What piece of art changed your life? How did it affect you?
Oh man, that's a really hard question—not because I can't think of one—but because I can think of a million and one pieces of art that have changed my life, and there are more every day. If I have to pick one right now, I'm gonna say it has to be the work of Lynda Barry. It was a hammer to my heart—a direct hotline to my past and future, a chugging gas pump of hot no-knock gushing into my empty tank—when I discovered her work back in the late 1980's.
Her words and drawings had a dark and hilarious language that I completely understood—and a funky vernacular language that actually became mine—so much so, that when we met and became friends 20 years later, I was worried she would think I was making fun of her! But "Dag! She's So Very Number One! Right On!" is stuff I say all the time!
Everyone in the entire world needs to know her books—especially What It Is—which is essentially the recipe book for her life-saving class called "Writing the Unthinkable"—it should be an FDA requirement for our health! It's that thing of not feeling alone in the world. I was always a weird little kid, and then a weird adult, but her characters were people I recognized—especially her children and teenage characters, who were funny-as-hell and doing funny things, but they were also living lives with a lot of trouble in them. There were also cruel or absent parents, alcoholism, racism, sexual abuse, poverty—you know, the usual stuff that most all of us have to deal with at some time growing up.
Her writing class shows you an easy way to remember and tell your own stories, dark and light, to make your own art. And art, as Lynda says in her class, is what we do "to keep from killing ourselves… or others!"
Dag, that Kelly Hogan is a gem! And she loves Lynda Barry. Right on! She played in the Jody Grind in the 1990s, joined Neko Case's band in the 2000s, and put out some fab solo albums, including the recent I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, which features Booker T on keys and a bunch of great songs by the likes of Catherine Irwin, Vic Chetnutt, Stephen Merritt, and Andrew Bird. Hogan opens for Case tomorrow night at Rams Head Live.