Sunday, April 28, 2013

Can You Find Happiness? (Continued)

Can You Find Happiness? is a reference to an exhibit featuring Bettina Rheims that I saw in Berlin a few years ago, but it's also an existential question that we all probably ask ourselves from time to time.

Rhems' work entails photographs of meticulously staged scenes that play with the cliché of seduction and the illusion of glamour.  The photographs are daring, without sentimentality or nostalgia, transcending prevailing ideals of beauty. At the same time they reveal a uniquely feminine gaze which – in its cool, reserved focus on surfaces – never exposes its subjects voyeuristically but always maintains respect for the women portrayed.

Germany was my first venture to Europe (prior to that I'd always traveled to exotic tropical locales or road-tripped through Canada and the U.S.).  I was profoundly affected by the particular ways in which art was revered by everyone in my social periphery, somehow different from North America.  That adventure spurned one of my most creative phases, and I finished The Pin-Up Poet shortly thereafter, collaborating with photographers and writing poems in the voices of various feminine archetypes.

These were the voices of women who drink too much vodka, smoke to calm their nerves and hide behind the armor of black clothing and lingerie.  The women in my poems are at once lustful and neurotic; they burn cookies and they can't sleep, reflecting on the ghosts of old lovers and a wealth of memories hidden under a veneer of glamour.  They spoke to me, and when I received my first shipment of books, I was ecstatic.   Something about seeing your work in print validates it.
Andrea Grant "Drowning in a Wedding Dress" photographed by Chas Ray Krider for The Pin-Up Poet
From that project I moved on to Minx, a graphic novel series that merges the classic superhero motif with traditional First Nations mythology, explored through both the conscious and subconscious mediums. Another kind of adventure.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the artist's path, which is as painful as it is thrilling.  The ratio seems to polarize at approximately 60% pain, and 40% joy versus 60% joy and 40% pain depending on what day it is and how close one is to finishing a project.  But of course that does not dissuade any creative - we live for that particular torture!
"Staring at the World Through My Rear View" copyright Andrea Grant

I constantly evaluate where I am versus where I started, and my overall life/career goals.  In some ways my life looks the way I always visualized: living in New York City, incredible artist friends consisting of the greatest minds of my generation. A robust, ever-evolving career, and traveling as much as possible.

It's a beautiful life, even when I'm on a roller coaster of obstacles to overcome. 

But it doesn't always feel the way I imagined it would.  I'm pleased that my work has resulted in something tangible (i.e. books), but I am constantly striving for the next, contented with moments of success for no more than a couple of days before I am jonesing for another accomplishment.

All of my creative friends feel this way. Maybe that's the whole point, and the key is to look back on how far we've come.  

I started out as a teenager inspired by grunge culture and art, and had the wherewithal to start a print 'zine back in 2001. I was ahead of the curve without anticipating the full impact of the digital age, and thrilled when it started to unfold like a dream.  Later, when I began to work in the publishing field, I was grateful that I chose that trajectory, possessing the language to describe my vision to others so that we could make something amazing things happen.

When I started publishing Minx, I had a very specific idea of where it was going to end up.  I had very ambitious (and probably unrealistic goals) for the creator of an indie comic.  Instead of being a mainstream heavy-hitter, it's ended up having a significant cult following and is well-loved by readers.  I suppose in my heart that's what I really wanted.  

There's been enough of a buzz that I've repeatedly been in Hollywood boardrooms with major producers. But female protagonists don't sell as well as male heroes, and I'm not willing to change the gender of the main character or remove the Native mythology.

Minx: The Dream Warriors preview art by Chris Royal
This project merges aspects of traditional storytelling with the realities of our contemporary world, unlocking the power of ancient tribal myths and re-contextualizing them into an accessible modern literary format.  Maybe it was never meant to hit the mainstream, and that's fine because it's a passion for me, and it does well enough to be respectable.

A preview featuring art by Chris Royal will be out late Spring 2013, and the next book will be out by Fall 2013.

For some reason writing this book has been torturing me - perhaps it's the 'sophomore album' syndrome of trying to measure up to your debut.

Also, I want to experiment with the way it's written and designed, so that it's a mixture of prose and art.
The style is different from Minx: Dream War because  I think it's important to evolve and collaborate with different artists to keep the work fresh and moving forward...

This is what happiness is, perhaps.  After all, the only constant is change. 



Philip Clark said...

Drowning in a Wedding Dress is an amazing image. Anyone ever tell your you're good looking?

The Pin-Up Poet / MINX said...

Philip, you are a darling. Thanks. xo