Bay Area Ladyfest is this weekend!

Aaah feminism. The word itself causes a million debates, has a million different meanings and ways to define and redefine itself. It’s Kim Katrin Cosby, it’s Audre Lorde, it’s shaving and not shaving, Grace Jones and Poly Styrene, CeCe McDonald, selfies, Hollaback, fighting the wage gap, fighting to claim autonomy over our bodies, it’s creating platforms for all women to be visible and voice their experiences.* That last one is what lies at the heart of feminism for me personally, and what drew me to Ladyfest. The importance of safe spaces that prioritize marginalized experiences, whilst supporting women’s talents and creativity, is a key part of the global Ladyfest ethos, and here in the Bay Area you get a whole weekend of DIY workshops, shows, speakers and vendors doing just that! 

Bay Area Ladyfest 2013 kicked off with a movie night at Oddball Cinema last night and continues across the weekend in both San Francisco and Oakland locations. I chatted to two of the organizers, Rebecca Crump and D'Arcy Bertrand, to find out more about Ladyfest and what goes into putting it on. 

(* if some of those names up there are unfamiliar, go check them out!)

For anyone not familiar with Ladyfest, could you tell us a bit about its history and how/when Ladyfest Bay Area came about?

Rebecca - LadyFest drew inspiration from the RiotGrrl movement of the 90s, I associate it with strong feminist politics, and a punk and DIY ethic. LadyFest took these politics a step further by being trans-inclusive. I believe it all began in 2000 in Olympia, with performers like Cat Power, Sleater-Kinney and The Gossip leading the way.  I had the pleasure of performing at one of the first LadyFest Bay Area festivals in the early 2000s and it was such an amazing, liberating experience for me. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it again.

D'Arcy - Ladyfest is a feminist festival that supports the lgbt community and celebrates doing so by enjoying art, cinema, poetry, music, and many other things. Ladyfest is about respect and is inclusive of people who are not lgbt.

There are so many amazing womyn in the Bay Area doing their thing: how do you choose the bands, workshops, speakers and vendors? (is there a specific theme for example?)

Rebecca - We are pretty explicit about our festival being Feminist with a capital F. This is not Lilith Fair, Feminist is not a bad word. We basically put the word out and then as a collective, we pour over the submissions and vote on them. This year we hoped to have lots of Queers and POC represented.

D'Arcy - It is indeed a challenge choosing because it is impossible to pick a favorite. For me I chose artists and vendors that compliment one another with what they had to offer.

How do you choose the organizations (Charlotte Maxwell Complimentary Clinic in Oakland, and St James Infirmary in San Francisco) that Ladyfest Bay Area gives the proceeds to?

Rebecca - We look for organizations that are feminist, that aren’t as well known in the community.  Places that could really use the extra boost.

D'Arcy - Democracy! We vote!

What are the challenges of putting a Ladyfest on?

Rebecca - We have a shoestring, DIY budget, so getting venues is always a bit tough.

D'Arcy - Picking favorites? Lol. Really making time was hard for me in the planning of Ladyfest. It takes many months to prepare but is well worth it.

I saw this question posed to the organizers of Ladyfest Philly and I liked it so much that I’m going to ask you the same thing - Ladyfest Bay Area is clearly about more than just gender and feminism, taking more of an intersectional approach to creating an anti-oppressive space. Can you explain why that has been important in organizing the fest?

Rebecca - We want everyone to feel at home at LadyFest. While we are specifically celebrating artists and performers that are gender minorities, just like Feminism, LadyFest is not just for cis or trans women. LadyFest is for ALL of us in our diversity of gender expressions to enjoy. 

D'Arcy -This is only a hard question for me because it seems so clear to me that people need to be at least respectful of one another. There is a long history of oppression towards women and it still continues today. It doesn't persist AS much today because we have created space to not be oppressed. This is us doing our part to keep that beautiful strength alive!

And lastly, individually, is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to out of all the events happening this week?

Rebecca - I am really looking forward to hearing Julia Serrano speak.  And the radical workshops will also be a highlight: Kids Liberation Workshop, Lady Shred Session By SF Skate Like A Girl, Healing Our Queer Spirits- Healing Circle, Responsible Queer Curation. So much goodness to be had!

D'Arcy - Partying and accomplishing much more.

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For more information on Bay Area Ladyfest and the fantastic line-up of events, click here. Check them on Facebook as well, and if you're attending on Saturday, come say hi to me (Sarah) at the ‘How Are Your Insides?’ table  (I'll be selling my zines there. Look for a neon cover that says ‘My Family’s Vaginas.’ I’m all about subtlety).

 

Thank You for making SFZF 2013 Awesome!

Dear SFZF Community,

We just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for participating, volunteering, and attending this year's San Francisco Zine Fest. We have a strong team of organizers, but SFZF would be nothing without you. It's always impressive to see all of the talented exhibitors' work. It's fun to hang out with such a warm and tight group of creators. You all make it worth the effort that goes into organizing this event. Here's a sample of the creativity fostered over the SFZF weekend, and a sample of what makes this community the very best: 

A special thanks to Chigbarg (of the Double Elvis Ghost Library) for creating this Bingo masterpiece. And a big shout out to our featured artists Justin Hall, Roman Muradov, Sophia Foster Dimino, our guest readers, and our wonderful volunteers. 

A special thanks to Chigbarg (of the Double Elvis Ghost Library) for creating this Bingo masterpiece. And a big shout out to our featured artists Justin Hall, Roman Muradov, Sophia Foster Dimino, our guest readers, and our wonderful volunteers. 

SFZF Featured Artist Spotlight: Justin Hall

“As our concept of queerness changes and our concepts of comics change as well, there’s a lot new material that is happening and new undergrounds are forming.” ~ Justin Hall

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Justin Hall referred to the emerging voices that appeared over time. The research he did for his anthology, No Straight Lines, proved there was a lot of material that hadn’t been archived into queer comic anthologies. No Straight Lines was his attempt to change that by including a wider perspective and representation of both comics and queer history.  

A lot of the stories he included in No Straight Lines  were originally underground comics and zines, created by people who didn’t identify with gay stereotypes. Even though mainstream culture has been more inclusive of gay characters over time, most of the characters that appeared in novels, comics, and television were created by straight men, and failed to represent a diverse community.  But the queer comics scene showed a huge collection of talented individuals, who wanted to tell their stories their way. What those independent creators did was form a wider range of identities that broke stereotypes. They were poetic glimpses, and first-hand accounts, that ended up challenging the canon of art and our concepts of what it means to be queer.

The significance of archives like the Center for Sex and Culture’s library, and anthologies like No Straight Lines, is their ability to make underground art accessible to a large audience. It increases the public’s understanding of queer culture, art, and sex. It also forms a model or paradigm of sorts, but with a different lens. “A painter is going to know this canon of art history to fall back on and look over,” Justin explained. “Where as for cartoonists, for so long, there hasn’t been that conversation of who are our great masters. What’s the art history of comics? So that’s important. And the same thing is true for queer people. Who are our role models? How do we validate the experiences that have happened in the past, that we can learn from and grow from? Who do we give props to?”

After reading Justin’s work, looking through the CSC (Center for Sex and Culture) archives, and meeting the artists at SF Zine Fest, a few insights emerge: an artist’s imagination can break through all limits, and that fight for survival has the power to create a cultural shift.

To learn more about Justin Hall’s work, come through to our panel tomorrow, Saturday, August 31 at noon.  

SFZF Featured Artist Interview: Sophia Foster-Dimino

Sophia Foster-Dimino never saw another option but to make art her living. Though she knew from a young age that she was an artist, she still worked vigorously to become better at her craft. She tried one process after another. When something inspired her, she would study it over and over again. The people around her encouraged her to keep going. The result of all her efforts can be seen below. Her line work is light and captures movement. And her work shows the amount of thought she puts into each piece. Every detail has a purpose. Every line leads you to another treasure, be it color, figures, or words. 

1) When did you start identifying as an artist? 

I drew from an early age, though that isn't unusual. When I was in kindergarten, I remember using a whole box of markers to draw a rainbow. The rainbow had every color available, including black, grey, brown, and pink...

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When I was a little older, in second or third grade, I remember drawing a painstaking copy of a Lisa Frank folder that had a bunch of orcas on it. Some older girls from the fourth grade saw it, and they were incredibly impressed. I kept it up in my free time after that. I think that's the way these things usually go – you're marginally better at something due to chance, you get a little encouragement at an early age, and that's enough to shape your entire identity.

I attended the MICA pre-college program when I was fifteen, and that cemented my desire to pursue art as a career. I think that was the single biggest turning point – I never really considered any alternate life options after that.

2) What artists / writers inspired you or influenced you the most? 

When I was just about to graduate from high school – like, the day before graduation – my classmates and I were bumming around a used bookstore in Sarasota, Florida, and I found a beaten-up copy of 32 Stories by Adrian Tomine. It's a collection of his Optic Nerve comics. Before then, my experience with comics had been limited to Sandman, Archie, and whatever random manga I could find online... Optic Nerve was my entry point into another world of comics. Within a few months I'd found Chris Ware and (most importantly) the anthology Mome, which I read religiously all through college right up until its demise, just after I graduated. It had been my masochistic fantasy to be featured in it one day... it introduced me to some of my favorite cartoonists: Eleanor Davis, Lilli Carré, Jim Woodring, Gabrielle Bell, Anders Nilsen, Dash Shaw, David B., Laura Park...

Right now I am very drawn to geometric cartoonists like Joost Swarte. I take influence from fine artists, graphic designers, and furniture/ designers as well. One of my favorite cartoonists right now is Henry McCausland – his work is transcendental to me. Some of his comics have been published by Nobrow, and he puts his own zines out as well. I love how he mixes perfectly rigid, cold, metal architecture with chaotic overgrowth... shrubs, twigs, ferns, and grass. His worlds seem bleak, but his characters are very happy-go-lucky, and innocent.

I don't read as much as I want to, but I love Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Borges, Atwood, Nabokov, Lem... I like stories of solitary narrators exploring strange buildings, thinking about human interactions from a remote point. Within the past year or so I read a novella called The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares. It was very much in line with my sensibilities. I like it when fiction is serious in theme, but not in tone. I also like pulp, I love sci-fi. I really love movies and videogames, and I try to let them pollinate my art somehow...

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3) What is your creative process like?

I do a lot of planning. I do many layers of sketches. Drawing takes a long time, for me. I'm trying to loosen up a bit, but every time I adjust my process it seems like I just get further into a rut. I'm getting more and more obsessed with geometry, so I draw all sorts of intense guide lines for my images. Sometimes it's all too much and I wind up feeling like I'm just assembling Ikea furniture, there's no spontaneity to it. To try and combat this sensibility, when I draw in my sketchbook I go straight to ink so that I can't be too much of a perfectionist.

Right now I think my process is controlling me a bit too much. I should find some way to snap out of it. When I was in college, I did a lot of printmaking. I've had some trouble finding facilities in San Francisco (or maybe I'm just dragging my feet) but I think a change of medium would help me to relax. I've been wanting to try ceramics, too.

4) What's the most challenging thing about creating your work / the most rewarding thing about it?

Because I tend to over-plan, I sometimes get stage fright while drawing, and nothing comes out right. All it takes is a little bit of resistance and I start worrying – "Why isn't this working? Have I lost it? It's true, I'm a fraud after all..." It's exhausting to try and shake loose from self-doubt. It follows me through almost every piece. And then I can't wait to just get it out the door and never see it again. Only months after completing a drawing can I look at it with any kind of objectivity.

It's rewarding when I discover something new by accident. Or, conversely, when I point all my efforts at a visual problem and finally figure out a solution. When things go well, it's usually by accident, though.

I feel happiest when my peers like my work. I'm friends with some insanely hard-working and brilliant artists, and their encouragement really makes it all worthwhile.

I'm also happy when someone has an emotional connection with my work. Sometimes complete strangers are on my wavelength, they take something empowering or encouraging from my drawings, and that really makes me feel like it's all worthwhile.

5) How important is it for you to have a strong community of artists? Where did you find that community?

Community has been really important for me during the past several years. When I was in college, I was severely introverted, a real shut-in... I felt moody and restless all the time, and it was difficult for me to make a lot of friends.

When I graduated I moved to the other coast, and I found myself even more isolated. I eventually reached a breaking point and decided I needed to commit myself to making connections with people no matter how uncomfortable it made me feel. So I joined twitter and started reaching out. It's been a huge help, an amazing comfort, to see that the artists I respect so much struggle with the same weird anxities. I've learned a lot (both "professionally" and personally) from engaging with the twitter illustration/comics community. And I've made a lot of friends.

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Whenever I go to a major comics convention like TCAF, SPX, MoCCA, APE, etc, I wind up running into all these people. I guess this is a situation unique to artists, or at least people who are buried in the culture to the degree that I am, but knowing someone personally really enriches their work for me, it contextualizes it. I've fallen in love with a lot of obscure or difficult work after getting to know the person who made it. I know that comics and illustrations are meant to stand alone on their own merits, but I also feel like one of the most important functions of art is to bring people together, so I guess I'd say that I have both objective and subjective lenses for viewing creators and their output.

6) When did you start tabling at conventions/ or Zine Fests?

The first convention I attended, aside from miscellaneous anime conventions in high school, was MoCCA in 2009. I did table there with some fellow RISD students (we were juniors at the time). I went to SPX for the first time shortly after, though I didn't exhibit. I first exhibited at TCAF, which is my favorite convention, in 2012.

For major conventions, I usually team up with Collective Stench, which is a loose group of ~15 artists – many of whom graduated from RISD, many in my class. They are all incredibly talented and I love to table with them.

SF Zine Fest and APE were a big part of getting to know San Francisco and the local community, for me. I actually first talked to my future husband at Zine Fest 2011!

7) What do you take from events like SFZF, as an exhibitor and as a guest?

Conventions and fests are exhiliarating and a great way to meet new artists (or ones you've covertly obsessed over for months). They're also pretty stressful for me, since I have trouble with crowds. But, to my relief, most artists seem to feel the same way. We all manage. It's a good experience overall.

When I was in college I worked at the school library, and I remain very attached to the concept of a physical library, even in the face of e-books, etc. I've taken a long time to figure out what it is, in particular, that I like so much about libraries, and I think it's something similar to what I like about conventions and fests. When you live and work online, you learn about the things you research, and you learn about the things your friends buzz about, but there's not really a digital equivalent of wandering in a diverse space and finding something completely unexpected. I really value being able to stumble across something I've never seen or heard of before, something I didn't even know was possible. Humans have a natural desire to organize and make things coherent, but the world is never going to be like that, so although the effort is noble (sometimes) it's just as important to accept and absorb how unique and uncategorizable people (and their various forms of expression) are.

 

SFZF Featured Artist Interview: Roman Muradov

Roman Muradov started off as an engineer, and then came to terms with the fact that he was an artist. His work reflects his many talents and takes from poetry and literature, music, and the symmetry and wonder of moving machines. Roman's shy demeanor misleads the passing eye, for his world is full of color. He works in layers of contradiction, making a few brush strokes form a world of beauty, a world of sadness, irony, but most of all sharp wit. It's no surprise that his work has gained so much recognition in a short amount of time. 

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1) When did you start identifying as an artist? 

I've always had mild artistic aspirations, most of them successfully repressed until my 20s, so I still have a lot of catching up to do.

2) What artists / writers inspired you or influenced you the most? 

I've always been attracted to artists who challenge the reader's expectations and the medium they're occupying, particularly Saul Steinberg, Marcel Proust, Georges Perec, Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Tove Jansson and Vladimir Nabokov. The comedy of Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris was a huge influence on me, as well as music of the Fall. My favorite cartoonists are Seth, Tim Hensley and Jason.

3) What is your creative process like?

I have a few approaches, but for most of my work I draw with brush/pen & ink, then color it digitally. I try to keep the roughness of the medium, so I use wellworn brushes and deliberate mess up the bristles or smudge things with my finger. Most of the time I'm trying to create the feel of a beautiful melody played on a tuneless instrument by someone who's on the verge of having a breakdown.

4) What's the most challenging thing about creating your work / the most rewarding thing about it?

The only rewarding part is the beginning, when it feels more like playing with words and ideas, rather than work. Everything else is pretty torturous.

5) How important is it for you to have a strong community of artists? Where did you find that community?

Drawing comics is a tedious and lonesome pastime, and with the intensely unrelatable subject matter that I pick it can feel pointless and unappreciated. So when I do hear from someone who gets what I'm doing and derives some pleasure from my work, it's always hugely motivating. I met most friends & colleagues through posting work online and festivals.

6) When did you start tabling at conventions or Zine Fests?

I first tabled at ZineFest in 2011, before that I felt too insecure to sell my stuff. Of all the festivals, ZineFest & TCAF are my favorites--both are well-curated and pleasantly located, very different from the more commercial and pop-culture-ridden funnybook conventions.

7) What do you take from events like SFZF, as an exhibitor and as a guest?

ZineFest is often the only event of the year when I get to meet and chat in person with fellow cartoonists, as well as share zines and comics. I like the idea of never reprinting my zines so that each one goes directly into someone's hands as a little artifact of that year.

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