Saturday, May 26, 2012


I have just finished curating my prints at Self Help Graphics (SHG). That's right - my prints. I can hardly believe it, I'm an artist! It seems so strange to refer to myself as an artist, but that is what I am and it's time to own it. When I was a young woman, it took me a long time to refer to myself as a musician. I always felt like I had to qualify it by saying that I was a "punk musician," as though I was somehow a less-worthy version of a "musician" but punk eventually taught me a valuable lesson: it's not technique but what you do with your creativity that matters most.

About a month ago, I received an email invitation from my friend Shizu Saldamando. She was curating an Atelier at SHG in East LA and wanted to know if I would like to be one of the 10 participating artists. My first reaction was "I'm not an artist," followed quickly by "what's an Atelier?" Shizu explained that this would be a sort of mini-apprenticeship with a master printer where I would receive one-on-one instruction in the fine art of Serigraphy, a form of silkscreening. "It's easy," she assured me and so, without having the vaguest notion of what a serigraph was or exactly how I would go about creating one, I accepted the challenge.

The next couple of weeks were filled with that creeping feeling of worry that you get when you have a deadline approaching but don't quite know where to begin. I started reading about serigraphy online but I still had no idea how I would create the color separations needed for the project, until one day when I was talking to my friend Martin Sorrondeguy and he mentioned that he taught graphic arts. I had a million questions for him and even called him late one night to ask him to talk me through creating color layers in Photoshop. Martin was a wonderfully patient teacher and before long, I felt like I had a good understanding of the techniques.

The concept for my design was an imaginary album cover for Castration Squad. It's a glimpse into the female experience through the punk aesthetic. I called my piece Inevitable.

When I got to SHG earlier this week, my colors were separated and I was ready for my time with master printmaker Jose Alpuche. There was a lot to do over the course of several days and the process took longer than I had anticipated but I learned so much and felt truly honored to have been selected. Today, as I was curating my prints, I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment.

Executive Director, Evonne Gallardo and Program Manager, Joel Garcia conveyed a strong spirit of community involvement. They made me feel like Self Help Graphics was there for me and I assured them that I was there for Self Help Graphics. It's such a positive place for artists, students and members of the community that my final day of curating was bittersweet. I am happy to be done with my print so that I can focus on my upcoming Violence Girl readings but I will miss my extended Self Help family. I left vowing to return soon. After all, I'm an artist now!

My print, Inevitable will be available for purchase at Self Help Graphics or through the Self Help Graphics website.

On Love/Hate Relationships and the Duality of Nature - The Rumpus Interview

Rumpus: The title of your book is from a Bags lyric, but you write about the idea of Violence Girl as something that precedes you (“the seeds of Violence Girl were sown long before I was born”), a transcendent force that overtakes you. The book also contains an emphasis on dualities, like in the passage where you describe your love of Bruce Lee movies and their well-defined roles of thugs and heroes. What do these doubles mean for you, the narrator?

Bag: There are several things that happen when, as a child, you see the adults in your life behaving in ways that seem inconsistent with how you have come to imagine them to be. Initially there’s confusion and maybe even a little bit of disbelief. We treat children to very simplistic explanations of humanity, we tell them people are either good or bad, so when people exhibit both traits and we all eventually do, it can be difficult to know what to do with that new information. It’s hard to figure out how to relate to someone who does good things one minute and bad things the next. In my book, my father is both a doting parent who showers me with unconditional love and the man who abuses my mother. I had to deal with conflicting emotions, I hated and loved my father equally. Experiencing these seemingly contradictory emotions forced me to have empathy for people because I could see the complexity of human nature.

I think it’s probably a feeling that victims of domestic abuse can relate to. Nobody marries thinking they’re going to get Mr. Hyde. I think we all expect our partner’s behavior to be consistent with what they’ve projected in the past. So when the abusive side shows up there’s an element of confusion and disbelief because that’s not the person you thought you were getting, but understanding that people can harbor both sides and that perhaps they are even two sides of the same coin can be another way of looking at that behavior. Sometimes the very thing that makes someone a passionate partner in one instance makes that same person a formidable foe in a different situation. I found a little bit of solace in understanding the duality of my father’s nature.

Read my entire May 2012 interview with Niina Pollari online at The Rumpus.