Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eastside Zine Market

Introducing Leo "Puppypants" Lopez, my tablemate at the Eastside Zine Market last Sunday, but honestly, I thought he went by the name of Mr. Panda.

Leo grew up on the other side of Soto Street in East LA, works as a librarian assistant in Berkeley, lives in Oakland, thinks about getting a MA, and writes and draws comics with other like minded ziners. When he heard there was going to be a zine market in East LA, he booked a flight. I was so lucky to get Leo as my tablemate for my first ever zine market. He taught me the ropes: how to walk them, how to jump over them, how to ignore them; he's done dozens of these before. You'll find him next at the LA Zine Fest in mid-Feb.

Here's a pretty famous ziner: Yumi Sakugawa, author of "I think I'm in Friend Love with You," and many wonderful meditation guides and comics for The Rumpus. (She was going to tell me her secret Compton connection for getting books printed for $1 each —unheard of— but we never talked again after initial introductions.) Her zines are sold at Skylight and on Amazon.

and here I am with my zines and half table display. (Note: tablecloth from South Africa in memory of Nelson Mandela.)


Although I sold only five books, I'm going to say that was OK, given the competition— a room full of talented cartoonist and ziners who are passionate about the form. The zine I sold the most was called "Lost Rat," about a rat who leaves her comfortable existence for the street. Here's some images:


Will I zine again? Not sure. It's fun to think about what works and doesn't work, and how to make a zine more cost effective; that takes time and patience, neither of which I have in spades. As Tom said in the build-up to this event, this wasn't about making money (boy, he can say that again!). Welcome to the zine world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Playing with Puck

Last week at the library, I was glad to hear Maureen Moore, associate director of ALOUD, mention playful in a list of her boss's most beguiling attributes, because 1) it is such a rare trait to have in a boss, and 2) I have known her boss, Louise Steinman, mainly in that way for over three decades, and it would be such a pity if she couldn't carry that puckish prankster part of her to her job.

I was also happy that Jack Miles who interviewed Louise for ALOUD about her new book, himself took up the playful mantle—jumping out of his seat at one point to focus attention on the twinkle in the eyes of rescuers Janka and her 9-yr-old son, Marian, projected overhead. Imagining the thought process of mother and son in deciding whether to house a 17-yr-old Jewish boy, Miles turned to the audience, shrugged his shoulders and said: "Save a Jew? Why not!" It was a funny Woody Allen moment and a testament to the book that Miles could segue from seriousness to playfulness and not be considered a heretic, given the gravity of the subject.

Louise's book, The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation, is a revelatory read, seamlessly weaving a complicated history with the personal, and although not done in the name of play, certainly it was Louise's skills in the art of play that helped her through the ten years that it took to write the book.

As for knowing her mainly as a playful puckish prankster.... that might not be entirely true, but for the purposes of this post, I will say it is, and present to you, forthwith, some playful moments shared together over the years. 

Dog's Head Route, Portland, OR, 1980
(photo credit: Chris Rauschenberg) 

At the harmonium... 
(photo credit: Chris Rauschenberg) 

 In rehearsal...

Ojai, mid-80s
(Where are those dresses?)

 New York City subway, 2013

Playing around in Studio A (still!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

After College

I was reminded what twenty-two felt like the other day when M came down the stairs sobbing. Suffice to say, everything's okay, but it reminded me of a time when I came home after college (I was 23) and all I did was cry. I cried when i got up in the morning and I cried when I went to bed. I didn’t have any friends I could talk to, and I couldn’t go to my parents. Parents? Who talked to their parents?

Finally my mother arrived at my bedroom door one morning and asked what the matter was, and was there anything she could do, and should she make an appointment with a doctor. I guess I'm reminded too of my mother, and what it must have felt like for her, hopeless, on the other side of the door. Since I couldn't talk to her about what was upsetting me, we settled on calling a therapist, a friend's recommendation. (The friend, Mr. Ehrlich, a German businessman, was later found murdered in his store, which, I'll note here, I had nothing to do with, despite his recommendation).

The next thing I knew I was driving down Newburg Road to Louisville's only mental hospital, appropriately named, Our Lady of Peace. The hospital was up a winding driveway, with grand gardens and slopping hills. 

A flickr pic of Our Lady of Peace Hospital,
Louisville, Kentucky

The doctor—let’s call him Dr. Frank Stein—was dressed neutrally in a gray suit. I wasn’t crying when I started, but I got worked up when I talked about leaving NYC and all that had happened there. By the time the 50 minutes were up, he had his assessment: electric shock treatment. He would notify my parents and set up an appointment. 

I didn’t cry then, but rather, I became hyper sensitive, noticing his glasses and how small the room. I got in my car, and for the first time since I had come home, I wasn't feeling numb anymore: I felt pissed. I thought, What did that doctor know about me anyway? I wasn’t crazy; I was just sad. I had left my boyfriend, and I was home with my parents, and I had no possible idea what I was going to do with my life. The future stood before me like the grim reaper; I couldn’t imagine how I would ever make it on my own. Ever grow up. Ever leave home, despite the fact I wanted it more than anything. But now I had something I could work with. 

When I got home, I told my mother that the doctor was full of shit and I wasn't going back there. I told her I was okay. I was going to be okay, and from that point on, I was. A few months later, I moved to Toronto (with my mother's blessings), where I began a long stretch of dancing/choreographing and teaching.

Our Lady of Peace is still up on the hill, welcoming the drug addicted, the crazies the motherless, the unfortunates of Louisville. Looking back, I'm thankful, at twenty-three, I wasn't one of them.

 Living in Toronto, mid-twenties
(I remember thinking this scarf would make me look artistic!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Body of Work

When you apply for anything in the art world you have to submit a body of work. Since i haven't been in the art-making business long, my body of work—in any given subject/medium— is about a leg's worth, or arm, or maybe just a finger, not more than that. I don't have a body of work in the traditional sense, something that could perhaps say I'm pursuing a course, and I'm not sure if I'll ever have one. But I thought I'd put a few things that I've done lately out there, and once on the page, see if there's any connecting theme, anything resembling a body (or at least a torso) of work. I think not....but judge for yourself.

Face for sleeping giant at top of Mt. Washington

Caroline Mole Rat 
(naked, in sewer)

 Held Silverlake

 Lord Howe Island Stick Insect crawling up side of house

Wheatpasted Crow at pehrspace

 Oh, and I have to add this sunny photo 
of Maya with Craig and Gabe Matthews
(now there's some bodies of work!)


My adorable, licky rat Blu died last week. Tom and I were very sad; she was such a good rat. She kept us clean. Now, we both want another rat, but there's a mourning period. We'll just have to wait. Until then, in her honor, you'll see from this post on, a change in the Rat's Nest. I've gone for a simple blogger format. Good-bye dots. Good-bye Blu, you good rat you.

(Oct 2011-Oct 2013)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FAUNA: An Art Show

While I was working on FAUNA, the art show Margaret Gallagher envisioned, celebrating our urban wildlife, I had some strange encounters with animals.

"The witch didn't feed the little children she kept in the oven, 
but she fed the wild animals that came to her door." 
 (painting, centerfold of zine)

One was in a dream:  a ladder led up to a loft where a badger lived, but as I climbed up, I saw a shadow slinking back and forth, a panther, sleek and stealthy against the blue black night. I can't remember much else about the dream, but the sense of the big cat's movement and the color of the sky were visceral and stayed with me for the rest of the day.

One night as I worked in my garage/studio, a raccoon walked by. When he saw me, he growled fiercely, arching his back and then tiptoed away. It was just like I had drawn earlier in the day, a skunk on its tiptoes. I thought I was making stuff up; I'd never seen an animal on tiptoes before.

In my zine I tell the story of the wild animals next door. As I was working on it, I'd look out my kitchen window and there they'd be: the skunks eating out of the cat bowls. The coyote waiting to be fed. The crows, the stray cats, the raccoons. My neighbor whispering sweet nothings to them all. Life and art separated by a window screen. 

We had a wonderful time at our opening for FAUNA, with friends coming out to Perhspace, with enthusiasm and support. Margaret and I appreciated the warmth that filled the room. Until the show was hung that morning, I had no idea if it would work. I think we were both a little surprised when it did, the different styles complimenting each other and making a bigger whole. Here are a few pix from the show (photos by Tom Harjo):

Opening night
 (click on photos to enlarge)

My other neighbors who don't feed wild animals, and Greg

Wheat paste crow and skunks

(notice the tiptoes)

Coyote print with chine-colle, with Craig and Aaron

Margaret's sleeping coyote
(photo by Margaret Gallagher) 

FAUNA will be up until October, although by appointment only. If you're interested in coming by or know anyone who is, please get in touch with me by leaving a comment here, or email,, or fb: I will arrange to meet whoever would like to see the show.

Art work is for sale, with 40% of the proceeds benefiting the California Wildlife Center. My zine is for sale as well...oh look, there it is below! Let me know if you'd like to buy one.

(silkscreen crow on butcher paper, cover)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coyote Man

Sitting at my table, with the windows wide, I hear my neighbor talking to the coyote, who has suddenly appeared in her backyard. "Come here, come here, my beautiful boy!" she murmurs. But I don't believe her; it's not a boy and she knows it. The coyote started coming around a few years ago, after her husband died, looking for handouts. I never thought about it before, but of course! It makes perfect sense. The coyote isn't a boy, it's her husband. 

My neighbor used to feed the wild animals at the edge of the forest during the war. As a young girl, she left bread crumbs behind, when the family was forced to flee as refugees. Here, on the edge of the city, she feeds the coyote, skunks, possums, stray cats, raccoons. She feeds three fat crows perched on top of her garage, carrying on like the Marx Brothers. They hop around, cawing ceaselessly, then down to the ground next to the bowl of cat food and chase the cats away. These crows are as big as dogs; the cats don’t stand a chance. 

At first i thought my neighbor must be feeding all the animals cat food, but the more I observe her, the more I think it's real meat. Tonight, for instance, i could swear she fed the coyote a steak, specifically a rib-eye. Her husband used to love those steaks.

After dinner, my neighbor comes out with a mat and places it on the grass. Come here, come here, she begs her husband and pats the mat. I think she's going to lie down, but she steps away. I turn my back and when i look again the coyote's lying on the mat licking its paws, giving my neighbor moon eyes, following her with his gaze around the yard. They're bonded to each other in a very deep way, these two. This man and wife.

At 7pm, the lights go out, another brownout up here on the city's edge. An hour goes by, it grows dark, I can't see a thing. Then as my eyes adjust, I see some shadowy figures take shape next door. The skunk that comes around this time of night, and the coyote a little off to the side, dancing around each other. Coyote sits still and watches the skunk freak out, with its tail straight up in the air. Skunk keeps one eye on the coyote and one on the food bowl. I’ve seen this dance before, the coyote letting the skunk come and go, not at all interested.

Perhaps the coyote has already forgotten his wild ways, although, if it’s true he's my neighbor's husband, he’ll rip your throat out faster than a surprised skunk can spray, faster than crows can caw, faster than a coyote can turn into a man and back again. I wouldn’t call that exactly tame. You can never be sure with wild animals.

Sketch for new show
(click to see full)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


"I wasn't doing any work that day, just catching up on my foot-dangling."

And so, Raymond Chandler's 1936 short story "Goldfish" begins. Marvelous! Who admits to foot-dangling? We're all in such a rush. And rushing around, doing all the things we need to do, does seem to be our MO these days? How to do everything we want to do in a given day, week, life? While running late yesterday, I made a list of how to economize on essential tasks, and not waste any more time.

1) Brush teeth while doing exercises. Comb hair while meditating (optional).

2) Save putting on clothes and shoes until you're driving; tie shoelaces while stopped at red lights, slip on pants upon reaching destination.

3) Don't bother to use articles while writing, such as "the," "a" or "an." Abbreviate words: abt, ard, btw, prob, tmrw, def, mtg, and abrvte.

4) Save New Yorker articles for cross-country flights. Make sure you go East at least twice a year so you can read the long ones.

5) Wash face once a day; clothes once a month; sheets only when standing (them standing, not you).

6) Facebook. A terrible time-suck. Decide strategy on how to proceed: peek, scroll, blurred focus, pin-point, or actually take time to read? NPR. Same. Does one really need to listen to stories about silver spoons or Moscato wine more than once?

NPR story on Moscato wine, 
appearing right after the defeat of the Voting Rights Act.
NPR, is this all you had? Really?

7) Do things you want to do, eliminate everything else (if you figure out how to do this, let me know).

8) Decide which political cause(s) need your attention: Guantanamo? Texas justice? (Last week, Texas executed its 500th death row inmate.) Florida? NSA? (According to Assange on Snowden, our government is listening in more than Nixon.) Egypt? Rest of Africa? Civil Rights? Education? The list goes on and on. What to fight? There isn't enough time. I just want to do my art! By the way, have you noticed how "art" contains the word "RAT!?"

9) Forget politics, try punching bag.

10) Write blog only when you have something to say!
Sally, Charlotte (with Monkey Doodle) and Janice

This summer I'm taking a printmaking class at Art Center—above, my first photographic print!—and getting ready for another art show. Although my blogging has slowed down considerably, The Rat's Nest will still be here to announce new work, make lists, report on neighbor (coming up), the occasional philosophical blather, and sometimes, like today, just for old time's sake—not a waste.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Going into the Tunnel

If you had caught me in the middle of last week, you might have seen a beat-up, deflated woman of indeterminate state of mind, (wandering around with dirty hair and hands) wondering what in the hell she was doing painting huge rats and half clothed women for an art show, taking place in a tunnel, no less: why why why? I asked, as I slogged through masses of butcher paper and mistakes. What good could possibly come from this? Shouldn't I—the thought seriously crossed my mind, as the exhaustion wore on— be doing something useful with my time?


Not that I'm unfamiliar with this state of mind, but it almost stopped me, and boy am I glad it didn't. Not only because I wanted to work with artist Margaret Gallagher, who curated the Tunnel Art Show, but being part of a local art exhibit in North East Los Angeles turned out to be a gas! Seeing the people who filed through the tunnel on Saturday night was worth it alone. There was the art crowd, the college crowd (Margaret just graduated from Oxy, with a degree in art), the friend crowd, but there was also the Cypress Park neighborhood crowd, who probably never thought of going into a tunnel on a Saturday night, but seemed generally excited about what they were seeing. A lot of discussion was taking place under Figueroa St., when you get right down to it (down to it, get it, underground, hah!).

Thank you Cypress Park neighbors for participating in this event! Thanks to Yancey at Antigua Coffee House for his original idea to open the tunnel that runs from Loreto St. to Nightingale Middle School for local artists each month. (Here's an article about it.) And...Thank you Margaret!

Margaret Gallagher
curator of the Cypress Park Tunnel Art Show
 standing in front of her paintings

And, especially thank you to Molly Ruttan, my trustworthy, risk-taking, wheatpasting friend, who has helped me on almost every one of my street art ventures without uttering one complaint (and she's not even getting paid!). Thanks Molly, I couldn't have done it without you. 

Wheatpasters to the end!

(photos by Tom Harjo)

 Molly and Charlotte pasting...
Margaret at top of stairs


If you missed the tunnel art show, look for it as part of the NELA Art Walk, every second Saturday. For those of you who'd like to see the wheatpastes, the tunnel's closed, but you can view them from street level, on both sides of Fig. They'll be around for another month.

(And I almost forgot, thank you to Jocelyn Grau for her generous contribution!)