Bad Feminist Interview: Molly Crabapple

13 Sep

Molly Crabapple.jpg

Molly Crabapple is one of our favourite people at Bad Feminist UK, and not just because we’ve all got a bit of a crush on her. Indeed, the reason for said group crush is because she’s talented, prolific, creative, entrepreneurial and generally inspirational. Well, that and she’s absurdly hot. So how better could we celebrate her birthday than by interviewing the fabulous feminist?

27-year-old Molly has already been described as “a major talent,” by award-winning graphic novelist, Warren Ellis, and “a downtown phenomenon,” by the New York Times – and that barely scratches the surface of the modern-day bohemian. As author Kevin Fitzpatrick says, “Molly Crabapple is to New York art and culture today what Dorothy Parker was to wisecracks and bootleg gin in the Twenties.”

So where did Molly’s talent spring from? “I learned to draw in a Parisian bookstore. My pen and ink technique comes from hours spent copying Alice in Wonderland and A Tart’s Progess. I soon fell in love with the feel of making ink lines- the crackle of the paper, the scratch of the pen nib, the sensual pleasure in drawing a curve.”

We have heard rumours that Molly used to be an artist’s model. Is that true? “As a young art student, I realized I could either stock shelves for five dollars an hour or contort naked for a hundred. For three years I worked as a professional nekkid girl in situations legit (Lowrider, famous French fashion photographers) and not (the dentist from Massepequa who had a heart attack shooting me). While my attitude is such that I’d make a piss-poor nude model these days, I’ll never regret either the money I made or the reservoir of stories it gave me. To hell with honest employment!”

And what did Molly do to attract the attention of the great and the good (and indeed, the fashionable and the debauched)? Where to start: 30 foot theatrical back-drops, parade installations, burlesque posters, critically acclaimed web-comics, pornographic comic books, art writing, gallery shows around the world and even children’s books are among her impressive repertoire. Crabapple is clearly a woman who doesn’t waste any time (or perhaps it’s down to her self-confessed caffeine addiction).

You’d think that little lot would be enough, but in 2005 (at the tender age of 21) she decided – during her time as a life model – that art classes lacked a little zing and that she could create something more interesting. And so she did. Along with co-host, aesthetic arbitrator and graphic design god, John Leavitt, she founded Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, the world’s largest chain of alternative life drawing classes, with over 100 branches in every continent except Antarctica and Africa .

Since then, Dr. Sketchy’s has spawned a book, calendar, jewelry line, US and European tours, an internet radio show, a series of comedic YouTube shorts, and a show at the Edinburgh Fringe. As a result, Molly’s attracted press coverage from publications as diverse as Time Out, The Village Voice, Bizarre, Playboy.com, The Scotsman, BBC Radio and Fleshbot. She’s illustrated for some of the most esteemed publications around too: Marvel Comics, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Playgirl are just a few of her fans – and she’s also illustrated eight books, including her own.

As resident Toulouse Lautrec of The Box, one of New York’s most exclusive nightclubs listing Mick Jagger among its members, Crabapple is no stranger to mingling with the glitterati. But she remains cheerfully down-to-earth (in a recent, sadly rare, UK trip she ended up introducing one of the Bad Feminist UK editors to the joys of man-on-man porn…) However, her latest project looks set to project her even further into the stratosphere. She’s teamed up with Dr Sketchy’s co-conspirator John Leavitt once more to create the sexiest graphic novel ever.

Scarlett Takes Manhattan is a burlesque Aubrey Beardsley meets Beryl Cook romp, following the adventures of Scarlett O’Herring, “a saucy waif vamping her way through the stage-doors of the Big City vaudeville scene”. Scripted by Leavitt, Scarlett follows the rise of Miss O’Herring from tragedy (her mother crushed by copulating circus elephants) through her accidental grand entrance on the stage (sans costume) to her success as the fire-breathing queen of New York Gilded Age burlesque. As to the muse behind the characters, “We were definitely feeling Sophie Tucker meets Harly Quinn for Scarlett. Daniel was Angelina Jolie in Foxfire meets Jude Law meets this crazy hot Puerto Rican butch girl I went to college with.”

Molly explains, “My characters, bewigged aristocrats and corseted ladies, are creatures of the polished surface. They’re molded by ornament- their corsets and cage skirts- and sometimes trapped inside. But as with any mask, there’s a face underneath. And the face in my work is smirking. For any mask, or mask like society, has a weakness. If you want to crack it, you only have to laugh. Thus, my characters have arched brows and sarcastic smiles. They want to let you in on a secret. It’s all terribly silly, isn’t it?” Perhaps – but we think Molly’s a lot more stimulating than silly.

So what’s next for Ms Crabapple? “I’m sort of living the dream. Being able to draw pictures, travel the world and have a mini cult is really all a girl could ask for.”

Even though we’re inclined to agree, somehow, we’re sure that it’s just the beginning for Molly.

Find out more about Molly at MollyCrabapple.com

Get more information or sign up for a Dr Sketchy’s anti-art class at DrSketchy.com.

Join the Scarlett Takes Manhattan Facebook group.

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