Molly Crabapple, who appears on our Progressive Honor Roll for 2015, recently published her acclaimed graphic memoir, Drawing Blood. To celebrate the occasion, we asked her to pick a favorite illustration and tell us the story behind it. This was her response:
“One of the things that most influenced my coming-of-age as an artist—though that sounds fucking pretentious—is that I worked as house artist for a fancy nightclub [the Box]. The patrons were these hedge-fund guys who had destroyed the economy, and all the dancers were broke geniuses, and there were dancers who did backflips over chain saws, and contortionists and porn stars, and they were doing these acts onstage that were highly polished and sometimes incredibly cruel to the audience. You would see a girl in an [aerial hoop] over the bar, and she would steal people’s drinks sometimes—and the drinks were $25. So you come in here and you might rule the fucking world outside, but in here we run it. So I drew Empress Stah [above], who was just beautiful. And I would draw [the hedge-funders] as these horrible monsters with braying mouths and this beautiful athlete above them.
“A book that was very influential for me was Explosive Acts by David Sweetman. It posits that the difference between Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and other poster artists was they would draw the cancan girls as cute, sexy, and fun, and he would draw them as strong working-class women who were warriors.
“My work at the Box was never given intellectual respect because it had to do with naked ladies and glamour. But when I took the skills I had from drawing the New York underground to Gitmo or Lebanon, suddenly people thought that I was clever. I was like, ‘Man, it’s the same thing! There isn’t a smart box and stupid box. I’m doing the same thing.’”