FLY IN YOUR EYE: An interview with LES cartoonist and activist Fly
Here's an excerpt from my interview with radical cartoonist and awesome person, Fly. You can find the full interview at Comic Critique or the Indypendent. Thanks to Louis Vitela at Comic Critique, and John Tarleton and Irina Ivanova at The Indypendent for punching this material up.
Fly’s distinctive style and message came to my attention some years ago on a flyer for a political event at ABC No Rio. Her actions and works speak volumes of the enigmatic person: a consistent presence in New York City radical circles, a member of the World War 3 Illustrated collective (founded by Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper), and an adamant supporter and teacher of DIY zines and comics. From the cover of the first issue of $pread, a magazine by and for sex workers, and PEOPS, her zine-turned-book by Soft Skull, which chronicles the lives of many downtown Manhattan residents, artists and activists, Fly hardly shies away from the controversial and the commonplace. The prolific cartoonist and illustrator took some time out to talk about the laborious task of making zines, her artistic growth inspired years ago by Sue Coe’s powerful work and Fiona Smyth’s techniques, and the transformation of the Lower East Side in Manhattan.
FR: What she makes of the transformation of the Lower East Side?
FLY: That’s a big question. The LES has been transforming for so long! It’s sort of the nature of the place. People have been fighting [the latest wave of gentrification] since way before I arrived here in the late 80s. There was of course the real estate boom of the 80s that sort of went bust. Anyway, when I got here it was still pretty rundown and crazy in good ways and bad ways. I have to say that I do not miss the drug dealers or the people shooting up on the street but I do miss all the insanely talented artists and performers and just general characters that used to populate the area and I also think it is very unfair that so many people who were born in the Lower East Side now cannot afford to live here. It used to feel a bit like a small town around here but with all the options of a big city. Now if I am out in the evening, especially on the weekend, I am horrified walking along the sidewalks — even on avenue C! — to see the multitudes of loud drunken idiots making so much noise and making a big mess. I don’t know what the hell they are doing but its just so boring! I think a big problem with the Lower East Side is that it used to be a neighborhood and it had real character — and you can still find that here but it is seriously threatened by the dorm mentality of some idiot developers and the fancy restaurants and hair salons that no one living here can afford to go to. With the whole clean-up of the area of course it became safer and so suddenly since it’s considered so “edgey and hip” everybody wants to live here and the rents have become ridiculous. So what happens in the long run is that the real neighborhood gets displaced because people can’t afford to live here and they are slowly being replaced by a very transient population, NYU students and other high priced renters who are not interested in working on a connection to the real soul and history of the place. The LES is just a stepping stone for them, a place to sleep and to use as a background for pictures — oh — I could rant for hours about this. I know I am generalizing but hopefully you get the idea. There are some books I could recommend for your further edification like the recently published Resistance, edited by Clayton Patterson and published by Seven StoriesFR: What would be your dream collaboration? Living or dead.
FLY: Hmmm…. That’s a really hard one because there are so many people that I’d love to collaborate with… and lately I have been collaborating more… But I’m such a control freak. I think my dream collaboration would probably be not with another visual artist but with a writer. There’s so many writers that I really love so it’s hard to… I know: Kathy Acker. She died a while ago but I would love to have been able to work with her on a comic. (excited) Oh man, yeah. Kathy Acker. Definitely Kathy Acker. I first read her stuff in the 80s when my life was really chaotic and transient. I felt like the way she wrote was like the way I was thinking; it was like the voices in my head mixed with what was happening in the moment mixed with what already happened. It was like deconstruction or something… sorry I’m not much of a literary critic. Her writing to me was just really authentic — she wasn’t afraid to just put everything out there. I could feel it in my bones and the thing about it was that when ever I read any of her stuff I would get so inspired that I would end up doing a lot of writing and drawing myself and I would also have the craziest dreams — I used to do a lot of comics based on dreams too. I just think I could have done some amazing comics in collaboration with Kathy Acker! Hmmm maybe I should try to do a piece on her.
© Frank Reynoso, Aug. 2007, All Rights Reserved