Virtual Memories Show 327:
Karl Stevens

“I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t know how, and comics were so accessible that I latched onto that.”

It may be a fine line between comics and art, but Karl Stevens‘ fine line crosses effortlessly between them. Karl & I talk about how his realistic drawing style and watercolors treat comics as fine art, and how that visual style complements his naturalist stories, especially in his recent collection, The Winner (Retrofit Comics). We get into his gateway from superheroes to art-comics, his recent commission to make comics that accompanied a Botticcelli exhibition at the Gardener Museum in Boston, his work as a guard in that same museum, the challenge of drawing his wife, the challenge of getting paid as a freelancer, and whether he regrets his his teenaged decision to devote his life to comics. We also talk about his upcoming book of cat comics, drawing gags for the New Yorker, being WAY too high to meet your idols, visiting the Words & Pictures Museum in ’90s Northampton (a.k.a. Comics-Mecca), his road not taken with Dave Sim, how short strips and gag panels have made it tougher for him to write longer stories, and plenty more! BONUS: You get the origin story of my friendship with Tom Spurgeon AND my recent crisis of faith! Give it a listen! And go buy The Winner!

“The way light hits objects is part of the story.”

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could make a comic that took the techniques of the dead painters I’d been studying?'”

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

Karl Stevens is a graphic novelist and painter. His first book, Guilty, was published in 2004 with a grant from the Xeric Foundation. He is also the author of Whatever (2008), The Lodger (A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2010), Failure (2013) and The Winner (2018). His comic strips appeared in The Boston Phoenix between 2005 and 2012 until an incident with an advertiser resulted in the strip’s cancellation. The realist comic artist has also co-produced the Phoenix comic “Succe$$” with Gustavo Turner. In 2016 The Village Voice began running his cat comic strip “Penny”. Stevens’s work appears in select art galleries and he has published numerous cartoons in The New Yorker. He was recently commissioned to produce a comic to celebrate the Gardner Museum’s Botticcelli: Heroines and Heroes exhibition.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville 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 Karl by me. They’re on my instagram.

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 325:
Boris Fishman

“Cooking is the only thing in my life that creates the same exalted transport that writing does.”

With his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes), author Boris Fishman explores his family’s Soviet Jewish legacy, his arc as a writer, and the glorious and varied meals that kept his family together from Minsk to Brighton Beach. We get into why creative nonfiction is his first passion (after publishing two novels), how he guaranteed his family’s disapproval by writing about them throughout his career, how he couldn’t leave Sovietness behind until he moved out of his parents’ home at 24 (despite emigrating from the USSR at 9), what he’d do if he quit the writing game, and why the recipes were the toughest part of Savage Feast. We also talk smack about certain books and authors, compare Malamud to Roth and Bellow, discuss the first (very not Jewish/not Russian) writer Boris became friends with, and explore the use of fiction to imagine alternate lives for oneself. Along the way, we make a life-changing pact, decide whether an MFA is worth pursuing, share book tour best practices, and conclude that Soviet Jewish guilt is exponentially more severe than Jewish guilt. It’s a whole lot of talk about books, food, and deracinated Jews! Give it a listen! And go buy Savage Feast!

“What makes me Soviet is not having spent my first 9 years in that country, but how many years I spent under my parents’ roof.”

“We read novels trying to sniff out what really happened, and we read memoirs what didn’t really happen.”

“I had this very smug idea that the recipes would be easy, because they didn’t involve creating sentences. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“The finality of one’s self can be devastating.”

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

Boris Fishman was born in Minsk, Belarus, and emigrated to the United States in 1988. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, the London Review of Books, New York magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, among other publications. He is the author of the novels A Replacement Life, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal, and Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, which was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He teaches in Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City. His new book is the memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes).

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at my house 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 me & Boris and b/w photo of Boris by me. It’s on my instagram. Nicer pic with brick wall by Stephanie Kaltsas.

Virtual Memories Show 323:
Hugh Ryan

“I come to these stories in part because I’m trying to find myself.”

Let’s celebrate Pride Month with a conversation with Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History! We talk about Brooklyn’s untold queer history and how it reflects the story of Brooklyn itself, the challenge of relating 19th century views of sexuality’s spectrum to a modern audience, and why his history began with Walt Whitman and ended a few years before Stonewall. We also get into the toughest part of his research, the best story that didn’t make it into the book, the commercial challenge of pitching a popular queer history, the accidental scoops he made by being the first person to explore this history, and how he wrote such long hours he broke his wrist. Oh, yeah, and he cringes over Naomi Wolf’s demolition and we share a laugh over his great story of the Coney Island impresario who threw a male beauty pageant in 1929 but had no idea what was in store. Give it a listen! And go buy When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History!

“One of the things I learned was how intimately connected queer history is with the history of prisons and policing in America.”

“I can’t write fiction because I have no imagination whatsoever. Everything has to have happened for me to write about it.”

“Having studied theory helped me understand what I was seeing, but having 20 years away from theory was more helpful for writing.”

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

Hugh Ryan is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn. He is the Founder of the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, and sits on the boards of QED: A Journal in LGBTQ Worldmaking, and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Buzzfeed, the LA Review of Books, Out, and many other venues. He is the author of When Brooklyn Was Queer, and is the recipient of the 2016-2017 Martin Duberman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a 2017 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, and a 2018 residency at The Watermill Center. He is on Twitter as hugh_ryan and on Patreon.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Ryan’s office 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 me & Mr. Ryan by me. It’s on my instagram. Solo/flannel photo by Jia Oak Baker.

Virtual Memories Show 322:
Steven Guarnaccia

“I’m an illustrator. It took me a while to realize I was born an illustrator.”

On the eve of its New York City debut, illustrator (and designer and author) Steven Guarnaccia joins the show to talk about his Fatherland exhibition! We get into how he made the leap from 2D to 3D, the moment he realized he was an illustrator and not an Artist, what it was like to come up in a golden age of magazine illustration, the balancing act of professional and personal projects, the strong influence of the Pop Art on his work, the anxiety of the first time he got a color illustration assignment (he’s been around a long time), getting his first NYT assignment from Steven Heller, and why Seymour Chwast & Milton Glaser may be the Lennon & McCartney of their field. We also get into his love of letterforms, his ingenious idea for my next podcast/documentary series, the process of learning illustration on the job, how he taps his unconscious drawing to break out of creative ruts, the benefits of a two-artist household (he’s married to Nora Krug), his lament for the American culture of specialization, becoming the accidental archivist for Rooster Ties, and our ongoing competition for best-dressed guy at Society of Illustrators events. Give it a listen! And go see the Fatherland exhibition at the YUI Gallery in NYC!

“My father is just as opaque to me now as he was in life, but making Fatherland has enabled me to talk to him in a different way.”

“Who would want to only be an editorial illustrator and have other people feed you somebody else’s text?”

“There are projects we make for ourselves, hoping that they get published, but we don’t stop making 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

Steven Guarnaccia is Associate Professor at Parsons School for Design. He is a former art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page, and his illustrations have appeared internationally in books and magazines, on greeting cards for the Museum of Modern Art, watches for Swatch, and as murals for Disney Cruise Lines. His books introducing children to modern architecture and design include Cinderella: A Fashionable Tale, The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears: A Tale Moderne, all published by Abrams. Steven has authored or co-authored numerous books on popular culture, including Black & White, A Stiff Drink & Close Shave: The Lost Arts of Manliness, and Hi-Fi’s and Hi-Balls: The Golden Age of the American Bachelor, all published by Chronicle, and he is the co-author with Steven Heller of School Days, and Designing for Children. He has had solo shows in New York, Milan, and Toronto, and his installation, Fatherland, has traveled to Bologna, Barcelona, London Berlin and Tabor, Czech Republic, and is now coming to the YUI Gallery in NYC. His drawings for the exhibition Achille Castiglioni: Design! at the Museum of Modern Art were published as a book by Corraini Editore. He has received numerous honors from AIGA, the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Publication Designers, and other professional organizations, and was a Hallmark Fellow to the Aspen Design Conference.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Steven’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. Photos of Steven & our pants by me. It’s on my instagram.