Come & Have Some CAKE

June 13, 2012 · Print This Article

There is a really fantastic comics festival going down this weekend at Columbia College. Edie Fake and Neil Brideau have been putting it together for the last several months, as is evident from the ambitious vision and extensive programming. It’s like a world-class event with some phenomenal talent, old and new alike. A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to email back and forth with them about what the festival is about, what’s going down and how it relates to the pulse of the Chicago comic scene.
Caroline Picard: I can’t believe that CAKE is just around the corner — what made you all decide to put something like this together? Why this year? What’s it been like to organize?
Edie Fake: Yeah - CAKE is coming up so fast – it’s really exciting! Our initial impulse was that the alternative comics community in Chicago is so large and vibrant, it didn’t make sense tonot have a comics festival to celebrate it. We’d been to other amazing small press festivals of different flavors: TCAF in Toronto, Stumptown in Portland, SPX in Bethesda, BCGF in New York, APE in San Francisco… and it’s awesome to see these festivals harnessing the energy of a city’s scene and putting it in conversation with artists from all over.
This year is shaping up as an amazing year to debut a show like CAKE – there’s a ton of outstanding comics coming out right now, and I’m blown away by the talent we’ll be hosting. We’ve gotten to watch the Chicago Zine Fest (CZF) really take off in the past few years too, which is really encouraging.
Organizing for this year’s CAKE meant laying a lot of groundwork for the festival to continue – so it’s been a long and wild ride at times. We’ve got a tight core of five organizers now and an auxiliary committee of about 20 other folks and that sort of manpower really helps make everything more manageable. It actually makes putting it together pretty fun.
CP: In many ways I feel like your efforts in organizing community zine and comic-events is this incredible way of drawing out and publicizing vital energy that tends to lie below the surface. I feel like there is a ton of natural comic-energy at the moment, but I also feel like my awareness is tied to community opportunities for discussion and public engagement (like CAKE) that you and others are creating. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s been like? And maybe the tension (if there is one) between insular community-creativity and public accessibility? 

Neil Brideau: I think over the past few generations comics have really come into their own.  They’re being accepted more by the larger cultural world, and I think that helps cartoonists break out of their shells a little bit.  Most of CAKE’s exhibitors are in their late twenties and early thirties, and I feel like this generation is a lot more social than their immediate predecessors.  There’s this stereotype of the alternative comics artist toiling away in their studio not getting any financial or critical compensation for what they love, and feeling sorry for themselves.  But I see our peers really celebrating their creative process and the creative process of others. Not that there aren’t a lot of nights spent alone in a room inking pages of comics very few people will read.  I think Chicago too, in general is really welcoming of DIY and small-run creativity. Whether it’s the Night Market, or the CIMM Fest, or the Chicago Zine Fest, or Printers Ball, or house shows that DIYCHI is putting together, Chicago seems to be an incubator for lo-fi production and celebration of that production.  I think cartoonists in Chicago react to that energy, and are more social and community-oriented animals.

CP: Is there a way that you would characterize the comic-making energy and interest in Chicago at the moment? Do you have a sense for how that compares to other cities?
EF: Comics in Chicago have been a pretty big deal for a while – but I think we’re in a golden time right now. There’s a lot of overlapping community here. The Trubble Club is a great example of folks meeting up and drawing, sharing about what they’re making and influencing each other’s work. We’ve got micropresses like Sarah Becan’s Shortpants Press and printshops like Spudnik and try-anything stores like Quimby’s. Lyra Hill’s performative reading series Brain Frame is expanding what  comics are and how they’re presented. We’ve also seen totally off-the-chain events happen here recently like Hilary Chute’s star-studded Comics: Philosophy and Practice conference. This city values great comics like no place else- the scene here is really open, supportive and interactive. People here really up the ante for each other.
CP: I feel like we should talk about CAKE too, of course! What kind of things can people expect? Are there certain events that stand out as highlights for you?
EF: It’s going to be a jam-packed weekend! We’ve got over 200 artists exhibiting comics and a full slate of panels, screenings and conversations. We tried to set up events that we thought were a vital part of comics that we hadn’t seen happen before, like a panel on silkscreened comics and how the printing technique changes and expands the shape of comics. Ryan Sands, who’s an incredibly interesting and edgy editor is presenting a slideshow/mixtape of stuff he’s excited about and it just might be like seeing the future. The Eyeworks Animation Festival has curated a great program of work that highlights the overlap of comics and cartoons along with a q&a with Amy Lockhart, Marc Bell, Jim Trainor and Jo Dery. We’ve also got artist and comics historian Joe Tallarico leading a discussion on comics and fine art between two tremendous local art monsters, Paul Nudd and Karl Wirsum.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too – we’ve really been able to do a lot our first year out, including putting out an anthology CAKE Book with ITDN Group and an art show in conjunction with Morpho Gallery’s downtown Annex. It’s going to be a great time.
CP: Aren’t some people debuting comics too? What’s that like? (I’ve never been to something where comics — and multiple comics — debuted, but I imagine it’s some kind of custom? haha. I sound like such a goober.)
NB: Oh yeah! Debuts are a great tradition at alternative comics shows. Self- and small-press publishers often use comics fests as anchors to plan their publishing schedule. Making a comics fest like CAKE as the first time someone can get their hands on a comic helps create a buzz for their publication, the creators are excited to get it in people’s hands, and a lot of attendees seek out new work, knowing their the first folks to get their eyes on the comic!  So celebrating these brand new books are events within the larger event of CAKE and those celebrations add to the excitement that already exists within this convergence of tons of comics creators showing off their gems of self expression.
We have over 25 new titles debuting at CAKE, which we’ve been announcing on our website, one at a time. Being the one who posts them on the site, I’ve been bubbling with anticipation about some of the stuff coming out.  My list of comics I need to get my hands on is already really big.  A few that stand out to me are:
-Suck It Up by Krystal DiFronzo, who enthusiastically performed a portion of the comic (which involves a character puking out her stomach to consume her lunch) at the most recent Brain Frame performance at Happy Dog
-July Diary by Gabrielle Bell, published by Uncivilized Books.  Gabrielle is a great cartoonist who drew a comic everyday last July, which is now collected in this book.
-The Adventure School for Ladies Comics Intensive, is putting together a book during their two-week session, which takes place right before CAKE, so their book will be hot off the presses!
-Weather by Gabby Schulz -who also goes by the name Ken Dahl.  Secret Acres is publishing a comic featuring his character, Gordon Smalls, who is a great vehicle for Gabby’s social commentary on american consumerism.
For more information about CAKE and all its illustrious events, please visit their website.



Thoughts from Across the Cultural Divide: #9 (Dancing with Drivers)

June 12, 2012 · Print This Article

My father in-law drove me to the Milwaukee airport a few weeks ago on the Wednesday before Memorial Day. I’d never seen so much activity at Mitchell International Airport. Typically, at 7 PM on a Wednesday, it feels like a private airstrip. This time it felt like, well, LaGuardia, save for the number of travelers in Green Bay Packers jerseys. As it turned out, one of the Packer players, Donald Driver, won the television dance competition “Dancing with the Stars,” the night before and everyone was on a cloud. Half the airport had Driver #80 jerseys and the other half was toting the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with its supplemental front-page inset hailing Driver’s victory.

Because of traffic my father in-law couldn’t drop me off curbside and had to stop instead in the far lane. I ran across traffic with my luggage like a digital frog, dashing and darting abruptly until a Chevy Suburban slammed on its brakes and stopped me in my tracks. The New York side of me expected a physical altercation or at least mighty insult, but instead the middle-aged dad politely waved me on. For his generosity, I beckoned him to go first. He then waived me on again..and back-and-forth for a good minute. I imagined we looked like those two overly polite Disney chipmunks, Dale and Chip. After a few more seconds of dancing, I finally made a dash..and so did he. And the Chevy’s massive grill put my luggage into the fender of a cab five feet in front of us. It was a clean hit; all luggage and no flesh. My suitcase was upended but in one piece. Still, the driver got out and it turned into a scene of excessive brotherly considerateness. No honking, no screaming, but an embarrassingly intense rush of Packer-jerseyed Samaritans coming to my aid.

 

 

“No worries…I’m fine”

I grabbed my rolling bag from the asphalt and hurried into the terminal before the benevolent suffocated me in compassion.

I jogged all the way to the security line, which was as long as I’d ever seen it in Milwaukee. Almost as long as the average one at LaGuardia, though, as always, much slower moving.

In addition to the tendency for Wisconsinites’ to be exceedingly thorough in performing routine tasks, the process of getting through MKE security is gummed up by a state-of-the-art body scanner that everyone must pass through one at a time. To boot, I was behind what appeared to be the University of Wisconsin girls’ softball team. I had to consider that if I had been selfish enough to walk out in front of the Suburban without hesitation when he waived me on, I would have overtaken the Lady Badgers and saved a half an hour. Oh well.

In line, people started getting anxious. As the chatter escalated and people began sharing their thoughts with strangers – the beginning of any revolt – I mentioned the absurdity of Milwaukee possessing a top-notch body scanner when they don’t have one at LAX or LaGuardia. A guy behind me claimed that the scanner was made possible by the “generosity” of the recent economic stimulus as well as a surplus due to the airport’s good financial management.

By that logic, if Peoria, Illinois had a budget surplus and a little bit of irrational insecurity, the city might just erect a surface-to-air-defense system at the airport whether they needed it or not. Meanwhile LaGuardia, the financial sieve that it probably is, would continue use something like the honor system that make its lines go so fast.

After a good 45 minutes I made it to the conveyors. Super efficient; no belt, no loose change, slip-ons and keys in a pocket of my shoulder bag. After going through the body scanner I waited for my effects when an agent asked me to follow him to a back area. He was holding my shoulder bag in his right hand and a small black case in his left.

It was an open pack of 100 razor blades.

“Why on earth are you bringing these through security?”

“They were for an art project and I forgot to take them out.”

“Razor blades…for art?”

“An accessory to art making, actually.”

“Hmm,” he said in the most stoically judgmental way. The way only a good Lutheran can.

After talking about it with a supervisor the man came back and told me I could go but that he would be taking the blades and that I shouldn’t try anything so foolish again.

His disapproval aroused my shame.

I cowered into Nonna Bartolotta’s to order an Irish whisky before the flight and help forget the experience.

As I sipped Bushmills, I ranted on the inside:

“I once traveled from JFK to Charles de Gaulle via Heathrow, post 9-11, with a box cutter in my coat pocket, and THIS guy at Milwaukee airport is going to bust my chops about some razor blades…I made it through security at LaGuardia with a bottle of turpentine, and he’s going to treat me like I returned his daughter late on prom night with her sweater on inside out?!?”

Later, calmer, I landed at LaGuardia, deboarded and went to meet my wife who was waiting with the car. Outside, I saw her  waiving at me from across two busy lanes of traffic. I tried to dash across, but I couldn’t catch an opening. From the curb I threatened to lurch out with my body, sort of playing chicken with the cabbies, but it was clear they’d run me down if I tried. New York driving is a free-for-all and its drivers don’t conform to any informal social welfare system for the greater good. Systems are New York’s only ensurance of  greater good, and because of this there are rarely accidents caused by people expecting another car to stop out of pure kindness.

Walking fifty feet up to that safeguard called the crosswalk, it occurred to me that Wisconsin, which just confirmed its support for a conservative, some might say, socially insensitive governor, is partially regulated by an informal, de facto welfare state where everyone considers – perhaps a little too much – the well-being of the next guy. Chicken-or-egg, who knows, but it seems government regulation might be undesirable to some in Wisconsin because most are so busy regulating each other informally that any more imposed order on top of all that Chip-and-Dale politeness might inspire people to run into oncoming traffic to regain a sense of liberty and individualism.

My wife drove us home in some pretty nasty traffic. We finally reached our exit at Morgan/Meeker on the BQE and stopped at a red light at the bottom of the ramp. She was anxious from the white-knuckled driving and I leaned over to kiss her forehead. As I did, the light changed and a symphony of impatient car horns sounded. No informal, unwritten civil code; just rules penned by politicians and enforced by public officials. Green light means it’s time to devour those who hesitate for a split second, like “hike” means it’s time to annihilate the opposing team in football. Good will is irrelevant when you’re playing to win and you’ve subcontracted all your rules to referees.

I’m sure that our Wisconsin license plate and the Green Bay Packers bumper sticker didn’t arouse any sympathy, either.




Episode 354: Shawn Smith and Shawnimals!

June 12, 2012 · Print This Article

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This week: Shawn Smith, my hero. An artist who makes a living, is clearly having a good time, and is a damn nice guy. Along with his talented team he produces all things Shawnimals. I secretly long to live in Ninjatown. Also, I am now under contract to play Feroshi in the feature film. Coppola is directing.

shawnimals.com
ninjatown.com
iTunes




Tom Sanford is a Busy Man…Here’s Why

June 12, 2012 · Print This Article

Tom Sanford's gilded paintings of New York artists, installed on East 4th Street between Bowery and Second Avenue.Â

We at Bad at Sports know that Tom Sanford is really a superhero in disguise, and lately he’s even been scaling tall buildings! Well okay, so maybe the buildings aren’t all that tall but still. At the moment, Tom has an amazing series of paintings titled “The Saints of the Lower East Side” that portray NY artists Martin Wong, Joey Ramone, Miguel Piñero, Ellen Stewart, Charlie Parker, Arthur Fellig (WeeGee) and Allen Ginsberg against backgrounds of gilded gold. The series is installed on scaffolding on East 4th Street between Bowery and Second Avenue.

The press coverage on Tom’s project has been amazing — you can read all the details in articles posted at Gothamist,  TalkArtWorld.com, NYcurbed, and TheLowDownNY.

Tom’s exhibition here is part of series of temporary art installations in unusual locations in the Lower East Side, made possible through FABnyc’s ArtUp program, which is produced in collaboration with MaNY Project and directed by Keith Schweitzer. So if you’re in NYC or planning to visit — go see ‘em! They’ll be on view all summer, until September 5th or so. To see more pics of the installation and the works online, visit Tom’s website. Tom is looking for a public or semi-public “final resting place” on the Lower East Side  for these paintings, so if you have any ideas about that, let Tom know by contacting him through his website.

You be well.

 




Endless Opportunities (Or Something)

June 9, 2012 · Print This Article

Lately there has been more grants and prizes than you can shake a stick at. Beginning with the Frieze prize, I’d say it’s the perfect time to devote yourself to writing. If you’re lazy like me though, you take pictures and should apply for the Humble grant for emerging photographers. If you’re just straight up post modern (read: into ‘net art) you should apply to the new Creative Commons prize, notably titled “The Liberated Pixel Cup.” If you’re a painter…well, I just don’t know what to tell you. More info below!

 
It’s also worth noting that there’s a new video up of the ENTIRE how-to-win-the-Propeller-Fund workshop AKA, “Funding and Creating Your Independent Projects.” Check it out here.

OR, be there in person:

Saturday, June 16, 2pm
Hyde Park Art Center
5020 South Cornell Avenue, Chicago

Wednesday, June 27, 6pm
Mess Hall
6932 North Glenwood Avenue, Chicago

Wednesday, July 18, 6pm
Gallery 400, UIC
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago

 

 

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Frieze Prize 2012
deadline: July 20th

Aspiring writers are invited to submit an unpublished 700-word review in English of a recent contemporary art exhibition. Applicants must be over 18 years old and must not have had more than three pieces of writing on art published in a newspaper or magazine. The winner will be awarded £2,000 (a lot of American dollars) and commissioned to write a review for an upcoming issue of frieze.

http://www.frieze.com/writersprize/

Humble Foundation’s New Photography Grant
deadline: June 29th

Given twice annually (fall and spring), the grant is a $1,000 cash award that recognizes the strongest new proposal in contemporary art photography as submitted to Humble Arts Foundation.
Funded projects can be new or ongoing and with visual strength and clarity of proposal.

http://hafny.org/grant/guidelines/

THE LIBERATED PIXEL CUP
deadline: June 30th

Liberated Pixel Cup is a two-part competition: make a bunch of awesome free culture licensed artwork, and then program a bunch of free software games that use it. Liberated Pixel Cup brings together some powerful allies: Creative Commons, Mozilla, OpenGameArt, the Free Software Foundation, and you.

http://lpc.opengameart.org/

 

 
p.s.

I definitely missed the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation grant program for arts writers, but with that said, there is always next year. It’s basically amazing and I think everyone involved in the arts should enter.
http://artswriters.org/home.html