Charles Daly

Writer

Category: Interviews (page 1 of 2)

Maida Gayle, Hanoi’s abstract (expat) expressionist

On June 10th, 2017, Maida Gayle had her first solo exhibition in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was a significant date for her. One year early, on June 10th, 2016, she had been hospitalized, on the other side of the Pacific, following a stroke.

 

Motivated, in part, by her scare and the painful recovery that followed, Maida put it all on canvas and took painting from a hobby to a side-hustle to much more than that.

 

I met Maida back in 2013, in Busan, South Korea, where we were both teaching english and using freetime to moonlight as creatives. She has since moved to Hanoi and established herself in Vietnam’s art scene. As her work develops, she is synthesizing her abstract painting with her performing arts background and her work with a women’s NGO. The result is incandescent and contagiously positive.

 

Plenty of people, especially expats and nomads, like to talk about “life embracing.” Maida is one who actually reaches out and grabs life with both hands.

maida gayle artist studio hanoi

 

You got into painting while you were teaching in Korea… Because you didn’t have room for your keyboard, is that right?   

My journey into painting started when I decided to move out of Busan city life in Korea to the countryside of Gimechon.

 

With a quieter environment and less people to mingle with I had a lot more extra time than I ever had in Busan.

 

Playing music and singing had always been the only form of art I used to express myself. It kept me company when I didn’t have the people to do so. Unfortunately living in a small apartment, I had no space or money to invest in a keyboard and didn’t have the confidence to try any other instruments out. There was also no music scene like Busan… so I felt kind of stuck.  

 

There was an art supply store that had stationary supplies I got for teaching and always noticed the paint and canvas in the back corner. I thought, “what the heck, let’s just try and splash some paint on canvas.” It was a weird urge that I never had before… and I went with it.

 

When did it become more than a hobby?

The unofficial start into getting more serious was when I was selling my things before leaving Korea and a friend asked to buy one of the paintings.

 

At that point I didn’t think the paintings were good enough or worthy of showing to anyone. They were just diary entries on canvas,  a place for my emotions to rest.

 

The transition started officially in Hanoi when a friend of mine, Paul Salnek, asked me to live paint for Signal Flair. This is an arts event that started in Bangkok. Funnily enough, the guy who put that together just contacted me, and I’m happy to say they will be flying me out to Bangkok to live paint an event they are throwing!

 

But with the encouragement of that sale and Hunter’s push to show my art, I started posting them on facebook.

 

What’s going on in Hanoi?

 

Hanoi is special.

 

Never have I been in a community that fosters creativity so much as this. Literally everything about the expat community revolves around pursuing your art, encouraging you to find your niche in art.

 

There are ample of opportunities for art here because

a) supplies are cheap

b) the community is small but not too small.

maida gayle artist painting hanoi

Literally, anything you want to do… you can most likely do it here and the scene will nurture and support you.

 

The friends you make are super encouraging. Travis Risenurr, a close friend of mine is a great example of this and a huge reason why I have pursued my art here in the first place. I met him at a festival back in Korea but didn’t really get to know him until I moved here in 2015. He has been such an inspiration and a personal motivator for me when it came to delving deeper into my art and pushing the boundaries. He’s helped me and so many others believe that they are really capable of anything if you just try. Never again will I say things like, “I can’t draw” for fear of the weird look I’ll get back from him.

 

He holds ‘Art Night for Grownups’ every two weeks at a café called Clickspace. Here, he provides people with the space and materials to express themselves through coloring and painting. He’s also successfully established his own brand, ‘Phlerp Designs’ and it’s been amazing to see how his art has grown from fun little stickers spread across Korea and Hanoi to extremely beautiful (huge) art installations at Quest and his most recent endeavour, psychedelic wear/awesome clothes! I owe this guy more than he realizes. Thanks Trav!

 

 

Where did the scene get started, is it connected with the local arts, or just a bunch of expats doing their own thing?

I’m not exactly sure where it started but I do know that because Hanoi keeps to more tradition than Saigon, this has somehow influenced the artistic culture here.

 

Old French architecture is kept untouched and remains beautiful. You can tell they care about aesthetics and keeping the original beauty of the city just from the lakes and trees and green everywhere.

 

It’s not just the foreign scene that is creative, it’s not just a few artists, it’s the whole city itself.

Hanoi is known for it’s amazing fabrics and streets dedicated to making clothing, costumes and all of the sort. There is plenty for us to use in the city to help us in our artistic endeavours and that’s why I think people come … and stay.

maida gayle artist studio hanoi

To give you a picture of what I mean… in America, the supplies to paint one painting might cost well over $100. Over here, maybe $10 at most.

 

You can do anything! There’s a street dedicated to glitter and gems for goodness sake!

 

A huge name that I think gave it a kick start for the foreign community is a team who is now known as Gingerwork. Started by a dear friend, Mark Harris, who came to Hanoi about 7 years ago dreamed about creating a space and/or spaces for expats to cultivate and harness their creative passions. And it’s happened.

 

Quest Festival (the biggest project of Gingerwork) has gone from about 100 people to becoming a 4000+ festival in these years. Gingerwork has also established a creative hub called The Creative Artillery (this is where I had my first exhibition!)  

 

Hanoi is a place where it’s completely normal to see a group of people dressed up as unicorns on the weekend or holding costume making workshops for the next underground rave or party that’s happening. Costumes are not only reserved for Halloween here. It’s a lifestyle.

 

We all have our own talents and we come together to make an extremely beautiful and unique experience for every person who comes through Hanoi whether it be for 6 weeks, months, or years.

 

You mentioned Nerd Night. That sounds awesome, what’s it about?

 

A bunch of “nerds” coming together to talk nerdy things! I love this group because it’s different from your usual “open mic night” (not that those aren’t awesome here!).

 

Every fortnight we get together and anyone can present their interpretation of a topic that was pulled from a hat at the last meeting. Some examples of topics “original sin, all the small things, dystopia, music and emotion.

 

We’ve had several types of presentations as well.. from PowerPoints to song or dance performances, poems .. and the list goes on.

 

It’s held at my sweet friend, Ed’s home (which is an amazing studio like home designed by an artist I’m not quite sure of who he is). Ed is a writer/editor and has been for Word Magazine from the past. He brought hundreds of books and zines from New York and set up his home to be the official Zine Library of Hanoi.

 

Every Sunday it’s open for anyone to drop by, have some tea and sift through all the zines he’s collected. He’s curated the space really well – it’s one of my favorite spots to be in Hanoi.

maida gayle artist hanoi

 

Tell me about your first show, first sale, first solo show. What was it like growing in your own self-image–going from “this is fun” to “people want to see/ buy my stuff…damn”?

My first show–at the Creative Artillery– was a huge milestone.

 

I didn’t realize at this point that I had really painted enough paintings to fill out a whole gallery space.

 

I chose the theme –“In Motion.” I couldn’t believe the response. I sold more paintings than I thought I would and was able to curate an event and had my friends perform on opening day. Despite the rain, it was amazing. I unexpectedly was interviewed by a local Vietnamese Channel regarding the exhibition as well as the first workshop I held that same day.

 

First sale – first one was in Korea, when I was getting rid of my stuff, but the first REAL sale was at a charity event held by Blue Dragon.

 

To celebrate women’s day they wanted to display a female artists work and have the paintings up for sale as well as have live painting to later auction them off at the end of the night.

 

I displayed my work and painted that night.

 

“They were just diary entries on canvas. A place for my emotions to rest.”

 

My now close friend Sara Butryn (an out of this world comedian in Hanoi) bought the painting I painted at Signal Flair. I can’t even begin to describe that rush of a feeling that my paintings were… good enough and touched someone deep enough to have them purchase it.

 

Displaying and pricing my art has been tricky, but I’ve learned to look passed that and see it as a means for me to share my trials and joys of life on canvas. The money isn’t the goal, it’s the connection someone feels to the work… (as corny as that may sound)

 

My good friend and extremely talented artist, Holland played such a vital role in this transition from “this is fun” to something more serious. He was an experienced go-getter in the art scene in the States (and now here). We had countless one-on-one talks about art, the art world and how to put a price on paintings without feeling like they were being violated (harsh word, can’t come up with another!)

 

I was realizing that people could relate to the emotions I was putting on my canvas and that it helped them to work through their own. That alone is priceless.

 

Talk a little bit about your style and direction as an artist… What are you interested in? What do you want us, the audience, to pay closer attention to?

My style is a reflection of how I try to live out my life.

 

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the Vipassana Buddhist philosophies and have been sitting with those ever since.

 

I strive to live present in each moment, working through every bump and smooth transitions.

 

I want my viewers to see that in my paintings. I may have a set picture of what I want a piece to look like but I need to surrender all control to my brush. Where the painting goes I follow, without resistance, without regret and without the belief that anything was a mistake. I work with what might seem to be a bad choice in color and turn it into something that can resonate with the rest…

I want people to discover for themselves what the answer is and that’s why I paint abstract pieces. I don’t want to give people a set image to decipher but rather to decipher one on their own.

maida gayle artist hanoi

As for something more mundane, you’re killing it on social media. That’s how this interview started…

Facebook and Instagram are not the devil! They’ve given me a portal to show my art across the world and the world’s responded!

Through my posts (that I never really took that seriously in the fist place) has now resulted in me sending paintings to San Diego, Toronto and Philadelphia. Who knows where next?

 

Friends from different lives I’ve lived have messaged asking for paintings. I love this because it reconnects me to these people I thought I would never get in touch with or see again. It’s really amazing to see who your paintings speak to. They are all so different from each other and this shows me that my work is relatable not just to one kind of sub-cultured group of people but is diverse enough to reach almost anyone. Who knew!

 

My social media presence is part of what led to my being featured in Word Magazine.

 

One of their talented photographers, Julie Vola got a message from Mark and found me through social media.. so did her head editor (Nick Ross) and they contacted me for an interview and photoshoot.

 

Their September edition was featuring 10 people throughout Vietnam who were living a “bohemian artist lifestyle” and they thought I fit the description just right.

 

My head was in the clouds here… I still couldn’t believe this was happening. Still don’t believe it did!

 

A family from Saigon read about me in my article and have messaged me about a painting -who knew I would get to the point where strangers are now asking for paintings!

 

What’s next for you? What’s now?

 

Oh boy. Right now my job is hectic but with this studio space I hope to just simply produce and learn through the process… I want to let my art evolve naturally into what it’s to become next.

 

I can’t focus my time on selling but that’s completely ok. In fact, I’m a bit relieved. My love for it hasn’t been stripped because I’m over producing and I think that’s a good thing.

 

Hunter and I have been talking and I think our next actual move will be to Hong Kong. Being an international city, I feel it will give me more of a platform for my art. Hanoi has helped me and will continue to help me find my place in all of this artsy stuff and I hope that in this last year here I will hone in on my style and my vision and will be clear of what I want by the time we move to HK.

maida gayle artist painting hanoi

 

HK is also a good bridge city to transition back to the West, possibly back to Cali, Portland or Vancouver.

 

I’d love to have my paintings up in nice venues, in families’ homes and offices… I just want people, real, ordinary people to enjoy my art.

 

Progressing with my duo band called Uklear Bomb and a music project I’m working on with Hunter (not going to reveal the secret just yet!).

 

More importantly, I want to continue to take my art into Women’s Shelters. Working with women and children who are victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence has sat close to my heart for a very long time. It’s something I’ve written about.

 

I have the privilege to be working with Hagar International in Vietnam now. I meet the women and children once a month and we create abstract pieces together. It’s the most rewarding thing in world. I want to build this into an established workshop that I can take anywhere in the world. So far I’ve given it a name, “Extraction through Abstraction”.

 

These victims have learned to work through their pain and so to be able to help them reclaim and re-identify certain emotions through activities like art and connection to other humans who hold their worth high, is simply amazing and it’s what I want to live my life doing.  

 

… In general life’s too short to be taken so seriously, why spend it caring about money and all that.

 

Do what you love and love what you do. I’m sure you know the saying… I’m just trying to put it into practice!

Maida Gayle artist hanoi painting

Who should we read/ follow/ listen to/ check out in Hanoi?

Ah. Everyone. I will try to list as many as I can.

 

Weekly/Monthly Events and Venues

Zine Library

Free Thoughts Art

Sourgasms

Mouth

Down the Lane

 

Artists w/ Links and Art Pages:

Phlerp Designs  

Holland Holland

Will Dameron

Cat O’brien

Handxam Tattoo

Mars Black

May Cortazzi – Creative Director for Eva de Eva and founder of Happiness Beauty and Skincare Beautiful and inspiring woman!

Ukelear Bomb – EP coming soon

Claire Allurd

Hanoian Jazz Band

Numbfoot

Hunter Lind

 

All things Rave:

Liquid Hive  

Gingerwork  

More

More People Worth Mentioning :

Lilianna Pedroni – SHE DOES EVERYTHING.SHE IS AWESOME. My partner in Ukelear Bomb, circus freak/ flowarts artist, musician, music teacher, comedian and the list goes on. A multitalented extravaganza of a person and friend.

Katie-May Taylor – Super Woman. Literally. Co-creative producer for Quest Festival and a producer in her own right for all things way important outside of Vietnam. Trust me. She’s wow.

Maartje Matheeuwsen WICKEDLY TALENTED facepainter.

Mitch Brookman –a well known mosaic artist in the States who has been a great influence and mentor to me. Hailing from Cali and Texas has decided to save one blonde at a time here in Hanoi!

Tracy Johnson– flowarts, hoop dancer. beautiful woman

Aisling Feral model, flowarts hoop magician.

Julie Vola – photographer for Word Magazine and the wonderful lady who interviewed me as well.

(There so many more in Hanoi but this just gives you a taste of the freakin’ talent that’s out here, for real! I’m going to offend a lot of people because there are just too many to mention)

 

*This interview has been edited for length and content.

**Photos courtesy of Maida Gayle.

Sarah M. Chen’s Redondo Beach Noir

When a booze cruise goes wrong, Finn Roose, L.A’s most debauched restaurant manager, finds himself at the center of a missing persons case, unable to lie or charm his way out of it. To clear his name, he must navigate the seedy underbelly of Redondo Beach while holding down a job as part of its sunny, touristy facade.

Cleaning Up Finn is Sarah M Chen‘s debut novella. Smart, sleazy, and succinct, at a lean 168 pages, Finn harkens back to the golden age of crime paperbacks in page count as much as content. Along with her fellow authors at All Due Respect Books, Chen  is writing the next chapter in American pulp.

 cleaning up finn sarah m chen novella on the beach

What is it about the South Bay? For an otherwise under-celebrated part of L.A, it seems like the beaches have been all over noir and crime fiction:

You’ve got Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, Tarantino’s  Jackie Brown (adapted from Elmore Leonard and West Palm Beach.) Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction says he lives in Redondo (to which The Wolf replies “move out of the sticks!”)

Even the Patti Smith song “Redondo Beach”  has a dead girl in it. I’m sure there’s others…

Despite the sun and sand, there’s definitely a dark undercurrent to the South Bay that I think people like Quentin Tarantino gravitated toward as I did. Quentin Tarantino grew up in the South Bay, in Torrance specifically, and worked at a local video rental store (remember those?).

 

The South Bay has its vices but they’re disguised in sunshine, surf, and sand. I find that contrast fascinating and filled with possibilities. It’s a lot like Hollywood where you have the glitz and glam of the movie industry harboring the desperation underneath. But whereas Hollywood is seedy, you may not necessarily think of beach life as seedy but it’s definitely there. People either don’t think to look or don’t want to.

Finn is the ideal hero for the stories I like to write. He’s human and real and tends to make awful decisions. We all know people like Finn, someone you wouldn’t want babysitting your kids or even watching your dog. Those are the people I like to write about.

 

Hermosa Beach also had a big punk scene back in the day that made it cool, rebellious. But once the pier became a pedestrian plaza in ‘97, bars and clubs popped up like a spreading rash threatening to obliterate the mom and pop places, the dive bars, the artsy coffee shops, and the indie bookstores. Now it’s a more commercial party scene with DJs spinning top 40 instead of jazz and punk. This culture clash plus the illusion of an easy beach life makes it a perfect setting for a crime novel.

 

In early drafts, Finn was a short story set in Maryland. I kept moving the location around based on the guidelines of the market I was submitting to. When I had an opportunity to write a novella, I immediately thought of Finn. I felt there was more to Finn than a short story. When I sat down to expand it, I knew it couldn’t be set anywhere else but the South Bay.

 

And it’s home, right?

I’ve lived in the South Bay for over 20 years so consider this my adopted home. I grew up in Southern California, but in Orange County, which is more conservative with cookie-cutter track housing.

 

I fell in love with Hermosa Beach’s funky bohemian vibe when I first visited in the late 80s/ early 90s and knew I’d live here eventually.

 

I like that Finn’s still a dog at the end, even though he makes the right choice. We all know a guy like Finn whose fooling around gets him in trouble. I loved the way you just kept pulling that thread instead of forcing some moral awakening.

 

I really wanted to be true to Finn’s character and not make him into something he’s not or isn’t capable of being no matter how much he tries. I initially had a different ending where Finn changed but it felt forced. Of course he’d go right back to his innate douchebag self because that’s his nature. You can try to change behavior, but inherently, we are all who we are inside.

 

It’s funny because I have a friend who thought Finn had a happy ending but then her boyfriend read the book and he said, “Are you kidding? That’s not a happy ending at all. He goes right back to the way he was before and learns nothing!” It’s all about perspective. From where my friend and I are sitting, it’s a happy ending because, although he may not get away with it much longer, Finn remains true to himself.

 

Finn is the ideal hero for the stories I like to write. He’s human and real and tends to make awful decisions. We all know people like Finn, someone you wouldn’t want babysitting your kids or even watching your dog. Those are the people I like to write about.

 

 

Back in the day, hardboiled fiction benefitted from serialization and radio programs. Now you have blogging and podcasts and all sorts of new publishing platforms. Do you think we’re headed for a noir revival–“new neo-noir”–Is that revival already here? 

 

That’s a tough one. I think because that’s my niche and what I like to read, I feel like noir is a popular genre but really, once I leave my little bubble, it’s not.

I’m also a bookseller and I know noir titles don’t sell as well as lighter or more commercial stuff. I think short story platforms like Great Jones Street  helps to introduce the noir genre to a broader readership. I also think part of it’s geographical. I know noir is very popular with the French and sells well over there.

 

Why the novella form? What was it like working with that page count?

 

I had a contract with a fledgling publisher that was only publishing novellas. It was my first time writing one and as I said, I decided to expand my short story. I’m not sure if that made things easier or more challenging than writing a novella from scratch. I had to figure out which parts I wanted to expand, which characters to explore, and tack on a middle and third act.

 

I’m used to writing tightly because all I had written before were short stories and flash fiction so the shorter the better for me.

 

Sarah m Chen novella author

 

You’re involved with some conferences and a pretty rad sounding crime fiction community. Care to give some shout outs? Where should people go to find great contemporary noir and hardboiled titles?

 

Yes, it’s a fantastic community and I’ve met so many wonderful writers who I call friends. I admire their work and it’s exciting and inspiring to be involved with such talent.

One of my favorites of 2017 is She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper. It’s told from multiple POVs but essentially it’s eleven-year-old Polly’s story. Her ex-con father is on a mission to protect her from a white supremacist gang and it’s brutal yet strangely hopeful.

 

Steph Post’s Lightwood is another one I really dug from early 2017. It’s another story of a criminal family but in this one, Judah Cannon is the protagonist who gets out of prison. He wants to stay out of trouble but his father has other ideas. It’s set in Florida and is straight down and dirty Southern noir.

Quentin Tarantino grew up in the South Bay, in Torrance specifically, and worked at a local video rental store (remember those?).

Marietta Miles is another writer I admire. Her novella, Route 12, is disturbing and poetic. I’m looking forward to MAY, her book coming out with Down & Out early next year. I’ll read any short stories by Jen Conley and everyone should check out her collection, Cannibals. Same with Patti Abbott. Her short stories are some of my favorites and I was so excited when she started writing novels, beginning with Concrete Angel. Greg Barth’s Selena trilogy is some of the most depraved crime fiction I’ve read, yet he has a way of creating characters that you despise and root for at the same time.

 

For great noir, and not to be biased, but I think my publisher All Due Respect Books is putting out some of the best noir in the marketplace. I was thrilled ADR became an imprint of Down & Out Books as D&O also has some of my favorites like Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay.

 

And if you want to get up to speed on what indie publishers are putting out these days, check out David Nemeth’s Small Press Crime Fiction: Incident Report blog. It’s always chock full of the latest hardboiled and noir titles that you may have missed.

What’s next for you? What’s now?

I have some short stories coming out in early 2018. One that came out recently is my story “Masterpiece” in Killing Malmon with Down & Out Books, edited by Kate and Dan Malmon, reviewers for Crimespree Magazine. This is a collection of 30 stories where the only guideline was that Dan Malmon must be killed. All proceeds benefit the MS Society and I was thrilled to be invited to participate.

Killing Malmon Sarah M Chen

I’m in another anthology called The Night of the Flood which I edited along with E.A. Aymar. This was a really fun project to be involved in as fourteen of us wrote interconnecting stories that took place over one chaotic night in a fictional Pennsylvania town. Bestselling and award-winning writer Hank Phillippi Ryan wrote the intro and it will be out March 2018.

 

Other than that, I’m revising my current WIP, a novel featuring a college dropout slacker whose life is in danger thanks to the unwanted return of her estranged father. It’s set in—where else?—the South Bay.

 

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How to Make a Movie When You’re Broke

Threesomething is a story of friendship, loneliness, and a botched threesome. It aims to explore the awkwardness at the heart of so many male friendships and expose the kind of feelings we’re not supposed to talk about, much less make movies about.

The film is the product of a creative partnership and best-friendship between James Morosini and Sam Sonenshine and co-stars Isabelle Chester. They made the film on a micro budget with limited equipment. Rather than limiting them, this scrappy, stripped-down approach put the emphasis on story telling and raw emotional honesty.

I sat down with James and Sam to ask them how they did it and how anyone with a phone can too.

“SPECTACLE IS EXPENSIVE, BUT YOU CAN SHOOT HONESTY ON YOUR PHONE.” 

 Read on at Broke-Ass Stuart.

threesomething-film

 

Saeah Lee’s Siesta Doors

Every day, between the hours of 2:00PM and around 5:00 or 6:00PM, the city of Valencia, Spain shuts down for a siesta. Shops and restaurants all over the city close for business and lower steel shutters over their front doors. Many of these shutters are brightly decorated: with graffiti, murals advertising the business inside, and the occasional spray-painted cock.

 

Photographer Saeah Lee recently started documenting these shutters. She calls them “siesta doors.” Every day at siesta time and all day on Sundays, she’s out finding doors.

Continue reading on Medium

Interview: Alizé Meurisse – Novelist, Painter, Parisian

Back in 2012, while studying abroad in Paris, I did an interview with Alizé Meurisse that became one of my first blog posts and kicked off the Orange Typewriter series.

Alizé is back to talk about her new novel, Ataraxia, and the journey that has produced four novels, a book of artwork, a few album covers, a solo art exhibition, and a clothing line inspired by her work, all before 30.    


Judging by your books, you’re  a serious people watcher, particularly re: women and men.

I guess so. People are interesting. I am a woman and I’m interested in a woman’s experience. In Neverdays I wrote a masculine narrator, you don’t have to be a man to do that. The whole “write about you know” thing is a bit limited. Art, by definition deals with the universal.

With the new novel I’ve tried to explore SciFi as a way to get out of here and now. A poetic way to talk about issues and talk about the world. It’s like a mirror for our inner theatre and society and the self. 

Ataraxia looks at the way we negotiate with our own consciousness, that tight-rope we walk everyday between compromise and internal consistency: I’m a vegetarian but I’m okay with my leather shoes. I’m an environmentalist who leaves the tap on. I found it was easier to talk about these issues through the lens of SciFi

 

But you’re not ideological. You don’t seem to have an axe to grind. 

It’s about seeing the big picture and the mechanisms at work in our lives.  My interest in those mechanisms came from issues with my own femininity as a teenager. I was upset over the way women are perceived and groomed to be. From that understanding I became kinder and was able to step out of the system myself. Before I figured that out I really had issues with other women and with being one.

 

I don’t know how to put this, but not every writer belongs in a Parisian fashion line… The great feminist Norman Mailer wrote something about how most writers grow up on the sidelines (in American football) and don’t get asked to the big dance and writing is their solace. He argued that it can be hard out there for writers who are easy on the  eyes and socially well adjusted, like they don’t fit in with the misfits.

I probably found the same  solace in drawing and writing and everything. I  don’t feel popular and pretty.

Also my idea of attractiveness has always been a little removed and voyeuristic. Society seems to have a voyeuristic  attraction to artists who drink a lot and take drugs, which I don’t. I would rate myself as interesting or attractive by that standard.

 

What do you think of Paris? Your hometown does happen to be the spiritual home of the arts, but I feel like people who aren’t from there have a very different perspective. We Hemingway-ize the hell out of it.  

I like Paris but it’s very expensive now.  I don’t live the glamorous Parisian life other artists might lead and others might imagine. London has undergone the same change but somehow stays more vibrant. I think it’s up to the young people to keep the scene alive. I haven’t been but I hear Berlin has the hype that Paris once had.

To me Paris a very isolating place. The isolation has improved a little since I adopted a cat. 

You were a painter first, right?

Alize-MeurisseYes. I was always drawing as a kid, writing came later. I only came to enjoy reading literature in high school when I started to understand how a text works. It’s always been about the inner workings of the text for me. I’m more interested in the layers of structure than the outer polish of plot and context.

I prefer the poetry of language to pure story. I think that’s related to drawing and painting. Words are another material, like a brush, like paint.

 

Did you have any formal training as an artist?

There’s an established path for artists in France, I didn’t follow that track. I ran away at 19.

When I was in high school my parents got divorced. I did a 2 year prep course (after high school) in philosophy and lit. When I finished my dad really wanted me to go to uni so we didn’t get along. It got to where he was going to kick me out if I didn’t go. At one point he told me that if I thought I could become a so-called artist and still have a roof over my head I had another think coming. I was so outraged by the injustice of his words I left in a fury. It wasn’t so much his reservations about an artist’s life–that was fair enough–but the way he assumed I was lying and manipulating. I held myself to a very high moral standard in those days and being called a liar was unthinkable. 

Anyway, I called his bluff: I slammed the door,  packed my little suitcase with my Nikon FM camera, and went to London to be an artist. I was 19.

London seemed like a natural choice because it was close and I had studied English in school.  London’s pretty attractive it feels like anything can happen there.

Alize-meurisseI took photos of famous British bands. When I got back, publishers were interested in doing a coffee table book but one publisher told me the book was a bad idea. They said people would only see the fame and I’d be invisible. But let’s see your writing. 

When I decided to turn down the money for the coffee table book and write a novel my father was again furious “who do you think you are! ‘A writer!?’ Get over yourself. You should take the money you’re lucky to be offered for those photos… etc”.
Again I slammed the door behind me. The opposition spurred me on. And of course when the novel came out he was very proud.


I guess sometimes you need to feel that someone has faith in you and I’ve often been lifted by that kind of support. But nay-sayer also have their use in terms of motivation. With hindsight I’m glad I had something to push back against.

It all could have gone very differently. It’s not luck, but when you’re that young you don’t think in terms of a future and a career. I had no idea where any of it was going. What was lucky was my living situation. Because I had a camera a lot of people opened their doors. I could squat anywhere and that changed things. Having a day job makes it harder.

One thing I learned doing it that way is that mistakes aren’t really mistakes.

I chose a very different path but many people need the support and structure of art school. There’s more of that internal negotiation with ourselves. I made it work in a way that worked for me.

 

Were the album covers an offshoot of that London project?

Those came a bit later, after the first novels. I did the Babyshamble’s cover for “Shotter’s Nation” and then Peter’s (Doherty) solo album.

grace/watelands-peter-doherty-solo-album-alize-meurisseshotters-nation-babyshambles-album-cover-alize-meurisse

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of hard drugs in that scene in London. What was that like as a teetotaling observer? In my experience it tends to be the innocent bystanders who catch most of the shrapnel in an addict’s life.

I learned a lot. Trust is funny, you never have any guarantees trusting anyone, but when it comes to any addict you  have the guarantee that the trust will be broken. So people just give up and walk away.

Personally, I’ve never been a big party girl. Even around bands, to me it was more of a clan and a community than a rock and roll bacchanalia.

Publishers like autobiographical fiction. But that’s not me, I don’t have the lifestyle you see in my books. Being around that stuff requires balance. As a person you’re looking for a sense of health and happiness but at the same time you need to let in a little chaos. That’s another one of those bargains, that’s the idea underlying the new novel. Every choice we make matters.

 

Alize-meurisseDo you ever worry about being defined by that time in your life? Your British rock cred does seem to be the first they bring up in reviews and interviews.

It can be a bit frustrating, but you expect people to mention it. You can’t live on bitterness and frustration. The variety of life experiences is so much bigger than any one event or accomplishment. That’s what I’m interested in. 

 

What does research look like for you?

Never thought about seeking out settings and subjects. I like not having a settled life and having the freedom to do something spontaneous. I wonder should I travel? I adopted a cat recently, that’s been a big change. It’s soothing to come home to her, but If I find myself thinking about the possibility of taking a trip six months from now, maybe a trip that I wouldn’t have even considered if I didn’t have this attachment. I can’t so I won’t.

I don’t put myself through things in order to write. I think you have to live your life and if you have something to write then you should write it.  

 

Your first two novels are short, right in that word-count range that’s supposed to make publisher’s nervous. Do you think about that sort of thing?

I’ve always written the books I was interested in figuring out. It’s like a puzzle. Each has its own rules and I’m excited to figure those out. This one was different, more like a camera’s eye moving around. Everything happens in front of you. It’s not meant to be funny, it’s not first person, so you don’t get the same closeness as you do with the other books.

As for an audience, I didn’t think about what the larger public wants, I’ve been lucky to work with publishers who feel the same.

alize-meurisse

Your style has been compared to a “couteau Suisse” (Swiss Army knife.)

That comes from collage. Depth comes from that correspondence of different parts. A text works the same way–visually.

You always hit a moment where you have to replenish yourself, it’s always good to turn to something else, like drawing or painting and come back.

 

What’s something you see a lot in fiction that you don’t like?

I don’t like it when an author is not aware of their own prism, especially when it comes to men writing about women.

Alize-meurisseDo you find you learn a lot from work you don’t like?

Definitely. Rather than getting angry about it, I exercise my right to reply.

 

Who should we read?

I keep reading but my goes blank when anyone asks about favorites. It’s the same with movies. I can’t think in terms of favorites. I guess you could compare it to food right? You eat, you get hungry, but you don’t have a menu in your head.

 

Any thoughts on the future of publishing?

It’s been really eye opening to change publishers. I had to learn what’s going on and the politics involved. But I don’t know what’s going to happen. If anything  it’s (e-publishing) only going to raise the standards for print.

The publishing industry likes safe bets from massive success. I don’t think that will change.

 

I’ve heard other French writers and readers praise Irish/Anglo/American fiction for the way our writers play with language and structure. They say that’s just not done the same way in French. My French isn’t good enough to put that theory to the test.

It’s true. That’s why I love reading in English.

 

The one exception I can think of is Jean Genet

I loved Genet straight away for his use of language.

 

It’s amazing how he can make such an unpleasant subject so emotionally captivating. (Prison sex, for those of you who don’t know.)

That’s the power of poetics. Nabokov’s Lolita does that too.

 

alize-meurisse-jumper-each-otherWe read that book in a class on narrative in college. One young lady told the class it made her wonder, “Was I a ‘nymphet’ at that age?”

It’s so sad, but as women, we’re taught to care about the man’s opinion of us, even if he is a monster like Humbert Humbert.


Do you ever write in English?

I do, and I absolutely love it. Writing in English is like the moment when you check your bags at the airport and you’re free to move around.

 

What’s your process when it comes to painting?

I don’t analyze what I’m doing. Some things work, some things don’t. Not very conceptual I guess. I’m more interested in art alize-meurissewhere you can see the artist’s body in action. Like drawing where you see the hand of interaction between artist and medium.

Conceptual art is like a detective story, once you know “who done-it” there’s nothing there for you anymore. I prefer that fossil trace of the artist. I want to make art that stands up in time, even for a single person, something you can come back to again and again.

The art that I enjoy most makes me want to make things.  

 

Is the “right to reply” related to loneliness in any way? You don’t that connection from a frustrating piece of art so you must connect in your own way.

It’s more of a pure pleasure I think. When I see art that I love it makes me want to make art because the pleasure I get from it is such a high. And the stuff that I disagree with, I just exercise a kind of “right of reply” (most of the time a female right of reply to a patriarchal perspective which I find oppressive and enraging, but it happens with many other subject matters too)

I’ve never been all that active on social media not written a blog or a journal, but I’m happy to post whatever doodle or iPhone pic I might have taken that day that “connection” is very nice on a daily basis although I think the work demands a certain amount of solitude. Of forgetting oneself.

 

Have you got any advice for the person you were ten years ago?

My First book was in 2007, so ten years ago I was working on that. It’s interesting you should ask that because sometimes I wish I could just Alize-Meurisseedit my life, but at the same time if you’re happy with the place you’re in now you don’t want to change it and that includes the times that lead you to that place.

I don’t know that I would give myself advice but I wish I could go back and give myself a hug.

 

What keeps you going?

At the end of (writing) each novel there’s the fear you won’t write another. You don’t have it in you to write another right away and the fear is maybe you won’t. But if you have that writing bug you will be filled again and you’ll have to get it all out on the page.

Painting is much more location dependent. I may move someday for the painting.

People say you have to suffer, but there’s real highs to the writing.

 

So you must be in that place right now… What’s next?

alize-meurisse

I find that after dedicating myself fully to a project I’m not ready to jump straight into something else, there’s a transition period; a palate cleanser moment when I need to get some rest, to replenish, until the need/will to create comes back. A season-like cycle if you will.


I don’t have a routine, sometimes you have to allow yourself to do nothing. At all. Stay empty. And sometimes you have to push yourself a bit to get started again, but so far I’ve found that the happiness I get from creating stuff (writing/drawing) is embedded deep within me, that’s the way I am/see the world/process it/digest it. Of course there are moments of doubt when you wonder whether you’ve still got it in you ; but I guess you learn to go with the flow and not worry during the quieter times which are just as important as the more manic ones, some things happen under the surface.


And I think the recent disappointment in my old publishing company; the anguish of feeling betrayed and misunderstood has given me both the opportunity to fight for my work (I couldn’t have rested until it got published, so much work had to come full circle) but afterward I felt a sort of peace… like I had nothing to prove to myself or anyone anymore, in terms of ambition etc. It was humbling I guess, I realised I was ok with working in a shop and not publishing anything else again.


I guess if I start working and caring about another book the need to release it to the world will come back. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was on a path, in a publishing company that wasn’t just thinking in terms of books (each book being it’s own separate project) but in terms of my “carrier” and their own “reputation” (they feared the latter would be threatened by the publication of this book), and this sort of consideration really doesn’t sit well with me.
You always want your books to be well received, and when you’re young you have something to prove yourself so it matters even more. But I’m 30, I know even if I never make a living with my art, that’s ok. I just hope I’ll have other things to release into the world because I know it will be a source of great joy for me; working is such a high.
Sorry about the rambling…

you’re catching me at the lowest ebb
In a nutshell I guess what’s next is perseverance

 


Images courtesy of Alizé Meurisse

This interview has been edited for content and length. 

Adventures of Justin, the Most Interesting Man on Instagram

I’m on the phone with Justin Alexander. He’s calling from the roof of a Mexican restaurant where he’s bivouacking (sleeping under the stars) somewhere in the American Southwest. He explains that rooftops are ideal for urban camping. They provide safety and concealment and tend to pick up free wifi–tonight he’s getting his from the chain hotel next door.

This rooftop is as much Justin’s home as anywhere. He prefers ‘home free’ to ‘homeless.’ He’s not mentally ill or a junky, but rather clean cut and Facebook friends with his mom. Justin is a nomad, adventurer, survivalist, and self described ‘modern day ninja.’ He gets my vote for the most interesting person on Instagram.

Continue reading at Broke-Ass Stuart. 

Justin--Alexander--adventures--of--Justin--campfire

INTERVIEW: Kimberley Chambers Swims from Farallons to SF

When Kimberly Chambers set out to attempt her epic swim, her crew received some ominous news: a freshly decapitated seal carcass had been spotted out at the Farallons, near her starting point. This confirmed what she and her support crew already knew: she would be sharing the water with great white sharks.

At 11:10pm that night (August 7th,) she stepped over the side of her support boat and settled into a front crawl stroke. Her destination was the Golden Gate Bridge, thirty miles away. She stared down into the black Pacific, through her goggles, and reminded herself that sharks don’t feed at night.
Seventeen hours and twelve minutes later, she emerged from the Bay immortal.
To put her achievement into perspective:Kimberley--Chambers--swims--farallons--to--golden--gate--bridge
4,000 men and women have summited Mt. Everest.
1,979 have swum the English Channel.
12 men have walked on the moon.
Only 5 people have swum from the Farallons to San Francisco. Kimberley is the first woman. There’s only one Kimberly Chambers.

After taking some time to process her accomplishment, Kim told me her story.

Read the interview at Broke-Ass Stuart.

Matthew Merle Bula’s Process of Discovery

Matthew--Merle--Bula--portrait--seoul--korea
Ⓒ Matthew Merle Bula 

Mathew Merle Bula’s images deal with loneliness, longing, and isolation. He works in South Korea where these emotions are accessible in abundance just beneath the national veneer of success, hard work, and hospitality. His treatment of surface and depth, his insistence on the second look, draw from his travels and evolving relationship with his home, Canada. This interview is the product of a long talk over pork soup(dwaeji gukbap) and a visit to a Korean modern art museum, where Matt showed me that you can always explore an image a little longer. There’s always more to see. 




ON WORKFLOW
Matthew--Merle--Bula--studioMMB: Each image, from concept to printed document can take upwards of months to create for me. Discovering and developing a concept, choosing a location, models, sets, props – all of these things take me a not-insignificant amount of time to prepare and decide on. Once the shoot is done, I need to send my film off for processing. It normally returns within a week, whereupon I take an evening to analyze it and scan high resolution frames for digital post-production later on.



ON TOOLS 
MMB: My workhorse cameras are the Mamiya RZ67 and the Mamiya 7 (both medium format). I also have a Cambo 4×5 (on a rail) sadly sitting in a box in a basement in Canada. 
 문어--mun--eu--octopus--Matthew--Merle--Bula--Seoul--South--Korea--2013
 문어 (Mun-Eo) – Seoul, Korea 2013

I shoot medium and large format film, although for my latest work, it’s been restricted to medium format, due to logistical constraints. I have mostly focused on still images since beginning my practice, although I have recently been branching out into other mediums, and incorporating them into either the sets of the images that I create, or using a medium to alter the negatives chemically.


I started my practice in the studio, where I could assume total control – and responsibility – for the things that took place, and successes or failures that ensued. Lately, I have been trying to adapt a studio mentality to “set” locations that I have scouted in the outside world (which has proven to be a lot more interesting!).

A note about models. I always make an effort to pay or reimburse my models for their time and effort. I think that it’s very important that time is paid for, acknowledged and respected in the art world. It’s good karma.




ON THE ‘WHY?’
MMB: I think that this helps to create different ‘levels’ of access for the viewer – or ‘a process of discovery’ as I sometimes think of it. I want my images to reward the people that take the time to explore them, relate to them and then discover that the message of the image may actually change as they develop their own narrative moving through it. The majority of people don’t do this however, most images are consumed on a very cursory level, and that’s okay. 

ON PROCRASTINATION AND RESISTANCE 
MMB: I know that a lot of people have to ‘schedule time’ for their art lives, or go on ‘artist dates’ with themselves. I originally started doing that to build up my confidence in my life choice of pursuing art, but now making things is just a part of my daily life. If I’m not making images, I’ll be thinking about them, I’ll hang out at museums, or sketch scenes in a drawing book, make a plaster model, or do some wood-working. The act of creating begets the act of creating. Everything that I do has an impact on everything that I will do. It’s all connected. I rarely feel like the things that I am making are ‘work’ (which is a good thing, because I rarely see any money from it). 

When it does get tough, and I have a deadline, I find that blocking time off for very specific goals helps me to stay on track and not burn myself out. 



Be advised, some of his images are very NSFW.

The Rats of Hyper-Reality–a Chat with Jim Ruland

Jim Ruland’s debut novel, Forest of Fortune is a new classic of California noir. It’s Raymond Chandler in the age of polyamory, Dashiell Hammett with a novelty coke straw up its nose, Inherent Vice after the yuppies stormed the beaches and nudged all the freaks east of the 405. The setting, a “possibly haunted” Indian casino is hysterical, the players are human and heartbreaking. No blurb could really do Forest justice, so let’s hear Jim read it. Here you have the infamous Korean Gangster threesome:
 
 
Jim Ruland is among the California Republic’s most energetic and collaborative authors. He commands an army with his Vermin on the Mount reading series. His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Believer, Granta, Hobart, Los Angeles Times, Oxford American, McSweeneys, and Razorcake. He is the author of the short story collection Big Lonesomeand co-author of Giving the Fingerthe memoir of an Alaskan crab fisherman. I caught Jim on his way to Prague for Vermin’s European tour
 
 
Tell us about Forest of Fortune.
jim--ruland--forest--of--fortune 
Forest of Fortune tells the story of three haunted souls trapped in an Indian casino on a reservation in Southern California with a slot machine that may or may not be haunted. It is useful to know that I worked at an Indian casino for over five years. I like to call it my autobiographical ghost story.

Will there be a sequel?  
I think so. I don’t want to drop any spoilers so I won’t say too much, but at the end of the book some characters get out of the casino while others stay behind. I’m interested in following both storylines. I think one of the secondary characters in the novel could end up becoming a protagonist in the follow up. And I’d like to saddle Pemberton, the character who is the most autobiographical, with another ridiculous job: as a writer for a magazine that is a distribution vehicle for a notorious series of soft-core porn videos.
                                               


Tell us about THIS IS NOT A CAMERA.To celebrate the launch of the paperback of Forest of Fortune, I put out a series of short essays about what it was like to work in an Indian casino during the recession. The pieces were originally published by McSweeney’s and I’ve gathered them in a zine with photos, promos and fake logos. You can order THIS IS NOT A CAMERA for under a buck.
 

Dependence and addiction of all sorts feature prominently in your work, what is it about those states?
 
 
Addiction and dependence are altered states taken to their unnatural extremes, but it seems to me that the desire to shatter the status quo and break free of our body’s baseline consciousness is endemic to the human experience. Consider how difficult a process it is to distill spirits or make drugs in the natural world, yet just about every culture found a way to do it. Not to sound like Allen Ginsburg, but it’s how we become holy. 
 
 
Your work is a mix of solo projects and more collaborative endeavors. You seem to give both a lot of love and attention. How do you balance these in a given working day? 
I’m not sure that I do. I am by nature an all-or-nothing type of person. If I have a bunch of interviews to transcribe for a project, for example, my goal will be to work on them for an hour a day. But I’m never satisfied and that hour turns to two or more. Then I feel like I’m ahead of the game and I’ll turn my attention to the story or novel I’m working on, but then I’ll get sucked up in that and it might take me a couple of days to get back to the interviews and I’m behind again. I was never very good at moderation, which is why I’m a recovering alcoholic. The best advice I can give is to use what little time you have as best as you can with as much intensity as you can muster and have faith that it will all work out in the end.
 
 
This blog deals a lot with creativity hacks. How do you work?
I find that if I get something down first thing in the morning – whether it’s transcribing, a book review, or one of my own projects – it helps me sharpen my focus with respect to how I spend the rest of my free time that day. I have a day job and work from home so its important to do something for me first. I had a realization last year that the bulk of the writing I do will never appear in a book. That really helped me focus my energy on books projects and making sure I do something every day to move the book projects forward.
 

One Question for Seth Godin

 
This blog owes its existence to the wisdom of Seth Godin. These posts are an exercise in what he calls “shipping.” I make something every day and put it out in the world in order to practice the vulnerability required to make art. I think out loud often enough and publicly enough that I lose any fear of sharing my words. Seth Godin’s blog is my model. 
 
For those of you who don’t know, Seth Godin is the best selling author of Poke the Boxthe Icarus Deception, and the Purple Cow. He is the founder of Squidoo and Yoyodyne, one of the first online marketing firms. Forbes Magazine described Godin as a “Demigod on the web… uniquely respected for his understanding of the internet.” 
 
Recently Godin reached out to his readers for questions to address in an online course on freelancing. Mine is one of the questions that he chose. Here’s what he had to say: 
 
Charles Daly:
If, starting today, you had to draw 100% of your income from writing fiction how would you go about doing that? As writers we’re told that only the outliers get to pay the bills with novels, is that true?
 
Seth Godin:
As I’ve said before, and I’m going to keep saying, being generic is a choice. Being average is a choice, being in the middle is a choice. Only outliers can make a good living as freelancers. Only outliers make a living writing fiction. 
[..]
It’s the outliers who succeed, so that’s not the question. The question is: what type of outlier are you willing to be? 
 
One type of outlier is to be the writer of a specific type of genre fiction that you can own, that you can be the leader of, that you can be on the edge of. There’s someone I was talking to the other day who writes adult fiction that involves men and women and various furry animals. Don’t ask me, but there are people who really want that and if you’re the one who owns that genre you can do just fine. 
 
The other alternative is […] to build a subscriber base. You, like Charles Dickens, can have people who sign up to hear from you on a regular basis. 
 
So our work, as a writer of fiction, is to build something people want to talk about and they want to sign up for. 
 
What I say to every first-time novelist is simple:  if you can’t get it sold to a big, fancy publishing house (and you probably can’t,) take your novel, print it to PDF–make it pretty–and then send your novel to a hundred people. If they share it with a thousand or ten thousand people you’re doing great and publishers will start calling you. And if they don’t share it, well, your novel wasn’t that good and you should start over. But either way, it doesn’t wait for you to sit around hoping to get picked. 
 
Seth Godin
 
 
Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course is available through Udemy. It is a must for anyone interested in freelancing and entrepreneurship. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Along with Seth Godin’s eighty-seven mini lectures (varying in length from 1 to 5 minutes,) you get an active and supportive online community, and assignments to evaluate your assets as a freelancer. 
 
There’s another lesson here: I almost didn’t submit my question. There was a deadline, so I didn’t think I had enough time to craft something perfect that would wow my hero (because that’s why you ask questions, right?) Besides, I’m not someone who wins contests anyway. My question was far from perfect–I think I sounded like a fourth grader on career day–but I shipped it.
 
Thank you, Seth. 
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