Virtual Memories Show 298:
Summer Pierre

“A mix-tape isn’t just saying, ‘I want you to enjoy this’, it’s, ‘I want you to enjoy me making this.'”

In her new graphic memoir, All the Sad Songs (Retrofit Comics), Summer Pierre uses the mix-tapes of her 20s and 30s to tell us the story of her life, one wrong boyfriend, one cross-country drive, one Boston folk stage set at a time. We talk about the soundtracks to our lives, the memoir & comics influences that gave her permission to tackle her PTSD issues on the page, the discovery that she was making a 104-page comic instead of the 25-page one she set out to draw (or “getting used by the muse”), and how surprised she was that college students know what a mix-tape is. We also get into her artistic maturation out of the kamikaze-style of making comics, the Boston folk music scene she was in/around in her 20s, the somatic therapy that helped her deal with PTSD, the notion that mixes are self-portraits, and wanting to be her mother’s biographer, but realizing she knew almost nothing about her mom’s insane life. Give it a listen! And go buy All the Sad Songs!

“This book’s about memory and the power of art to narrate our lives.”

“I’m a big believer in deadlines, boundaries, the small constraints that set up work for you.”

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

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About our Guest

Summer Pierre is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and teacher living in the Hudson Valley, New York. She is the author of the graphic memoir, All the Sad Songs, and the autobiographical comic series, Paper Pencil Life. Her other books include The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week, and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life. Her writing and art have appeared in PEN America, The Rumpus, The Comics Journal, and The Nashville Review among other places.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Summer’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. Photo of Ms. Pierre by me. It’s on my instagram.

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For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to eschew the regular interview-based podcast and ask all of my past guests what they’re thankful for. Since it’s a mere couple of weeks from the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, responses were all over the spectrum. Listen to the show via MP3 download or on iTunes!

Here’s everyone who participated (with links to their episodes of the podcast):

A few guests sent along material in addition to their written or recorded responses. Liz Hand sent a link to this video about Lincolnville, ME’s Move It! Project:

Bob Eckstein (who you oughtta follow on Twitter at @bobeckstein) sent two of his cartoons, including the one at the top of this page:

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Jonathan C. Hyman’s contribution is the most involved, and requires a little unpacking. In the podcast, he says, “Despite the 2016 presidential election and the myriad social, environmental, and economic issues that have fractured our society, I am thankful that we are, and hopeful we will remain, a vibrant culture where people are free to speak openly and publicly.”

Background information and narrative: Known for his decade-long project which documents the vernacular public art, public speech, and memorial language that emerged across the United States in response to the 9/11 attacks, documentary photographer and past Virtual Memories guest Jonathan C. Hyman photographed the signage, displays, and public dialogue surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

His work on the election — including the seven images he contributed to this Thanksgiving podcast — is not meant to endorse or disparage Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or their supporters. As a photographer with an interest in public expression — visual and speech — and in “things by the side of the road,” Hyman traveled within an approximate 150-mile radius from his home in Sullivan County, NY to areas in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Here, Hyman presents a sampling of the images in this series as they appeared when he came upon them. He photographed each display keeping in mind his interest in handmade objects, the American flag, and the houses, buildings, and neighborhoods people live and work in. The majority of the signs he saw, many handmade, were supportive of Donald Trump. The large majority of the handmade signs he encountered were displayed by Trump supporters on their own property. Realizing that his findings are anecdotal, Hyman says, “I have no doubt others have seen things I have not and that there were signs supporting Hillary Clinton in areas I have both visited and not traveled to. Nonetheless, it was clear to me that where pro-Hillary Clinton signs did exist, they tended to be of the more pre-fabricated, generic lawn sort and generally less likely to be on front lawns.”

Photographs © 2016 Jonathan C. Hyman All rights Reserved

Click to enlarge each picture:

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In addition to being featured on the PBS NewsHour, Hyman’s work has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, the Journal of American History, and several well-known European newspapers and magazines in print and online. In the fall of 2008 Hyman toured Europe as a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy (as part of a program organized by the American embassy in Vienna and the University of Graz, Austria.), lecturing at universities in Berlin and Tuebingen, Germany, Vienna and Graz Austria, Brno, Czech Republic, and Zagreb, Croatia about his 9/11 related photographs. In addition to lecturing publicly since 2002 at well known academic institutions, from 2008-2016 Hyman was Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives at Bryn Mawr College’s Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, where he also supervised the Center’s online gallery.

For More Information:

Jonathan C. Hyman can be reached at arthoops55@gmail.com


The thing I’m most thankful for is having such wonderful guests who are willing to pitch in to projects like this (and otherwise help keep me sane)!

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The episode was recorded primarily at stately Virtual Memories Manor 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. Portions by Summer Pierre, Zachary D. Martin and Scott Edelman were recorded separately and shared by e-mail. All processing and editing was done in Adobe Audition CC. Cartoons by Bob Eckstein, photos by Jonathan C. Hyman.

titscoverVirtual Memories Show #143:
Jennifer Hayden and
Summer Pierre LIVE!

“Middle age is such a perfect term. You’re right in the middle of life. You could not be more in the middle of everything. Your parents are old, your kids are little. Life is just swirling around you.”
–Jennifer Hayden

Time for another LIVE episode of the Virtual Memories Show! Jennifer Hayden (The Story of My Tits) and Summer Pierre (Paper Pencil Life) join us at Labyrinth Books in Princeton, NJ to talk about comics, cancer, middle age, art vs. work, learning compassion through memoir, and more! Give it a listen!

“With my mom dying, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna die? Great, I work well with deadlines!'”
–Summer Pierre

According to Labyrinth Books’ promo for the event, “Art is not something we create in isolation. Art happens between the diaper change and the trip to the vet. Between the car accident and the roast chicken. Every day we fight to seize a little more art from the jaws of this wild existence.  And if we’re lucky we catch the spark while it’s rising. Autobiographical cartoonists and graphic novelists Jennifer Hayden, and Summer Pierre discuss their graphic lives with moderator Gil Roth of the Virtual Memories Show.” It’s a great conversation about making art in the interstices of life, so go listen! (And go buy The Story of My Tits!)

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

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guests

jenniferpromopicJennifer Hayden came to comics from fiction-writing and children’s book illustration. Her new book, The Story of My Tits (Top Shelf, 2015), is a 352-page graphic memoir and breast cancer narrative. Her previous book, the autobiographical collection Underwire (Top Shelf, 2011), was excerpted in the Best American Comics 2013 and named one of “the best comics by women” by DoubleX. She is a member of Activate (the premier webcomics collective in New York City), where she posts her webcomic S’crapbook, which earned a Notable listing in the Best American Comics 2012. Jennifer currently posts the daily diary strip Rushes at thegoddessrushes.blogspot.com. Her comics have appeared in print anthologies such as The Activate Primer, Cousin Corrine’s Reminder, and The Strumpet. After hours, Jennifer plays electric fiddle with The Rocky Hill Ramblers and The Spring Hill Band. She lives in Central New Jersey with her husband, their two college-age children, two cats, and the dog.

summerilloSummer Pierre is a cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and teacher living in the Hudson Valley, NY. She makes an autobiographical comic called Paper Pencil Life, and is the author of The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week (which the Boston Globe called, “A virtual bible for artists and day jobs”) and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life. Her writing and art have appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, The Nashville Review & Booth Literary Journal, among other places.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Labyrinth Books in Princeton on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones and a Blue enCORE 100 microphone feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro.