Virtual Memories Show 326:
Barbara Nessim

“I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling life than being an illustrator and an artist and having people recognize and like my work for what it is.”

With a career in illustration and art stretching back to 1960, Barbara Nessim has been a trailblazer in multiple ways (albeit unintentionally). We talk about the 2013 retrospective of her work at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the process of seeing her oeuvre distilled by a curator, as well as her own 7-year project of archiving her work, and the role and rules of her decades-long sketchbook practice. We get into her pioneering work in computer art and her involvement in SIGGRAPH, her career drive and her “1 for them, 6 for myself” philosophy, her decision to take up pottery at 80, her Random Access Memories exhibition and its one-of-a-kind art-generator, what it was like working with Harvey Kurtzman for Esquire and on fumetto, her 65-year love affair with salsa and how she taught a bunch of illustration and design legends to dance, and how she may be the most well-adjusted, thankful and gracious artist I’ve ever met. Bonus: you get my oddball story of meeting Gary Panter in the ’90s! Give it a listen! And go buy Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life!

“Curators say they love working with me because I don’t have a big mouth.”

“When I see it, I don’t feel like my work has anything to do with me anymore; it’s like someone else did it.”

“I like the work I did in the past, but I don’t miss anything.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

A vital contributor and influential visionary in the world of art, Barbara Nessim has always been original in her thinking and unprecedented in her creativity. Inspired by her mother, a clothing designer, Barbara financed her studies at Pratt Institute by working as a freelance fashion illustrator, designing everything from shoes and apparel to textiles.

Recognized for her fresh approach to image-making, she was among the few female freelance illustrators of her time. In 1980, she embraced innovation and began using the computer to create published and personal imagery. Never short of inspiration, she attributes the ongoing creativity in her work to her fine training as an artist, and relies almost solely upon her sketchbooks to generate new ideas.

Nessim’s passion for her work and desire to bring more to her art set the stage for what would become a long and illustrious career that has inspired many others along the way. Her illustrations have appeared in our nation’s most prominent periodicals, from The New York Times to Rolling Stone, and her paintings and drawings have graced the walls of prominent museums and galleries around the globe including The Smithsonian Institution, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and The Louvre among others. She has also shared her gifts in the classroom as a mentor of aspiring artists at the School of Visual Arts and at Parsons/The New School for Design, where she served as Chair of the Illustration Department from 1992 to 2004.

Today, the artist focuses on the creation of large-scale works for public buildings, and continues to create personal art for exhibition in New York City and beyond. She’s on Instagram as barbaranessim.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Barbara’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Barbara & her studio by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 319:
Katelan Foisy

“Magic is opening doors you didn’t know existed.”

Her first crush was Nosferatu, she started reading Burroughs at 12, she’s fused Roma and Santeria, and now Katelan Foisy joins the show to talk about making art, magic, and a personal mythology. We get into the course of her artistic career, the perils of a public persona, the experience of making art for Smashing Pumpkins and William Patrick Corgan (& the genesis of their friendship), understanding the tarot as storyboards, learning to paint mosaics to make the Sibyls Oraculum, the allure of old hotels, the duality of Al Capone, and why she traded the East River for Lake Michigan. Plus, the great advice she got from Molly Crabapple, forming a Third Mind with Vanessa Sinclair, her adherence to William Burroughs’ twin beliefs that you can write your way out of any problem and that photographs can change the future, and how her art tries to capture the Romany notion of the Stopping Place. Give it a listen! And go check out Katelan’s marketplace for art and magic!

“Everything I make as commercial art still plays into my personal mythology.”

“I discovered Burroughs when I was 12 or 13, and I remember thinking, ‘This doesn’t feel good, but I can’t stop.'”

“The reason I met Molly Crabapple is that we had the same idea. But she was doing it and I was just thinking it.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Katelan Foisy is a multimedia artist, occultist, and writer. Her fine art pieces have been displayed at The Worcester Art Museum, Ohio History Museum, MODA, WEAM, A&D Gallery, and Last Rights. She has graced the pages of the Grammy Award programs and the stage of Cynthia von Buhler’s immersive historical plays “Speakeasy Dollhouse” and “The Brothers Booth.” Katelan has been featured in the NY Times, Elle magazine, Paper Magazine, GQ Italy, Time Out NY, Witches & Pagans, and many others—for her work as an artist, curator and occultist. She has written for Motherboard/VICE, Electric Literature, Luna Luna, ERIS magazine, COILHOUSE and held events with Atlas Obscura and lectured at Morbid Anatomy. Her short films have been shown at Cinamatique Francaise as part of the Romani Avante Garde Film Sessions and her illustrations are featured on The Smashing Pumpkins “Shiny And Oh So Bright” Tour as well as William Patrick Corgan’s “Ogilala” tour. She is the artist for the Sibyls Oraculum with Tayannah McQuillar and the forthcoming Hoodoo Tarot. Chaos of the Third Mind, with Vanessa Sinclair, will be released in 2020 from Fulgar Ltd, UK. She’s on Instagram and Twitter as katelanfoisy. She was called a “Female Jack Kerouac” by Taylor Mead, a “Modern Day Francesca Woodman” by Cynthia von Buhler, and William Patrick Corgan has said, “They used to burn witches like Katelan.”

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Katelan’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. “About Our Guest” pix of Katelan by me. Other pix by her, I think. Mine are on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 312:
Bram Presser

“To me, this is a book about how we tell stories, and how we come to understand stories.”

What sort of person breaks into Auschwitz? An author — and semi-reformed punk rocker, recovering academic and occasional criminal lawyer — in search of answers. Bram Presser joins the show to talk about his award-winning, fantastic debut novel The Book of Dirt, a memoir-fiction hybrid about his family’s experience in the Shoah. We get into the myths of how his grandfather survived the concentration camps and what they meant for his family and his book, the years of detective work (and the lucky breaks) researching his grandparents’ stories and records and the limits of knowing anyone else’s life, the exceptionalist vibe of Czech Jews, the stories he was afraid to learn and the heroism that redeemed his great-grandmother and her family, the challenges of researching an unheard-of story of survival when archivists are already put off by your punk-rock appearance, and how Bram avoided Holocaust cliches while giving agency, dignity and social dynamics to the prisoners in the camps. We also get into Bram’s worries about feedback from his mentor Dasa Drndic, the value of documentary fiction, the aspects of his other careers that supported his ability to write The Book of Dirt, that Auschwitz break-in, and why Talmudkommando would have been a better name for his Jewish punk band than Yidcore. Give it a listen! And go buy The Book of Dirt!

“One thing I took from writing this book is that we really don’t know much about the people we love. We accept an idea of who they are, but that’s all we have.”

“Every time I talk about the book and about my grandparents, I feel like I’m spending more time with them. It’s a way for me to get to know them and understand them.”


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn,
Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Scruffy scrivener. Semi-reformed punk rocker. Recovering academic. Occasional criminal lawyer. Two-time cartoon character. After schlepping around the world for 10 years in the acclaimed punk band Yidcore, Bram Presser realized he was getting too old to sleep on concrete floors and smear hummus over himself every night. Swapping the rubber chicken for a fountain pen, he has since dedicated himself to writing. In 2011, Bram won The Age Short Story Award and since then his stories have appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award-Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac, and Higher Arc. His debut novel, The Book of Dirt, was published in Australia in 2017 by Text Publishing to wide acclaim and went on to the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, Best New Writer and People’s Choice Awards in 2018, as well as the prestigious Voss Literary Prize. The novel was published in the U.S. in 2018 and recently won the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction at the National Jewish Book Awards.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at AKA Central Park on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Presser by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 309:
Joe Ciardiello

“Everything Sergio Leone knew about Americans came from the movies, so he was let down when he saw American soldiers in Rome after the war. The heroic aspect was there, but he saw these guys for who they really were.”

Illustrator/artist Joe Ciardiello returns to the show to talk about his brand-new book, A Fistful of Drawings (Fantagraphics Underground). We go into the project’s history, Joe’s exploration of the Italian-American experience, and how it’s reflected in Spaghetti Western cinema of Sergio Leone & his peers. We also talk about how Joe overcame his anxiety about writing to bring the book’s narrative together, how Buffalo Bill and Old West culture infected Italy, his visit to the street set of The Godfather as a kid in Staten Island, the book of his musician drawings he hopes to make, keeping up with new westerns, the actors and figures he didn’t have room for in A Fistful of Drawings (but maybe we’ll see in For A Few Drawings More!), a survey of his drawing heroes and more recent inspirations, and more! Give it a listen (and check out my 2017 episode with Joe)! And go buy A Fistful of Drawings!

“I look at Picasso’s late drawings, and it’s the abandon, the freedom; the older I get, that’s the thing I crave the most.”

“There’s a logical extension from the Western to the Gangster film.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Joe Ciardiello was born and raised on Staten Island, NY, just a ferry ride to Manhattan where he attended the High School of Art & Design and Parsons School of Design. A freelance illustrator since 1974, Ciardiello has worked for most major magazines, newspapers, and book publishers, including Entertainment Weekly, The Nation, The New Yorker, The NY Times Book Review, and Rolling Stone. His drawings have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country. Among his awards is the prestigious Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators in 2016. Joe lives in Hunterdon County, NJ. His new book is A Fistful of Drawings.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Joe’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Joe by Deborah Feingold. It’s on her website.

Virtual Memories Show 308:
James Oseland

“I think of myself as a journalist first and foremost, someone who’s always reporting, always trying to find out what’s beneath that layer that we think is the final one.”

Before Saveur, before Top Chef Masters, before all the National Magazine and James Beard awards, James Oseland was Jimmy Neurosis. James and I talk about his brand-new book, Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir (Ecco Press), about his life as a gay teen in the late ’70s. We get into how none of his previous artistic and literary pursuits prepared him for writing this book, the challenges of remove 50-something James’ perspective from the teen narration, the difficult relationship with his mother at the core of the book (which begins with his dad bailing on them), and what it was like to find comfort in the burgeoning punk-music scene of San Francisco. We get into the toughest parts of the book to write about (we both get choked up at different points of that), his growing concern as a teen that (superabundant) sex wasn’t the be-all and end-all, the diversity of the early punk scene and how it got overwhelmed by violent white guys, why he used ads and TV taglines as chapter titles for the book, the fate of his punk record collection, and the wonderful (but admittedly problematic) experience of living with a much older gay lover in NYC when he was 15/16. And I promise, we also talk about food writing and the new World Food book series he’s working on! Give it a listen! And go buy Jimmy Neurosis!

“One of the key messages that I want to convey is that gay is normal; it’s not strange.”

“You can really appreciate the world by what it eats.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

James Oseland is the editor-in-chief of World Food, a book series launching from Penguin Random House in 2020. Prior to that, he was the editor-in-chief of Saveur, America’s most critically acclaimed food magazine. He has won multiple National Magazine and James Beard Foundation awards and has been a judge on Celebrity Apprentice, Iron Chef America, and all five seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. He is also the author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, which was named one of the best books of 2006 by the New York Times and Good Morning America. He lives in Mexico City and New York City. His new book is Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a hotel in midtown Manhattan on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Oseland by me. It’s on my instagram. Author photo by James Roper.