When Art Becomes Rigid ( Tales of Man Bag)


Stu Mead and I sort of tumbled in together in the late days of The Artpolice Comics when he was killing it nearly every issue finally a talent worthy of our ArtpoliceComics legends ( Ed Rath, Chris Woodward Joe McDonnell Andy Baird and the late Fritz Wolfmeyer). Stu Mead recreated the Artpolice Comics as a edgy younger sex obsessed zine what it had been in the early years when McDonnell's cartoon was censored by the art school. Artpolice had a great deal of talent but it was elsewhere mostly Ed and Chris in Brooklyn and other contributors were scattered throughout the USA. Mead and I found a perfect balance in the Man Bag zine. Stu Mead's pictures were so dark that they almost seemed like perverted fairy tales. I remember in reviews I was always described as main stream pornographic  as in normal perversions whilst Stu Mead had driven his art into the sexual barnyard manure! A favorite image was young girls daughters crapping on the fresh grave  of the deceased father (Stu Mead's name on tombstone!) This gives you an idea of the territory he inhabits picture wise. I suppose I gave him some curious permission to delve deeper into his more perverse ideas about pictures. The period of this project was very clearly a high and low point for both of us, as Man Bag had caught on enough to give us a start beyond the older Artpolice Journals which were fading as the internet was rising. 

 My friend Mike Kelley was interested in the Man Bag (he called it the child of the ArtpoliceComics) he thought we had captured something from the old men's magazines (one handers) like Click and Peek etc. Mike felt we were putting dirty back into pornography which had become captive of porn cartels and fancy productions. Our return to back and white digest sized zines was a return to a pocket sized format (easy to conceal in coat pocket). Support for the project was strong Robert Crumb was a fan of Stu Mead's drawings. We were connecting with a broad spectrum of creative people.  (curators too Toni Stoos and Philippe Vergne were fans)The Artpolice was just too arty for the world writ more political sex though has a universal appeal and seductiveness. Sick sex seemed all sex at times that it was an ocean people swam in but didn't bring bad pictures paintings as much as in the past. Indeed Freud seemed to be about sexual issues taboos and fetishes and Lacan well he was all sex all the time, Foucault as well obsession was the starting point. 

 Stu Mead has very unusual skills for drawing and painting. His instincts are very oriented to the figure and the immediate enviroment of the figure. Also the portraits we both do are woven into this story. My portraits were really begun in the mid-1980's and Stu's portraits start in the early 1990's but mostly in Berlin. Mead and I are both sort of outsider artists even though we have had more main stream elements to our art careers. But we both have worked in the sex area on and off all through our lives. Other factors are useful I have had problems with bi-polar disorder since 1974 requiring hospitalization and long regimes of medications . I have been in remission since the late 1980's when I had two relapses. I was stabilized with Lithium . Now the intensity of my art often reflects the extreme states of affairs in my brain chemistry my bi-polar brain altered by stress and dread. But art has given me an outlet for my feelings frustration etc. Stu Mead's issues are more physical with a large component of pyschology but the results we get are similar a sense of being different even different desires and realities. It's as if we are how we are and we move on from there as if it's a given in the equation. We make no judgements about each other the partnership is more as artists than as beings. Our artistic enterprises are joined indeed the surrender of the auteur stigma allows us to be oher persons false identitities and claims abound. Never believe Frankie he's always mixing the real and the dream.

 Illustrations - 2 Man Bag covers I painted on and decorated - recently - Portrait of Stu Mead before he moved to Berlin Collection of Minneapolis Institute of Art   http:// www.artsmia.org  -  Drawing by me Woman Taking a Leak on Museum Floor 1994 Man Bag Magazine -Painting by Stu Mead of circus girl riding on an elephant's trunk - smallish and recent.

 I wrote an essay for a new publication of the Man Bag zines which I covered some of the same ideas as herein. The project goes back to 1991 and the proto-Man Bag drawings that began to appear in the Artpolice Journals slightly before then. Man Bag No. 6, will appear for the first time as it was intended whilst some of this material has appeared before now it will be readable and I wrote a lot for Man Bag #6  really awful things you will enjoy reading and some of which will make you cringe. But hey without guilty pleasures art would be impossible.