Meridian Lowe

Sometimes the internet does show extraordinary things.

Today, I stumbled upon an artist’s work in tunnelzine, a new online ‘zine I was poking around in.

Most striking is a two-painting piece called “Free Expansion.”

Here’s the first one:

And here’s the second:

It’s worth it to see them on the tunnelzine site, though.

When I consider art, I tend to have a gut reaction first, then an emotional one, then a thoughtful one.

Gut-wise, the first piece made me feel: damn.  The second, oof, but then that smoothed into a melancholy relief.

I found myself thinking of these pieces later in the day and returning to them, so I’m going to try to write out why I think they hit me so hard.

First, the theme of leaving a place you outgrew: maybe you loved it once and your love was unrequited, or maybe you felt it might strangle you and all that kept you is you felt that it’d take so much time for a new place to get to know you like this place does. But either way, you left it, furiously. You tried to find yourself, or find a home, but now you find that settling somewhere else is hard, or you miss what you miss, so you want to go back but…you just. Can’t.

You’re afraid it changed. You’re afraid it didn’t change.

You’re afraid that what you miss maybe never even really existed: maybe you remember your group of friends in high school like you had deep bonds, truths, trusts in one another, that your personal language built of inside jokes repeated into something nigh unrecognizable, that your shared memories of laughing at your own adolescent mistakes, your hours spent driving in the car, just making the loop from Wal-Mart to Steak’n’Shake and back while showing off music you found Soundcloud diving as you traded access to the MP3 hoookup: maybe that was all nothing.

Maybe there was no substance there. That bonds were all aesthetics thrown together by geography. What if everyone drifted apart because nothing you loved was real?

(Maybe, for you, it wasn’t friendship but family. Or maybe a dream of who you might become that could make these teenage years endurable. And when the dream flamed out, what was all that mockery and solitude for? At least the popular kids were happy in the moment…)

Maybe I haven’t stayed away long enough. Maybe I need to get better before I can go back.

So, astronaut-man, “but I’ve stayed away too long this time,” I feel you.

But that’s not the key to why the piece was so moving.

First, the astronaut’s expression. It’s not obvious. He’s concerned, perhaps wincing given the eyebrow crease. The washed-out nature of his blue eye, touching the edge of the cast shadow that shrouds the rest of his expression, makes it seem like he has been moving towards a darkness for a long time.

The words behind him are yellow, a sharp, almost garish contrast to his melancholy. The shape reminds me of a flower petal, or perhaps a cartoon speech bubble. The sans-serif font (helvetica bold?) looks very commercial. Who is pushing him to “Go!”? Someone or some force that’s freakishly positive– either in denial about the dark place, or aware of it but refusing to acknowledge it because it gets in the way of what they want. Either they want to get rid of the astronaut man, whom they cannot kill off in good conscience because he is not bad by any sane measure, or they merely want to use the astronaut man to some ends (capitalistic gains?) and so must push him, push him, push him out into the darkness against his concerns because they need him to do the thing.

But this pushing seems to be a distant memory. What began his journey, but not what continues it. The face of th astronaut touches nothing but shadows, and the “Go!” sayers have been submerged into the background — their yellow-painted words becoming blue-painted, a more saturated blue imprint, the most present, foreground thing. The blue paint is the immediate, unforgettable present-ness of the pale-blue, distant world the astronaut has been pushed away from. It is this vivid blue world-ness that makes the astronaut desire to turn back, realize half-consciously that the words that pushed him towards this were not wise.

All this takes up two-thirds of the page, which is an excellent choice in terms of composition. Asymmetrical composition is more interesting that something even-sided, especially when exploring themes of emotional extremes (like despair) and roads taken that cannot be taken back.

Also a wonderful compositional choice is the perfect rectangle of grayscale photo-prints, reminiscent of a haunted photo-booth strip, which serve as a dividing line between our first panel (introducing the astronaut man and his dilemma) and the incredibly abstracted, uncontained wreck of bent color and shape that surrounds the astronaut’s first line.

If the top of the picture is the astronaut’s present reality, contending mainly with the objects of his own person (his face and suit), shouted words,  and the physical object of the planet he’s left, the bottom of the picture is the future. It is unknown, 100% made of abstractions and non-objects. Fears. Any hope (symbolized by the planet’s horizon) skewed awry. The garish yellow of commercial profit (gold?) or the positivity police or the poisonous pus of a bad wound infects this future, letting in the swirling darkness of the void.

Which is why separating the two with the greyscale astronaut pictures is brilliant. The upside-down, distant astronaut, his movements recorded one slow frame at a time, show astronaut man’s past since his journey began. It is long, seemingly dull, changing only by inches. He is alone, not in the void of space (which could be romantic) but just in front of some wall. His past is even-patterned, with perfect black-white balance. He’s detached from it, and in turn, these replicated past pictures barely engage with the yellow or blue.

This allows the reader of the picture two things. First, we get a visual break, so that we might re-orient ourselves and thus better process the intensity of the top of the page and the chaos in the bottom. This visual space for mentally “touching base” is a necessary relief, preventing the piece from being visually overwhelming.

In this way, it reminds me of perseveration. With certain mental illnesses (like OCD, which I’ve got), perseveration is a spoken word that someone with say to “clear” the language-processing part of their minds, to circumvent a thought loop. While this is not literally the same, it somehow feels similar: the wordless line of greyscale snapshots clears away the debris of the “Go!” phrases, so we can better here the line, “But I’ve strayed away too long this time.”

Second, I suspect this allows the reader to better empathize with the astronaut character. This emotionless examination of his past, in which he sees himself inverted, is something many people on the edge of an emotionally heightened experience can relate to.  An awful or strange event is remembered numb.

Looking at the piece as a whole, I’m also struck by how all the yellow and blue sticks to the left side of the page, and the right side is dominated by the black-black, the only color allowed is the  astronaut’s physical self– his skin, his eye.

This is really cool looking. I’m unsure what it means symbolically.

I’m re-thinking the blue paint now. It comes across as more of a soothing or nurturing element with this observation. Maybe it represents is true self? His true dreams? It is more comforting, now that I see it as trying to mitigate the harm of the yellow, and pulling the astronaut man away from the deep, despairing blackness.

I love astronaut man. I want him to be okay. Let’s look at the second piece in this 2-part series.

“and I’ve got too big to fit this time.”

Suddenly: green!

The yellow and blue have merged!

This picture is all about movement. The astronaut is moving now: we see his whole body arcing across the page, both dipping behind and cutting in front of his greyscale memories at once. He crosses every vertical line. In his memory, he appears to be leaping backwards, or maybe he’s knocked off his feet. Suddenly, the past is no longer a slow, dull place. In the second-page’s memory, the planet takes up more and more of the shot in each frame. That past isn’t set in a nowhere place.

And he is still moving. He is moving right now. While the past still bisects the object-oriented present and the abstract future on this page, the overlap suggests that these things are not as separate as we’d like. The abstract future barely takes up, like, a centimeter line across the bottom of this page. It’s approaching quickly.

The yellow and blue are no longer relegated to the left hand side. His whole head is on fire with yellow! On the right hand side, there is another small astronaut. On first read, I thought the artist was depicting the same astronaut rushing forward at great speed: far away, then very close. He’s too big to fit now because he’s very present.

But, upon a second look, it could be that the little astronaut is another, like-minded person. Or, perhaps the little astronaut is the idea the astronaut man as about how he used to be: someone small and pushed around. Or, someone small and gentle.

Because, see, this is better than the stagnation and crumbling into despair, but the movement of the astronaut, and his sudden yellow-headed-ness, could show that he’s become perhaps manically infected. That he has bought into the idea that he must move because they want him too.

“and I’ve got too big to fit this time,” then, is a rationalization. He is trying to put away his desire to go back to where he was, or who he was, before.

Honestly? Maybe that place what both good and bad for him. Maybe it loved him, but it couldn’t accept him or understand him. Maybe he can embrace the “Go!” and turn it into something good, something that pushes himself to a kind of fulfilment that is worthwhile.

Now his abstract future, on the very bottom of the page, has no void-black in it. It’s got a lot of bluish green, and maybe that’s the best he can get right now: his own dream mixed with their wants and pressures in a way that’s motivating. Maybe slightly noxious. But also soothing. Soothing in an attainable way, this time.  In a way that casts out the darkness and brings visions of planet home back into place.

 

___

Dang. Alright. Some good art today. I have no idea if Meridian will ever read this; her bio didn’t link to an Instagram or a blog of any kind. But, I hope they do.

 

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Summer 2018

Just wanted to let people know that after about a year-long hiatus, I’m back! Alive and well, more-or-less.

I’ve got a Medium site and a Quora account now, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with them. So! The plan is to start cross-posting stuff. Also might try to do some Instagram things; we’ll see what works.

I miss the connection and feedback I had when I was on all the sites, but I definitely don’t miss the weird stressed feeling and the arguments in bad faith and infinite scrolling eating up half my day. Trying to live intentionally, and spending my day purposefully, feels important right now. So, not ready to get sucked back into facebook/twitter/tumblr/etc.

Is it weird that I miss DeviantART? But, I left dA because everyone I enjoyed talking to on the forums and doing projects with left first. If I go back now it’ll be a different experience, I’m sure. And, anyway, that was way back in 2013. Half a decade is half a lifetime in internet years.

Until then, I’m just going to try to keep up the blog.

Back to Here

Sorry I abandoned the site for a little bit, guys! I’ve updated the about page with 2016’s publications. Plus! In exciting news, I’ve graduated from college! Which means it’s time to get down to the real business. Who’s ready to stand up, kick ass, and write things down?

Yeah!

New story out today!

Good news everyone! The first installment of my serialized short story “Broken Heart Symphony in Four Movements” is out today in Zetetic.

Writing this story was an interesting process. I’d actually written the first two parts of the story separately, in my Freshman year of college for my Intro to Creative Writing class. A lot of the stories I workshopped in that class were actually things I’d written in high school that I felt the need to re-hash for some reason, but these pieces were new. The first piece in particular, the one posted today, had a pretty strong reaction from my classmates; it was possibly the first time in that class where I felt that people emotionally connected with my work, as opposed to simply analyzing it for the class.

I shopped them around a few places separately, but they weren’t really going anywhere. Despite being well written, I suspected that they were unfinished, but I didn’t see them connected to each other, or as being part of a broader whole.

Until Fiction 1 last semester with Dr. Ted Lyons. Dr. Lyons instructed us to write a story approximately 3000 words in length. I procrastinated, per usual, and my scribbled short story (a story about a girl both invisible and blind, someone I’d been daydreaming about for a while) barely cracked 1000. I realized I needed to boost my word count by incorporating something I’d already written, because padding the blind girl story was going to drag it out unnecessarily. I dug into my old stuff and read “this is why we can’t be in love” and “the girl with two hearts” back to back, and suddenly, everything clicked.

I brought them both in, and revised the story about the blind and invisible girl to meet at the same point. They’re about all the different ways a heart gets broken, and when I composed the fourth set, the one most overtly about longing, I realized I had something that really worked.

The feedback from my Fiction 1 class was invaluable, and after one other brief revision, preventing myself from undercutting my own themes, I started sending it out. This time, it was picked up on the second try.

I’m really thankful to George Wells, Zetetic‘s editor, both for giving this story a shot and for the consistent communication via email throughout the publication process, especially when minor changes had to be made to the story. If you’re a novice or amateur writer, I highly recommend getting feedback from someone at E&GJ Publishing group, who also produce the annual Sparks anthology.

Also, last but not least! In addition to paying semi-professional rates, Zetetic is committed to ensuring creative writing and the arts are valued by allowing people to make donations to the artists they feature. On the right-hand side of the page for each story, there’s a PayPal donation option. When you make a donation, 90% goes directly to the artist in question, and the rest goes to keeping E&GJ Press running. No pressure about this or anything; just think of it as passing the hat: https://zeteticrecord.org/2015/08/this-is-why-we-cant-be-in-love-sonata-allegro/

An Interview with Spike Trotman and Gavin Grant

Last semester I took a class called Editing & Publishing, a class that takes an in-depth look at the publishing industry with the goal of potentially breaking in (or, possibly to make one run screaming in the other direction). One of the best elements of the class was a project in which I was given the opportunity to write, edit, and design a copy of a magazine around the publishing-related theme of my choice, and I immediately took the opportunity to interview some of my favorite small press editors.

In one article, I put a spotlight on the editors at Braddock Avenue Books, one of my favorite small presses, about the nuts and bolts of running a small press. I’ll run excerpts from that article later in the week. In this article, the focus is on small press marketing.

Here’s are three-question excerpts from those interviews.

From the interview with Spike Trotman, editor of Iron Circus Comics and writer of Templar Arizona

Indie Lit: What was your experience when making the leap from simply creating and producing your webcomic to running a full-blown indie comics press? Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?

Spike Trotman: My experience has been thoroughly grassroots. I had no classes or lessons in pre-press, I didn’t know how to request a quote, I didn’t know how to promote a project or coordinate creators. I learned along the way. so, naturally, i would do EVERYTHING differently. More systematically, more organized. I’d be better about sharing information and keeping everyone updated. and I’d be a lot less timid around the people I HIRED, like printers. I was paying THEM, they worked for ME. Took me awhile to let that sink in.

IL: What tools, websites, or social media platforms do you find the most useful when creating a new anthology, whether in the curating submissions stage or in the stage of promoting the kickstarter and the book itself?

ST: Twitter and tumblr are where the vast, VAST majority of my project funding comes from. I find interviews on industry sites like Comics Alliance or Robot6 bring in a couple thousand dollars; Twitter pulls 20 times that. People value recommendations from friends or people they trust a lot more than formal interviews. And tumblr pulls in loads and loads of submissions; even people with no interest in the arts will reblog something they think their artistic friends might be into. Reblogs are invaluable forgetting the word out.

IL:Why is it important for an independent publisher to connect with their readers in-person (at conventions or bookstore / library events)? How is this best achieved?

ST: Twitter is good. tumblr is good. Conventions are good. All of those help you meet readers, and just meeting a reader and being cool, making their experience of actually talking to you fun, is enough to win a little loyalty, or encourage someone to check out your stuff when they might otherwise pass. when you’re small press, you have to grow organically; you can’t just expect for people to find you. You’re your own PR department, and you should act like it.

For more of Spike Trotman’s advice to novice comic-writers, check out her downloadable comics This is Everything I Know,” and “Let’s Kickstart a Comic and Not Screw It Up.

From the interview with Gavin Grant, who once wrote a comprehensive article for Strange Horizons called How To Start a Small Press. Gavin Grant is the co-editor of Small Beer Press with Kelly Link. 

IL: First, what do you think has been the biggest change, either in terms of cost or publicity, of the small press publishing landscape in the past ten years?

GG: The fracturing of both reader attention and media outlet influence. While having fewer gatekeepers (reviewers/editors at newspapers/radio) meant it was hard to get coverage for works coming from outside the larger publishing houses, now there are millions of media channels competing for attention. The good news is that people still read books so even as people spend their time keeping up with social media they are also talking about books with friends — and strangers and writers and publishers and translators and critics, etc., etc.

IL:What are the best tools an editor has at his or her disposal when marketing a small press book?

GG:To start with the obvious: a great book, which in turn will inspire readers to find other readers to share the book with. A personable author is always useful, but not at all necessary — an uncomfortable author makes for uncomfortable interviews and such. Getting early copies into the hands of enthusiasts is alway helpful, but everyone is busier than they were. Just about everyone I’ve queried in the last year about whether I could send them an advance copy to read has said something along the lines of, “Yes, but . . . I’m buried in these things!”

IL:What challenges do small press editors face at the marketing stage, and how can they be best met?

GG: Budget! A challenge that can best be met by 1) large anonymous checks from supporters (well, it’s never happened but it might), 2) using channels such as Edelweiss to distribute review copies as widely as possible, 3) attracting review attention/pitching books or authors for off-the-bookpage coverage, 3) national radio attention.

Gavin Grant is also the editor of the bi annual literary magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Hello!

Hey, so, this is my website! It’s got all the things, or at least it will eventually. Samples of my art, links to my writing, ideas in my brain, all that cool stuff.

I went on a social media purge a little over a year ago so I could focus on my honor’s thesis: my first ever novel. Now it’s officially my Senior year at Kent State (um, again), I’ll be wrapping up the novel by December, and I feel like it’s time to slowly resume social media activities and other internet things.

I have some fairly exciting news I’ll be sharing on Friday. In the mean time, find me other places.

Tumblr! http://lucyisawriter.tumblr.com/

Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/LucyIsAWriter

That’s, um, that’s about where I’m at right now.