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An Interview with Aline Kominsky-Crumb

An image of Aline Kominsky-Crumb is depicted in the picture, which was taken during an interview.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb was born in 1948 in New York and attended SUNY New Paltz for a brief period before relocating to Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

She then went to Cooper Union for one semester and then to the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting.

At the age of twenty-two, right after divorcing, she made the decision to go to San Francisco and join the underground comix movement, getting inspiration from Robert Crumb (who she ended up marrying) and the influential Justin Green, who published Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary in 1971, the first comics autobiography.

Famously, Kominsky-Crumb created what is thought to be the first autobiographical comic written by a woman, which was titled “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman” and was published in the first issue of the underground publication Wimmen’s Comix.

She was thus given the name, as she puts it, of “the grandmother of whiny tell-all comics.” Throughout her career, she published her work in underground titles such as Wimmen’s Comix, Manhunt, Lemme Outa Here!, Dope Comix, and Arcade.

Moreover, she edited Weirdo for seven years and started up the comic books Twisted Sisters, Power Pak, Dirty Laundry, and Self-Loathing Comics (the latter two with Robert Crumb).

Kominsky-Crumb has authored three volumes: _Love That Bunch (1990, using her nickname, “The Bunch”), The Complete Dirty Laundry Comics (1993, with Robert Crumb), and Need More Love: A Graphic Memoir (2007, a 384-page autobiography that showcases her diverse visuals outside the realm of comics).

Her next work will be a collaboration with her partner, published by W. W. Norton, and their joint comic strips have been printed in the New Yorker since 1995._

I had a phone conversation with Kominsky-Crumb on July 27, 2009. I was situated in my Cambridge office, and she was in a nine-level stone house in Sauve, France (where her husband occasionally spoke up).

Afterwards, she invited me over to her home, featuring studios for both her and her husband.

She not only showed me her extensive body of work, which fills the walls of her home, but also cooked me meals – including chocolate cake – and took me to her very strenuous exercise class. On the last night, her daughter Sophie Crumb (creator of Belly Button Comix) joined us; she resides about twenty minutes from there and is expecting a baby boy – a main topic of Aline and Robert’s new, lengthy collaborative story.

Kominsky-Crumb, with Sophie, usually showcases her works in an art gallery she co-runs with other artists in Sauve.

–Hillary Chute as stated by

Hillary Chute has elucidated that

I. “Attending an art school had a negative impact on my enthusiasm for painting”.

As a child, ALINE KOMINSKY-CRUMB had a difficult time growing up in Woodmere, Long Island.

She describes it as a horrible place with 95 percent of the population being Jewish and incredibly competitive, materialistic and nose-job obsessed. It was a boring, oppressive society that had nothing else to offer.

However, at the age of fourteen, she began to sneak away to Manhattan, visiting the Village and museums, which allowed her to be creative, as she started painting when she was eight years old.

This kept her going through her difficult upbringing.

BLVR: During your childhood, you took art classes that your parents funded, but they eventually discontinued financing them.

The AKC viewed the idea as foolish, thus leading me to believe it was a good one.

BLVR asked if the individual’s grandfather had been a painter.

The AKC recounts that their grandfather was a painter, but they never met him. After the passing of their father, they stumbled upon two paintings that he had created while tidying up the house.

Their mother was ready to discard them as “junk”, but the AKC kept them as a reminder of their grandfather, as the paintings were from the 1920s.

While he wasn’t a renowned painter, the AKC found the works to be quite intriguing.

My family was focused solely on making money, so I had no cultural exposure.

Their reaction to my dream of being an artist was a dismissive one; they suggested I become an art teacher instead.

BLVR: Was the desire to create art something you had since you were young?

The AKC stated that drawing provided them with a way to unwind and stay composed.

This activity quickly became an essential part of how they managed their mental health, and so it was not something that they gave a lot of thought to.

During your time in art school, was it coinciding with the abstract expressionist movement?

From the age of eight up until high school, I had a very distinct style and outlook. But then when I went to art school, it threw me for a loop.

I felt like all of my work was terrible and I stopped growing as an artist. To cope, I began doodling in notebooks and making humorous drawings and writing down ideas. That’s how I eventually arrived at creating comics.

Art school caused me to give up painting, as I no longer felt like I could progress in that medium.

My experience with art school led me to appreciate comics more. It was when I saw the first Zap comic and then Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary that I knew I wanted to tell my story.

I was in awe of Zap Comix, but I couldn’t imagine myself doing what they were doing as it was too hard. However, Justin’s work provided a way for me to find my own voice. His drawings were so personal, I thought it was the best thing I had ever seen.

I wanted to do something similar to that, regardless of who would read it or why.

BLVR: It’s fascinating that he and you both had that abstractionism art background and then switched to doing comic books.

I heard he was honing his skills at the Rhode Island School of Design in abstract expressionist painting.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggested that they had difficulty connecting with the abstract expressionists due to personal struggles in finding a means to express themselves.

Neither of them were able to find any resonance with the movement.

The art of Robert Crumb was incredibly remarkable as it spoke to the nostalgia of the comic books of the 1920s while also possessing a distinct psychedelic vibe.

This combination was so powerful and resonant that it reached deep within the audience.

A picture of Aline Kominsky-Crumb can be seen in this image. The interview with her is captured in this photo, which shows a resolution of 1920×1798.

We exclaimed in shock, “Oh my god,” and it was a moment that opened up a lot of potential for people.

Robert’s work completely revolutionized the art world, especially graphic art. It had a major impact on the French art scene as well, even though we had no idea what was going on.

It is also interesting to note that his work was being illegally reproduced in the 1970s without us knowing.

II. A GROUP NAMED TWISTED SISTER USED YOUR TITLE.

Could you explain to me the development of your initial comics work, “Goldie”?

The AKC mentioned their maiden name was Goldsmith, and that people referred to their father as “Goldie”.

Nevertheless, they weren’t fond of this name because it seemed to embody an aspect of themselves that they found repulsive. Therefore, the name matched that part of their personality.

BLVR: The panel where your dad is walking towards you, telling you to “C’mere,” was incredibly powerful to me.

You visualize him with an erection, and it’s an unpleasant sight. However, the next panel features Goldie engaged in self-pleasuring.

That is what is so captivating: you are revolted by your father’s sensuality, yet it does not keep you from being able to express your own.

The AKC stated that their father had made them feel unattractive, yet they still desired to partake in sexual activities.

They wanted to enjoy themselves and explore all the opportunities available to them, so the feeling of being disgusted did not stop them.…

By expressing the ugliness, I felt a sort of freedom. That unpleasantness was something forced onto me, and I felt a need to be rid of it.

I never lost hope; deep down, I always felt optimistic, as if that darkness wasn’t truly part of me.

I knew I was strong and that I would be able to escape the restrictive environment and the negative beliefs, and create a life filled with exciting experiences and discoveries.

And that’s exactly what I did.

What was the outcome for Wimmen’s Comix?

The AKC explained how the original women’s comic book first came about.

There were not enough artists to begin the project, which is why they let anyone who wanted to be a part of it join.

They then met Diane Noomin, the creator of Didi Glitz, on the bus. Upon seeing her drawing in a sketchbook, they invited her to join the project, and she accepted.

BLVR commented on the delightful tale.

The AKC initially weren’t aiming for any particular demographic, however, it ended up being labeled a “women’s art collective” and Trina was at the helm.

The group was divided into two camps: those who were fiercely anti-male and those who embraced their independence but still desired male companionship.

BLVR: In short, the topic at hand was related to sexuality.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) was talking about the idea of having control over one’s life.

BLVR inquired if Trina had any notable opinions concerning the speaker’s aesthetic. They wanted to know if the difference was in terms of ideology and style.

Trina was a major opponent of autobiographical comics when AKC began creating them together. She attempted to dissuade him from writing those types of comics.

The image depicted shows Aline Kominsky-Crumb in an interview. She is the focus of the picture and is surrounded by a deep green background.

BLVR asked, “What did she say?”

The AKC stated that people wish to be inspired by what they read, not to hear about mundane everyday tasks.

Robert then spoke up in the background, and Trina added that no one wants to know whether they are stressing being fat or unattractive.

Indeed, I am in agreement…

The AKC stated that it appears people are actually interested in such topics. When considering the kind of comedy that is popular, it is evident that people enjoy reading about this genre.

Nevertheless, back then people had different views. Graphic novels were not yet a form of art and underground comics were a stepping stone from the traditional comic books to what we have today.

Trina was perplexed as to why I had drawn myself on a toilet. I was deliberately challenging the conventional notion of femininity and I took a certain pleasure in shocking people with my vulgar and repulsive images.

What made you choose to create Twisted Sisters?

Diane and I were both very unhappy with the way the Wimmen’s Comix crew was treating us, and we decided to create something new. We brainstormed a hundred potential titles, and eventually decided on AKC.

Unfortunately, another group called Twisted Sister stole it. Nevertheless, we wanted our product to be free of the “political correctness” that we felt was ruining our experience with the former group.

When I was younger, I had a great affinity for them.

The idea, which originated in our comic, was accepted.

BLVR asked if there was any reaction to the cover.

It passed by without me realizing, to be honest. But then a few years later, I remember Peter Bagge saying to me, “I just checked out Twisted Sisters and I noticed: you drew a picture of yourself on the loo! How could you do that?”

I commented, “I think the rationale for why I did it was because I found it enjoyable to read comics on the toilet and I was pleased to be creating art with that same purpose.

I did not consider it remarkable for a woman to draw herself on the toilet; it just seemed like the natural thing to do.

Unfortunately, the comic did not make much of an impact; we had no response, and it didn’t sell many copies. No one liked it, and that was that.” [Laughs.]

Nothing I ever did seemed to work out. I never got invitations from universities, no input from the fine arts or comics industry. Nothing. [Laughs.]

BLVR: This provides a certain degree of purity to your work, doesn’t it? You’re really being inventive without any outside pressures influencing your art…

The AKC suggests that if, for any peculiar cause, they had been welcomed into the mainstream culture, that could have had a destructive effect. Robert had a tough time after he gained fame too soon.

BLVR: Even after working on Twisted Sisters, you didn’t shy away from tackling your own solo comic, Power Pak.

My work was never commercially successful, so even the people at my publisher would often express their dissatisfaction.

However, Gary Groth was kind enough to release the book collection, Love That Bunch, due to the Hernandez Brothers and Peter Bagge’s insistence to have it published, as they highly appreciated my work.

BLVR: What difficulty arose when attempting to locate a printer for that book?

The American Kennel Club expressed that a few of the illustrations I had drawn were too revolting for some of the Christian printers to reproduce, as they refused to do so.

BLVR asked if Fantagraphics had employed a Christian printer?

At the time, AKC was looking for the most inexpensive printer they could find. Unfortunately, many printers had Christian beliefs, so they had to search around.

Eventually, they persevered and found someone who was willing to print their material, which featured male characters in degrading and unpleasant sexual situations.

It appears that male printers were not too keen on the idea, as it was not something they were comfortable with.

A photo of Aline Kominsky-Crumb is seen in this picture, taken during an interview in 2009. The image captures the essence of the conversation that took place.

I have always been curious to understand why comics are often seen as “pornographic” yet other types of such material are published without any issues.

Why did you and Phoebe Gloeckner have a difficult time getting them printed?

The American Kennel Club believes that since women are creating a distinct, powerful, and rebellious means of examining sex and the relationship between genders, it can be disquieting because it is not the way society typically views it.

BLVR asked about the role the speaker had been playing as an editor, as well as a tastemaker in general.

It was noted that they had been the editor of Weirdo from 1986 to 1993, while also founding Twisted Sisters, Power Pak, Self Loathing, and Dirty Laundry. It was highlighted that it was a significant presence in the world of comics.

AKC: Growing up in the suburbs of New York, I was a typical baby boomer and a hippie. Eventually, I went out to the country and accomplished a lot of work with Robert in the middle of nowhere.

This experience was very personal, and if it had any impact on anyone, it’s likely because a lot of people can relate to the journey I went through.

As I distanced myself from the magazine, I was able to reflect on it. When I was editing Weirdo, there were no other platforms for new work.

I received a huge volume of submissions and had to make the difficult decision of turning down some excellent material.

It was difficult, but many people had their first break in the magazine – Julie Doucet, Carol Tyler and Dori Seda included.

BLVR inquired if the person in question was Phoebe Gloeckner.

The American Kennel Club: I encountered Phoebe when she was fourteen, due to her discovering my work tucked away under her mother’s bed. It was a really precious period of time.

Many individuals, who had been inspired by the first wave of cartoonists from the 1960s, were beginning and plenty of young people were producing comic strips.

III. WHAT OTHER CHOICE IS THERE BUT TO ACCEPT YOUR YOKO-NESS?

In the early 1970s, Dirty Laundry was the comic book you began to collaborate on with Robert.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) reported receiving an immense amount of negative feedback when the first Dirty Laundry was released. In particular, the organization remembers two distinct remarks: “Maybe she’s a great lay, but keep her off the fucking page” and “Keep her in the kitchen.

You do the cartooning.” Interestingly, this response motivated them to be even more daring and bold, leading to the adoption of the name “Yoko Buncho.” This just goes to show that sometimes, the best reaction to criticism is to simply embrace it.

BLVR: In your opinion, why did the fans not take to your work as much as Robert’s? Was it because they were more impressed by the craftsmanship of his pieces?

The AKC expressed that it was audacious of them to think that their flat-scratching was on par with a genius such as Robert.

As a result, many of the devoted fans were taken aback. Moreover, even some of Robert’s closest friends viewed the AKC’s actions as aggressive and presumptuous.

BLVR posed the question, “Do you think this is similar to Yoko’s?”

The American Kennel Club agreed with me; it was just like Yoko. I wasn’t exaggerating.

What is the contrast between the Dirty Laundry pieces and the more subtle New Yorker material?

The New Yorker project was like a classic George Burns and Gracie Allen skit. We always get into character when we are working.

BLVR responded affirmatively.

A photograph of Aline Kominsky-Crumb is presented, featuring her in a classic interview pose. This image captures her unique style and presence.

The AKC mentioned that the concept for Dirty Laundry had been gradually constructed over time. Initially, it was done simply to entertain themselves, but then it was published and they began to focus on creating interesting and entertaining stories.

We began our journey in journalism by covering stories from the New Yorker, attending Fashion Week, Cannes and other similar events, and it was truly enjoyable. After that, we created a story about the tape dispenser.

Currently, we are working on a piece about the difficulty of obtaining a vacuum cleaner in France; it is quite revealing about life in that area and makes for a good narrative.

When creating the comics, it is like being a stand-up comic, where I don’t have to delve into my painful childhood too much. It’s much more pleasurable to work on.

I am highly impressed by the explicit scenes in Dirty Laundry.

The American Kennel Club’s reaction was a hum.

BLVR: It is quite obvious, but it is a mutual agreement. There is something extraordinary about the depiction of sexuality between two people.

The American Kennel Club had no opinion on the matter, admitting they were not knowledgeable enough to make a judgment.

It was something I had never witnessed in my life.

The AKC stated that no other husband and wife duo has ever worked together to produce a comic book before.

Additionally, they mentioned that they included their daughter in the comic book, thereby making them the only family to do so.

They concluded that there was nothing like it before or after, and that this was a truly unique experience.

Has your mum yet to observe your accomplishments?

After Terry Zwigoff’s film Crumb, AKC reported that the person in question was left feeling wounded.

BLVR inquired as to why she had viewed it.

AKC: I had advised her not to watch the film, but all her friends had seen it and this caused her great embarrassment.

She was so upset that she stopped speaking to me for three months. Eventually, she did not want to remain disconnected from me.

I said, “I used to take extreme measures to cope with my emotions when I was younger, but I wouldn’t do that now. Shall we just put this incident behind us?” She agreed and we did.

When it comes to her reviewing the work I’m doing at the New Yorker, she doesn’t find any of it objectionable. Robert has his own projects there which she approves of, so the matter has been forgotten.

However, when the movie came out, she was really hurt as she hadn’t seen any of my work before then. I was able to keep it hidden from her; she didn’t even know I was doing comics, thinking I just did painting and teaching art classes.

To her, that underground stuff was just hippie nonsense, and so she didn’t give much thought to it until it was thrust in her face.

I was filled with guilt, as I never imagined that Terry’s movie would reach a wide audience.

In the movie, he even asked me, “Aren’t you scared that your mother will see this?”, to which I replied, “No, she only watches movies at the local mall or gym”.

However, the film was released and it reached my mother’s friends, who then questioned me about my involvement. This led her to go watch the movie to find out what was going on.

BLVR: Is the motion picture portraying the enormous picture of her with the pointed teeth that you painted?

I was proudly showing off a picture of my mother while Terry asked if I wasn’t scared she’d find out. My response was a casual “Nah” as if it didn’t matter – it was a bit mean of me.

IV. “IT’S LIKE I’M PAINTING IN RED.”

BLVR: Could you provide me with information about your newest book, the memoir Need More Love?

On the evening my book was released, the publishing company abruptly ceased operations. During a presentation I was giving at the New York Public Library, the company shut down.

However, the details of that event are a saga in and of itself.

For me, that book resides in the realm of the unknown. Regardless, I’ve obtained more commentary on that book than I ever have on anything else I’ve done.

It tends to circulate in odd circles. I’ve gained an overwhelming amount of remarks on that book and I never profited from it, nor has it been officially passed out or anything.

[Laughs.] Certain other publishers were interested in reprinting it but I don’t want to. I want it to stay precisely as it is, since now it’s become a form of guerrilla artwork.

I’m captivated by the multi-faceted nature of this autobiography, where comics, prose, and paintings coexist to tell a story.

An image of Aline Kominsky-Crumb is seen in this picture, taken from a 2009 interview.

The American Kennel Club stated that the endeavor was a completely experimental one for them.

They had conceived of the idea of incorporating a collage, multimedia, and an augmented comic, with additional text to discuss previously created comics and to display their painting, artwork, and other creations that had never been seen before in combination with the comics.

This, they said, was to paint a more thorough picture.

BLVR: Could you explain the concept behind your multimedia art pieces? I’m a big admirer of your shrines and sculptures.

On a lengthy journey to India, I was inspired to create beauty out of what most consider trash. I began rummaging through the nearby dumps and used the items found to make collages.

This curiosity was met with confusion by the locals, but I was determined to make something of the garbage. After two weeks, I teamed up with an artist friend and we held an art show in front of our hut.

To our surprise, the small gathering was filled with admiration and gratitude; the people lit incense and thanked me for the miracle of transforming garbage into art.

BLVR expressed their appreciation for the compliment.

The American Kennel Club reported that the most rewarding experience they had ever had as an artist was unmatched.

This sensation motivated them to continue creating shrines from junk, so they began seeking out flea markets.

They noticed people selling bags of Barbie parts and other plastic waste, which they then used to create sacred objects.

What words would you use to explain your approach to creating comics?

The American Kennel Club chuckled when they heard me talk about my lack of fashion sense.

BLVR: There’s no need to worry, you have plenty of style.

AKC stated that they have experienced hundreds of life drawing classes, yet none of them have had an influence on the way they draw comics or write about themselves.

When creating these works, they described themselves as being overwhelmed with emotion, which made it difficult to control the output.

Nonetheless, they felt fortunate for being able to access this level of emotion. On the other hand, it was unfortunate as it prevented them from being able to refine or improve the output.

In contrast, their paintings were more visually appealing and people were often surprised when seeing them, though the works were still quite wild.

BLVR: Are your comics a challenge to create?

The AKC stated that it was almost as if they were drawing in blood and it hurt to do so.

It was similar to what George Grosz experienced, making one question if he was really laughing while creating such grotesque material.

It was apparent that it came from a dark place within. On the other hand, when the AKC painted, it was much lighter, more decorative and aesthetically pleasing.

What opinion do you have regarding the art of drawing?

The AKC notes that drawing is not their primary focus, but rather writing.

As they write, they often reveal things to themselves that they had forgotten, and the drawing of such emotional realities can be draining.

Playing around with Robert on projects for the New Yorker is enjoyable, but the more intense and personally painful pieces of art can be difficult to create.

I recall perusing an interview with you where you expressed that the type of aesthetic that you appreciated in comics was one where you could observe the effort.

The American Kennel Club agrees that what really draws them to other people’s work is an emotional engagement.

While some may be drawn to the technical aspects, or flashy demonstrations of artist’s skill, without that emotional connection they find it entirely tedious.

I’m particularly fond of German Expressionist art, which I find to be highly emotive and cathartic.

Throughout the ages, there have been creators whose work is more likely to provoke an emotional reaction. Frida Kahlo’s oeuvre is particularly affecting because it is so personal. It is an extraordinary luck to be able to appreciate both of their art.

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I stand in awe of the sunflowers spinning

in the lush meadows above the deep blue sea,

astounded by their golden stillness, although they seem to be singing

in harmony with the silent ticking of the clocks of Recanati.

Do they turn to face the night, as if they were an army

obeying the last commands of a dying kingdom,

their wheels stuck in one track before the tiny points

of stars and the flitting fireflies,

then collapse like spent shooting stars in gentle thumps

onto the ground? In other areas of life sunflowers

are usually seen alone, but in this coastal region

they can be found in huge fields showcasing their transient beauty,

like the cape of some Renaissance prince,

their flags wilting, their golden helmets left abandoned;

they are like verses we recite to ourselves, symbols

of our fleeting grandeur, a radiance we cannot ignore

which was referred to as heaven in Blake’s era, but not now.

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It is clear that technology is an essential part of our day-to-day lives. It has enabled us to connect and shop with ease, and even to find ways to have fun.

Moreover, the incorporation of technology into our lives has enabled us to do more in less time, making it a key element in our hectic lives.

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