This weekend, Lance Ledbetter, Co-Producer and I find out if we win a Grammy for our Book/CD release Take Me to the Water Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography in the Best Historical Release category. The competition is stiff, the other nominees deserving... but we are proud of the contribution we've made and can hope for the best! Copies of the book are avaliable from the publisher Dust-to-Digital and Amazon.
In the meantime, one the last photographs I have of a water immersion baptism. A mass-baptizing of Jehovah Witnesses on Long Island taken in 1946. It is not in the book, but maybe I'll be able to get it into the show! The Original photographs I collected were donated to the International Center of Photography in New York City and they will be exhibited there this year. Stay Tuned for updates. WISH US LUCK.
Anonymous Press Photograph, 1946 "Group Baptism of Jehovah Witnesses" Collection Jim Linderman
Having just watched the epic, 4 hour Che film now showing on your DVD in a two part rental, I can assure you there are better films, but scarcely better performances (and channeling) than Benicio Del Torro's uncanny portrayal of Che Guevara. He even captured his asthma. The silkscreen of Che has been called the most recognizable image in the world, so it was certainly a challenging task...and watching the performance convinced me Benicio is our greatest actor working today. (Even Sean Penn, who won the Academy Award last year for Harvey Milk was surprised he won instead) But how many are familiar with THIS image, taken by an operative on the US payroll in 1967. Che's homemade shoes he was wearing the day he was killed in a shooting in Bolivia arranged by our guys. In fact, one of his last raids was to obtain asthma medicine. More information on the good doctor and intellectual Ernesto Guevara HERE. The photo is there too, but you have to dig for it. In a remarkable, unfortunate (but typical) irony of capitalistic greed, Che's image is one of the most marketable properties in the world. There are even Che SHOES for sale, but they do not look like these. At all.
Che's Shoes (Post-Mortem) 1967 Photo courtesy (and collection) of the American Taxpayer
Since no one reads blog posts, they only look at the pictures, I've decided from now on to review books only for myself, and only those which have meant something over the years. The physical book seems to be a glut on the market, so everything will be readily available used and affordable, another bonus! Like puppys at the shelter, good books deserving a home, and wherever possible I will link to the books for purchase. You will regret none. Where possible, I will link to the publisher or vendor of new copies. When out of print, as with this title, Amazon.
I met Milt Simpson 20 years ago, he was a neighbor in Hell's Kitchen and just delightful. His first book helped to create a whole new genre of collecting, the windmill weight, and with Milt's graphic and designing skills, it was a handsome book indeed. Beautiful things. (But to my eyes, not as beautiful as an effigy of a naked woman) So I bring you Folk Erotica. With text by Jennifer Borum, a fierce and informed art scholar. Milt assembled a survey of mostly eccentric and curious erotic folk art objects created over the centuries. It is a small, modest, and now inexpensive book with 140 pages of the most splendid pieces of canes, cans and carvings, all portraying that which makes men take notice. Heavy coverage of the late 20th century as well, which reflects the recent interest in outsider artists. As you can see, many collectors were happy to take some of their favorite pieces out of the closet (and off a pedestal) for Mr. Simpson. I have seen (and owned) some of the pieces in this book over the years, and while many are whimsical and lack the profundity of a tribal fetish object, all are splendid.
Folk Erotica was published in 1994 by Harper Collins and is highly recommended.
Vanessa Davis is a successful Comic Artist with an honest, authentic narrative in her work. I met Vanessa and her drawings when we both lived in New York City several years ago. It is no small thing for an artist (or fan of art) to leave New York, and now that we have both managed to relocate successfully, it's time to catch up and see how things on the West Coast have influenced her work.
When I was young, "Marvel or DC" was a relevant question. Is it still?
I have no idea! I think it might be. To a segment of the comics-reading population, I'm sure it is. I did read comics growing up, but with little concern who drew or published them. The closest I got was knowing Dan DeCarlo drew for Archie. And I recognized my favorite "Archie eras" by how tightly Betty's ponytail was pulled. I think there was a sloppy, unfashionable time in the 80s when her hair sloped over her ears. There are many kinds of comics consumers and producers now. One can't just differentiate between "superhero" and "non-superhero." At even the smallest independent comics show you will see work appealing to wildly different sensibilities. Today comics are "post-medium" or something--an inarticulate way to say that they used to conjure up one or two particular things in people's minds but now it's much more panoramic.
Do you see yourself and your work fitting into a tradition? Whose work do you admire? There is a list of young artists and illustrators on your web page, do you consider yourself part of a movement or school?
I thought I was approaching comics based on things purely from my own experience but then saw many cartoonists, both past and present, work in a similar way. Obviously, as I became more entrenched in comic-making, I learned more about them and met more cartoonists. As I get older I recognize things that have been influencing me throughout my entire life. The diary form came from one of my favorite painting teachers, but I've always worked autobiographically. Apparently I'm part of a burst of diaristic autobio comics, which is probably due to something timely and cultural, but I'm not going to attempt to get into that. I was given the "Twisted Sisters 2" anthology of female cartoonists in the mid-90s, and a lot of the work there had a lasting affect on me. Even now I recognize a drawing I did last week looks like one in the Debbie Drechsler story there. Also I'd learned about Julie Doucet from Sassy magazine. She wrote about her own life and I loved it, way before I ever thought I'd do comics myself. I've met a LOT of cartoonists around my age since starting 7 years ago, and that's been one of the greatest rewards of getting into this field. There has been a wave of comics-related activity in the last decade and it has been extremely exciting. So even though I say I got into comics with my own idiosyncratic intentions, I'd be deluded to not say I wasn't part of something larger. The list of people on my website is somewhat arbitrary and grossly incomplete, but it does include people around my age I admire. I feel like I've been working with them since I got started. They have influenced me along the way. I wouldn't say that all of the people on my list work just like me, as there is a lot of different work represented by that list.
Did you study illustration or art? Are you a commercial artist or a fine artist? Is it a line you are aware of, or balance?
I went to an arts magnet school from seventh grade onwards, and was exposed early to a lot of cool, crazy art and ideas. I don't know how things are going now at that school, but when I was 13 they tried to veer our attention away from drawing Betty and Veronica, Ferraris, or Animaniacs and to focus on brainy, idealistic artists instead. My friends and I were more obsessed with the idea of being arty bohemians than making a living. I did always have an illustrative streak and was devastated when the representative from Cooper Union thought I intended on majoring in illustration, which they don't provide. I was totally offended! Did I want to dig holes in the ground and line them with silk and lay eggs or something feminist-earthworksy like that? Now of course I think I'm a combination of commercial and fine artist. In this day and age those lines are blurred. As I continued my fine art education, the insular fine art world seemed more and more irrelevant. In fact bullshit. I think that art has been about ideas and making collective mental innovations. I don't think in this day and age a gallery is the best showcase for that, and I question the fine art world's cultural magnanimity. It seems the commercial world might be the more appropriate climate for my thoughts and ideas but I haven't really figured it out.
Where do you see your work and your career going?
Ooh. That's the topic of the day for me lately! I'm not sure. There's a LOT I want to do. I have more stories to draw, I want to paint big paintings, design fabric and wallpaper, partner with a ceramicist to decorate pots and have a breakfast nook and some babies! It's all a mishmash. I still have a lot to learn about what's the best direction for me, career-wise.
Comic books and graphic novels seem to have avoided the decline of the book in the digital age, at least for the time being. How do you see the format evolving or fitting into media trends? You write for a webmag. How does that differ from print?
This debate affects the comics world in a big way. Many cartoonists are freaked by the computer thing but just as many embrace it. Some tout the internets ability to expose their work to a wide audience, they find it liberating to be able to publish without the constraints of the publishing industry. I don't really know where I am on it. I haven't benefited as much as others from opportunities on the web mostly due to my own inexperience with computers and site-building. But it's a bad time for publishing, both in paper and on the web. I was very lucky to have my column at Tablet, that was a rare experience, unfortunately. I hear more and more from older and more experienced cartoonists, writers and illustrators that "content" is not that financially valuable anymore, and that's obviously crappy...so I don't know. I think it would be a shame for any one media or format to overthrow the another. Some work belongs on a blog, some should be in a magazine, some a book, some on a wall. Hopefully the money will come to pay for it all.
You ink, color and caption. Will you always? Is it tedious or a joy.
As long as I do comics, I am sure I will do it all. I'm into the handmade nature of it, so it is fun AND tedious. Usually I have some deadline and think about how nice it would be not to... but then I wouldn't be working if I wasn't on deadline.
Do you sell original work or editions?
I've sold a few things here and there and it is always a bit confusing. I want to do prints, I just haven't gotten around to it. I did a series of paintings of women that I think would make a cool calendar.
You have a regular column in a contemporary Jewish publication. How prominent is your "ishness" in your work?
I don't know whether it was working for Tablet or something else that brought the Jewish stuff out in my recent comics. I had to talk about Jewishness in the column, and sometimes it was over deliberate. I never would have considered doing comics about Judaism earlier in my life. Since moving to California and seriously dating someone non-Jewish, I think about it a lot more, just because it's not as much of a given as it is in New York or in South Florida where I grew up. I do think my own particular Jewish experience has helped me embrace comics and see them for all of the possibilities they hold, because I've been able to be Jewish on my own terms. I'm into the aspects of Judaism that are about being an individual, seeing things out of context. So obviously that's helped me with comics, since I've approached comics separately from a lot of the stuff associated with comics.
Your work is all autobiographical, often painfully so. It is also entirely narrative. Do you ever think in terms of "a gag" or "a joke".
I think of jokes all the time, but I don't know that I'm that good at gags. There are lots of circumstances surrounding things I think are funny, and they are best explained in some kind of context. I did this one comic about looking at a pretty college girl, from head to toe, she was all blond and skinny and stuff. But then her toenails were like 3 inches long and curly and brown and just insane. So stuff like that, even things less outrageous, are constantly making me laugh, but they're not really "gags" I guess. Most of the editing and criticism I've received has been about explaining things even MORE, so I think my strength just doesn't really lie in the overt, one-panel format.
Have you ever submitted a panel to the New Yorker?
You have no square panels, the drawings float and quiver. Is that more natural to you?
I started using panels in the last few months of my Tablet strip because it helped me organize the stories quickly and coherently. I didn't have time to artfully dovetail images together in visual witty ways, and because it was for a wider audience I wanted the narration to be straightforward. In the past I enjoyed that organic layout because of the visual opportunities, and because I didn't like the constraints of the panels. I wanted to be able to bend the perspective as needed and the panel was just an arbitrary obstruction that affected things.
Do you Miss New York? Has leaving the city changed your drawings?
I miss New York a lot! I talk about it all the time. I miss my family and the hustle and bustle. I miss the "biz" aspect of New York. Here when people see me drawing, they ask me if I'm doing it for a class. In New York, people assumed I was a professional. Obviously that's a nice feeling. I don't miss the discomfort and I don't miss trudging around. I never felt "liberated" by the subway. I literally felt desperate for nature. I hated going home for my mother's birthday, because it fell during the nicest 2 weeks of the year in the city, at the end of April. Florida is beautiful then too, but I was angry and resentful about what I'd been through over the winter and to miss a minute of New York spring was annoying. But the longer I lived in the city, there were fewer and fewer places I really enjoyed being. Soho felt like the mall, the East Village felt like Long Island, Midtown felt like the Midwest. Because Manhattan and now Brooklyn is so punishingly expensive, I found by leaving I could devote an appropriate amount of time to my own work. I loved my job in New York, but I was torn between work and drawing. In a smaller town I can afford to actually BE a professional. I always thought those starry-eyed suburban kids who couldn't WAIT to move to New York were so dorky. Then I moved there (from the suburbs) and had an amazing "only-in-New-York" dream experience despite my cynicism. But then I started to feel like a sucker, thinking I HAD to be in the city. Putting up with so much bullshit just to be there felt kind of degrading. I wondered if maybe it was MORE of a "New York thing" to move away, like I don't need it.
Does your mother see all your work before it is published?
Ha ha, no! With these Tablet comics, I used my mom and other family and friends so much, I did try to take their feelings into consideration. Sometimes I'll offend my mom, and she won't say anything. She doesn't want me to feel self-conscious. But she WILL tell my sister, who will tell me, and she knows it!
See MORE about Vanessa Davis on DRAWN and QUARTERLY and SPANIEL RAGE
AIEEE! Most wax "chambers of horrors" are hardly that...a few familiar Hollywood villains to scare the kids and a damsel in distress for Dad. This setup, however, would warp a kid for a decade. What demented wax sculptor dreamed this up? Vintage grain rake hangs in the back to add a pointy "what is THAT" object to further scare the kids, and a few presumably wax chickens scratch around the "barn of death" floor. A question? Who would SEND this?
From the Dull Tool Dim Bulb "Horrors in Wax" series. Collect them all.
Horrors in Wax #15 Postcard c. 1965. Collection Jim Linderman
Did you even know there was an "America's Largest Line of Absentee Cards?" There was at one time, and now you know. Absentee cards are gentle (or not so) reminders to get your butt off the couch and into the pew. Personally, I think we all have enough guilt in our lives that we don't need a postcard to remind us, but they did probably work. Looking for a niche to collect with no competition? Here you go.
Salesman Sample and group of Absentee Cards, circa 1950. Collection Jim Linderman
"Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography" makes Melanie McWhorter, Photo-eye bookstore manager's list as one of the Best Books of 2009. She writes "It is a humble and beautiful book."
Detail from a large (11" x 14") Original Hand-tinted Photograph by Rudolph Rossi circa 1950. Rossi was a member of an informal camera club in New York City where he took photographs of Bettie Page and other amateur models, then meticulously painted each black and white photograph by hand to create the illusion of color photography. Note delicate gold highlights! The recently discovered collection is being exhibited on the site Camera Club Girls. A MATURE SITE. The work is striking and reveals not only the private obsessions of an amateur artist working at a time when risque photographs of this type were taboo, it also offers a rare glimpse into the secret world of interracial models working on the fringe of legality in the repressive 1950s. Additional documentation is shown on the site, including photographs taken at the site where arrests occurred during shooting, a scene depicted in several biographical films about Bettie Page.
Rudolph Rossi Nude (detail) Collection Jim Linderman
I keep claiming this blog is not about music, but for Bobby Charles, I'll make an exception. After all, how many heroes do we have? Especially those who are genuine, low-key to the point of painful modesty and who choose to live in a trailer alone with pet parrots? Louisiana born Robert Charles Guidry has been an inspiration to me not only for what he did (how many performers wrote hits for Fats Domino and worked extensively with the Band? Well, Two that I can think of...) Bobby was one. The writer of "See you Later Alligator" when he was a VERY young man, his recordings tricked Chess records into releasing a record by a White man. (They thought he was Black) He also, as a child, wrote "Walking to New Orleans" for Fats and Levon Helm once called him "a hellacious songwriter." Levon has never told a lie. Despite all this, Charles was painfully shy, a trait I both share and admire...and lived modestly out of the limelight by choice with his pets and worked to preserve the Louisiana wetlands. If anyone had listened to him, Katrina wouldn't have been as bad. Charles dribbled out too few recordings in his later years, but had just finished one with another New Orleans saint Dr. John. Charles was 71. His record produced by Rick Danko in the 1970's is available again after long being out of print. Sigh.
Take Me to the Water receives Grammy nomination for Best Historical Album
"Best Historical Album is a Grammy category that never attracts much attention, but the nominees are usually excellent. This year is no exception: Among them are the Little Walter Chess recordings and a Sophie Tucker collection from the folks at Champaign-Urbana’s great Archeophone label. The excellent Dust-to-Digital label is a regular presence among the nominees, and this year it’s up for a fascinating package called Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950.
The 8.75" x 6" hardbound book includes a gorgeous collection of rare photos of riverside baptisms by both white and black congregations, taken from the collection of Jim Linderman; there’s also a terrific essay by Luc Sante. Accompanying the images is a wonderful CD featuring black gospel, blues, and old-timey country songs that touch on baptism—including tracks by ubiquitous preacher Reverend J.M. Gates, quirky gospel singer Washington Phillips (who also played a fretless zither he built himself and called a Dolceola), the Carter Family, and J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers. I don’t really think that baptism songs comprise a truly important genre, but the practice itself is obviously a huge part of religious life, and immersion baptism is still practiced today in the U.S. So while this may seem like a rather esoteric subject for a Grammy bid, that doesn’t make the music (or the photos) any less compelling." — Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
If you are following my blog old time religion you already know I am a sucker for religious graphics of the golden age of fear. The best one here is "Moscow over Hollywood" which every patriotic American must read. Otherwise, how will you know "The Communist supreme headquarters have been moved from the alien-infested slums of New York City to the intellectual slums and moral cesspools of movieland" that "Three sets of Russian-born brothers control 95 percent of the movie industry" and that a "bumper crop" of lazy Hollywood 4-Fs like Frankie Sinatra, Orson Welles and Errol Flynn wouldn't even "trade greasepaint of the theatrical world" for the REAL grease of the munitions plants during the big one. And don't even mention "Comrade" Charlie Chaplin. The author also manages, through some convoluted stretch of god-fired logic, to proudly claim that since lynchings in the south have dropped by 10%, Red singer Paul Robeson will be foiled in his attempts to spread a communist revolution through the Negroes. These pure examples of perverted prophecy will also be posted on old time religion. If you choose NOT to follow the blog, don't say I never warned you about the Devil Spit.
Group of Religious Prophecy Pamphlet claptrap by Dan Gilbert and E. J. Daniels, all circa 1950. Collection Jim Linderman
I profiled another artist working for the digest "Sexology" on another blog (the fearless L. Sterne Stevens on Vintage Sleaze) but neglected to mention "Tina" the somewhat inept surrealist who was obviously the "go to" artist for the monthly digest. I have not been able to find the artist's full name, nor do I know if "Tina" is accurate...but then if I were working for a magazine with articles such as "Strange Objects in the Bladder" "Odd forms of Reproduction" "Polymastia-Multiple Breasts" and "When Midgets Marry" I might use a pseudonym as well. A gig is a gig. Genius Craig Yoe who has compiled pages from this journal in his book Sexology might know more about her, but I don't have the book and can't kindle it yet, so I'll wait for reader comments. The above paintings come from issues dated 1953 to 1956, and who (or what) subscribed to the magazine is a mystery. Thankfully.
I am going to guess Tina worked on artist's board...somehow can't see her stretching canvas for these. (But I CAN see racing Jim Shaw to the Salvation Army to buy one) I also do not know the process for commission...did she produce a work every month based on the editor's direction? Did she read the articles for inspiration? At any rate, our unknown, deservedly so, artist is responsible for all of the above, which were published to illustrate the following respective articles:
Narcissistic Frigidity: Virgin Wives
Musical Sex Sublimination: Conversion of Sexual Urge
Change of Life
Women who Rape Men
My discovery which questions whether Andy Warhol learned to draw soup cans from a small Heinz tracing book he would have had access to as a child seems to be striking a nerve. Quite possible, and I will lay out the details here as a few folks have asked.
I found a small booklet in an antique mall which was originally published by the Heinz company in Andy Warhol's home town the year before he was born. The book encouraged young children to TRACE THE IMAGES contained for "fun" when the intent was clearly to imprint impressionable young minds with the Heinz logo and brand. Tracing paper was bound into the pamphlet on top of each Heinz product. The book has a date of 1927 and was published in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh was also Andy's home town and he was born one year later in 1928. As such, the small book, one of a series called "Heinz Kindergarten Books" would have been readily available to the young artist.
The images here come from the Heinz book number 6, so the series was well established and local Pittsburgh residents would have surely picked up the premium, which was free, for their children to play with. Although not as famous as his Campbell's images, Warhol did produce art with the Heinz logo, just like the branding experts at H. J. Heinz apparently hoped he one day would! As the similarities are quite striking, and the location and dates too much of a coincidence to ignore, I believe Mr. Warhol may have played with books from the series and remembered it some 40 years later when he began using similar (in fact, nearly identical) images in his work. I am not speculating that Mr. Warhol traced this copy, as thousands of children would have had the book, but he clearly would have had access to another copy.
Have a look, consider it yourself...and contact the art historians! Greg Allen on his blog has added some history on the book series and discusses the impact product advertising has on young minds.
The images were originally published a month ago on Dull Tool Dim Bulb, I am re-posting them along with a few additional scans. Just for the record, a Heinz Tomato Ketchup drawing by Warhol done in 1962 ( and quite similar to the very ketchup bottle shown in a tracing here from 1927) sold for over one million dollars at Christie's in 2009.