PRINT October 2001


Marcel Dzama

Marcel Dzama as “Polio.”

Marcel Dzama is a Winnipeg-based artist whose work can currently be seen at the Carrara Academy, Bergamo, Italy. McSweeney’s Books will publish an edition of his paintings and drawings in 2002.

  1. Jockum Nordström

    A Swedish artist whose imagery—birds, buildings, sailboats, musical instruments—seems to be culled from innocent moments of everyday life, Jockum Nordström nevertheless partakes in a certain amount of naughtiness. In one drawing, a couple engages in intercourse atop a city building, a floating passerby licks the woman’s head, and an oblivious crowd gathers below. The images may sound contradictory, but nothing is out of place. In these rhythmic drawings, rendered in pencil on white paper, I especially love how little ghosts appear when you get up close: Even when Nordström erases a character, its will seems to live on.

  2. Tomland

    Three-inch action figures first released in the mid-’70s, Tomland toys are knockoffs of monsters and aliens from films like Time Machine, The Fly, and Star Wars. Although these figures are poorly made overall, their glow-in-the-dark heads and weapons are first-rate. Out of production since 1982, the toys are nearly impossible to find, especially in their original packaging. I’m lucky enough to own the memorably named Ah, Wik, Yog, Grand, and Yick.

    Tomland, Wik, 1979, plastic, ca. 3 1/2" high. Tomland, Wik, 1979, plastic, ca. 3 1/2" high.
  3. Actual Air (Open City Books, 1999)

    Best known for his band the Silver Jews, David Berman is also a poet. When he sings, it’s like he’s reciting musings on the world around him, while in his poetry, he seems to drawl in an easy, sublime sort of way. I can’t help but think that much of Actual Air could easily be turned into song. When I first read it, I was on a plane. Having made it to my destination, I now associate a safe flight with the reading of this book.

  4. Michael Dumontier

    An artist from Winnipeg and one of the founding members of the Royal Art Lodge, Michael Dumontier makes art from the most primitive materials yet somehow always creates something vital and new. Recently, I watched him build a musical instrument from a tossed-out briefcase, guitar strings, nails, and a toy organ. He and Drue Langlois play these instruments in their band, Eyeball Hurt and the Medicine. They also make homemade dolls out of felt, each with its own appellation. One named Virgil holds his severed head in the air. His tag reads: “What’s done is done.”

    Michael Dumontier and Drue Langlois, Eyeball Hurt Dolls, 1999, mixed media, each ca. 7 1/2" high. Michael Dumontier and Drue Langlois, Eyeball Hurt Dolls, 1999, mixed media, each ca. 7 1/2" high.
  5. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

    Great art with a sense of humor is exceptional. Add honesty and you get My Neighbor Totoro, a full-length anime created by Hayao Miyazaki. This is a story about monsters that are invisible to adults. Not your typical monsters, they go out of their way to help and entertain children. One is a feline who looks suspiciously like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland; its body is a bus, which it uses to taxi kids around the neighborhood. The title character, a hybrid of an owl and a bear, leads a search party when one child goes missing. Once she’s found, Totoro goes back into hibernation until he’s needed again.

  6. My Best Fiend (1999)

    Klaus Kinski did the loneliest Dracula you’ll ever see. He’s the reason I started drawing Nosferatu. Werner Herzog’s documentary about the actor chronicles their notoriously tumultuous relationship. It’s rumored that Herzog wanted to make this film for years but graciously waited until after Kinski’s death. One can only imagine how Herzog’s alter ego would have reacted to this depiction of him as a raving madman prone to stunts like firing a gun at a tent full of people. But the portrait is complex. One moment, Herzog is ranting about Kinski, the next he’s moved beyond words by his brilliance. You sense that Herzog loved Kinski intensely, but never fully understood him.

  7. Neeeiillllll Hammmmbuuurggerrrr!

    What can I say about “America’s Funnyman,” Neil Hamburger? Having driven nine hours to see him perform a ten-minute show, I call myself a devotee. One part vaudevillian, two parts genius, Hamburger can’t tell a joke to save his life. The by-product of America’s penchant for tolerating bad humor, he makes comedy out of the sheer audacity of every comedian who’s ever set foot in a divey bar. He’s at his best when the crowd actually believes his antics are authentically awkward and unfunny.

  8. The Heart of the World (2000)

    Guy Maddin’s five-minute film was made for people with short attention spans like me. The story follows two brothers who are in love with the same woman, Anna. One brother attempts to woo her by adopting a Christ persona. The other becomes a mortician, artfully dressing the faces of the dead. Anna loves them both and cannot choose, though the heart and soul of the world seems to depend on it. Unabashedly Soviet in influence, full of quick cuts, intertitles, and scratchy, skittish energy, this film may be short, but its proportions are epic.

  9. The Pharmacist’s Mate (McSweeney’s Books, 2001)

    In this deeply moving, loosely autobiographical novella by Amy Fusselman, the narrator struggles with infertility and her father’s death. The daughter’s words are interspersed with entries from her father’s World War II diary. Both voices are genuine and unassuming, and their fusion reads like music.

  10. Anton Karas

    I’ve probably made half my drawings listening to the haunting zither of Anton Karas. I bought the sound track to The Third Man for a quarter at a Goodwill shop and have since worn it right through. I love the story of how Orson Welles and Carol Reed heard him play in a bar in Vienna and just knew he was the one to score their film. If you ever see this record, buy it. It’s a rare and beautiful find.