Inside the Gallery you’ll find new work from tag-teams like Barry McGee and Jim Goldberg; Peter Sutherland and Ben Pier; Alec Soth and Brad Zellar; Sandy Kim and Maggie Lee; Richard Kern and Kim Gordon; Jim Mangan and Tadayoshi Honda; Ben Pier and Peter Sutherland; Martin Parr and Kate Fox; Lele Saveri and Francesco Deiana; Henry Hargreaves and Amirah Kassem; Petra Collins and Arvida Byström; Tim Freccia and Gerald Slota; Asger Carlsen and Roger Ballen; Jaimie Warren and her mom; and even a massive piece by the dream team of Ryan McGinley, Collier Schorr, Marilyn Minter, and Roe Etheridge.
Mike Diana, born 1969, is an illustrator and comic artist whose work frequently delves into comic violence and sexual depravity. Much of his work is funny, mocking things like sex, family values, the church, drugs, and generally just “values” in general. To quote the erection-sporting guy on cover of Boiled Angel #6, “I love engaging in antisocial behavior.”
Mike’s claim to fame is a 1993 trial which made him the first artist ever to be convicted of obscenity for artwork in the United States, specifically for his comic books. A Florida prosecutor named Stuart Baggish saw a copy of Mike’s comic Boiled Angel, and took it upon himself to throw the book at him. The FBI investigated him, the fire department bulldozed his house, he was made into a scapegoat for the Gainsville serial killer, and Mike was sued for about six times as much money as he had made in his life.
(Below is a transcribed combination of two interviews we did with Mike Diana, in 2012 and 2013.)
Bill Dunleavy: Hi Mike! Welcome to the Superchief Gallery at Culturefix. Where are you from?
Mike Diana: Hello, nice to meet you. Nice to be here. I was born in New York, and then moved to Florida with my family when I was about 8 years old. I always liked doing strange drawings, and my parents would ask me, ‘Why don’t you draw nice things?’ And I started drawing my own comics a lot in high school, and then I graduated in 1987 and decided to publish my first zine called ANGELFUCK, and then I started the BOILED ANGEL series, in ’89. I ended up getting about 300 subscribers. When I had extra copies, I would staple them to telephone poles. There’s a lot of anti-religious stuff in my art because I was forced to go to church, and also a big influence was watching the nightly news. Back then, it was probably mostly photos taken from, information books or something. The trouble started, at first, in Issue Number 6. Two detectives showed up at my house, and they said that I was a suspect in a murder case, because of my my drawings.
Bill Dunleavy: It was a cop, pretending to be a fan, who asked you to mail him the comics to use as evidence against you?
Mike Diana: I ended up getting a letter in the mail, to appear in court for obscenity. And when I showed up for my first court date, there was a big mob of TV reporters, and news reporters, and also two groups of protestors against my artwork. They knew nothing about my artwork, except when they heard about it on the news, and then, all of the sudden, everyone was up in arms about, ‘What is this stuff you’re putting in our community?!?’ And on the news, it did show some clips of the worst parts, you know? Like they actually they showed a close-up of a baby being fucked. They were exposing my artwork to more people than I ever could hope to.
Ed Zipco: In the short term, was there a noticeable way the whole experience affected your art?
Mike Diana: One of the conditions of probation, which I think was probably the most troubling, was that I was ordered not to draw anything, even for my own use, for the three-year period. At that point, I started painting. And I would keep my paintings hidden in the trunk of my car. I was worried that those would be found…however, the police never showed up.
Bill Dunleavy: Where do you find inspiration?
Mike Diana: When I watch the news, and there’s just some kind of politician, you know, that I hate, that’s doing something that they shouldn’t be.
Bill Dunleavy: So tell me about this drawing.
Mike Diana: Oh yeah, this one. Actually, this was also for a band–I forgot about this drawing–for a t-shirt for a band called Akron. From Florida.
Bill Dunleavy: What other bands have you done art for?
Mike Diana: I did a poster for Marilyn Manson. I did an album cover for a death metal, Florida band called Rape Dungeon.
Bill Dunleavy: I think that you’ve inspired a lot of kids doing art today.
Mike Diana: Thanks. Once in a while, my father would look over my shoulder, and watch look at my drawings that I was doing, and he would say, ‘You know, some day you’re going to get in trouble.’
Johnny Sagan: What are the newest works in the show? Which are the ones you’ve made most recently?
Mike Diana: Animal drawing. Animals attacking and screwing each other. yeah, that’s one of the newest drawings. And then I have a big poster made of it.
Jefe aka Johnny Chiba: Fuckin’ animals.
Johnny Sagan: And what did you draw that with?
Mike Diana: That was just India ink, and I also have a pencil sketch, here, that I did. I do a pencil drawing first, and then I use the lightbox, to do it with India ink and then color it on the computer.
Johnny Sagan:I just didn’t dare to think that you lived in New York, and now I’m just obsessed with this vision of you living Uptown. Do you have a special studio room? Is it that kind of ritual, for you to make art? Or are you, the compulsive drawer, and you do it all over the place?
Mike Diana:I usually wherever I can do it, Uptown I have one room, I have one section of the room with my drawing desk and everything. So mostly I can do it just in my own place. But it seems like I’m always drawing. I started taking little, sketchbooks on the subway, so when I’m on the subway or waiting for trains, I can draw. But yeah, it seems like I’m always trying to draw something or another and sketch down ideas, you know, for possible drawings or stories.
Johnny Sagan: And do you still do comics? Or more tableaus?
Mike Diana: I’ve started getting more into comics again. For I while I kind of was more doing paintings, and now I want to do comics again. I’m working on a couple graphic novels, which will be like the longest comics I’ve done so far. One is 64 pages, and one’ll be I think as many as 170 pages, and then I want to do a graphic novel about my whole experience with the law, and the trial and everything that happened. A whole autobiography.
Johnny Sagan: I was kind of remarking, before we started recording, that I feel like your sense of humor, and the, whatever, darker parts of your sensibility, it’s like they’ve both been vindicated, since that trouble with the law? I mean, Adult Swim, Family Guy, you know all of that is, like, post-Mike Diana. Marilyn Manson, the mainstreaming of Goth, and the interesting way it’s been mainstreamed, that’s, like, post-Mike Diana.
Johnny Sagan: Just wondering…ah, and even graphic novels becoming so popular, I mean the zine revolution. The zine form hugely influential in the development of graphic novels. And even, like, the Internet, like blogs, I feel, you know…came after zines in an important way.
Mike Diana: Yeah, definitely, it’s been, I was charged in 1993. So it’s been a while. Even over there in Florida, it’s gotten more open-minded than it used to be, when I visit. So yeah, it’s hard to say it would happen again, but I also wouldn’t doubt it…if it would happen again, if I lived where I was before, in, Florida. It’s interesting to see all of the shows, and television, they started having the rating system on TV, and I heard something about that it was actually able to bring more graphic shows to television, because the stations figure, ‘Oh, as long as we tell people what they’re going to see.’ So it kind of, like, opened things up a bit, and then it…then, of course, I don’t remember how long it was after my trial, but then they had this scandal in the Catholic Church thing and all that, so, kind of one thing after another, you know?
Mike Diana: South Park. You know, on TV…and now you can see that stuff, I mean I saw that episode they’re putting South Park on at like 1am on ABC or one of those stations, and it just seemed pretty graphic to me, in a way. Even though they’re, like the worst parts they cut out for regular television. They have, like a little black box goes up.
Johnny Sagan: Oh, really?!
Mike Diana: And it says something I don’t know if you ever saw it, but it says, you know I can’t remember what it says, but they make kind of a joke out of it? But they’re actually censoring it for the main television. One of them was an episode where…they’re shitting out of their mouths?
Jefe aka Johnny Chiba: Hahaha!
Mike Diana: And they would show them going, ‘Wuh-wuh!’, but then they wouldn’t actually show the turd coming out.
Mike Diana: It would be a black screen, and it would say, I don’t remember what the line is, but some kind of, like, funny little line, and it’s like, you know…
Johnny Sagan: They were censoring them?
Mike Diana: They didn’t use the ‘censor’ word, um, you know…
Jefe aka Johnny Chiba: Were they being cute with it?
Mike Diana: Yeah. Like, this music that’s like, it’s like ‘Dun-dun-DUN-dun, dun-dun-dun-dun’ [innocuous symphony] for a second, and then it’s, you know, it goes back to the story.
Johnny Sagan: I didn’t expect to see any sculptures! I didn’t know that you sculpted!
Mike Diana: Yeah, I’ve been, doing the sculptures on and off, not so many, I’d like to get more into doing sculptures, and, those kind of things. Um, part of it is just a matter of space, you know. Having them around, and…a place to put ‘em. I mean, I’d definitely like to get into more…making more things like that, three-dimensional.
Johnny Sagan: And the, baby in the window, are they made out of paper-mache, or what are they made out of?
Mike Diana: Ah, well, those the two puppets–I call them Hillbilly Puppets–are both–
Johnny Sagan: The what puppets?
Mike Diana: Hillbilly Puppets. They got these hillbilly teeth?
Mike Diana: From machines.
Mike Diana: And, those are all made of paper mache, like a balloon for a head, you know, and the classic kind of way. But, the Devil Child was a mannequin that I found, a child mannequin. I just paper mache-ed the horns and put a penis on it. And painted it.
Johnny Sagan: And then two mediums…you know, you see around a lot in our time that, I haven’t seen your work in–that doesn’t mean it doesn’t…it’s not already in this form–are…animation and tattoos.
Mike Diana: Yeah tattoos, I every now and then someone’ll ask me if they can use my artwork for a tattoo, or ask me to draw something…for someone. so I know there’s been maybe a dozen or so of my artwork is tattoos, that I know of, and sometimes people will get them, and then they’ll just send me a Facebook photo of it. There was one girl that on her back, she got a big back piece of this boy having sex with a pig, a drawing I did. And she sent me a picture of that, and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe somebody got this back piece.’ It was pretty funny.
Johnny Sagan: And then has anybody ever animated your characters?
Mike Diana: Ah, there’s been a few things, you know. I’ve done some small website kinda animations. I do want to get more into animation. There was,in, ah, France, Le Dernier Cri, the publishers, they did a couple of DVD versions for all the artists, did animations, so I was in those projects. I did some short clips. So when I went to France, they actually had some old, a Super 8 camera, so it was using, you know frame by frame type animation, that kind of film.
Mike Diana: I definitely want to get more into animation. And I have a lot of ideas, and even projects I’ve started. That just have to get finished. You know, animation projects.
Johnny Sagan: You talked about going to France. Just wondering, have you done a lot of travel like that? people I imagine they love you in France, they probably love you in Japan you know, people bringing you around the world to…
Mike Diana: I’ve never been to Japan. But, I got to go to, Holland once–there was a museum show I was part of, ah, with two other comic artists. And, um, interesting being there because you have high school classes touring the museum. And of course they have no problem with having these kids, who aren’t 18 yet, seeing, like, my comics and the artwork, you know? To bring them into the real world, show them things, and know that they’re responsible, um, you know, enough to handle it. And, um…I got to go to, um, the comic book, um, library, which is in Stockholm, Sweden. Went there a couple times, as a guest. the comic book school, in Malmo, Sweden, was–
Johnny Sagan: Oh, wow!
Mike Diana: I was there. kinda like lecturing a class, you know? And, I got to go to Copenhagen. They had a film house there I had a show at. And then I was part of this show, at the museum in Bolivia. And that was an interesting trip to go, too, on, Bolivia. I’d never been there. And then of course the America show, in, London, was the last thing I did. And they also have a gallery in, in Prague and Berlin, so that might be a possibility for the future and then going to places like France, you know I was invited to go there. Um, so yes, it’s definitely one of the perks of doing the artwork and stuff, you know, to be able to go to these places, which I probably would not end up going to, ah, otherwise.
Johnny Sagan: Oh, definitely. And then do you have a blog?
Mike Diana: I’ve never had a blog.
Johnny Sagan: Or a website or anything?
Mike Diana: Ah, we have the website: Mike Diana Comix–Comix spelled with an ‘x’–
Johnny Sagan: Nice. But not a triple ‘x’.
Mike Diana: –dot-com. Noooo…that’d be funny though. We could have another…dirtier site.
Johnny Sagan: I think this is good to bring us up to date. The only other thing is, do you is there anybody, you know that you want to plant a seed on the Internet with, who you’d like to collaborate with, or who you really admire, or who’s been a major influence, who you’d want to mention, so that you know, they get tagged with you, and the algorithm connects you guys forevermore?!
Mike Diana: I remember in the old days, I had my influences, like S. Clay Wilson, and Greg Irons, old underground artists. But then in the probably in the mid-’80s is when I first discovered fanzines, and like, mini comix, artists like XNO and…Roy Tompkins and, Bob X, who were kind of doing like these strange drawings, and they would just reprint them, ah, on the Xerox machines, and start distributing them however they could. And I had bought a package of those, when I was a teenager. So when I first started thinking about self-publishing and distributing even more–because this seemed like…this is what they were actually doing, I hadn’t really tapped into that yet at that point. You know, it was only buying, like, comics, underground comics and things through the mail, and Heavy Metal Illustrated and whatever I could find. And, so when I discovered that and then Roy Tompkins was doing his own zine called The Blotter, and I ended up being in one of his issues that I did a drawing and sent it in and it was around that time that I started doing my, ah, own fanzines. It would have been early, maybe like 1988, when I graduated high school in ’87. And then a friend I had worked at a print shop. We decided to do a fanzine together, so we printed it, it was actually printed on a real printing press, with like these aluminum plates, you know? Not a Xerox. But, I guess that’s it…
Superchief Gallery at Culturefix presents a joint ‘Brooklyn’ themed photo show, up simultaneously in Sweden and NYC. Curated by Bill Dunleavy for a joint showing between Superchief Gallery and Galleri Jonas Kleerup in Stockholm Sweden, the Brooklyn Photo show does not physically take place in Brooklyn. But it honors 13 years of the most engaging Brookyln Photography.
Featuring work from some of our favorite Brooklyn-based photographers, spanning generations.
Edwin De Larosa
Last week was Superchief Gallery‘s biggest show to date; over 30 artists from all over the country (and some internationally) came out to about 160 pieces on the walls. As part of Superchief Gallery’s continuing curatorial residency of 1-week art shows at Culturefix, we also had two exhibition parties featuring performances by Reese Cox, DJ Dog Dick, “Rhoda Ain’t Wrong” featuring Zoo Lion and Lazurite, Duncan Moore, Rop Vasquez, and Chloe Maratta.
Thanks to everyone who made it out, stay tuned for more updates and future exhibitions! Videos and photos below.
Video by Mike Carrera, Eva Tusquets, and Mike Gallant
Incorrigible is a collection of friends from different parts of the ether and void coming together. Curators Vincent S Baeza and Vinnie Roy Smith conjured this group show spanning multiple mediums, manias, and compulsions through a labor of love made possible by Superchief’s very own Bill Dunleavy and Ed Zipco who made the feral set’s week long run possible.
in·cor·ri·gi·ble – incapable of being corrected or amended: as
(1) : not reformable : depraved (2) : delinquent
b : not manageable : unruly
Vincent S Baeza
Sylvia Feliz Sewell
Vinnie Roy Smith
Andrew P Storrs
Shawn Reed, Ryan Garbs, Justin Thye (Wet Hair/Night People)
Jay Cole Smith
Nathan Alexander Brown
Justin Clifford Rhody
Reece G Cox
Performances by Reese Cox, DJ Dog Dick, “Rhoda Ain’t Wrong” featuring Zoo Lion and Lazurite, Duncan Moore, Rop Vasquez, Chloe Maratta
Photos below by Bill Dunleavy:
Ed and Bill from Superchief went to Bushwick, Brooklyn to check out the studio of an emerging artist we love, Heather Benjamin. She’s the illustrator and author of Sad People Sex, a comic featuring intricately detailed illustrations of sex and violence. Recently, Heather received art-world acclaim for illustrating a provocative campaign for jewelry designer, Bliss Lau. She’s also drawn some of the most impressive punk flyers we’ve ever seen.
We spoke at length in Heather’s studio about her work, creative process, and inspirations. For more of her work, check out her tumblr: http://mnvxzpytr.tumblr.com
You may recognize the overturned wine glass, contents crossed out from around NYC. In the 1980s, it stood for a revolt against western civilization by a mysterious industrial band called Missing Foundation. After images of police brutality surfaced in the media following the Tompkins Square Park Riots, they blamed Missing Foundation for the violence in a slanderous three-part news special, ‘CULT OF RAGE.’
In the mid-1980s Peter Missing founded the industrial noise group Missing Foundation, which thrived in the dilapidated, crime-ridden Lower East Side of New York City’s feared and revered “Bad Old Days.” He designed and popularized Missing Foundation’s symbol that would come to represent the movement against this aggressive New York style gentrification. It is an upside down wine glass with a cross-out over the spill, meaning “The Party’s Over.” In this case, Pete means to indicate that “The Party’s Over” for the whole lot of us – and all of Western Civilization.
In an era of squatters, homeless encampments and hardcore punk, Missing Foundation revolted aggressively against the impending city-sponsored tidal wave of yuppies and police to the neighborhood. They were banned from CBGBs for starting a fire inside the club, and soon found themselves banned from most venues in New York and America.
After the Tompkins Square Park “police riot” in 1988 kicked off the aggressive conflict between squatters, poor people and homeless people in the Lower East Side, the media blamed Peter and Missing Foundation for instigating the riots. They focused on his mysterious symbol, appearing painted all over the city and representing a mysterious underground force. In the newspapers and a three-part CBS News special, Missing Foundation was blamed for being instigators, and labeled a “Cult of Rage.” The media heat forced Peter into exile in 1993 to Berlin, Germany where he remained producing his body of experimental visual and musical work for 20 years.
His exhibition with Superchief Gallery will reclaim and reexamine his symbol twenty years after being labeled a “terrorist group” in New York City. He’ll also present his music new and old, including unreleased tracks from Missing Foundation to his new group, Missing Seven Hazard. Cyril Mazard from Missing Seven Hazard will also display music, artwork, and their new book, CASH AND KILL. Returning home from his 20 year exile from New York, Peter’s work still maintains the theme it did during the chaotic days of Missing Foundation, “A rebellion against a government which has lost sight of culture and humanity.”