Found Photographs Document the Birth of Rock and Roll (The BOOK)
Posted by Jim Linderman
The Birth of Rock and Roll is now available for pre-ordering on Amazon.
I received a copy and it turned out beautiful. A coffee table book, and a book about music unlike any you have seen.
My vintage photographs were handled beautifully by the fine folks at the publisher DUST-TO-DIGITAL
and the design by award-winning Martin Venezky
and his Appetite Engineers shop is fantastic. Historian, essayist and music-writer Joe Bonomo
contributes elegant prose.
160 pages and when they are laid open, each is 19" x 12" of striking jumping' and jivin' humanity! I am proud indeed to make a contribution to our understanding of that phenomena we call Rock and Roll, and the folks mentioned above helped it happen.
There will be more about the book soon, but for now it is listed in the art book D.A.P. Catalog (shown here)
and Amazon is taking pre-orders
. It will soon be available at the Dust-to-Digital Website and other sources.
It may be worth mentioning that my first book with Dust to Digital, Take Me to the Water
(which was Grammy-nominated) is now out of print and used copies are trading for over a hundred dollars…
I would like to thank the publisher Stephen Lance Ledbetter for recognizing the potential of this project, and for the magnificent results. A picture does tell a thousand words, and in this case the pictures tell a hundred year story like never before. Thank you!
The Dishonesty of Outsider Art
Posted by Jim Linderman
| tags: outsider-art outsider/folk art brut folk-art Ousider Art self-portrait painting drawing sculpture mixed-media
HYPNOTIST COLLECTORS AND WALKING ANTIQUES: NYLA THOMPSON AND THE DISHONESTY OF OUTSIDER ART
By Jim Linderman
Pioneer folk art collector Herbert Hemphill, Jr. was on a mission in the early 1970s. The first director of the nascent Museum of American Folk Art and compulsive collector of same intended to disprove the commonly understood belief that folk art had died with the emergence of 20th century popular culture. Certainly there were artists working at the time using the same traditional skills as their ancestors? Like Alan Lomax and other folk music scholars had done earlier, he hit the road to find them. Folk ART was like Folk MUSIC after all… pulled from the same sources with the same honesty and authenticity most thought lost. There just had to be some field work.
Among Hemphill’s earliest contacts were Michigan artists and collectors Mike and Julie Hall and Virginia roustabout Jeff Camp. They were doing the same thing. 18th and 19th century folk art, they knew, had all been discovered and priced out of reach. All the good weathervanes had been wrenched from rooftops, the representational trade signs torn down, wood-carved decoys replaced with inferior modern interpretations or worse, plastic. What was a modern day folk art collector without the money to shop at Sotheby’s to do? Art collecting has always been a sort of obsession, and there had to be a way meet that need without paying gallery prices.
Soon these folks discovered the other folks. Living and breathing artists who were creating objects, both utilitarian and purely decorative, in relative isolation from the mass culture. Cultural holdouts. Some were at the end of the road. Some didn’t quite belong among others… psychological exceptions to normalcy. Some, like Nyla Thompson, whose work is illustrated here, were physically challenged. Others happened to be religious zealots using art as a tool to spread the word. A motley crew of artists and crafts folks were discovered. Each “authentic” new discovery was traded among the small group of devotees. The work had little financial value, and when the artisans who created it did sell, it was priced in coins rather than dollars. The early “pickers” traded things amongst themselves in some cases today worth many thousands of dollars.
With the help of similarly inclined collectors, Hemphill found dozens of dying-out authentic beacons. Wood carvers, whirligig-makers and Sunday painters with no formal training. That their “discovery” happened to coincide with the Bicentennial added to the mix. Soon, every state had their own living folk art relic to show. County fairs and urban squares put the last few practitioners on display. Carvers, quilters, whimsy makers… the homespun were spun into the laps of a public to whom art meant Andy Warhol, or worse Leroy Neiman… but they were presented. Quilts came out from under beds and hung on the wall. The work of whittlers was placed on pedestals. “Country” became a decor and rustic nearly a sign of superiority. Ralph Lauren put it in his stores on Madison Avenue.
Hemphill published a book along with historian Julia Weissman titled Twentieth-Century Folk Art and Artists in 1974. It created an “A” list of rural artisans who qualified and virtually all the big dollar artists today were included. All self-taught (though some followed tradition) and largely unschooled. In other words, the real deal. Anyone with something questionable, curious or exceptional in their background could qualify if the story was good enough. The quirkier, the better. Soon, the most notable of the bunch was Howard Finster, a rural Georgia preacher who thought he could save souls with his art. Others were found in jails or institutions. Anyone creating a consistent body of work from “the other” was included. Some happened to be African-American, who were ostracized from the dominant culture (particularly the dominant ART culture) and lumped in among the strange and curious. Hemphill’s world was a carnival of sideshow objects, weathervanes and more. He was, literally, the “hypnotist collector” and “walking antique” Dylan sang about in “She Belongs to Me.”
Hemphill missed Nyla Thompson, who did the work here with a brush in her mouth, but we will discuss her later.
In 1982, a ground-breaking exhibition titled “Black Folk Art in America” was curated by scholar John Michael Vlach and mounted at the Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C. The show traveled a bit, and the corresponding book, essentially a catalog, drew comparisons between Black working artists and their traditional enslaved ancestors. Notions that there was a continuum at work with African-American artists and the authenticity of the past developed as well. A spectacular show, united by the fact the artists were distinguished by their racial heritage, if not their technique. Contemporary artists of the time, trained in art schools and thus suitably “tainted” were amazed at the quality of the work presented. It is quite likely some were shamed.
A similar event occurred in 1990. Jan and Chuck Rosenak, a pair of Washington D.C. Lawyers and early disciples of Herbert Hemphill had hit the road as well, using Bert’s book as a roadmap. Like others, they purchased whatever work the isolates had for sale. Great art at bargain prices, and they made sure to visit all they could from the Corcoran show as well. Their collection was subsequently presented at Hemphill’s Museum, now finally with a more public space of their own (and no longer hidden on the second floor of a space just down the street from the Museum of Modern Art. No, not the one MOMA is tearing down… the FIRST Folk Art Museum which was off the Midtown radar, but where one could visit and meet Herbert himself… as I did as a very young man, though I had no idea years later I would meet him again.) The new space was in Lincoln Center, steps away from the kind of human traffic only Manhattan can provide. The show was a hit.
Still, the artists were excluded from a world they never choose to join. That it was a school they were not aware of and never asked to enroll in mattered only to a few scholars, collectors and dealers.
Enter the art market. Presenting the work for sale was a problem. There was no “school” to tag the work with. None of the several hundred “discovered” and sanctioned isolated artists knew each other. None could place their work into a canon… there was no artistic precedent, as they all came to their techniques without formal training. Most had never visited a museum until their work was called art by one the scholars named here, but they were encouraged to attend openings of all things. The very criteria which established their authentic credentials was that they didn’t belong in the art world. They never got together at a bar after a hard day expressing their rebellion with paint brushes. None had debated artistic merits or critiqued each other’s work. They didn’t gossip about who was showing where and with whom. No pilgrimage to Paris… for most, their travel consisted of a trip down the road for foodstuffs. How could this diverse group of isolates be marketed?
So they were to be “Outsiders” and Outsider Artists. There was no school, and could not be, as the very characteristic which gave them official “outsider” license was a pure, classic dichotomy. They were placed into an artificial construct so their raw, primitive art could be sold as such. Masters of Outsider Art. A dozen or so galleries sprung up to sell the work, present the shows… and in some cases to “lock up” the artists with exclusive contracts. Local addresses were hidden. Folks to whom a contract meant trouble were encouraged to sign on the dotted line. Those artists who continued to enjoy selling their work to passerby were still allowed reluctantly into the galleries (and collections) but they would for the most part never have the art world respect the dealers hoped for. Some would, but they were largely the ones who passed away before their work could be marketed, before the books were published and before the museum shows. To this day, despite efforts of dealers to present “new” outsiders, it is those who passed away before becoming notable who still hold the market value. They are also, by the way, the ones Hemphill published before anyone else.
Still the dealers and art world insiders squabbled for a name to call something which couldn’t be named. They tried numerous terms. None applied. They are still not quite sure. They dabbled with Art Brut for a while, the term artist Dubuffet applied to the insane and institutionalized artists he enjoyed. An insult to the African-American artists who today comprise the majority of those with greatest financial value. (Edmondson, Traylor, Gullah painter Sam Doyle…) They weren’t crazy, after all. Some even happened to be pillars of their community, imagine that, and they never belonged with the rest because the rest didn’t belong either. There was no club. And to call African-American artists outsiders was a cheap, easy and racist way to include and exclude them at the same time. BOTH wrong. Double dichotomy and twice as offensive.
In truth, there were countless artists creating remarkable work in isolation. Thousands of them. It is a big country. In New York City, one “outsider” produced a considerable body of work in the confines of his 25th floor apartment in upper Manhattan. An elderly gentlemen, he explained every time he went in the elevator, he got mugged. Isolation in the middle of the nation’s largest city.
This is no diatribe against the dealers, many of whom I consider friends. It is a pondering on the legitimacy of a market for “outsiders” at all. The dealers presented, and continue to present, astounding work by astounding artists. But the artists do not need, and in fact do not qualify for ANY label. Each is unique. Each has absolutely nothing in common with the other. The concept, the collections, the group exhibitions? They are dishonest and hurtful. Dealers deal with this by claiming what they really want is to have the outsiders accepted into the canon. That very canon they don’t belong to and the very canon (a canon some call corrupt, by the way) which never excluded them as it didn’t know they existed. By definition. The canon which used to refer to Henri Rousseau as a “primitive” and American Indian art as “artifacts.”
Nyla Thompson was a painter who had disabilities. A polio survivor. Would she have fit the criteria? Yes. She had all the characteristics of “the other” when it comes to outsider art. All the pieces here are unique, one-of-a-kind paintings she created poking and pulling at the work with a brush in her mouth. They are lush, thick oil paintings, except where she highlighted the works with pointalistic pecks which would interest Seurat. She even signed her work with her brush in her mouth. While no less than Eleanor Roosevelt was a fan, she was missed by the collectors with power. Do we need a value judgment on her work? Is it “good” enough to be art? To be marketed as an outsider? Is there a “school” of mouth painters? As a matter of fact there is… but they are all one of a kind.
NOTES: Major portions of the Herbert Hemphill collection were donated to the American Art Museum at the Smithsonian (where it is now referred to as contemporary folk art) and can be seen HERE. He also helped establish the Museum of Folk Art which is HERE. The Ground breaking Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists book is now out of print, and what cost $125 during the 1990s is now available for $3.00 used. Books are SO over. The Museum’s magnificent home, decades in the making but built only recently, will soon be razed by the Museum of Modern Art. You can read why HERE. The Michael and Julie Hall collection now resides at the Milwaukee Art Museum HERE. Jeff Camp was discussed in the Wall Street Journal way back in the 1970s as an “American Picker” and the Archives of American Art have a transcript of an interview with him (and his papers) HERE. Some of the Rosenak collection has been donated, some dispersed through auctions and some still remains, much also at American Art Museum. The annual inappropriately named Outsider Art Fair will have their next show in May 2014. The history THEY tell omits everyone above in favor of a Euro-centric interpretation. They omit the word “folk” entirely. They also fail to point some two dozen of the “field’s” big ticket artists were first published by Hemphill, not a European. The author first wrote about Nyla Thompson HERE and the best biography is HERE. Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980 by Jane Livingston and John Beardsley remains one of the most beautiful art books of the 20th Century, but it is out of print as well. The Souls Grown Deep Foundation have published two massive volumes which cover and expand on the artists who were included. The Association of Mouth and Foot Painters is HERE. All works illustrated above by Nyla Thompson Collection Jim Linderman.
BANNED by the SUPREME COURT Five Books you Never Saw
Posted by Jim Linderman
It is again Banned Books Week, a noble annual endeavor which celebrates intellectual freedom and advocates against censorship. Yes, books are indeed still censored around the world on a regular basis. Banned Books Week is sponsored by a group of important organizations such as The American Library Association, The American Booksellers Association, and even the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. We are generally presented with the same examples of notable censored books every year. Native Son. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Beloved by Toni Morrison. All books which have been removed from libraries at some time by narrow-minded zealots who do not understand that freedom means freedom to read, and that if we loose that freedom we loose them all.
You won't recall seeing any of the books shown here in the material during Banned Books Week. That is because they were all banned, and by no less than the Supreme Court of the United States.
On December 29, 1959, NYC police officers confiscated a number of the books, shown here, alleged to be obscene, from a bookstore at 254 West 42nd Street known as Publishers' Outlet. The books were all identified and were admitted into evidence of the trial of one Edward Mishkin. Mishkin was reputed to be a member of organized crime. Initially his involvement may have been running numbers and other small time crimes, but eventually he would be associated with the Gambino organization. A total of 72 individual book titles were seized and all copies, save those used for evidence, were destroyed.
Five years later, Mishkin's conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court, and Justice Brennan delivered the majority decision. The books were indeed so offensive, it was appropriate not only to prevent anyone from printing or selling them, it was necessary to prevent anyone from owning or reading them. Case closed.
Researching the back story of Edward Mishkin and his obscene books reveals considerable hypocrisy about the way we have censored literature Yes, literature…many of these were written by somewhat well-regarded authors under pseudonyms. It also reveals the work of the extraordinary cover artist, one Eugene Bilbrew. The covers here were drawn by Eugene Bilbrew, an artist who got caught up in a questionable lifestyle of his own. He overdosed in the back of a Times Square bookstore in 1974, his work having lost much of its skill and utility. Because of subsequent court rulings, it was legal to have the questionable activities he depicted in his art portrayed in photographic form. There was no longer much need for an artist of his imagination to sell smut. Bilbrew was ultimately rendered superfluous by both changing times and the camera. Others on the list of 72 were drawn by Eric Stanton, the former studio mate of Spiderman artist Steve Ditko.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE DAILY BLOG VINTAGE SLEAZE AND TIMES SQUARE SMUT, a forthcoming book on the artists, writers, publishers and models who produced the books available on 42nd Street during the 1950s.
Jay Jackson African-American Illustrator and Cartoonist by Jim Linderman
Posted by Jim Linderman
Jay Jackson isn't best known for superheroes, but he certainly was one. He was also fearless. Who but a hero would draw this image at a time when integration was unheard of, segregation was the unwritten law and yes, African-Americans were still being beaten when they dared to say the races should get along. Much less that they might interact in skimpy attire. At the time this postcard was drawn by Mr. Jackson, swimming pools were segregated. If you watch the news, you know we still have a long way to go.
Jay Jackson was Black cartoonist who drew white pinups, but he did much more. He spent most of his life encouraging understanding between the races and teaching valuable lessons with humor and insight in his comics.
One would think the simple risqué "girly" postcards would be as disposable as the one cent stamp used to mail them in the 1940s, but the splendid HERE IS IS !! IN BLACK AND WHITE postcard was found in no less than Langston Hughes archives after he passed. It was that notable. Langston Hughes saved the postcard. So am I. It comes up on ebay once in a while, and it is just about the best way you can spend ten bucks.
Why did Jackson draw white pinups? Because in 1945, even a penny postcard required expendable income for the members of his own race. Like all commercial artists, he drew to sell. So most of his risqué postcards were of white glamor girls. Here it Is in Black and White was a piece of 3 x 5 courage and one which resonates still today.
Jay Jackson, the artist (and he was an artist, despite the ephemeral nature of postcards) passed away at the age of 48. Jet Magazine ran an obituary for him in 1954. His work appeared in African-American newspapers and magazines. He also ran an art clearinghouse for advertisers and publishers. He drew the Pepsi advertisements which appeared in Ebony, a story in itself. He did posters for War bonds during World War Two. Our friends at The Museum of Uncut Funk have made available entire serial works of the Speed Jaxon syndicated series he drew for the Chicago Defender HERE and he also did a series of patriotic posters during World War Two. An essay on the artist by Amy Mooney appears HERE.
Jay Jackson was one of four artists who drew the "Bungleton Green" series, a newspaper comic strip for African-American readers in the Chicago Defender from 1920 to 1963. He is probably best known for his "As Others See Us" comics which did just that…and both African-American and White readers laughed while they learned.
A scrap of paper on the reverse of one of his drawings written in the artist's hand indicates his income during the years from 1944 to 1947, from when the postcards were drawn, as going over 10,000 a year only once.
What is the hallmark of a Jay Jackson Pinup postcard? Red cheeks on the women and a loose spinal column on the man. The cards were printed in cheap lithograph form by Colourpicture Publishers on Newbury Street in Boston. The images he drew as postcards are not identified in the Colourpicture catalog as being by an African American, and I do not see the most notable one in the catalog. Likely not a mistake, as it was not only hot, but incendiary at the time. Few postcards transcend the genre. This one does. In the book "Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style" by Kathy Peiss, Mr. Jackson's male characters are discussed as women-chasing wolves. Ain't we all?
The original sketch drawings, postcards and Colourpicture catalog are collection Jim Linderman. The pages from Jay Jackson's Sketchbook are collection Jim Linderman PAGES FROM THE JAY JACKSON SKETCHBOOK will be published by DULL TOOL DIM BULB BOOKS in 2015
THIS POST APPEARS ALSO ON THE DULL TOOL DIM BULB SITE
B. E. Riddick Big in Back
Posted by Jim Linderman
| tags: outsider-art folk-art obsessive erotic erotica african-american drawing pop graffiti/street-art
Well, you have to say he had a unique, consistent vision, which is the hallmark of a great artist. B.E. Riddick worked in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, and most his several hundred works were created on the flattened paper of shopping bags. That isn't unusual for "outsider artists" who often work on found materials or whatever is available. Certainly African-American, which is of interest, but also certainly obsessed and driven.
B. E. Riddick, presumed passed away until we learn otherwise, worked in the low country of Virginia. Maybe Newport News, or Richmond? The details are sketchy as his sketches. Each work is large in both scale and subject…Mr. Riddick liked big bottoms.
He aspired to cartoon work and illustration. In his body of work are Amazon like superwomen in costume as well as extremely pornographic drawings...but also, shall we say, of "ample" figures.
Comparable to the work of other fetish artists, it is hard to say he was "following in a tradition" as the work is far too unique to say it has precedent, but still quite curious and downright amazing.
Works by B. E. Riddick circa 1975- 1980 on shopping bag paper. Collection Victor Minx.
Joe Shuster of Superman Fame Bondage Illustration PRINT Available
Posted by Jim Linderman
Poster size high quality prints of a drawing by Joe Shuster from Vintage Sleaze the Blog! Just in time for a "super" Black Sunday! ORDER TODAY!
An original illustration by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, who after selling the rights to his creation was forced to sell work to a minor member of organized crime to pay the rent! Shuster created bondage and S&M works to illustrated pornographic digest publications during the early 1950s. This image has not been seen since the book, House of Tears, was published in a edition of some 1,000 copies, nearly all of which have been destroyed. A beautiful representation of a women bound, in "shades of grey" of course, now over 50 years old but still looking contemporary and stylish, not to mention quite a conversation piece. Available from Dull Tool Dim Bulb Editions as indicated here, in several sizes, on high quality paper and print. Prices range from less than $100 to $300 depending on size, and you can even select professional framing too!
See all the works available from Dull Dull Dim Bulb Edition on Artslant! There are over a dozen images available, all affordable and all extraordinary.
ORDER OR BROWSE HERE
Nyla Gladine Thompson Mouth Painter of Texas
Posted by Jim Linderman
| tags: disabled Texas Artists outsider art Outsider Artist Collection Jim Linderman folk art
Nyla Gladine Thompson Mouth Painter
Small hand-painted works by a remarkable artist. I've been collecting her original works for a few years, and always try to purchase them when I find them. Do not be confused by reproduction postcards, which the artist also sold…these are all small oil paintings by a woman who painted with her mouth.
Ms. Thompson painted flowers, landscapes, animals and more. A family genealogical site speculates she also painted (in sections at a time) decorations for a "Tee Pee" restaurant in Texas, this would likely be the Tee Pee Motel which was recently restored and put back to service by a lottery winner (!) but I can find no photographs of the decorations on the standing buildings. They were certainly painted over or cleaned over the years.
That the artist manages to fully realize a recognizable, personal vision in her work is amazing considering her physical handicap. The detail is extraordinary. One distinguishing mark of her work is the countless specks she applies one at a time. A primitive pointillist. In the earliest work here, she has even decorated and signed the painting on the reverse to create a traditional postcard.
The best biographical material on the artist comes from Annette Patterson's website HERE. Ms. Patterson has done a wonderful job tracing information on her extended Texas family, and has also written a book with several pages on Nyla. Family photographs of the artist appear on the site.
Ms. Thompson was fairly well-known during her time. The website shows letters she received from both President Franklin Roosevelt (another polio survivor) and Lady Bird Johnson (a Texan who certainly loved flowers as much as Nyla.) As such, it is odd that she has not been included in the many books published in the last 40 years or so on "outsider" artists. She would seem to be right up Herbert Hemphill's alley, but I do not recall seeing her work in print. I sold my Texas Folk Art books years ago, maybe someone can help here.
Nyla Gladine Thompson Paintings, each 4" x 6" circa 1940 - 1965 All Collection Jim Linderman See Books and $5.99 Ebooks by Jim Linderman HERE
Secret Erotic Drawings of D.H. Erotic Primitive Folk Artist
Posted by Jim Linderman
| tags: erotic erotica vintage homoerotica taboo nudes outsider art fetish lesbian gay Erotic Artists figurative
Often the artistic quality of an artist means far less than the story.
This is an example, though I find the paintings, of which there are hundreds and hundreds, charming and accomplished in a perverted enough way. Yes, they are severely cropped here. I'm showing mostly the heads (when I can isolate them among the morass of limbs, hands and other body parts, most rendered WAY out of proportion) including enormous, almost comical huge erect phalluses. Trust they are, well...creative. All are unsigned, but I have the artist's name. The best have a chalky white quality which looks like shoe polish, but I am afraid you won't be able to tell from these details.
D.H. produced huge stacks of these watercolors in his summer cottage. I suppose the family thought he was fishing, but when he passed away nearly a centurian, they were found hidden among a big box of Life magazines in the attic. An old story for fans of outsider art, but it never gets tired for me. A fevered brow, a driven eccentricity and a paintbrush gets me every time. Something about a family happening upon a huge body of unknown work is fascinating...and when it reveals Great-Gramp's secret obsession, all the better.
Some of the work was destroyed, and I also know why. At the least, he had a delicate and consistent vision, you can recognize his work from across the room...and all are marked with a playful, well-rendered eroticism. In some the participants are sprawled over poorly drawn modern furniture. They aren't primitive, but he certainly followed the adage most primitives do, that is that the most important part of a painting is made the largest. I am hiding the artist's name as that's the way the family wants it.
They were done in the early 1970's for the most part...but one of mine has a hand written tally sheet on the reverse tracking the results of the Mondale election. Fritz lost. All and every manner of partnering up you can imagine is there. The artist made no distinction between gender in the least, and if there is a personal preference, I sure can't find it.
So there you go. Another tale of a reclusive artist, painting for his own pleasure and piling up the work without a single sale or concern that it will. My kind of art. I did do a little research...the last line of his obit reads "he loved to carve and draw."
Group of watercolors by "D.H." c. 1970. Collection Jim Linderman Dull Tool Dim Bulb the Blog
Ryan Heshka Vintage Sleaze Contemporary Profile #34
Posted by Jim Linderman
| tags: Ryan Heshka Vintage Sleaze Vintage Sleaze Contemporary artist profiles interview pop surrealism
Ryan Heshka We are pleased to have the participation of modern pulp painter Ryan Heshka for the Vintage Sleaze Contemporary series. Ryan is Number 34! A noted illustrator who has worked his way into a most successful art career. As you see, he is an artist who combines popular culture influences and artifacts which fit the esthetic values of the blog here so well.
It is fantastical work which manages to be challenging as well as entertaining. Children love it (he has produced two children's books) and demented, jaded popular culture historians love it even more! This is an accomplishment.
Ryan Heshka is an artist who paints an oxymoron. An imaginary futuristic past! But he does it today, and he adds visual references from the slightly askew lurid world from before television. Robots, Gats and Gunsels, Deadpan babes in tight rubber dresses…an imaginary but consistent world which never existed (then OR now) but helped sell pulp by the pound. All in colors which used draw customers to the newsstand racks, but increasingly now draw patrons to the white walls of galleries, and of late even to the Apps available of his work.
Comic books, romance magazines, pin ups and gangsters, glowing monsters, deviant scientists. There are a few recurring characters likely of most interest to those here...the pale and pouty "Fashion Police" in heels. He often finishes the paintings with found frames and titles them with scraps of text from the real thing.
The most similar work I can think of is that of Jerome George Rozen and George Jerome Rozen. A pair of curiously named twins who created bulbous imaginary transportation vessels for Modern Mechanix Magazine back in the 1930s. But Heshke would add "contemporary vintage" flourishes like fetishy females fighting the future or heroes which look like the earliest square jaw drawings of Marvel's Sub-Mariner. These pop-culture comparisons are only an attempt to understand the work. Heshka has been called a surrealist pop painter, but labels hardly work here. Good enough to say great.
Ryan Heshka answers our questions and reveals some of his influences in the interview.
On your webpage, you indicate your influences are "too numerous to list.." Can you try for our readers a bit?
My overall influences include comics, pulp art, film (especially B-movies), vintage graphic design, architecture and industrial design, and natural history.
Specifically, my comic gods growing up were Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Basil Wolverton, Bill Everett... the real comic artists of the early golden age. On the flipside, I love the very odd and obscure comic work of Fletcher Hanks, Tarpe Mills, and Paul Gustavson. My all time favorite pulp artist is Frank R. Paul, the grand father of science fiction art. Also up there is Norm Saunders (best known for his "Mars Attacks" cards) and H.J. Ward. Although not a comic or pulp artist, Dr. Seuss is one of my heroes.
I enjoy films of all eras, but I guess most evident in my work would be the B-movie influences... rubber monsters, hub-cap flying saucers and BEM's (Bug Eyed Monsters). Maybe less evident are exploitation/cult film makers like Ed Wood Jr. and Dwain Esper, and the work of director Fritz Lang. The stop Motion work of Willis O'Brien (King Kong, 1933) and Ray Harryhausen were also pivotal to my creative career.
As much as I admire super polished work in all artistic mediums, I REALLY like the crude, the "art brut"-style of innovators who were jumping into new territory, discovering and experimenting... the most honest and interesting works develop out of that sort of situation.
I've told friends your work has "the look" and by that I mean coming from my own personal jumble of imagery from 1950's obscure fetish and bondage material. I use those terms in broad sense. Mass media images of what could be termed "women in distress" illustration. Although now taboo for their undefined, vaguely obscene and sexist nature, do the notable fetish illustrators of John Willie, Eric Stanton and such influence you? Not necessarily of a personal predilection, but visually?
I am certainly aware of the type of fetish art you mention, and definitely there are elements that have crept into my work ... bondage, and very shiny high heeled shoes among other things. I group this sort of material in the same family as the "weird menace pulps" as they were called... pulps from the 1930' s that featured supernatural/horror-oriented stories, with a damsel/damsels in distress at the middle of the tales, trying to keep their clothes and their virtue. Not exactly politically correct, but I really enjoy riffing on this sort of theme, in a non-pornographic way. Those genres have a certain dark, sexy humor to them visually that I try to emulate in my own art, without (hopefully) being too obvious.
Illustrations like your paintings used to rule the magazine racks, but when photography came along, or rather affordable printing processes for photography reproduction on magazine covers, the commercial pulp artist was out of work. Do you see your work as nostalgic or harking back to an earlier time?
Most definitely, and I'm not really shy about hiding it either. However, I think I lean less now on the obvious inspiration sources I used to, like rocket ships, spacemen, pin up girls, cartoons and comic book covers. These days, I have taken to exaggerating and pushing those sources further, and mashing inspirations together to form a more unique, abstract visual language.
My work can't help but have a nostalgic feel to it... the colors, the softness, the costumes... its all rooted in the 1930's to the 1950's, which I have been obsessed with every since I was a little kid. However, I am always experimenting, attempting to put a fresh spin on these age-old themes to keep my work current, and to keep me from getting bored of my own work.
What comics did you read as a young boy in Canada?
I started with Batman, but quickly got into the Fantastic Four (the Jack Kirby years), and some Steve Ditko and EC comics as well. As a kid, I loved the old MAD inserts, reprints of the early comics
issues. When I found out about the golden age of comics and located a local comic book store, I got deep into the more historic comics and artists.
There is an enormous community of artists, illustrators and collectors who crowd the annual "Comic-Con" shows. Do you feel a part of that community? As your work is being shown in contemporary art galleries, is there a distinction between "fine art" and "commercial art" you struggle with, and do those definitions matter to you.
Less and less I worry about fitting into the "fine art" world, and concentrate on just doing the work I do. The playing field for the creative world is changing, and I think that distinction between commercial and fine art is a somewhat prehistoric way of thinking. I look to David Lynch as a model: he made art, films, furniture, music, designed a bar in Paris, has written books... why not tackle everything that interests and fascinates you? I can't wait to design a piece of furniture one day, or finish a short film, or do another children's book. One project usually inspires another, and that is how my work has grown organically.
For sure I feel that I am a part of the community you mentioned... although I have yet to attend a comic con on a professional level. But I feel a kinship with the other artists out there who cross over into different forms of media. I admire those creators, and strive to keep up with them. Can a "fine" artist incorporate humor, science fiction, pulp kitsch and such into a canvas and still be considered serious by the small, incestuous and insular "serious" art market?
Well, that's a big question I ask too, and I'm still waiting to hear the verdict. I think that content can be considered serious if there is some sort of value to the message, and I'm still sorting that out in my own work. But for now, I don't want to get too caught up trying to fit my work into that fine art pigeon hole... better just to do strong work, than dilute it down for an imagined market.
There is such a consistent vision in your work. A somewhat demented, or maybe I should say deviant consistency which seems to arise just a bit from the outside of the popular culture illustrators of the 1940s and 1950s. I might even say twisted. Do you see your work as either demented, deviant or twisted?
Guilty of all three, but in the nicest way possible. I'm a really normal person, and somewhat reserved, but I let the freak flag fly in my work. Definitely this vision derives partly, as you guessed, from the edge of visual popular culture from a bygone age. To me, main stream culture now as then tends to be watered down... I have always gravitated towards the underdog, the rebel, the weirdo, the visionary. What's fun and interesting about being perfect? Screw Superman, give me his imitator, Amazing Man, who stopped villains by jabbing scissors into their chests! Now there's style!
Do you collect pulp fiction and what we call here "vintage sleaze" yourself?
Pulp fiction yes, vintage sleaze no. Its not a moral issue, its more of a money issue... I can't collect everything. But I do have an appreciation for sleaze of the past, especially in the form of pin up art and exploitation posters. Last year a friend of mine showed me some of his vintage sleaze movie posters, and I'd rather look at those than a million-dollar abstract painting.
You've done a children's book. Is the young market different than the adult?
Never having been involved in the adult book market directly, I would have to guess that it is. I'm still new to the children's book world, and its a continuous education figuring out how it works! Luckily, I have a great editor who helps mold my work into the right sort of feel for the targeted market. I think all the book markets are up in the air right now, waiting to see where the chips fall. The landscape has changed rapidly.
Ryan Heshka WEB SITE is HERE
Ryan Heshka STORE HERE
Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea Milan HERE and an installation view HERE Ryan Heshka Children's Books HERE Interview with the Artist from Sunrise Artists HERE New York Times on the Artist HERE Ryan Heshka PORTOFOLIO
VINTAGE SLEAZE CONTEMPORARY is a series which profiles artists and cartoonists working today who have been influenced by vintage sleaze. All art is copyrighted by the respective creator, distributor or publisher and therefore should not be reproduced WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE ARTIST. NO cribbing and I ain't fibbing! Each and every post in the Vintage Sleaze Contemporary Series links to the artist's portfolio, website, publisher or representative. EACH POST IN THE VINTAGE SLEAZE CONTEMPORARY SERIES WAS CREATED WITH THE ARTIST'S PERMISSION AND CONTRIBUTIONS. Serious artists are participating in this series, please respect their efforts and intellectual property. Artists who have contributed so far include: Marty Winters Annabelle Baxter Lena Chandhok, Gary Panter, Vanessa Davis, Jane Dickson, Hudson Marquez Astrid Daley, Antonio Lapone, Leslie Cabarga, Trevor Alixopulus, Paul Swartz, Rebecca Whitaker, Denis St. John, Zahira Kelly, Fairfax and Emery, Elizabeth Watasin, Stephen Adams Jane Dickson, Mala Mastroberte William Schmidt Darlene MacNeil Lila Rees Honey LuLu Tony Fitzpatrick Ryan Heshka (ABOVE) and many more. If your work is influenced by the girlie cartoons or pinup models of the past, we would love to see your work.
DULL TOOL DIM BULB AND VINTAGE SLEAZE BOOKS AND EBOOKS BY JIM LINDERMAN ($5.99) ARE HERE