Posted November 4, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

An interview with Taylor Dow



By: Amber

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Hello! Would you like to introduce yourself?

I’m taylor dow! I graduated from evergreen in the summer of 2014. I make comics and illustrations. At evergreen I studied creative writing and fine art.

 

Do you wanna talk a little bit about how your Evergreen education gave you some tools for your art that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten?

Yes! Definitely! I think I went to evergreen with the delusion that I was going to an art school. I initially was like, I just wanna study art, I wanna do art so I’m gonna go to this school, they have art programs. I think I was initially kind of confused and disappointed because my class was not all art, I kind of expected it to just be an art school thing but I took a class that was both visual art and creative writing and I didn’t really want to do creative writing. I didn’t really love the class, it wasn’t a great class. But what I was finding was that even when I was making art at the beginning of college I didn’t feel like I had anything to make art about, so the way that evergreen has actually been really great for me is that because of its interdisciplinary learning style, it was impossible for me to just do art without learning about all these other things that ended up meaning a lot to me. It was impossible to do art without learning about things like critical race theory or feminist science fiction and all the things that now really define what kind of comics I wanna make and what kind of stories I wanna tell. At evergreen I studied art but I also studied dreams and “Alice in Wonderland” for a whole quarter and afrofuturism with Chico Herbison which was a really which was a really defining class for me where we studied afrofuturist science fiction. In that class I ended up doing this project about disgust and monstrosity where I did a close reading of David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” that really changed the way I thought about storytelling and the way we interact with different texts. I think the greatest skill I got from evergreen was the ability to read any text through the lens of any other text and I believe that result is a useful one. I think I went into evergreen having more of a cut and dry look at the world, whatever the artist intended this to what mean is what it means or like there’s a right answer to those things and I think the art I was making was flat because of that. But through the whole process of studying a variety of different things and working at the writing center it became really clear that writing a really amazing text is actually about having the right amount of ambiguity and reader participation and also the dialogue that it is in with all of the like texts that are around it

 

And you feel like that’s now how you write your comics?

Totally, completely! That’s the biggest thing I got from Evergreen. You can read a text, any text through the lens of any other text and it will be useful to do so. Art in context, that’s the point of interdisciplinary education.

 

So now you feel like you’re able to take any art and read it through a more critical and interesting lens?

Yeah, any lens! Whatever lens is interesting to you. I remember I was sick during my junior year and I ended up watching “The Amazing Spider-Man” because I was sick and bored. “The Amazing “Spider-Man” is a terrible film but I remember that I had to take out my notebook and make this whole “web” and take a million notes thinking about what I could get from this. It ended up being really interesting. What evergreen gave me was a way to engage with things that are mainstream or seem really boring or drab or paint-by-the-numbers and use that for yourself and use that to have ideas. Except for “The Martian”, that was the most boring movie.

 

Do have any examples in your current works of more critical readings of more banal/mainstream pieces of media.

The comic that I’m doing right now is called apocalypse dad and I think everything about it exists in reaction to the current and past landscape of comics. It’s that thing that I got from Evergreen about how to put your art in context that’s really defining this comic. So the comic is called “Apocalypse Dad” and it is about apocalypse dad, who wanders an apocalyptic landscape looking for his “lost daughter”. Apocalypse dad is a character that I did not make up, I subscribe to the idea that media and storytelling exists on a common landscape sharing common characters and locales and that we as artists shift or manipulate characters and locations therein. It all already exists, it’s in the cultural mind

 

In a Jungian archetype sort of way?

Not necessarily in a Jungian way but studying Jung definitely helped me start to think about this. I think that it’s a pretty foundational piece of postmodern art theory that everything is in this landscape. So, I literally have apocalypse dad who is this archetype that I noticed popping up really prominently a couple years ago, particularly in the “Transformers” films when in “Transformers 4” they replaced Shia LeBuof with Mark Walberg who is a dad. And that is a really important event because transformers represents the least common denominator filmmaking. Just the most straightforward, Michael Bay doing his thing, there are robots, they explode, the transformers girl is like, “hot girl of the year” or whatever cultural icon, like Megan Fox. It’s kind of the modern equivalent of the bond girls or something. So it was a really big deal when they replaced Shia LeBouf, this 20-something everyman, with Mark Walberg who’s this dad. It completely shifted the sexism of the film where no longer was the female support role this character that had to be obtained, this object of desire that would orient the character, it’s Mark Walberg’s daughter. It’s the difference between something that is already obtained and something that needs to be obtained. So instead of obtaining that thing, Mark Walberg is protecting that thing and the way that she is sexualized is completely different because you’re supposed to identify with the male main character because of the male gaze but she’s also supposed to be your daughter so she’s supposed to be hot but like, not so hot that it’s weird and she’s 17 and all these things and that was also popping up in a bunch of other media. “The Last of Us”, one of the biggest games of that year was also this apocalypse dad archetype so I was just noticing this fucking dude wandering around in this landscape, so I thought that I would invite him into my comic. Which is essentially what the other storytellers and filmmakers are doing is saying “oh I have this idea, how about we do an apocalypse dad, that seems like a good idea” because it’s in the cultural mind right now so it keeps popping up. I think it’s really dangerous to do that without a critical eye. So “Apocalypse Dad” is a practice of inviting that archetype into a comic but then not giving him what he wants or not allowing him to achieve his goal, which of course is to protect the daughter and get to be a martyr or whatever because ultimately the daughter only exists to reflect characteristics back on the dad, or on to that male character and show that he is, altruistic and is willing to sacrifice himself or whatever.

 

A really big part of that trope is in the end the man gets everything.

He gets everything! Watch “Interstellar”! Fuck “Interstellar”! Definitely on that list is “Transformers”, “The Last of Us”, the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Maggie”, that silly new Owen Wilson where he’s an apocalypse dad, but a HUGE one is “Interstellar”, and yes he gets everything. In “Interstellar” Matthew Mcconaughey gets to be the best dad ever, he gets to sacrifice himself to save the world and his daughter, AND after he dies he gets to come back to his life to his daughter on her deathbed, because of spacial relativity, say hello and then peace out to go hook up with Anne Hathaway on this wild west planet where she’s visiting her dead husband’s grave because it turned out that he died. So he gets everything! Apocalypse Dad always gets everything and this is a comic where apocalypse dad gets nothing.

There’s this thing happening a lot right now in comics, which I think there are plus sides to, that a lot of people are noticing, surprise, surprise, that there’s been this intensely sexist history in this field and so people say “oh, okay I’m gonna make this character that hits all these representation markers” and a lot of men, a lot of white men are doing that. It’s a little bit weird because what’s happening is the representation is changing but those creators aren’t actually engaging critically with those parts of themselves. So I think the idea of apocalypse dad is to allow that character into a comic but have a comic taking place in this landscape of storytelling that lets that character change or die or be left behind in our collective story telling landscape.

 

are there any forms of media that not just in artistic style, but storytelling style as well that you feel do a really good job of critically analyzing the storytelling landscape?

I think who is killin it the most in comics Julia Gfrörer, who does exactly what I was just talking about and is a huge inspiration to me and is really intentional about inviting a particular archetype that is extremely pervasive in the indie comics scene, which is the lost boy. The lost boy is everywhere, but in indie comics manifests in a particularly insidious way. The lost boy is this character who is exactly what he sounds like, he’s this lonely boy who is looking for wholeness and he always finds it in a girlfriend or whatever. Julia Gfrörer makes really incredible comics where she invites these lost men into her comics landscape and starves them to death. She has an amazing comic where it’s just mermaids watching a ship full of men burn. At no point does the comic go to the ship or do we see those people but they’re just watching and talking and the focus of the comics landscape, which has been so intensely biased towards those men on that ship, has now shifted towards these women in the water who are just watching and who are pretty ambivalent to the whole thing. “Ex Machina” also invited the lost boy into its timeline and then was very intentional to -spoilers!- lock that lost boy into what is basically a dungeon on an island and fly away from him. And part of the new american middle class identity is that you care about things like “camping” or “the environment” or “sexism” or “racism”, kinda, those are all in quotations. You know about those things or know some words about those things and so “Ex Machina” was very cool in that it had this smart-liberal-nice-guy or whatever that showed up, and he’s supposed to be likeable but he’s actually evil.

 

Do you have any advice you want to pass on to anyone who wants to get into comics?

Yeah! Go to comics festivals! Go to The Olympia Comics Festival, Olympia Zine Festival, Short Run Seattle, Portland Zine Symposium and walk around and meet people. Ask them how they do things and look at their books and then just make a comic! Anyone can do it! I started making comics just a few years ago when I went to the Portland Zine Symposium and it such a D.I.Y. vibe to it that i was like “oh yeah anybody could make a comic”. You don’t need a publisher, you don’t need to even know what you’re doing. The thing about making comics is that unlike if you’re trying to write a text zine or a novel or something like that, people can see something unique or understand something about a comic by just flipping through it. I think because of that, it feels a lot more possible to put something out that people will see and want to read. What I can say about making comics is, make a zine, it doesn’t matter if it’s only 10 pages or whatever, and get a table at a comics festival, it costs like 20 bucks. You’ll just get better.

 

If you want to check out more of taylor’s art or fight him about interstellar, you can find him online at taylorhdow.com where you can see his portfolio and find prints and comics for sale.