Thursday, April 18, 2013

IN S.P.A.C.E. NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM: The Evidence

So, S.P.A.C.E., or the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, was held this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio. For the 11th time in 12 years, I had a table there. While the show seemed very slow at times, at the end of each day I had sold more work than I might have imagined. Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page continues to sell amazingly well, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many people picked up a copy of my newest art zine The Kurtz Papers. I nearly sold out, and I think I only have 2 or 3 left. I was a bit disappointed that I was not able to sell more original art. All of the illustrations for The Kurtz Papers were priced between $15 and $25 dollars, which seems pretty reasonable to me. I've seen digital prints selling for those prices, and these were originals. I wanted very badly to sell them, not for the money but for the catharsis. I needed to put that behind me. I don't know, maybe the subject matter was a bit too disturbing for some.

I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked, partly because it is very difficult to walk around the show and take good and interesting shots without being almost relentlessly hustled by some of the exhibitors to buy their zines. So, most of what you'll see below are occasionally silly photos of my friends goofing around behind the tables. Still, it's a part of my life and that means something.

One of the very first things I saw on Saturday morning was this Chicken Lady. S.P.A.C.E. is not known for having a lot of cosplayers. I can really only recall seeing one or two each year, and they are usually in well done but fairly generic costumes like a pirate or a zombie. This was something entirely new, and what was so impressive about this woman was how confident she was in this get-up. She wore it well, with no shame and no irony, and I admire that. I was told later that she was possibly there promoting a play or some other kind of performance. Bravo to her.



This crusty old guy is Brian Stevens, a very good friend of mine from many years back when I did my time in the trenches working in a comic book store. He's a genuinely decent human being, and he has been more supportive of my art and my endeavors than anyone else save my wife. In spite of that, he never lets me take his picture. Ah well, I have the memories...



Two shots of my wonderful and crucial partner in art and life, my wife. She is the one who, with absolutely no grumbling, hand-sews the Japanese stab-bindings on my art zines year after year after year, and also puts up with my occasionally manic, sadly stereotypical diva artist behavior in the days leading up to the show. As if that was not enough, she also comes with me to the show, sits behind the table for the entire two days, sells my work, talks me up, keeps track of the money, gets lunches, makes conversation, and does everything she can to help. And honestly, having a gorgeous tattooed woman behind the table always gets a lot of attention. So here, you can see her as well as my table and all the stuff I had to sell.





Tabling immediately to my left was another good friend, Gigantic Joe Kuth, who is seen here preparing his various signs. Joe was selling copies of his wonderful Emberley Galaxy book (highly recommended, and the first book I was ever published in) as well as his zines Grouse, Piece Goods and Maniac Bear. Check his stuff out.



Immediately to Joe's left were two more friends, one old and one new. On the left there you see Luscious Leighton Connor whose comic Laser Brigade I am a proud contributor to. I'm not sure what he is laughing about. On the right you see Leighton's friend and now mine, Jeffrey Johnson who also had some beautiful books. His skills with watercolor were amazing.



This is the set-up on their table, Leighton's books in the foreground, Jefrrey's toward the back of time image.



Finally, looking farther down the row, my friends in the PANEL collective. You can see the knee of Tony Goins, then Dara Naraghi and finally the bald head of artist Brent Bowman. Dara and Brent just completed their graphic novel Persia Blues and were sharing art and previews of that. I'm very excited about the book.



Here is Brent Bowman, thinking about drawing apes. He loves apes.



Dara Naraghi, a handsome handsome man...



And that punk Tony Goins, who was too good to look up for the camera...



Something I enjoy far too much is taking unflattering photos of my friends. Here is Gigantic Joe Kuth, mid-sentence, looking vaguely hilarious.



This is a sign that was hung on the wall nearby. It bothered me. For a lot of reasons.



After Day One, a group of us headed to one of Columbus' best food trucks, the legendary Ray Ray's Hog Pit. Highest possible recommendation. Seriously. Here is my lovely wife waiting for her rib sampler and baked beans. Joe Kuth in the blue hoodie behind her.



Their sign. Just seeing this logo makes me hungry.



Saturday evening, after ribs and beer, Joe, my wife and I headed to Kafe Kerouac in Columbus to see the performance of Eamon Espey's and Lisa Krause's amazing Ishi's Brain. It is monstrously difficult to describe the performance as it blended music, puppetry, costumes, and shadow images projected on a screen. Based on the short comic story Ishi's Brain from Eamon's new graphic novel Songs of the Abyss, the show was one of the more challenging things I've seen in a long time, and one of the most intense and engrossing things I have ever seen. As I told Eamon when the show was over, I will be thinking about this for a long time. And I still am. Eamon and Lisa are taking the show on a cross-country tour (you can see more info on the locations and dates in the link on Lisa's name, above) and if it is anywhere near you, do not miss the opportunity to see it. Incredible, terrifying, difficult and rewarding work. Below are a few very quick images I snagged from the set-up and the show itself, and if those interest you I highly recommend this interview Daria Tessler did with Eamon.

These bison are an essential aspect of the ideas in Ishi's Brain...



I love the stark simplicity of both Eamon's work and the overall production design of the performance. This is a tree.



My wife and Gigantic Joe, waiting with great excitement for the show to begin.



The lights were dim since the performance was about to begin, but here is the stage. The white block in the center is a screen made from a shower curtain, which functioned as a shadow theatre. Images were displayed shadowed against the light projected from behind. The white space measured about 3 feet by 4 feet. In the front of the screen was a small stage upon which the puppets performed. There are more elements but I was in the front row and unable to capture them all.



Near the climax of the performance, Eamon and Lisa enter the world of the story in these astounding masks and costumes. It is impossible to convey with photographs just how jarring, impressive and powerful this is.



The tableau at the conclusion. While it may seem as if this is some kind of spoiler, it is not. You simply have to see this to believe it. And seeing Ishi's Brain is an experience I simply cannot recommend highly enough.



Sunday was Day Two of the show, climbing back to the bright light of reality after the darkness and strangeness of Eamon's and Lisa's world from the night before. It did help seeing the wonderful, brilliant and talented Marnie Galloway who had a fantastic assortment of prints and comics on her table, along with copies of volume 1 of her comic In the Sounds and Seas. Here she is kindly showing off my own zine, The Kurtz Papers, which she was kind enough to pick up.



I never ever get asked to do sketches at these shows. In fact, this is only the second or third sketch I have ever done. But someone asked me to add to their con sketchbook so I did this portrait of Kurtz from Heart of Darkness. I'm honestly not sure if he liked it, but it turned out well I think.



Another person came by, and I wish I could remember his name, who showed me this astounding Moby-Dick tattoo. I really need to get something like this on my own arm. That book, that whale, it's all such a huge part of my life. And I sure as hell am never going to get Kurtz inked on my body. Anywhere. Ever.

EDIT: This tattoo belongs to the one and only Dave Foland. Thanks for emailing, Dave!



A shot of the show from our table. While it was not actually slow, this snapshot shows you how it could have felt slow.



Tom Williams in the throes of S.P.A.C.E. madness.



Dara Naraghi in the throes of S.P.A.C.E. madness.



John Porcellino, who seems to have wonderfully become a S.P.A.C.E. regular, kindly giving an intrerview to two young women. John's table is always well-stocked with a great array of mini-comics and graphic novels, and he is a really cool guy to talk to. Good to see him back.



During the slow moments, Olaf Stapledon was my companion.



Leighton's giant face loomed over all.



These guys were behind us. I could never quite figure out the crown, but it made him memorable.



Steven Hager, of Dutchy Digest fame. Steven and his friend Bruce Rosenberger, have been visiting my table since almost my very first S.P.A.C.E. They are really great people and their comics are delightful. Steven told me he plays a gravedigger at their local Renaissance Faire, so all the skulls and bones in my art actually appealed to him. I like that guy.



Someone from the now-defunct Columbus underground comics shop Monkey's Retreat was there. As tempting as it was, I did not spend even a second digging through these boxes. I knew if I did, I would spend every penny I had. I can only imagine the treasures within.



Here is Eamon Espey, facing the camera, and behind him is J.T. Dockery. I had met Eamon once before, many years ago at SPX, and we talked a bit about art and borders and Adolf Wolffli. It was very good to catch up with him again and talk more, and I am continually impressed and astounded at the singularity and ferocity of his unique vision. His work is mindbending, and he himself is a fundamentally good human being. I'm glad to know him. I wish I had found a way to get to know J.T. a bit better as his work is also quite compelling. We did bond a bit over the fact that we were each wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts, but beyond that I think I was a bit too intimidated to say much more.



The effervescent Fred Frances Sucks, also known as the rapper Ace Hood. Been following his stuff online for a while now, so it was cool to meet him. And he's insane. In all the best ways.



The strength of my high tech digital camera is simply not enough to capture the lunatic magnificence of Mike Madsen. I don't know about that goddawful shirt, and I called him a fishfucker numerous times, but I've been a big fan of his stuff for a while now and I love talking to him. Like Mr. Sucks above, Madsen is completely out of his mind.



After the show, Tony Goins, Tom Williams, Dara Naraghi and Joe Kuth joined my wife and I for some Mexican food and fine conversation. We shared our thoughts and stories, compared notes, and marinated on the show. A good way to wind down the weekend. Also, Joe made more faces like this.



On the way out, we saw this crazy three wheeled contraption. It was amazing. It really looked like a Transformer. Even Tom back there was in awe. I want one of these very badly.

6 comments:

Lisa Krause said...

Hi Matt! Thanks for your review of SPACE and all the nice stuff you said about our show. It was great to meet you and I'm excited to pick up your book! I keep thinking about the beautiful work! Talk to you soon!

Matt Kish said...

Lisa, no thanks are needed, "Ishi's Brain" is just absolutely amazing. I truly hope you and Eamon (and even other possible collaborators) do more and more. I feel like I could spend all day watching your performances. It was very good to meet you, and very good to get a chance to talk to Eamon a bit more deeply. You're both really good eggs, and I hope this is the beginning and not the end of our times together.

Anonymous said...

That old guy Bruce Chrislip was the one who asked you for a sketchbook drawing (of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness) and he was quite impressed with it. Yes, he was.

Matt Kish said...

Yes, Bruce Chrislip! Thank you for shedding light on that. I'm really glad he liked it. I wasn't sure what he thought, although he didn't seem to completely dislike it either. I'm pleased.

J.T. Dockery said...

Hey Matt! Sorry you felt intimidated, however you define that. Beyond sleep deprivation and hangovers when I do shows, I'd like to think I'm approachable. Next time let's chat beyond Iron Maiden shirts! Ha.

Matt Kish said...

Ha, J.T. it was me and not you. My friend Joe Kuth had seen The Smacks! performance from the night before (after "Ishi's Brain") and was raving about it, so I was a bit starstruck. Next time I'll shake your hand and ask you to get a beer or three.