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Katie Antoniou interviews Molly Crabapple

Molly Crabapple sounds like a character from a Dickens novel-which is appropriate given how much the Victorian period has influenced her work. Like Dickens, she's fascinated by both darkness and glamour, mixing with all sectors of society from burlesque dancers to Occupy Wall Street protesters to comic book geeks. We're lucky enough to have her in London this week, speaking about her book 'Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell' at The Groucho. She spoke to us about her experience of purgatory in a New York hotel room...

By Bill Wadman


KA: How did you come up with the idea of spending 'a week in hell'? What was it like being watched over webcams by all your Kickstarter backers?

MC: When I came up with the idea of Week in Hell I was actually deeply depressed. I was sick of my career, my cliches, and wanted to draw so much and so long that I found out what was really mine in my art. I had the idea of drawing locked inside a giant box in a public square, and Warren Ellis told me to stop dreaming, rent a hotel room, cover it in paper and draw. It's always slightly disconcerting to be on webcam while drawing. One never knows how much they should acknowlege their audiance and how much they should focus on their art. But I've gotten to meet some brilliant people and have some facinating conversations.

KA: You founded Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art school which now takes place in over 120 cities-did you ever imagine it would become so big? Why do you think it's been so successful?

MC: I never, ever imagined that my hair-brained scheme of alt. life drawing would end up taking over the globe. I think it succeeded in part because it was a scheme to unite the underworld- glittering burlesque performers and dorky comics artists combined. KA: You recently created a 90 foot mural for The London branch of the infamous nightclub The Box- have you had a chance to party there yet? Where are your favourite places to go out in London?

MC: While I have gotten the chance to see the brilliant performers of the Box London once (I've spent far more time in the NYC branch) in general I am a quiet and studious sort who scribbles in my sketchbook in the corner. In London I practically live in the Groucho Club, but I love Gosh! comics.


Collaboration between me and New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny

KA: Much of your work is inspired by Victorian England, an era which is still the subject of many new books, TV shows and films -why do you think the period holds so much fascination for us?

MC: It comibes maximalist ruffles and a brutal society without a social safety net. Sort of like how we are now.

KA: Tell us about your time as a burlesque dancer.

MC: I was a terrible dancer myself, but always worshipped the tough, glittering girls and boys of the demimonde. Being a dancer is alot like alchemy. You change in a dirty kitchen and schlep you drag bag through the snow, because, for five minutes, you can embody Glamour and Desire.

KA: You were present at much of the Occupy Wall Street activity in New York- do you think we're on the brink of a revolution?

MC: I don't, but I think that Occupy marks an important, even life-changing thing in America- the first time many of us saw average people passionately engaged in the political. It was a privilage to live next to Zuccotti, and to do posters for the movement.  

KA: Neil Gaiman said “I have become convinced that Molly Crabapple was sent by the devil to seduce us all into art” - Is this your aim? What plans do you have to succeed in seducing us all?

MC: Seduce? Maybe just use art to break through the boundries between people.


Hear Molly speak about her 'week in hell' at the Groucho club on 26th April, full details here.

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