your hand to my chest and feel around for the furniture you left behind.” I hadn’t thought through this pairing when I created the book because the instructions largely can’t be followed and I didn’t expect viewers to try to complete them.

I tell students that once we put our work out into the world, it’s never really just ours anymore. It’s open to interpretation by readers and viewers. This, however, was the first time that has happened with my work, and It was super exciting.

Please don’t tell my parents about the naked bookmark; I plan on showing them the book without it.

AD: Mom! So, your biggest disappointment:

PK: Not getting an interview earlier with Almost Dorothy.

AD: Sorry. What would you like to be when you grow up?

PK: I would get paid to be a traveling map-maker (I think they call them cartographers). I’d be sent around the world to hike and kayak and bike new locations and then make maps for that handful of people and girl scouts who like that kind of thing. Sadly I’ve found that there isn’t much call for this.

AD: What will it cost?

PK: A million-billion.

AD: Explain love and/or its imposter and how is that thing communicated through your work?

PK: I think that love in all its incarnations (anger, grief, ecstasy…) has to be passionate, even if it’s a slow burning or difficult love. And since anyone who creates must be passionate (few writers/artists ever make enough money to make up for the long hours of hitting your head repeatedly against the wall of I’m not good enough and What’s the point), so love has to be a driving force.

However, love also has the potential to make us fearful of failing or hurting those we love. I have a poem published in Collective Brightness about my brother and I coming out to one another in the food court of a mall that contained the chapel I would take him to to fulfill the promise to my parents to bring him to Sunday mass when he stayed over with me. The poem is harshly blunt about my feelings towards religion and contains quotes from conversations with my parents where they talk about their opinions towards us queer folk. Although they’re often incredibly supportive of me (they’ve never asked how I intend to support myself by writing), some of their stances make me incredibly angry. I don’t think they, or anyone who knows them, will read this poem, and it isn’t damning of them, but it does have the potential to be hurtful. So I had to weigh how important this writing is to me. Every time I put writing or art into the world, I get nervous about what my family will think about it.

Plus, there’s that naked bookmark floating around!

Paula Kolek is a recent transplant from Boston and has already been stopped by the Coral Gables police three times: most notably for sitting on the curb and riding her bike at 2am in the morning. She graduated from Emmanuel College with a BFA in visual arts and from Umass Boston with an MA in literature, after which she taught undergraduate lit. and creative writing at Umass Boston and Framingham State and worked security – since adjunct teaching pays very few bills. Her poems have recently been published in Ditch, Otoliths, and RECONTRUCTION: Studies in Contemporary Culture and have been accepted by New Letters and EOAGH. Her monologue was presented in The Krane’s production of Monologues Lingus and her artwork accepted for publication in Fickle Muses. She thanks her fellow students and professors at Miami for allowing her the space and encouragement to experiment with the visual in conjunction with language.

Zasahanell: Her & I

28 Sep
Zashanell

Zashanell travels by umbrella, dances with giant pink cotton candy soundclouds, and hangs out with angels. Seriously. Born and raised in good ol’ South Florida, singer-songwriter Zashanell is busting her chops creating music that makes people forget their worries and dance like wild bobble head dolls. Her latest track “U & I”, signed and remixed by international superstar DJ Laidback Luke, is all the rage against the deus ex (house music) machina. And, there’s more to come! In this Potty Mouth Interview, Zashanell & I talk about what makes her move, what moves she plans to make next, and how to make $14,000 off Ebay in one day.

Almost Dorothy: What do you love most in life?

Zashanell: Love is what I love the most. It’s my Sigmund Freud self-theory, my drive for tomorrow, dream to find the same passion in some one else; it’s what catapults me out of bed each morning. I haven’t hit that wall yet but I do believe in true love.

AD: I hear love, the dopamine it releases in the body, is like heroin. Love is a drug, or at the very least, a dope show. So, what energizes you (besides music!)?

Z: I randomly ask strangers to share their life stories with me. Some share, some stare. Starbucks, a short walk IN CIRCLES, the sunrise at 6am on the way back home from Miami Beach, a shower, pictures of nature or lights.

AD: Tell us about your song writing process. When you write songs, do they all come to you the same way,that internal space? Or, does each song come from different places and sources of inspiration?

Z: My process for writing is different every time, I tried doing the pick a spot for writing kind of thing, smoke your lungs out thing, drink your life away thing, cry your heart out thing, then stopped and just did the breath and relax and the write thing. That can some times work, but some times I do need that anger, pain, stress in me to write beautifully.

I’m inspired by truth, by real feelings. It can come from a movie, a line in another song, people sitting at a bus stop, a message on a bill board, a motion, a beautiful sound, a sigh, an old lady’s wrinkles. I’ve actually stopped on the middle of the dance floor to grab pen and napkin to write a feeling I got while dancing to use for lyrics.

If there were a specific way for writing, I probably would get it all wrong. So thank God there isn’t. That’s why I love writing so much; I can do what ever I want with my words.

AD: Me too! I often grab pens and napkins on dance floors to get phone numbers from extraterrestrials. How did you come to write “U & I”?

Z: I was fed up with giving 100% and getting back 50%. I put so much time and many years of me into a love that never happened but could of, should of, would of, but never did. I walked into a small room with a microphone with a beautiful melody, pressed record and sang.

I will continue to always give 100% though, that’s what the song is about, never holding back and always giving all of you no matter what.

AD: Collaboration is a big part of your musical career. What’s it like to collaborate with a diverse group of artists and musicians?

Z: A different side of me comes out depending on the kind of music or musicians I compose with. So I’d have to say it’s an awesome experience for me. Let’s me experiment new things.

AD: Any fist fights or funniest moments you want to reveal?

Z: Nope. Oh, I fought a fan once because she didn’t want to be my fan anymore. I sold my pen on Ebay for 14,000 dollars. I’ve been using a broken 2005 Blackberry with half the keypad missing. When I’ve had a bran new Iphone 4 sitting in my bag waiting to be connected on it’s own for the past year. Not all are true stories, guess which ones are false.

AD: As a musician, what is your proudest moment to date?

Z: Sharing my music with my Grandmother and Father before they passed away. They both supported my music, which means the world to me. 2006 Won Second place at a Battle of the bands without having a band lol, I think that’s why I couldn’t win first place. 2007 Performing in Texas in front of 1,000 plus. 2009 My first real Recording with pro Musicians as my mentors. 2011 Getting a single signed to one of the biggest names in House music.

AD: Proudest moment as a human being?

Z: I was sitting in my car ready to get out and walk into my house, when my dad called me while at work just to tell me how proud he was of me.

AD: I think Madonna said, “Music makes the people come together.” What is it about the power of music that brings people together despite cultural, linguistic and even socio-economic differences?

Z: It’s all about a feeling. Music has the power to make two strangers in a room that have never met in their lives feel the same thing at the same time, make them move in their own way and no one would have had to speak a word. That to me is powerful.

Zashanell

AD: Who cares about the future! What does it feel like right now to be Zashanell? To be creating music? To do what you were born to do?

Z: I feel normal now that I’m doing what I was created to do, at least that’s what I believe. If not, I don’t think I’d have the gift I have today.

AD: What is the perfect day for you?

Z: Getting at least four songs written and recorded and the rest of the day spent with my family.

AD: Finally, what’s at the end of the rainbow?

Z: A stork dropping off my album. Another Stork will pass a bill board with my tour dates, and stop at the end of the rainbow and leave you my heart. I’ll be dressed as pot of Gold.

Zashanell is a Hispanic-American Miami, FL based Singer-Songwriter. Zashanell & GTA with their latest track release titled “U&I” has achieved considerable worldwide success. From the cold corners of Finland to the heart of South Africa to the night clubs of New York City and Miami, everyone is infatuated with her seducing sultry vocal melodies. It is no surprise that when Laidback Luke heard the track “U&I” he immediately signed it to Mix Mash Records and created a remix of the song. Zashanell will be performing at Dayglow – Atlanta, GA on 10/8/2011 and Dayglow  Columbus, OH on 10/21/2011.

Links:Twitter & Facebook.

Carrie Sieh Reveals Secrets

6 Sep

Carrie Sieh weaves secrets into art and art into secrets. I tried to get her to confess, but she wouldn’t confess. Because, she says, her secrets are already revealed. The viewer just needs to know where to look. When I look at Sieh’s art, I see the internal workings of a one, two and three track mind. A mind that cleverly and meticulously defines and executes an idea and brings that idea to fruition, which is nothing like a Fruit Loop. In the end, Sieh shows us, the reader, the viewer, that art is a process that takes time, yarn and lots of magnetic tape to develop. Enjoy my latest Potty Mouth Interview with the funtabulous artist Carrie Sieh.

not-yet-titled-(detail)

Almost Dorothy: Why can’t you stop thinking about it?

Carrie Sieh: I can’t stop thinking, in general.

AD: I didn’t know you were a general. On your website, you write, “All of us have secrets that we carry with us…and often our secrets are uncomfortable or embarrassing. I believe that one way we unconsciously alleviate this discomfort is by keeping around us objects that in some way symbolize or counteract our secrets.” Where do secrets come from?

CS: Well, a secret is a piece of information—usually very personal—that you don’t want to tell anyone else, or that you tell a very limited number of people. The reason we want to keep certain information private is usually because we anticipate that sharing it would result in feelings of vulnerability, shame, or guilt; that other people would think negatively of us; or that it would have some other uncomfortable social consequence. And the source of these kinds of feelings is almost always going to be cultural and familial mores.

AD: Your answer reminds of two TED.com videos I saw last week while riding my bicycle north on Biscayne Boulevard.

AD: Why do you create secret codes out of yarn, wire, raffia, plastic, cassette tape, river rocks, curtain rods and other materials?

CS: My interest in codes developed as a means to prevent my sisters from reading my journals as a kid. I was kind of a nerd, and spent a lot of time figuring out the best codes for my purposes. Artistically, I came back to the idea of codes because they’re relevant to both technology and psychology, which are two of my favorite themes to explore.

I choose the materials I do because I like thinking about the many subtle meanings of objects. So far yarn is the primary material in the “Secrets” project because it suggests domesticity, tradition, and protection—which I think are the most basic aspects of secret-keeping. The cassette tape and VHS tape relates to secrets because memory is a means of recording and encoding information. Also, thoughts and memories—especially difficult ones—can be fragmented and hard to untangle or interpret, like the information on the tape is once it’s taken out of its casing and knitted. The wire I’ve been using is jewelry wire, which has a much different meaning than, say, electrical wire. In “I Don’t Love You”, it’s alternated with fluffy but scratchy mohair yarn, to suggest the ambivalence often inherent in tokens of affection and motivations for personal adornment. In each piece Continue reading

Justin Petropoulos Is All Get Out

18 Apr

Justin Petropoulos

I met Justin Petropoulos in Washington D.C. this past February at the AWP conference. The best thing about Justin is his last name which means something real cool. Just keep reading. The second best thing about Justin is that he is really tall and he wears cool glasses. He wears the kind of glasses that make him look super smart even though he is really super smart and doesn’t really need smart glasses. Like Einstein smart glasses. But I won’t hold it against him. The third coolest thing about Justin is that his real mother’s name is Dorothy just like mine except that I’m Almost Dorothy and his ma is the totally realized Dorothy without the Almost. She must have done something right to get that distinction. There’s one last (but actually most important) thing that I adore about Justin and that is his book Eminent Domain. On many levels, the book communicates with the spirits trapped or hiding out in the remote locations of his heart and head. In Eminent Domain, Justin brings the spirits to the surface, takes them for a walk and asks them to speak to us in tongues. As the spirits (by spirits I don’t mean drinks) communicate through him, we see Justin’s interior world inside his language. I have no idea what I’m saying at this point but it all sounds spooky.  All you need to know is that Justin is an amazing human, brilliant as shooting Tomahawk missile in the night. (I apologize to Justin and his entire family if I’ve misspelled his last name. It’s a gorgeous name that tricks me every time I write it out.)

Almost Dorothy: What isn’t a poem?

Justin Petropoulos: Ah, the time honored question, or more accurately its inverse. I think squat thrusts are not poems, margin calls, pants suits and breaking-up with someone via text message or IM, also burnt flan is not a poem. Though, on second thought, the flan and the squat thrusts have potential with the right spotter. I really don’t know the answer to that question. There is so much collage work in my writing that it’s hard for me not see a poem in everything, or at least something that could be deployed for poetic ends. Poetic Ends would be a great title for a series of photos, don’t you think?

AD: I don’t think. I just type and I think that breaking-up via text message or IM is way appropriate. What’s not appropriate is your last name, Mr. Petropoulos.

JP: Poems should push on the language and the language should push back. Maybe a food fight breaks out between the poem and the language and it’s mashed potato day in the cafeteria. That’s a poem. I want poems to move me, somehow, emotionally, intellectually, make me laugh, however, in some direction, even if I hate where I end up. Ambivalence in a poem is great, but if that’s the reaction of the reader…that might not be a poem or at least not a good one. Lucky for me, being moved is so subjective.

AD: Hmmm…no comment. In your new book, Eminent Domain, where the domain is eminent, why did you write “para meus pais com todo o meu amor”?

JP: Because I love my parents in Portuguese a little more than I do in English, or maybe, they love me more in Portuguese. I forget what they told me before they left me at that rest stop off I-95.

AD: You too!

JP: My parents have always been supportive of my writing; I wouldn’t have a collection of bottle caps, much less a collection of poems without them. There was always a second language being spoken, a pun, joke, (mis)translation or innuendo flying about in my house; language was very fluid, unstable, and there was a lot of it. We’re talkers. At home language was this incredibly dynamic construction, simultaneously personal and public…a performance. I fell in love with words because of that context, because of my parents. That’s what I tell my therapist anyway.

AD: I therapise my therapist. I’m gonna come out and say it: you write prose poems. Deal with it! What is the difference between a prose poem and flash fiction or a short short or a short short short?

JP: Yes officer, I was driving that car when it went over the bridge, but I have no recollection of who was driving the car. Sorry, got my interrogations crossed there for a second. What was the question? Oh, right, prose poems vs. flash fiction, what is the difference?

I want to quote Gloria Leonard here, she said, “The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting.”

AD: I thought it was the size of the penis.

JP: Don’t ask me which is which, prose poems and flash fictions are both pornography and erotica at different moments. The only differences I see between prose poems and short shorts are in the degrees specific techniques expected from the ‘traditional’ or source genres, i.e. fiction and poetry, from which these ‘new’ forms mutated, are employed and for what purpose.

But it’s all by degrees, scaled, some prose poems have a strong narrative element, others a more associative structure, but they both may have a heavy focus on a highly lyrical syntax or on character development, if one can call a poems speaker a ‘character.’ The same is true of short shorts, both the ones you wear and the ones you read. Leonard is right; it’s all in the lighting?

In the altered words of Justice Potter Stewart:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [prose poetry]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…. (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 1964)

Eminent Domain by Justin Petropoulos

AD: Jeez, I just wanted a yes or no answer. So, do you wear short shorts?

JP: I wear shorts as frequently as possible. There’s never enough time for shorts. That’s why theories of multiple dimensions are so wonderful, because at any given time/position, in at least one of these congruent dimensions, I’m wearing shorts.

AD: Hot. In the “The Coincidence of Wants”, there’s a memory of a prayer for snakes and a bit about punching out zygotes. You write, “If you say the words through the nose the snakes disappear, lassoed off by the wind….”. I’m curious: how is your nose, why are you anti-zygote, and when will you reveal the secrets of snakes?

JP: My nose is quit fit. Thanks for asking. Some light, weight-training three times a week has it blowing at capacity and yoga keeps the nostrils limber and balanced. I’m not anti-zygote, at least I don’t think I am, I just wanted to mechanize their production a bit. I don’t know their secrets. They don’t trust me since I bought that pair of boots. Let’s not talk about it. Feelings were hurt, let’s leave it at that.

AD: What is your favorite word, real or invented?

JP: This week: concretize, putrefaction and hippopotamus.

AD: Marxist, socialist, capitalist?

JP: Activist. At least I used to be.

AD: “We wash each other’s hands, we create phantom syntax, we caress the morning’s flimsy coat, like a whisper” (p.13). What does the whisper whisper?

JP: What the whisper whispers is less important than the (f)act of the whisper itself, I think. The message can be dirty and it can be sad, or shy or really anything, comforting, that doesn’t matter as much to me. I like all the messages I get whispered. They stay with me.

There’s something so perfect about communicating that way, especially now when we’re all on blast twenty-four hours a day, on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Plus I love that exchange, the transmitter/receiver dynamic, the body as source (instrument) for words, when people whisper, it’s like they’re two bagpipes playing each other.

I realize that there is an a priori assumption at work in my logic: that this is a whisper between two people, which forces me to rethink all of my previous whisper rhetoric. (Contemplative interlude.) No, it doesn’t seem to change that much for me if we whisper as a group. But to be honest I prefer my whispers as a pair…a bit 50’s of me, but there it is. I’m a cliché maybe, but there’s just something about whispering that tears me up.

AD: I think you’re a liar. What’s the one thing you want people and their pets to know about Eminent Domain? About Petropolulos?

JP: Well, I’m not sure I want them to know anything about me, at least not the humans. As far as the poems in Eminent Domain, I think that the important thing for me when I wrote them (collaged them) was to offer the reader a huge space to read/write into. These poems need readers to finish them; at least I hope they do.

AD: Thanks God I don’t read. Do you own a lion? If not, why?

JP: I’m not sure ‘own’ is a word one can use regarding any proximity to a lion. So no, I don’t own a lion, but that’s just semantics.

AD: The [digression on the corn trade] culminates in a kind wind that “recognizes how lost we are”. Will we ever recognize what the wind sees?

JP: The existential answer is no, we’re too close to the object observed, but I think ‘recognize’ is a great word in this instance. The idea, that to know a person, for example, is an ongoing process, requiring a constant re-imagining of that person as a context in their own right, nesting in other, equally dynamic contexts, is an idea I’ve obsessed over. I also love Venn diagrams.

Symmetrical 5-set Venn Diagram

JP: I feel like these poems were fueled by that desire though, to ‘recognize’ language, to recast certain lexical features from economics or chemistry in an attempt to replicate the displacement of people by and within language itself. It’s also really kind of romantic to me. Like a vow. To think and re-think someone for as long as you both shall live. I now pronounce you. You may kiss the philosopher.

AD: At this point, I feel like you’re either really smart, really high, or i’m really smart because I figured out that you’re either really smat, smart, or really high. High-five! Favorite drink:

JP: Patron on the rocks with lime. It was a gift from a great poet and friend.

AD: Favorite scent:

JP: I love the smell of the ocean, of bacon frying, and the rest, I know I won’t tell.

AD: I smell like bacon therefore you love me! Define Petropoulos:

JP: Petropoulos is a wheel with a grooved rim around which a cord passes. It acts to change the direction of a force applied to the cord and is chiefly used (typically in combination) to tell lies to strangers in gazebos.

Justin Petropoulos | AKA Mr. Bunny

Justin Petropoulos’ poems have appeared in A cappella Zoo, American Letters & Commentary, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, Gulf Coast, Mandorla and Portland Review. He received his MFA from Indiana University.He lives in Brooklyn, New York where he and co-curates Triptych Readings (www.triptychreading.com) with poets Mary Austin Speaker and Anne Lovering Rounds. He is also a part-time bunny rabbit.

Lolo Reskin Is Wonder Woman

9 Apr
Lolo Reskin as Wonder Woman

Ma and I love Lauren Reskin because she has red hair that matches Wonder Woman’s red boots. She may even be Wonder Woman but I have no proof. I couldn’t find her wonder boots. All I know is that Lauren Reskin goes by Lolo and she was born in Miami and loved the city (and the weather) so much she never left. Music is in Lolo’s blood, which is also red! Her late grandmother, Joan Field, was a concert violinist who released records on Deutsch Gramophone and her late grandfather, Alan Reskin, originally opened Allegro Music House in 1961 making Lolo the second Reskin to open a music store in South Florida. Her father Charles is a Julliard graduate, professional trumpet player and composer. Oh, I almost forgot: Lolo is the great-niece of Alan Freed, the (in)famous 1950’s radio DJ and music promoter who coined the phrase “rock and roll.” I wish I were a great-niece. Or nice.

I met Lolo a few months ago at the yummy yum Vegan Pot Luck Dinner event at her store, Sweat Records, and that’s when I decided I wanted to conduct a Potty Mouth Interview with her (because of her hair!). Since opening Sweat Records in March 2005, the store has become an institution and refuge for creative geniuses, weirdos and freaks like me and my ma, and I wanted to know what powers Lolo’s creative combustion engine. In a world of ever shrinking independent record stores, Sweat Records stands as both an artifact and a cultural dam holding back the tsunami of fast (and free) Internet music downloads that has wiped out many independents. But what makes Sweat Records a solid Miami institution is their commitment to local music, hard to find stuff, great stuff, and their innovative programming–the Vegan Pot Luck, Waffle Party, Sweatstock and more. So, if you don’t know Lolo, here she is. And come see her at Sweat when you have chance. (She’s a little older now, but still pretty damn cool.)

Lolo Reskin as Wonder Woman

Almost Dorothy: What it is that motivates you, moves you, and makes you so passionate about Miami’s cultural landscape?

Lolo Reskin: I love this crazy city and everyone in it. Miami has its shady and shallow sides but it’s also full of geniuses, weirdos, eccentrics, and a massive potpourri of truly nice, down-to-earth people fighting the good fight and spreading goodness.

AD: As an entrepreneur and owner of Sweat Records, the biggest challenges for you were probably starting the business followed by the recovery after the destruction of the original Sweat Records store by Hurricane Wilma. But what are the biggest challenges you face daily?

LR: First challenge is how to keep what is essentially a physical format music store alive in the digital age, but we’re making it happen. Tied for second are a) dealing with the mountains of emails, texts, calls and meeting requests I receive on a daily basis, and b) the behind-the-scenes realities of running a small business. A broken gate, the city about to tear up our street, bills, bills, bills–it’s never-ending.

AD: What is your vision for the future of Sweat and Miami’s art & (sub)culture scene?

LR: More venues and alternative spaces, more bike culture, the further cross-pollination of Miami’s high art organizations and “the downtown scene”, and hopefully a larger audience actively supporting local music.

Sweat Records | Photo by Neil de la Flor

AD: So, I’ve been way too serious. What do you want to be when you grow up?

LR: Sweat opened when I was 22. All in all it’s been a ridiculously wonderful experience but there are other businesses I want to open, projects to work on, and areas of interest I want to delve deeper into. Eventually I’d love to open a vegan diner or bakery or some sort of food-oriented establishment. I also love embroidery and makeup art and would be happy spending way more time on either.

AD: Why?

LR: I’ve always been well-rounded and into all sorts of different things. Supposedly I’m the rare balanced Gemini.

AD: Oh, you’re a Gemini. I’m gonna call the cops! (Or not). So everyone probably knows you’re a resident DJ at The Vagabond. For those of you that don’t know, Lolo is a resident DJ at The Vagabond. Would you share with us your favorites? The ones you think everyone should listen to, to seek out and get to know better in order to become better humans. (You can read about ma and I doing bad stuff at the Vagabond here.)

LR: I’ve never prescribed to the notion that everything must be new, new, new. I still spin off CD mixes I make and I play a lot “indie classics” from all decades. My personal favorites are still Blur and The Smiths. To me both groups’ music just gets better with repeated listening. Other groups/artists in perpetual rotation are Prince, Serge Gainsbourg, The Shins, Lush, Outkast, Belle & Sebastian, Air, The Beatles, Pizzicato 5, Pulp, Supergrass, ANR, Queens of the Stone Age, Saint Etienne, Massive Attack, Doves, George Michael, Arcade Fire, Brian Eno/Roxy Music, Kanye, Yeasayer, Pavement, Kings of Convenience, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Aphex Twin, and so on. I also love classical music and listen to Classical South Florida (89.7 FM) in my car non-stop.

 

 

 

AD: Favorite non-curse word?

LR: “True”

AD: Favorite food.

LR: My last meal would be grilled tofu and artichoke hearts, vegan mashed potatoes, mangoes, cherries, and chocolate chip cookies.

AD: Yum. Lolo Reskin is…

LR: Constantly evolving.

AD: Last question: If you were a crystal ball, where would you want to be placed and why?

LR: In David Bowie’s hands in Labyrinth, please.

 

A little more about Lolo. She sits (very still) on the City of Miami Arts & Entertainment Council and has served on the Florida Chapter Board of the Recording Academy. Her weekly party is Fridays at The Vagabond where she DJs from 10pm to midnight. Last week ma and I danced our butts off at the Vagabond and we still can’t find them. Hopefully, our butts will be located soon. Sweatstock, which is Sweat Record’s next big deal event, is coming up soon. Find out more here. and she’s working like a mad to make it fly. After Sweatstock, watch out for “Sweat Cinematic 6-Pack at O Cinema” starting in May. It’s going to be another cool Monday night series of music-related, indie and cult films. And meet ma and me this Sunday for Sweat’s “Waffle Party + Bold Native Movie Screening“. It’s going to be tasty for sure and I may (or may not) wear a wig. Keep in touch with what’s going on in Miami on Sweat’s events calender.

JeanPaul Mallozzi: I love His Poodle

6 Apr
JeanPaul Mallozzi

Who is JeanPaul Mallozzi? I have no idea but when ma and I saw him cuddling a poodle while floating above a city (well, it wasn’t him, but it was his imagi-creation) we fell in love. With poodles. Again. Literally, we tripped and almost knocked it off the wall. Don’t tell JP. Offcially, JeanPaul Mallozzi was born and raised in Queens NYC (Not Your City),where there are no queens because ma and I moved to Miami decades ago, and he received a scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School Of Design (RISD). That place is in Rhode Island and it’s not an island and therefore is a stupid name for a road. Anyway, JeanPaul graduated with B.F.A in Illustration and Fine Arts. He currently resides in Miami FL, his studio is at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, and he is trying daily to avoid the sun and stays pasty white. I have no idea what he is talking about because my pasties are brownish-fleshtone. After you read this Potty Mouth Interview, run by and visit JeanPaul’s studio at the Bakehouse. It’ll make you happy.

Almost Dorothy: Were you born an artist or were you molded into one?

JeanPaul Mallozzi: It’s pretty much both. I had the desire as a kid, and kind of found out accidentally that I could actually draw well. I was 10 and it was an advanced art class in junior high when I drew a Pterodactyl and when I was done I was like, damn that’s pretty good! (Yes, even at 10, I started to curse). I kept that drive going up until junior year of high school where I met up with my portfolio development teacher Mr. Potter, who helped to “mold” me into a serious art student and prepared me for submitting my work to colleges.

AD: What is your biggest obsession and why?

JM: I think it has gotta be learning new techniques with painting and digital work, while pushing the ones I’ve already learned. I think staying loose and stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while is a nice wake up call. That and cereal.

AD: I heart “Aloof” and the entire series. What intrigues me is the fact the boy has no face and the heart fades into mini pools of red, a memory of love? The boy with no face makes him more powerful than he would be otherwise. Tell me about your Moodswings, the set, and what propels you forward (or backward).

 

“Aloof” | Copyright JeanPaul Mallozzi

 

JM: The Moodswings series (“Mad”, Glad” “Sad”) I made along with other works as part of an Illustrated themed gallery show in Miami. I actually had a major moodswing one afternoon in my apartment and after it was done I thought, heh, this would be kind of fun to recreate somehow, and a nice play on the phrase. Right now, the originals and prints are available at the Art Whino gallery in Washington DC.

“Aloof” is a continuation on the first 3 pieces. It’s about little boys who like to play with their toys, but they don’t realize the hearts that break along the way. You want to get angry at them, but really you can’t because they may not realize what they’re doing. I’m already in the process of making more of the Moodswings series, this time using girls too.

AD: Oh, no more broken hearts. No more! Why no face?

JM: Actually, there is a face. Moods and emotions are like energy and color, that manifests itself in the body. People can read emotion on a face and even more so in someone’s body language. I chose to combine the two ideas of energy and posture but instead of rendering an actual face replacing it with gestural line work and color almost like how a child would draw a face but rendering the body carefully. The eyes, and a mouth are always there. Sometimes a nose if I’m feeling it.

 

“Mad” | “Glad” | “Sad” | Copyright JeanPaul Mallozzi

 

AD: Follow-up: is it the swing that moves you through moods or is it the mood that swings you?

JM: I’d say the swing moves me through, since I still go on them and go pretty damn high, although at times I fear I may just break it and fall on my ass, since I’m a little bit taller than when I was 7.

AD: I’m still 7. Not so tall though. Do you miss Queens?

JM: I do miss aspects of Queens, my crazy Cuban cousins, my old friends, the Q27 and Q46 lines, not to mention the subway and me not having to have a car 7 days a week was kind of a nice perk.

AD: In “Zzzzz”, I assume you were tired and cuddling a poodle or know someone who cuddles a poodle or maybe you just imagined poodle cuddling while floating over a city. I’m curious, what memories shape your identity as an artist or as a human being (unless you’re not human)?

JM: Memories of me playing Magic the Gathering ( yes I admit it) and copying some of the art on the cards is a good one. Me listening to my relatives and their crazy-ass stories of ghosts walking around the house, and a lot of cartoon watching and video game playing. That’s just a few in the foundation of my artistic identity.

 

“Zzzzz” | Copyright JeanPaul Mallozzi

 

AD: Do you believe in hummingbirds?

JM: Yes. The smallest ones are in Cuba and they are the size of a bee. Thank you Discovery channel.

AD: What’s your biggest challenge being an artist living in Miami or anywhere in the world?

JM: Trying to get recognized. I think these days, many artists are following the trend of self publishing, which is great because now everyone can show themselves, but it also makes it that much harder to be recognized. There are a lot of seriously talented artists out there so the competition is tough.

AD: Biggest regret in life?

JM: Not pushing my parents to put me into ballet classes. (Seriously)

AD: Me too, but I can’t dance. I have two left duck feet. So, what’s your proudest moment ever?

JM: Selling my first painting

AD: I peek sneaked a look at your blog and noticed another Moodswings piece in progress. The boy looks older. What’s going on here?

JM: Hehe, I can’t say, until its finished.

AD: My ma said you’re a jerk for not revealing, but don’t worry, I smacked her on your behalf.

 

Work-in-progress from Moodswings Series | Copyright JeanPaul Mallozzi

 

AD: If you could be reincarnated as a city, what city would you be and why?

JM: I’d say Venice, with the exception that it won’t sink. I’ve been told its one of the most beautiful and yet melancholic cities in the world, especially during autumn. Plus I have a weakness for the Venetian masks. I haven’t been there yet, but I hope to see it soon.

AD: Favorite curse word?

JM:

English: Fuck
Irish: Dirty fuckin’ langer
British: Tart
Spanish: Vete pa’ carajo
Italian: Stronzo

AD: Define the true artist for me.

JM: A true artist always has the urge to create.

AD: I always have the urge to pee. Biggest influences.

JM: To name a few, Old school painters (John Singer Sargent, Waterhouse) Illustrators (Joe Sorren, Phil Hale)

AD: Most vivid memory:

JM: I remember the first time I could control myself dreaming consciously. That was awesome.

AD: What are the three songs you can’t live or love without?

JM: Can’t live without: George Michael’s “Freedom”, Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” and Yomanda Vs Emma Shapplin’s “Spente le Stelle”. ( I used to like to play with glowsticks.)

 

 

AD: I used to chew on glowsticks. Still do, in fact. Finally, last question: Reveal a dark(ish) secret for us:

JM: I have an innate fear of fish. Most of my friends and all of my family already know this.

JeanPaul Mallozzi does freelance work, commissions, and prints.  Out of just random goodness feel free to contact him for more info @ jeanpaulmallozzi@gmail.com. View his blog where he updates his work-in-progress here.

Michael Klein Is Still Living

16 Mar
Michael Klein

When I read Michael Klein’s memoir The End of Being Known, I circled my favorite passage: “I think the stranger’s desire for me is as strong as my desire for him because of the breezes between us, which carry hope into the unknown. Being in public makes it famous sex.” After I read that line I had infamous sex in the space between the breezes and found hope in running sneakers. In other words, I had public sex and almost got arrested. (I made all of that up, of course. I’m a virgin.) In Klein’s latest collection of poems, then, we were still living, which was just named a finalist for a 2011 Lambda Literary Award this morning, he reveals that we’re all made of bread and the encounters that encase our living lives. Yes, there’s more public sex, but this book is not about the sex. then, we were still living is about living because we are (or were) still living. Klein takes us into church and into his bathtub. He asks us to consider Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul. He pulls us in and shows us who he (we) is (are)–creatures of habit, objects of desire, and objects to be desired. And we don’t need a photograph to prove it.

Warning: partial nudity below, so keep reading. This is a Potty Mouth Interview, FYI!

Almost Dorothy: I’m obsessed with this question: what is a poem? But, I’m not that obsessed with it anymore. We broke up. So, what do you love the most?

Michael Klein: I love jazz (Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett) and theater and modern dance and Andrew and the sun and Ruby and the ocean and parts of the south and more parts of the north and salt water and night walking on the beach and laughter and Walker Evans, Charles Ives, shameless love, Jean Ritchie on the dulcimer.

AD: But I’m still in love with him (or her) (or them): what is a poem?

MK: A poem is a song and a prayer as opposed to a wing and one.

AD: Haha! In your latest collection of poems, then, we were still living, I want to be clear on this: are we still still living and when will this still living be over? And is it life like a still life?

MK: We are still still living and we shall remain so until we were living. And no, it is not like a still life. It is like a memory of the future.

AD: A future memory is like a past memory but it just hasn’t happened yet. In the poem “Five Places for Sex”, you write:

The sex we were having held on to the flimsy hangers
until we pulled them down with us into our orgasm
looking for its rightful place to land in the dark—our cum, I mean,
all mixed up with the sparks and streaming its white noose
into the very slightly serious tennis shoes.

No question. I’m just very distraught over the serious tennis shoes. Is there anything better than church sex?

MK: Yes, I think sex on a train and in a bathtub are two places better than church. Also, on the floor of a restroom of a gas station in Saratoga Springs, New York.

AD: Do you have a photograph of this?

MK: That was in the days before photography.

 

Michael "Foxy" Klein

 

AD: I didn’t know you were so young. Seriously, “What War”? (Read the poem here.)

MK: Every war. Everything that is at odds at our staying human and vulnerable and fragile and beings who wonder and are drawn to wonder.

AD: I am drawing wonder right now. I heard that you like Tori Amos. My favorite T.A. songs are “Baker Baker” (always makes me cry for a day) and “Mr. Zebra“. Oh, and also “Hey, Jupiter” and “Upside Down”. What’s your favorite Tori Amos song and why?

MK: “Caught a Lite Sneeze” because it says at the end:

Boys in their dresses
And you’re not here
I need a big loan from the girl zone


 

AD: How is your dog?

MK: My dog is my guide.

AD: Favorite word & why?

MK: Rain. It says everything.

AD: In your memoir, The End of Being Known, you write that you see a lot of your childhood through water in three pools. Sometimes I see my childhood sitting on the edge of the pool, feet dangling. What does the view look like now since you wrote the memoir?

MK: Steeper.

AD: Okay, who are you?

MK: Nobody. Who are you?

AD: A shoe. Are you everything you imagine yourself to be or have been?

MK: Completely different. My imagination doesn’t face back in my direction. It looks out.

AD: Good answer. Last question before the last question: Chris Abani writes, “that in order to have an honest conversation with a reader, I must reveal myself in all my vulnerability. Reveal myself, not in the sense of my autobiography, but in the sense of the deeper self, the one we keep too often hidden even from ourselves.” I don’t see you as a hider, but as a revealer and maybe a reveller. Are you vulnerable?

MK: Always, and always resisting what would change that vulnerability.

AD: Best pickup line.

MK: “Here’s looking at you and putting it in me.”

AD: Gross!

MICHAEL KLEIN is the recipient of two Lambda Literary awards (“1990″ and “Poets for Life:  76 Poets Respond to AIDS”). His other books are “Track Conditions”, “The End of Being Known” both memoirs, and a new book of poems “then, we were still living”.  He teaches at Goddard College and in the summer program at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he lives when he is not living in New York City. Read excerpts from then, we were still living here.

Christian Meesey Is Voltron In 3-D

12 Mar

Fado by Christian Meesey

I love Christian Meesey. After spending most of his childhood in St.Louis, Missouri, drawing mini-comics and caricatures at the local Six Flags, and refusing to grow up, Christian Meesey relocated to hurricane alley–Miami, Fl. In South Florida, Meesey earned his BFA in Computer Animation. He almost blew that because he spent his time drawing and painting in the Fine Arts  Department, which is fine, because this led him to publish his first graphic novel, Motley, with Brook Dorsch and the Dorsch Gallery. He completed two more installments in the Motley Comics series before heading to Los Angeles. In Southern California, he is an animation freelancer and draws caricatures at Universal Studios. He shares a house with his lovely girlfriend and her adorable daughter, and 2 slightly less adorable dogs in beautiful Santa Clarita. Every once in awhile he actually finishes one of the comics he says he is working on. I contacted Meesey for an interview because I like his drawings. Plus, he is a nudist. Well, that was a lie. Seriously. Enjoy my interview with Mr. Meesey.

Almost Dorothy: Were you born an artist (or graphic novelist) (or however you define yourself) or were you molded into one?

Christian Meesey: A bit of both. As an only child I often had merely a stack of blank computer paper and some markers to hang out with. And once I saw MAD magazine, I was off to create my own version. With a little bit of Voltron thrown in.

AD: I’m totally in love with Voltron. Even though I have no idea who Voltron is, I’m sure he’s electric. In your opinion, what’s most important—words or images—and why?

CM: Hard to pick one, as they are certainly complimentary. It’s like the 1 + 1 = 3 comparison. The best comics create a new experience when the two are combined effectively. That said, some excellent comics (Mobius, Lewis Trondheim) do exist using pictures only.

AD: What is a story? And what makes a story ‘good’?

CM: An appealing character tries to get what they want, and goes up against as many obstacles as they can handle, and then more than they can’t possibly handle, and then they either triumph or don’t. What makes it good for me is when authors take something “normal” and make it sublime (A Serious Man) or show us something new and incredible (Wall E).

AD: Tell us about Motley and the Motley Comics series. What was your motivation and impetus behind the project?

CM: It was initially materialized as loose caricatures based on a couple of fellow artist friends, but the characters have since taken on lives of their own. Now it’s a bit of my personality split in half between Motley and Harvard. The id and the super ego. It evolves as a comic intuitively, a page here or there. But I’ve been working on new material recently and more will be showcased in Knucklehead.

Motley by Christian Meesey

AD: What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to communicating your message through your art to a mad mad world that’s gone madder?

CM: Staying true to the art or specific piece, and letting it develop organically. It can be challenging to listen to the ether and not try to force an idea or direction for a story or individual work.

AD: Quoting from Motley, “what do you want to be when you grow up” and what don’t you want to be?

CM: I want to make a significant contribution to the medium of Sequential Art. Still a long long way to go, but I’m committed for life.

Motley by Christian Meesey

AD: I’m committed, too, to an asylum! What’s your favorite curse word?

CM: Fuckity-Doo.

AD: I like combos. Would you talk to us about Kuncklehead and do you have any excerpts you don’t mind sharing?

CM: Knucklehead is my approach to an “Eightball” style anthology, though it will occasionally feature contributions from a few talented friends to keep things fresh. It’s me basically throwing my hat into the comics creating ring, to attempt a semi-monthly output.

AD: In your illustration “Evolution chART”, man evolves from fish to Mr. Money Bags. Can art ever be unhinged from Mr. Money Bags or is it an inevitable consequence of consumerism?

CM: There are ways to navigate in cooperation with Mr. Moneybags (The Coen Bros., Dan Clowes, R. Crumb), or to become Mr. Moneybags yourself without selling your soul. I enjoy Johnny Cupcakes and Banksy’s approach.

Knucklehead by Christian Meesey

AD: I love cupcakes, too! Are you still a small fish or have you moved up to that big apartment in the sky?

CM: There was a cool bit in Finding Nemo, where the school of small fish combine to create a larger, more imposing fish. So, I’m definitely a small fish, but with family and friends combined love and support, we can do many big things. Again, I’m thinking of Voltron’s influence.

AD: Define the true artist for me.

CM: Bill Watterson. Never compromised, created work loved by millions.

AD: Biggest influences and greatest works.

CM: Bill Watterson: Calvin and Hobbes; Tom Richmond (caricature artist extraordinaire and mentor, Yoshihiro Tatsumi: A drifting Life; Jordan Massengale (painter and mentor); Peter Deseve; T.S. Sullivant; David Mazzuchelli: Asterios Polyp; Milt Kahl, Kyle Baker; Pablo Picasso, etc, too many to name.

AD: Final question: If you could be any character in the world, fictional or real, who would you be and why?

CM: It’s a toss up between, yes, Voltron and Indiana Jones. Got to go with my gut on this one: Voltron. Three of the many reasons being: 1. He’s a giant ass-kicking robot. 2. He battles against cool giant alien monsters for all the right reasons. And 3. Intergalactic!

 

Christian Meesey

Check out Christian Meesey’s intergalactic bad-ass Meesimo Sketchbook and his forthcoming work, Knucklehead, which will be presented online at www.amusedom.com and in print as limited editions with Lulu.com early in 2011. The Meesimo Sketchbook is a collection of selected art pieces from the last few years of sketchbooks and random projects. Knucklehead is a new Comic anthology showcasing a variety of Christian’s comic work, including short stories as well as serialized graphic novels.

 

Emma Trelles is Way Cooler Than E.T.

17 Feb

Even though Emma Trelles is not E.T., it doesn’t matter. She’s better than anything Spielberg could possibly dream up. That’s, right! Emma Trelles is the author of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press), which won the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. Ma adores the cover art because it reminds her of her imaginary backyard. Our real backyard doesn’t have grass. Anyway, back to Emma. Emma is also the author of the chapbook Little Spells (GOSS183), a recommended read by the Valparaiso Poetry Review and the Montserrat Review. Montserrat, Spain, FYI people, is my favorite place on Earth and in or around heaven. That’s where I want my ashes tossed from. Emma has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International and at the Palabra Pura reading series at the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago, and she is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog. She lives with her amazingly awesome husband (I wish I had a husband!) in South Florida where she teaches and writes about arts, books, and culture. She also break dances. Note: I’m a liar. I interviewed Emma before her book release at AWP in Washington D.C. and this is what she had to say. Enjoy-ness.

Almost Dorothy: What does it mean to live in South Florida and what does it mean to live in South Florida as a poet?

Emma Trelles: Living in South Florida means living and dreaming water: ocean, lake, canal, and rain (misted or primordial), the Gulf and its delicate inlets, marshes, rivers, swimming pools, fountains and the man-made waterfalls that trickle down the tiki gods of the Mai-Kai. Living in South Florida as a poet is a tightrope
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