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Tuesday
Feb252014

THEM: Surviving Between and Outside Literary Boundaries

Lizzy Shramko

Picture this. You are a ‘Sapien on the dance floor. A Pteridophyta DJ has just finished their set. The floor clears out, and the DJ comes your way. Their mouth is surrounded by “root-like tendrils” and their fronds vibrate in ways that catch your attention when they laugh. Inexplicably you realize there is an attraction between the two of you—something you have not experienced with a Pteridophyta, or even know was possible. This attraction morphs into a fragrant, explosive, intimate, and by all means interspecies experience that you will probably never forget.

This is the premise of one of the pieces in the debut issue of THEM, a magazine that artfully traverses literary boundaries. Levi Sable’s “Glitter on the Dance Floor” is a sexy, visceral story that pulls readers from their own embodied experience into a world where ‘Sapiens and Pteridophytas share social spaces, a world where protein packs provide nutrition, and where characters communicate beyond words. This story exists alongside our reality; it pushes our boundaries of humanness, physicality, and intimacy. And it is also an example of how centering writing around non-normative gender markers creates a space to transform the way we think of identifiers, the ways we build characters and the possibilities for narratives.

THEM is breaking social/political boundaries in addition to the new literary worlds they are opening up. It’s described as the country’s first trans* literary magazine. But “trans*” is not nearly as succinct a descriptor as one might suppose. Unfamiliar with the terminology? Editor Jos Charles describes it as this: “’Trans*’ is an umbrella term meant to include not just transgender identities, but any person who does not exclusively identify as the gender assigned at their birth.” But don’t get it twisted—THEM is not trying to make metanarratives about trans* writers and the stories they have to tell.

Charles goes on to explain, “It was my hope with THEM to facilitate a space that prioritizes writers who address trans* bodies in their complexities—work that doesn’t appeal to ‘being trans*’ as if it were one neat, complete narrative. No one is ‘just trans*.’"

Race, class, ability, and sexuality are just some of the intersections that constitute the violence trans* folks face.

The journal was founded by Charles to open up a space for genderqueer and trans* writers that did not pigeonhole them in the ways that some LGBTIQ publishing forces traditionally have. In an interview with Lambda Literary, Charles explained, “My first concern is facilitating a space where trans* writers can find solidarity and respect for the multitude of differing identities among us.” Currently, Jae Cornick and Emerson Whitney are also co-editors for the magazine.

THEM's debut issue

So how else does this magazine open new world of literary possibility? That’s beautifully illustrated by Calvin Gimpelevich’s story, “Innovation, Reversal, and Change.” The story temporally reverses a coming of age narrative, one which recounts the dissonances that the main character encountered when transitioning across age and gender. It’s a powerful move that exposes the alienation felt by the protagonist while illuminating the confusion they feel compounded by other characters’ reactions to their changing body. Gimpelevich ends with this: “You are a six year old girl in the shell of a physically impressive man. The distinctions between your mind and your body are blurred. You are young and old and strong and weak.

“You are, in short a conundrum.”

Clearly, trans* writers do not all experience the world in one way. Thematically “trans* writing” cannot function as a genre—even if some publishing houses might disagree. THEM is daring not only because it opens up a space for trans* writers, but because it has illustrated in their first issue that they seek out work that defies literary convention. It calls for writers who actively challenge the status quo. And while many of these writers might do this to survive, it is clear that these moves will have larger implications for the world of literature. Our literary history is built around the rules of binary gender. Gendered names. Gendered actions. Gendered destinies. I challenge you to find a book from the canon or popular culture that does not have these components—where a central part of the story and the character’s identity does not revolve around their gender. Ernest Hemingway? No way. Jonathan Lethem? I don’t think so.

The truth is, if you think about how obsessed our culture is with assigning gender and ascribing meaning to this identifier, it becomes clear that a journal that calls for trans* submissions is not radical—a society that violently defends and rewards the illogic of cisgender logic is radical.

Here’s hoping that THEM continues to publish boundary-breaking work. The complicated and diverse voices it promotes—which at this moment exist on the margins of the literary world—will come to redefine the ways we think about language and literary convention. Aside from the political and social implications of this work (of which there are many), as consumers, editors, and writers—we would be vastly better for it.

THEM is currently seeking submissions for their summer issue. They will be accepting pieces until April 15. You can submit here.

Monday
Feb242014

It's Time to Go Deeper than the VIDA Count

Holly Harrison 

Each year . . . we manually, painstakingly tally the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews. We do this to ignite and fan the flames of necessary discourse. We do this each year because our literary community can only benefit from a range of voices. —VIDA

The 2013 VIDA Count came out today and we saw more of the same: national publications dominated by male writers. It’s a trend that stretches across all American media, low brow and high. It’s the kind of thing that, once seen, cannot be unseen. At first it just infuses a little guilt into your enjoyment of a magazine or a TV show or a video game. Eventually, it fucking consumes you.

Literary magazines like those examined by VIDA have the power to cause change at publishing houses, where the male writers greatly outnumber female writers—and it’s practically required. By featuring more original work by female writers, by reviewing more books by female writers, these magazines could even the scales and alter the literary landscape for the better. But no. Of course not.

[Stabilizing breath.]

We counted, and in 2013 Paper Darts published 55 female writers and 43 male writers. This doesn’t include repeats (as VIDA does in its tally). If it did, the female-to-male ratio would be even more steeply female, as most of our staffers and repeat blog contributors are women.

We passed the test, and we’re glad we did. Here’s the thing, though: we didn’t have to try.

The vast majority of what we publish came from our unsolicited submissions in our slush pile. We accept what we like, and about 50 percent of the time, what we like comes from female writers. That’s not to say we’re unaware or uncommitted to equal representation—we notice when the table of contents in our print mag is dominated by men’s names or when three of the four readers we’ve lined up for an event are men. It makes us squirm. We try to correct it. We often succeed.

But achieving representative numbers when it comes to gender doesn’t mean it’s time to chill. There’s so much more to diversity than that, and where Paper Darts succeeds in one challenge, we fail in so many others. Where does race fit into the conversation? Sexuality? Not to mention that there are more than two genders. And this does not even speak to the content of stories spun by these writers or the perspectives represented in those stories.

In 2014 and beyond, we want to give a shit. And we want you to give a shit. We want to work for it. We want to be held accountable for who we publish, who we partner with, who we highlight. It’s time to better ourselves. Are you along for the ride?

Thursday
Feb202014

Defending Folk (and Country) with Radio K's Mountain Connection

Dakota Sexton

On any given day, student DJs at the University of Minnesota’s Radio K station are giving listeners “creamy filling” cultural commentary that might or might not include deadpan weather reports and even more deadpan unsolicited advice to angry sports fans. They may also be mispronouncing band names. (It’s one of their most heavily-marketed selling points, actually: Radio K. Mispronouncing band names since 1993.)

More prestigiously, the station was also nominated for four separate CMJ music awards, including Best Radio Station and Best Programming, just last September. And the station produces what could safely be called an egalitarian mix of specialty shows, ranging from British to instrumental to metal music to even—one of my favorites—a show simply called Mountain Connection. It’s run jointly by two people: senior Halley Rose Nevels and sophomore Ross Koeberl. (Ross also pulls double-duty as the station’s Music Director and, shortly before meeting me, had just spent 27 hours at the studio. [Don’t worry: he also makes time for classes, and he even washes his own dishes.])

They formally describe their two-hour show as a mix of music “that came from the past and became the folk and American music of today,” but are also keen on including world folk and more contemporary music as well.

I talked to them about how to defend country; if folk is dead; forgotten women musicians of the '50s, ’60s and ’70s; and more.

Paper Darts: Why did you start Mountain Connection?

Halley: I really wanted to start a folk and bluegrass show. Our dynamic right now is kind of the same as what I had with [former co-host] Shelby. Shelby would bring in new stuff and I would have old bluegrass stuff.

My favorite genre could be described as old people, in the ’50s, recording on their front porch. I’ve played songs that were literally: an old lady, on her porch, in ’64 in the woods in North Carolina. And in the middle of the song she hacks something up. And she keeps going. And I’m like, yes! This is my genre! These are my people!

Ross definitely brings more bluegrass, but he also brings a lot more new music. Especially since he has so much exposure to it as a Music Director.

Ross: We also have the common denominator that a raw song is like, a young guy who is really sad and hammering really hard on a guitar and screaming.

Halley: Sad acoustic boy screaming.

Ross: Yes. Fairly popular genre.

You can’t actually relate to Zeppelin unless you’re climbing a mountain and there’s a beautiful woman on top.

PD: You know, I don’t know where I would’ve been in high school without Conor Oberst just…screaming.

Ross: That’s the sad boy who set the precedent.

Halley: I know, I wish I would have known about Crywank in high school.

Ross: I would have been exactly as uncool as I was, but I would have had better taste. I was still listening to Led Zeppelin really hard then, and you can’t actually relate to Zeppelin unless you’re climbing a mountain and there’s a beautiful woman on top. And you make love on the mountain. Which I especially wasn’t doing.

Halley: I was at an Amon Amarth show last night and I was screaming alone, like, “I will overthrow the throne!” And I’m—I’m not actually going to overthrow a throne, I do not relate to this, but I’m going pretty hard right now.

Ross: It was a metaphor. The mountain was a metaphor for high school.

PD: So I was driving a couple of weeks ago and listening to Mountain Connection. And you both had a country set planned, but you were like, “Don’t worry guys! It’s totally not from the ’90s. Before that! We promise!”

Halley: There has to be an asterisk there, whenever you’re like, we’re gonna play a country song.* Pause. [We’re gonna play] Loretta Lynn.

Ross: No mention of a truck. Maybe a mention of a dog leaving. Timeless themed. (Laughs)

 Halley: (Hands a pickle and a piece of celery to Ross.) Here, you can have this.

Ross: (Looks at the pickle, which is very fancy looking.) I just want this. With a little bit of lemon, maybe. I mean, what a great new restaurant concept.

PD: Just the Pickle? That would have to be the name of it. Just the Pickle. The euphemisms alone…. So do you plan what to say for each show?

Halley: If there’s an artist we’re really excited about, or if there’s a really cool back story, we’ll make notes to make sure we say certain things.

Ross: I tell the same story every time I play a musician named Connie Converse. She graduated top of her class, and was going to do big things with her life. She moved to New York, and got really into folk, recorded some stuff, and then became a secretary at a school in Michigan. One day, she wrote letters to her family saying, “I’m bored.” And then she packed up her car and disappeared. No one’s ever heard from her again.

The guy who recorded just a couple of demos in his kitchen with this woman has been passing them around for years, and eventually someone went for a wide release. And I heard it. And it’s one of my all-time favorite things. And every time we play it on the show I tell this story. And I’ll draw it out.

There’s so many facts that we can get really excited about during a show where we get to curate the content so heavily.

Halley: We feel bad—there’s a couple key artists who we play, and we can go on a tangent about. Like Jean Ritchie. She’s from Kentucky and known as the mother of folk. I found out she lives in Berea, which is like half an hour from where my parents live in Kentucky. And I found her son on Facebook, and I really want to send him a message, because she’s ninety, and say, “Is there any way I could go to Berea and talk to your mom?”

It would be the most incredible experience. She’s been such an influence on folk music, for so long, that it would just be an honor to go and talk to her.

There’s a mild folk revival, but as a trend, people never take it the full way. And learning the banjo is really hard. We can both vouch for that.

PD: Who else do you admire?

Halley: Sibylle Baier is another of my big influences.

Ross: It’s weird. There’s practically a subgenre of women folk artists from the ’60s and ’70s who no one remembered until three or four years ago. Like Vashti Bunyan. She made some weird album and faded off, and then Animal Collective collaborated with her and she just came back with a bang, and everyone was really excited about her all of a sudden. It’s the same proverbial tale. A lot of them died in obscurity, too.

Halley: With Sibylle Baier, she had all these home recordings she made throughout the ’70s. And then I think it was her son that got a hold of them and got them released in 2006. Possibly my favorite album. She has this really clear, gorgeous alto voice. Her guitar playing is really simple. Just a few simple chords but she makes it so beautiful and dark.

Ross: I think the good thing about folk is that it is always dealing with themes that are pretty relevant. And especially with music that’s being re-discovered, I think it just adds a renewed sense of relevance. As though it was valued at the time, and we can still reconnect with it.

PD: Do you hear a lot of contemporary folk? Or is there really, practically, no new folk?

Ross: I don’t know. As a music director, I get 80 albums a week. It’s a constant flow. And I don’t get that much folk.

Halley: It is nice to get bands like Trampled by Turtles, Pert’ Near Sandstone, bluegrass groups like that.

But it is distressing. That sounds a little dramatic. But it’s distressing to me that there is a pattern of bands that start out really bluegrassy. Really raw recordings. The Avett Brothers and their self-titled album are a prime example. A Carolina Jubilee is just incredible. But their new album sounds so manufactured.

Ross: It became trendy. There’s a mild folk revival, but as a trend, people never take it the full way. And learning the banjo is really hard. We can both vouch for that—we used to have banjos sitting in the corner of our rooms that I was so nervous to touch. Because I’m like, this is going to sound horrible, and my roommates hate it when I play banjo. Which is not a shock. I am that roommate now, the one who practices banjo.

PD: Better than having a roommate that’s like, “I play the saw now.”

Halley: That sounds awesome!

PD: It was horrible.

Ross: It is really hard to become proficient in that, in banjo. And because of that, bands try it on as a flavor, and then it’s like, oh this is just a pop-rock song and here’s three banjo notes. From the outside, from the label of folk, people just see it as lazy. And that there’s not that much innovation. But there are always interesting things that will pop up once or twice.

Bon Iver is a good example of that. He just went off in the woods and did his own thing and it happened to catch on.

PD: Yeah, and the fact that [Iver’s other project] Volcano Choir is from Eau Claire? Which most of us know as, just, that place you pass on your way to Chicago.

Ross: There’s always that. [We’re] always shocked when something does come out of a location that seems really quiet.

PD: Right. Wet Hot American Summer was shot both in Honesdale and on Lake Wallenpaupack, AKA rural Pennsylvania, which surprises me. I used to live there for three years while working for a [now-defunct] magazine.

Halley: What? That sounds awesome. Is there a sign there?

PD: No, they totally don’t capitalize on that at all.

Halley: There should be engraved plaque. Here in the year of our Lord 2001…. Michael Showalter was here.

Ross: What Minnesota town was Grumpy Old Men shot in? They love Grumpy Old Men. They brag about it, all over the place. It’s awesome.

Halley: They’re so into Grumpy Old Men.

Ross: I would be, too.

PD: So has anything made your stomach drop while on air?

Ross: I was doing my training shifts overnight, and I would come two hours early to hang out with the guy who would be before me. So I was hanging out from like midnight to 4 in the morning. Just completely dead tired. So we’re not really paying attention, and suddenly I heard [a song] drop the F bomb and I was like “Ohhhh this is bad. Matt, what do I do?”

And he was like, “Oh just leave it on. I’m sure it won’t say it again.” And then it does, and I just slam it off, and I’m like, “I’m never listening to you again. There’s gonna be like two minutes of dead air while I get ahold of the situation.”

Halley: Especially when you first start, it’s like, “the FCC and their hounds are outside the window howling.” I was sure I was going to get FCC-arrested. It’s so nerve-wracking.

Ross: Unfortunately, too, a lot of independent musicians are a lot more free to include “fuck” in their band name. Like, Holy Fuck and Fucked Up. And then like, you go “We just played this song by Fffff—Buttons.” It’s always entertaining to listen, especially if you know the person, and you can just drag on them for years to come.

Mountain Connection airs on Radio K on Sundays from 10am to Noon (Central Time), both locally and online.

Illustration and logo by Rose Kohrman.

Monday
Feb172014

Wordsmith: One More Week


 

WRITERS, YOU HAVE ONE MORE WEEK TO

SUBMIT

 

This spring, Paper Darts Literary Magazine, curator Ann Tozer, and jeweler Stephanie Voegele will present a collaborative exhibition exploring the connections between literature and art jewelry. We seek work from jewelers concerned with issues of text, literature and storytelling and writers who engage with ideas that surround jewelry, objects and the body. Displaying these two art forms together, our exhibition will expose where writers’ and jewelers' work meet.

Selected entries will be included in an exhibition to be held at Magers and Quinn Booksellers and an accompanying publication. Both will coincide with the Society of North American Goldsmiths’ conference in Minneapolis April 23–26, 2014.

 

 

Jewlery submissions are officially closed, but writers have one more week to submit their work. 

WRITERS, PLEASE SEND:

1. A piece of writing that engages with ideas that surround jewelry, objects and the body. Accepted genres include comics, poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. All submissions must be 700 words or less. Comics must be contained to an 8.5 x 11 in page. 

2. Cover letter and a short bio.

3. Submission fee of $6.

Please submit materials via SUBMITTABLE

 

All entries must be received by February 22, 2014

 

SUBMIT

 

Stephanie Voegele is a jeweler and Lecturer in Jewelry & Metalsmithing and the First Year Program at the University of Wisconsin-Miluakee. After completing her M.F.A. at the University of Georgia in 2010, she taught in the Jewelry and Small Metals Department at Humboldt State University, the University of Georgia, and received the Fountainhead Fellowship 2011-2012, instructing in the Craft/Material Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. She recently curated COATED: An innovative Jewelry and Nail Art Exhibition in Brooklyn, NY and exhibited her work at SIERAAD International Jewellery Art Fair in Amsterdam.  www.stephanievoegele.com

Ann Tozer is a curator specialising in contemporary and historical jewelry. Prior to joining Paper Darts as exhibition coordinator, she was part of the curatorial team for the jewelry collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

Friday
Feb142014

This American Lie

 

Dakota Sexton

An old friend is telling me about how he once had a vision of doing a literary series that would mostly involve robots. Lots of robots. Enough robots to stand in for every bad literary reading cliche, including “goth-emo girl” and “shouty-angry man.” 

This feels like real genius. Admittedly, I have been drinking. Even sober, though, I’d be really, really excited about this. But I know it will never happen.

So does Ryan Duke, the guy telling this story, who I met almost seven years ago when were both fiction writing students at Columbia College in Chicago. For me, a lot of the time following our first class together involved me either loving or (mostly) hating people who wear tights-as-pants, kind of like a politician confused about what’s up with women’s rights. Ryan, on the other hand, was going places.

He was attending literary readings that he noticed were frequently dominated by performers. He unapologetically loved them.

High on the list of readings he admires is Write Club, which bills itself as “bare-knuckled wit” and pits two writers against each other for no longer than 14 minutes. It’s pretty easy to describe the atmosphere as at least a little unhinged. And then there’s shows like 2nd Story, which Ryan admires for giving audiences well-rehearsed, polished performances that detail each author’s deeply personal stories.

Ryan wanted to produce his own take on a show, that would highlight each of these elements. The reading series—robots and all—would be riotous. It would be rehearsed. But it would also highlight the short fiction he felt isn’t necessarily suited to a no-holds-barred literary battle.

Laughing, he counters that with, “What the fuck do I know about running a show?” He’s modest. He’s a former theatre nerd, and his family is actually lousy with talented voice actors. He knows things.

Regardless, he pitched his idea to other writer friends, including Simon A. Smith, and asked them to contribute. He also notably began talking to actors like Eleni Pappageorge and other theatre friends. Everyone contributed. “Everything was a group decision,” Ryan says. The show evolved in earnest until August of 2013, when Pre-Post Humanists Present launched a show for the first time.

The show featured fiction written by C. James Bye and James Tadd Adcox, but did not feature them reading their own work. Instead, voice actors stepped up and voiced the characters and story of each work themselves. In the case of an excerpt from Bye’s novel, this gave several actors the opportunity to give the kind of vivid, multiple-character-driven performance that’s unlike virtually any other reading series…but a lot like a play.

Brandon Paul Eells, the voice of the show's malevolent computer.

Did I forget to mention there were still robots? Okay, I mean, there was a computer. An all-knowing computer. Inspired by post-humanist fiction, science-fiction-related reads like H+ Magazine, and Ray Kurzweil. (Otherwise known as the guy who believes the Singularity is near. Or in real words: that soon, maybe computers will be so smart and intuitive that they can maybe be your girlfriend, but maybe don’t actually think beer is cool.)

The influence of all that nerdery on the show is easy to see. In between the staged readings of short fiction, the Pre-Post Humanists Present collective performed sketch comedy featuring an animated computer eye projected onto a wall, that notably berated and abused the show’s hosts.

Its sole purpose appeared to be to make the humans humiliate themselves. The list of possible activities it had come up with seemed endless: dancing, performing at literary readings…

The usual humiliating things.

So why call it Pre-Posts Humanists Present? Ryan explains it like this: “The joke on [Pre-Post Humanists Present] is that it’s before what comes next—apocalyptic stuff,” he says. “We had a computer always threatening us. So he was The Singularity.”

Simon A. Smith with Eleni Pappageorge

Ryan isn’t shy about admitting that the show is a weird hybrid of two very different shows—it’s essentially two plays wrapped in a comedy. Does he think the stories ever get overshadowed?

The answer is yes.

“It was neat and different. I was really committed,” says Ryan, “but it took a lot of people to just objectively look at it and tell me, ‘You have two shows going.’”

He will now readily admit, “The silliness seemingly drowned the fiction.”

Future shows featuring the collective’s version of a Singular Consciousness are now on hold. Ryan hasn’t given up on dramatizing enjoyable short fiction stories, though. The talented folks he runs with at Pre-Post Humanists Present are just now releasing the details on a new series called Reading Out Loud. This time it’s online. But it dramatizes fiction using many of the same voice actors, and with plans to produce audio performances of stories written by authors including Aaron Burch, James Tadd Adcox, and Elizabeth Crane.

The whole show is a bit like This American Life, with one very big difference: they don’t tell true stories. What the collective does plan to do is tell short, enjoyable fiction; use professional voice actors; and also utilize post-effects including audio effects and musical queueing that complements, not distracts, from the actual narrative. “We’ve joked that it’s This American Lie,” Ryan says.

FROM LEFT: Jason Polevoi and Jon Haverkamp in the sound booth; Coby Goss; Sara Gorsky

In the future, he says, “…the dream is to be picked up by radio stations.” They haven’t ruled out the possibility of a live show either—the group has considered taking it on the road to produce it for live audiences all over. Just as the original live show did, it’s an idea that’s going to evolve.

Submit to Reading Out Loud

If you want to get your work read by the talented voice actors of Pre-Post Humanists Present, keep in mind these guidelines:

Flash fiction: Up to 1,000 words

Full-length, short fiction submissions: 2,000 to 4,000 words

Beyond that, almost anything is game. What interests the collective most, Ryan says, is “character-centric stories, people moving in space.” He adds that “Stories that read well in this format have interesting characters that cause trouble.”

But don’t let that overly limit what you submit. Be creative. For examples of what Reading Out Loud has already produced, check out:

“Bedwetter” by Ryan Duke

“Lightly Used Boy,” by Simon A. Smith

Get more details on how to submit your work here.

 

Robot designed by Drew Ellis from the Noun Project

Thursday
Feb132014

Calling all black hearts

 

 

On February 14, the Twin Cities will welcome a new take on local fashion through the Black Hearts Ball. Lead by the designers Tim+Thom and a cohort of local designers, the night promises a spectacle of clothing, art, music, and showmanship. 

 

What: Black Hearts Ball
Huh: Presented by TIM+THOM, The Black Hearts Ball is a glamorous black and white semi-formal event welcoming fans of Minnesota fashion, opera, orchestra and theater.  
When: Friday, February 14, 2013

 

Doors open at 8:00 p.m. with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres
Fashion and Opera Performances at 9:00 p.m.

 

Where: The Minneapolis Club, 729 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55402

 


Paper Darts: What was lacking in the Twin Cities fashion scene?

We think the fashion community here is AMAZING. This city is full of driven designers that have definitely cut their teeth, have an unique vision and possess an extreme skill in executing and presenting their ideas and pushing them over the top—the bar is set high here. We think the scene isn't necessarily lacking in punch or zeal at all-for our event, we just wanted to offer a different type of fashion event (more of an arts event featuring fashion) than the usual commercial runway event.

PD: What mark are you looking to make with this event? 

We wanted to bring a different kind of fashion event to the Twin Cities that mixed fashion with avant garde art forms (performance, opera, and classical music) in an effort to have an elevated/sophisticated experience that isn't typical of commercial fashion shows. Since it's a ball that is more formal and sophisticated, we decided to draw inspiration from the glamor and prestige of the golden age/turn of the century as an inspiration. Overall, we view Black Hearts Ball as more of an arts event featuring fashion and opera rather than a full-on traditional runway event. 

On top of creating a different fashion experience for audience, we also wanted to provide a different type of runway event opportunity for our designers. It's almost more of a 'fashion as fine arts' opportunity for designers. We are giving them complete freedom to create a collection and performative runway experience (complete with an opera accompaniment of course!) instead of just a standard commercial/retail runway show.  

PD: Where do you see the Twin Cities fashion headed? 

We are really interested in expanding the fashion audience and making the community here welcome to people who aren't immediately embedded in the industry—hence our approach of calling Black Hearts Ball more of an arts event featuring fashion than a full on runway event.

We also want to give the audience already embedded in the fashion scene more diverse opportunities—both in the traditional runway sense and in the non-traditional runway sense (e.g., an arts event featuring fashion). 

We hope to do more events like this in the future—events that are engaging and exciting to a diverse crowd of both fashion industry insiders and a broader arts audience.

 

TIM + THOM

Garrett Born Photography

Danielle Everine

 

 

Sarah Holm

 

 

Carly Schoen

Black Heart Ball Designers:

Tim NavarroThom Navarro / Danielle Everine / Laura Fulk / Sarah Holm /
Rachel Roff / Carly Schoen

 

Tuesday
Feb042014

Interview: Amanda Atkins

By Sam Trevino

On a windy November afternoon in Allston, Massachusetts, I met with artist Amanda Atkins for an interview. I first became acquainted with Amanda when we were attending the Art Institute of Boston—and living in the same poorly-lit dorm. Now in her mid-twenties, Amanda is an educator and an artist living in Boston with a flair for both the old-fashioned and the whimsical. Crafting her stylized portraits is a personal and introspective labor of love, fueled by inspirations, influences, and an extremely intimate vision. Amanda and I caught up over coffee as she shared her process.

Sam Trevino: Is artwork your main means of earning a living?

Amanda Atkins: Actually no. There was a time when it was: I was working retail, just really struggling to get by, [and] working really hard to make art my primary career. But in the past few years, I’ve gotten really involved in teaching and working with kids. I have really kind of fallen in love with it. So…now it’s like I have two jobs! They kind of ebb and flow into each other, and the kids are really inspirational in terms of making artwork. It’s been really fun.

ST: When did you first start making art?

AA: As a child. When I was little—and even still today—my two biggest loves were animals and pictures, and I thought that I would either be an artist or a veterinarian when I grew up.

ST: If you had to pick one animal as your all-time favorite, what would it be?

AA: Well this answer is kind of boring and generic, but I love dogs. I grew up with dogs, and they are such wonderful creatures and I think they’ll always be my favorite.

ST: Don’t you have a cat right now named Unicorn?

AA: (laughs) That’s my roommate’s cat. I love Unicorn very much though. I actually grew up with both dogs and cats, and I have a cat that still lives with my mom and dad who I’ve had for 21 years. Her name is Tiger and we have a very special connection.

ST: Other than animals, what else influences your art?

AA: Since I was 11 I’ve had a really big fascination with the 1940s and 1950s. It’s impacted every aspect of my life, but most especially my art.

ST: Back in college you would often focus on famous historical figures as the subjects of your drawings, a lot of famous authors…

AA: (laughs) Yes! I [also] love Matte Stephens, a painter who works in an illustrative, 1960s-esque style. His color palettes are beautiful and his art is so fun. I love paintings that are kind of mysterious, and I’m inspired by people making their own businesses in a grassroots way.

ST: Going through the work on your website I was reminded a little of Portland-based artist Carson Ellis.

AA: Yeah, I love her work, how everything is sepia-toned and old fashioned, how she tells little stories with her work. She’s an amazing artist who definitely evokes a certain world.

ST: You have also done cover art illustration, for both DigBoston and Write Bloody Publishing...and you've done illustrations for a children’s book too, right?

AA: I did; I did a children's book which was also in collaboration with Write Bloody Publishing. It was really fun. Derrick Brown wrote it and I got to do some cool illustrations of whales and the ocean and nautical things, so that was very fun.

ST: What’s it called?

AA: It’s called I Looooove You Whale (laughs).

ST: How was your experience working and collaborating with Derrick Brown on that project, and contributing your work to Write Bloody in general?

AA: Oh I love Write Bloody Publishing. Even before I did work for them I was a fan of Amber Tamblyn, the actress, and she worked with them a lot in terms of her poetry and that’s how I discovered them. I got really into their books, and I always loved their cover art, so when Derrick emailed me to do the cover for Karen Finneyfrock’s book [Ceremony For The Choking Ghost] I was over the moon excited, so I’ve been lucky to have been a part of everything that they do.

ST: I mentioned already that subjects of your portraits are often actual historical figures—like Sylvia Plath or Virginia Woolf. At least as often, it's also women who seem fictitious and fantastical, like the tattooed lady on the cover of Ceremony For The Choking Ghost. Are strong female subjects a consciously planned theme in your work?

AA: Yes. I definitely want to paint women that speak to other women especially, and I’m really honored every time a women buys one of my paintings and tells me what it means to them. I love hearing the different meanings that other women derive from the paintings. They’re definitely often fictitious, but they all have different feelings when I’m painting them and I’ll have a different idea of what the girl I’m painting is like while I’m painting her. I like them to represent different strengths.

ST: Could you expand on that? What are some of the different strengths you've imagined for each of your paintings?

AA: Empathy, courageousness, adventurousness, and sensitivity to the world. These are all things I admire in other people, and I just like to try to capture them in the paintings of the women I do.

ST: Do you start out with a clear idea of what each of your characters, each of your paintings, represent?

AA: Sometimes I’ll start and have a solid idea of the painting before going in, and then the evolution is very minimal. But sometimes that changes while I’m working on one, and I feel a little detached from these characters, like it’s just something that "wants" to be created. I don’t always feel like I have full control over it, and I see what happens when I’m drawing. It’s sort of a dialog between the work and seeing what happens.

ST: Do your characters all have names in your head?

AA: Well the paintings themselves have titles, which I guess are kind of poetic. They can be a little wordy I guess, but I love titling the paintings to indicate how I was feeling when I painted the ladies, but I don’t really give them giant backstories. I feel like I have an idea in my head of what’s going on with them, but I kind of like to keep them free and not weigh them down with too many connotations. They’re pretty open for the viewer’s ideas.

ST: In your portraits, the figures are very stylized and all seem to have expressive eyes and drastic features, with elegant, elongated necks. Where does that choice come from?

AA: I honestly don’t know…I think it signifies a sort of ballerina-esque beauty that, for some reason, I want all my ladies to have.

 

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