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You are your environment: Louise Bourgeois, Julia Wertz and the eternal mini-comic problem

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Storage: the secret shame of the comics world. Like many in the comics industry I’m a bit of a packrat (to put it mildly) and getting free books all the time doesn’t help. (Tough life, I know.) I was recently reminded of this by a couple of stories. In one, Brooklyn cartoonist Julia Wertz’s tiny home museum was spotlighted by Curbed:

“This apartment is the most me that anything can be,” says Julia Wertz of her small Greenpoint studio, which functions as both a living space and makeshift cabinet of curiosities. For about two years, Wertz traveled with friends to abandoned sites (hospitals, theaters, and the like) throughout New York City and the surrounding areas, searching for different items—medical equipment, glass bottles, door knobs, the list goes on—which she then brought back to her 300-square-foot apartment. What’s grown from that hobby is a highly curated collection of oddities, tailored specifically to Wertz’s interests. “It’s a museum of things that are just for me,” she explains.


Wertz’s use of every squire millimeter suggests a viable second career setting up Ikea displays, but it’s also beautiful:


This is a degree of organization I could only aspire to with the same likelihood as becoming the bride of Oscar Isaac. At Stately Beat Manor the shoebox is the unit of measurement, and also why I need to buy so many pairs of shoes. (Although the $4 boxes at Flying Tiger have recently become welcome alternatives. Luckily I live a few blocks from the only outpost in the States.)

The New York Times also recently wrote about the apartment of artist Louise Bourgeois which was left as it was when she died in 2010 and is being turned into a musem. A little grubbier and more austere in its splendid clutter.

That sensibility was not warm and cuddly. The art dealer Howard Read, who would attend some of the Sunday salons where young artists were invited to show Bourgeois their work in her living room, recalled that her critiques could be brutal. “That’s the most uninteresting thing I’ve ever seen,” she might say. “Give the next person a chance.”

Yet people kept coming. “Whether it was her accent or her Europeanness or her personality, people were in a trance,” Mr. Read said. “You couldn’t stop listening to her. It was magnetic.” Her birthday fell on Christmas Day, so guests would arrive to celebrate both occasions. Mr. Read and his wife, Katia, would bring cases of her favorite Champagne: appropriately, Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame.”



I’ve always figured that we create our environments as a projection of the architecture of our brains. It’s an attempt to render in 3D how we see the world. Obviously Wertz and Bourgeois are/were artists with a complicated, lively perception, and like all packrats, imbue objects with psychological and personal meanings. Their spaces are magical as we’re plunged into another person’s world/mind. 



Which still doesn’t answer the question: what do you do with all your mini comics? Given the explosion of small presses and the infinite rainbow of different sizes and media, it ain’t easy. By show? By Author? I actually attempted to address this at last year’s Comic Arts Brooklyn and posted the results in a podcast.

https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/www.publishersweekly.com/binary-data/PODCAST/content/000/000/501-1.mp3

Among the folks I talked to: Brian Chippendale, Leslie Stein, Noah Van Sciver, Barry and Leon from Secret Acres and more. Their methods varied from the shoe box to Chippendale, who lives in the last shambling, wrecked 3000-sq-ft loft that we all dream of, who just builds a new shelf when he gets more books. The person with the most systematic scheme was actually Katie Skelly, whose interview didn’t record unfortunately. She uses hanging file folder arranged in milk crates, each author to a file and the milk crates stored…in that great 3000-sq-ft loft of our minds, no doubt.



The Secret Acres crew brought this up in their own report on CAB:

We were, nonetheless, roped into the Beat‘s (forthcoming) podcast, mostly talking mini-comics storage. Kevin H himself expressed mini-comics storage concerns earlier, which gave us a leg up for Heidi. So, for you mini maniacs out there, we recommend nesting tables. Get some. Trust us. Surely, Heidi’s podcast offers every conceivable solution, too, but nesting tables.

I myself tend to organize books by show for some reason, and throw them all into a magazine file folder when I’ve weeded out the ones for the permanent collection (ie all of them). Older minis are stored in shoeboxes. I’m started putting some collections together though—all the Frontiers together, significant authors like Kris Mukai together—but this is more of a rainy day project. 



As I was writing this LITERALLY the doorbell just rang and the FedEx guy came with another box of books. So better get that sorted. Meanwhile how about you? How do YOU store your minis and comics and books?

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