How to Draw Your Own Door : An Interview with Edie Fake

July 20, 2011 · Print This Article

Edie Fake’s first graphic novel, Gaylord Phoenix (Secret Acres) was eight years in the making. An erotic and sometimes violent psychedelic spirit quest,  the book compiles the adventures of its central birdman who travels far and wide in search of self-knowledge and passion. It’s a two-colored interior, with a rich vocabulary of symbols and innuendo, from magical dwarfs to crystal splinters and tubular genitalia. The drawings are lush and decadent yet they resonate with a kind of personal touch too. When I put the book down I felt like I had been left with a piece of cartoon chalk—what will no doubt come in handy at such times in the future when I find something blocking my path (you know, because cartoon chalk draws doors through walls). This book is liberating and joyous and why not—for shouldn’t life be the same? Pain and vulnerability can lead to insight.
Despite the epic proportions of  this one body of work (and here is a great interview about GP specifically) Fake has worked on other projects as well, participating in performances, working as a tattoo artist and developing an alternative history of Chicago. I wanted to ask Fake more about his work and how it flows together in an effort, I suppose, to explore his underlying and hybrid ideology. In some ways I surprised myself—I asked a lot of questions about tattoos. I’m curious about what tattoos mean in our culture, (perhaps especially because I’m spending the month in Providence and tattoos are really and truly all over the place). How are tattoos different from drawings? And where do those paths cross. Edie Fake seemed like a good person to talk to.
Caroline Picard: What happens to you when a drawing of yours is tattooed on someone’s arm? In other words, does the significance of the drawing change? How would you compare a tattoo with a drawing’s relationship to the world when contextualized by a book/on a page?

Edie Fake: I think a couple of things happen in a couple of different ways. First off, drawing a tattoo for someone is sort of like finding the perfect gift for someone you barely know. Part of a perfect gift is that it is entirely wanted and sort of surprising and I think it also has to have a little personal flair, some indication of who the giver is and why they would choose to give such a thing.  So just the drawing/planning itself is already a lot more collaborative than just thinking about what you’d draw on your own. Then, you start tattooing someone and it’s a whole other thing. It’s a blood ritual and it’s craftsmanship and it’s fun and painful and casual too. I was only tattooing for a couple of years, but when I was working on someone there was this whole new process of understanding each line drawn, and also an understanding of why this tattoo was going to fit the person getting it. I think I was looking at the stuff I was tattooing like it was different sorts of heraldry. The person wearing the tattoo is a huge part of what the drawing becomes, both physically and energetically. That’s the biggest difference throughout the process. With drawings on paper I usually am pushing out a drawing with my own vision,  and then it can have a really singular presentation. Tattoos temper your own version of how things should be with someone else’s ideas and I really love it because it can really push the way you draw into some strange places trying to figure out the common ground where “what someone wants” meets “what you want to give to them.” I’m not tattooing now, but I miss it a lot and I miss the way it pushed my drawings. I’m starting to casually put my feelers out for another apprenticeship here in Chicago.

CP: I’m interested in how you use drawings to empower and embolden ideas you have about fluidity and gender identity–Can you talk a little bit about how the medium enables your philosophy/ies? 

EF: I’m not sure if my thoughts are organized enough to bring up anything worthy of being a philosophy! I do identify as a transsexual and I do think a lot about the expansiveness of language, the importance of self-definition and how that all relates to complicating gender and sexuality. Collapsing and expanding meaning of words and images can work towards a wild and playful vision of sex positivity as well; that’s what I strive for in drawings.

Multiple meanings are critical – I really think that’s what keeps visual, verbal and physical language alive, the way that new interpretations will always be added to the heap. I make a lot of work based on innuendo and word play. Coded meanings and visual decadence can provide a place where drawings can snap into something that complicates gender and implies new systems. For me, it’s impossible to articulate queerness in a direct and definitive way because it doesn’t exist like that – it’s much better pieced together through a drawing with many things happening, the interplay of different codes, sly language tricks, a collision of symbols, because all these things together gets more toward the idea of a border-less, boundless queer gestalt.

CP:  Do you believe in a Utopia? (not necessarily something to implement, but something to work towards?) 

EF: I don’t believe in some true, universal, obtainable utopia, or any kind of unified vision for a utopia, at all. However, I have experienced periods in my life I would definitely call “utopic” where I’ve felt amazing energetic kinship to those around me, or even just to myself… I should add, these were not periods that were free of problems or hardships,  but they were times of feeling deeply connected to what I was doing and how I was living. Constantly scheming and trying to help others with their schemes.

I think the world is shitty and hard,  really lovely things always fall apart, pain, violence, heartache and futility reign supreme. Flying in the face of that, a utopia notion in my head can push me forward, and encourage me to try to create good energy and critical work. Utopia as a constant push to conjure up how things could be better, and then the working your ideas into realities.

CP: In some way I was thinking about the utopia question because of the on-line project A Gay Utopia. I was wondering if you could talk a little about that–how did the project get started? What was it like developing work for an on-line and shared context?

EF: Before the Gay Utopia Online Symposium, I felt like the term was floating in the air a lot, especially the air over Chicago. In my experience, it was being used as sort of a rallying cry, to envision working for each other, creating networks, sharing resources, and helping each other build the things we wanted to see in the world. When I went on tour with Lee Relvas in  2006  she delivered this brilliant soapbox speech as part of our performance that culminated with asking the audience “Are you ready for a Gay Utopia?” Well, the answer to that was yes.

I’m unsure of how the Online Symposium started, but that project was the brainchild of Noah Berlatsky and Bert Stabler. It’s a wild grouping of folks that they brought together, and I’m really proud of the work I did for the  project. There’s a wide range of how people approached the work there, and I think I approached it as someone who feels like  “Gay Utopia” is a concept that nourishes me and is integral to how I see the cycles of my life tumble out. The Gay Utopia shares a lot with the Temporary Autonomous Zone and I am really invested in both of those, so I wanted to create  a comic that reflected falling down that rabbit hole. When I settled on a long scroll down drawing, I also decided that the most important thing for me to show in the images was the close combination of destruction and ecstasy, love and fury going hand-in-hand, fueling each other. That’s a big part of my lived experience.

CP: I was thinking about tattooing again, and your description of its gift-quality. It made me think too about how you describe community and connectedness as being somehow central to those moments of utopic experience. In many cultures, it feels like tattoos have ritualistic significance–it’s a sign given at the coming of age, for instance, or after some epic experience. I was wondering if you feel like tattoos have a ritualistic resonance in your experience and what that might be? 

EF: It’s a funny thing- it IS totally a ritual, and there’s this formal setup to it, but when you’re in it, it can seem casual. I guess I should call it “important casual” though – it’s a nice shared energy with tattooee and tattooist totally concentrating on what’s going on. As I was learning, I did tattoos on a lot of friends and I think that certainly had the pleasant effect of getting closer to people in a new way, through this little ritual, that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It’s very much an act of trust too, which plays into making it powerful.
CP: What do you hope your work, say like Gaylord Phoenix, accomplishes in the public sphere? I’m asking partly because you talk about your drawings as though they reflect a personal process–like, it’s the space where you can really center yourself around an interior landscape. That said, I feel like the book is incredibly welcoming and playful and generous–so it feels like a world where I am invited to participate.  I’m interesting in how that dynamic might play into the way you think about your work. 
EF: Ideally, I make drawings that are about possibilities and potentials. Considering it now, I suppose I’m making objects that try to occupy or push towards a world I’d like to live in. I’m always borrowing energy from powerful scraps of language that roll my way, trying to recognize patterns and kinships and teaming it all up visually. With that in mind, it’s amazing to hear that the drawings can turn around and give out their own little powers. It’s so great when it when it feels like there’s sharing and exchange happening because I definitely hope for something large, lovely and real.

CP: I was also reading that you do some performance work as well–can you talk a little bit about that? And maybe what it is like to physically embody something, (vs. describing it 2-dimensionally).

EF: I do occasionally do performance work. To me it seems much more like conducting a public experiment, whereas displaying a finished drawing is like showing off the answer to a long series of problems. Performances are so dependent on your openness and the openness of the audience and they hinge on both the clarity of your purpose and also your ability to convey that purpose in a non-didactic way. It’s usually a medium I use when I have a cluster of ideas floating around my head. To perform effectively – it is so hard! For me, performing is maybe the hardest, so I try to listen to my heart about it and know when I’ve got something cooking, and if I’m not really feeling it knowing to throw in the towel and forget it, I’ll just do some drawings, which I always have ideas and methods for.

Go here for more glimpses of Edie’s work.




Notes on a Conversation: Angee Lennard

February 22, 2011 · Print This Article

Guest post by Julia V. Hendrickson

Notes on a Conversation.
With—Angee Lennard (Founder, Director, and President of the Board of Directors at Spudnik Press)
In—my car, driving to a printmaking workshop at the Marwen Foundation in River North
Commenced—on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 8:30–9:15am

The moment I mentioned the word “printmaking” when I moved to Chicago, someone told me to visit Spudnik Press. Time and again I was encouraged by friends and new acquaintances alike in the art community to get in touch with Angee Lennard, to ask her questions, and to get involved in the print shop. When I finally met Angee and stopped by Spudnik Press, it dawned on me what the hubbub was all about; Angee is a quietly welcoming person, and her tireless efforts to maintain and promote a community print shop are inspiring. She is an educator who has chosen her cause, and the harder she works, the more those around her are energized to keep up. [Photo credit C.J. Mace, during Art on Track, 2010].

The last year has been a busy one for Angee, and for the Spudnik Press Cooperative community. In January 2010 Angee was the artist-in-residence at AS220, a community print shop in Providence, RI, where she focused on perfecting the art of mezzotint (a 17th century drypoint etching technique). Spudnik also hosted a few of its own artists-in-residence last year; early in the 2010, Lilli Carré made a small suite of illustrative screen prints recalling classical Greek ceramic decoration, as well as boldly colored, hand-printed artist books (one of which was featured in the MCA’s January New Chicago Comics exhibition).

Throughout the summer Jessica Taylor Caponigro (who is also an instructor at Spudnik) printed a subtly complex edition of etchings; wallpaper patterns inspired by class differences in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1874). Most recently, Sanya Glisic has finished the 2010 residency program. Her stunning production is an edition that begs for a publisher and wider distribution: over 50 illustrated, hand-screen printed, and hand-bound artist books reinterpreting cautionary German children’s tales from Der Struwwelpeter (1845).

L: Jessica Taylor Caponigro, “Our Vanities Differ” (installation and detail, “Farebrother”), 2010;

R: Sanya Glisic, “Der Struwwelpeter,” 2010-11

All of these projects are a testament to a hard-working and supportive print community at Spudnik. Be sure to keep an eye on the residency program, because the newest artist-in-residence is about to get the ball rolling: Dawn Gettler is slated to start printing etchings and a wallpaper installation in March. Other artists who have been utilizing the space include Liz Born, who just finished a series of complex reduction woodcuts called Dimorphisms; comic artist, book maker, and illustrator Edie Fake, who is printing the Chicago Zine Fest poster (which takes place on March 25th-26th); and Stan Shellabarger, who is creating a second “walking book.”

Future printmakers are bound to have a very different experience of Spudnik, however, because over the next few weeks, Spudnik is rapidly expanding. The shop began in 2007 in Angee’s Ukrainian Village apartment, and in 2008 (in order to make it a more egalitarian space), Spudnik moved to the third floor of the 1821 W. Hubbard building. Now, over three years later, Spudnik’s rapid expansion warrants another new space. It’s just down the hall, but it’s much bigger, and the exciting part is that it means the shop can now offer letterpress and offset printing.

Spudnik Press’ former studios spaces in 2007 (left) and 2008-2010 (right). Images from Flickr.

A peek at Spudnik Press in 2011 (under construction)

Fund raising (under the tag line, “Space Race: an epic mission to expand the boundaries of community printmaking”) is currently under way through the $50 membership program and the $250 subscription program (limited and exclusive access to Spudnik published prints throughout the year). Angee and the other board members hope to keep the shop sustainable by taking commissions and publishing editions for artists who don’t typically work in print.

Coming up this weekend is the Hashbrown, an annual fun-fund raiser and celebration. You can catch a glimpse of all the Spudnik activity at 1821 W. Hubbard St, #302 this Saturday, February 26th, from 7:00-10:00pm. Tensions are already high surrounding the printmaker’s chili cook-off, so be prepared to witness a little friendly competition. Representatives from One Horse Press, Screwball, The Post Family, Hummingbird Press, Rar Rar Press, Ork Posters, Anchor Graphics, Jetsah (Dan Grezca), and the student printshops at Columbia College, SAIC, and Harold Washington City College will all vie for the title of chili royalty while helping support Spudnik’s efforts to expand into a new studio space.

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ABOUT:

Julia V. Hendrickson is a native of eastern Ohio who lives and works as a visual artist, writer, and curator in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008 she graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art and a minor in English from The College of Wooster (Wooster, Ohio). Julia is currently the gallery manager at Corbett vs. Dempsey, as well as the office manager and design assistant for Ork Posters. She is a teaching assistant at the Marwen Foundation, an active member of the Chicago Printers Guild, and has taught at Spudnik Press. A freelance art critic and writer for Newcity, Julia also keeps a blog called The Enthusiast, a documentation of the daily things that inspire, intrigue, and inform. She is currently exhibiting at Anchor Graphics (Columbia College Chicago) in a solo show titled FANTASTIC STANZAS, on view through March 26th.




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (1/14-1/16)

January 13, 2011 · Print This Article

1. Pleasures and Pursuits in Georgian England at Northwestern University Block Museum of Art

Work by Thomas Rowlandson.

Northwestern University Block Museum of Art is located at 40 Arts Circle Dr. Exhibition begins Friday.

2. Declaimed at 65Grand


Work by Nicholas Knight.

65Grand is located at 1369 W. Grand Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

3. Heads on Poles at Western Exhibitions

Work by Mike Andrews, Ali Bailey, Jason Robert Bell & Marni Kotak, Nick Black, Daniel Bruttig, Andrew Burkholder, Lilli Carré, Joseph Cassan, Mariano Chavez, Ryan Travis Christian, Vincent Como, Bruce Conkle, Jean-Louis Costes, Vincent Dermody, Mike Diana, Edie Fake, Scott Fife, R.E.H. Gordon, John Hankiewicz, Keith Herzik, Carol Jackson, Bob Jones, Chris Kerr, David Leggett, Mike Lopez, Teena McClelland, Dutes Miller, Miller & Shellabarger, Joe Miller, Andy Moore, Max Morris, Rachel Niffenegger, William J. O’Brien, Onsmith, David Paleo, John Parot, Michael Rea, Tyson Reeder, Dan Rhodehamel, Bruno Richard, John Riepenhoff, Kristen Romaniszak, Steve Ruiz, David Sandlin, Mike Schuh, Mindy Rose Schwartz, David Shrigley, Edith Sloat & Sophie Greenstalk, Edra Soto, Ryan Standfest, William Staples, Ben Stone, Bill Thelen, Jeremy Tinder, Sean Townley, Jim Trainor, Anne Van der Linden, Jason Villegas, Sarah Beth Woods, and Aaron Wrinkle.

Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria St., suite 2A. Reception is Friday from 5-8pm.

4. He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore at iceberg projects


Work by Jason Hanasik.

iceberg projects is located at 7714 N Sheridan Rd. Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.

5. Oooopa! at Johalla Projects


Work by Sean Fader.

Johalla Projects is located at 1561 N Milwaukee Ave. Reception is Sunday from 7-11pm.




Top 5 Weekend Picks! (10/1 & 10/2)

September 30, 2010 · Print This Article

1. Leap of Faith at Architrouve

Paintings by Chicago artist James Jankowiak.

Architrouve is located at 1433 W. Chicago Ave. Reception is Friday from 6-9pm.

2. GLI.TC/H run.time & real.time at Transistor and The Nightingale

Work by Theodore Darst, Ben Baker Smith, Cole Pierce, Omar Mashal, Clint Ens, Morgan Higby Flowers, Antonio Roberts, Evan Meaney, Richard O’Sullivan, BotBorg, Aaron Zarzutzki, Morgan Higby Flowers, Jeff Donaldson, Vadim Sprikut Anton Marini, jon.satrom, and Jason Soliday (Friday) and work by Jodie Mack, Theodore Darst, Nick Briz, Alexander Stewart, Clint Ens, Nick Salvatore, Johnny Rogers, Jon Satrom, James Connolly, Ben Pearson, Jimmy Joe Roche, Karl Klomp, JB Mabe, LJ Frezza, James Connolly & Eric Pellegrino, Tamas Kemenczy & Mark Beasley, Jeronimo Barbosa, Andrew Bucksbarg, Ben Baker-Smith & Evan Kühl, and StAllio! (Saturday)

Transistor is located at 5045 N Clark St and will host Part 1 Friday from 8-11:30pm. The Nightingale is located at 1084 N Milwaukee Ave and will host Part 2 Saturday from 7-10pm.

3. Future Shock at The Green Lantern Gallery

Work by Brandon Alvendia, Conrad Bakker, Edie Fake, The Library of Radiant Optimism, Red76, People Powered, and Randall Szott.

Green Lantern Gallery is located at 2542 W. Chicago Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-10pm.

4. Wild Card at Johalla Projects

Tarot cards by Bridey Bowen, Alex Chitty, David D’Andrea, Rob Doran, Ryan Duggan, Ron Ewert, Heather Gabel, Horsebites, Myles Smutney Hyde, Damara Kaminecki, Jenny Kendler, Rick Leech, Monique Ligons, Alexis Mackenzie, Roy Miranda, Kyle James Morrison, Steak Mtn, Rachel Peacock, Bird Reynolds, Cristy Roads, J.L. Schnabel, and David Snedden.

Johalla Projects is located at 1561 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception is Friday from 7-11pm.

5. Neither Here Nor There at Helicon Hall Gallery

Work by James Beckman, Arielle Bielak, Sher Dionisio, nikki hollander, Damien James, Robert Jeffries, Blake Parish Lewis, Lauryn Lewis, Vivien Park, Sarah Park, Holly Sabin, and Shawn Stucky.

Helicon Hall Gallery is located at 1542 N. Milwaukee, 2nd floor. Reception is Saturday from 6-11pm.