Molly Crabapple on Love and the Literary Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School

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We dropped by on artist and illustrator Molly Crabapple at New York City’s Standard Hotel plaza this week, just as the pug dictator statue was crumbling under the girl army of the Revolution, one of the five themed works she painted for the literary Pen Festival to be auctioned for humanitarian causes. Along with publishing a graphic novel, Scarlet Takes Manhattan, which took hordes of fans into a seedy Victorian New York of con men and burlesque dancers, Crabapple is also the founder of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School. The events attract artists who want something more than a traditional model drawing experience. We asked why her dictator is a pug and what’s next for Dr. Sketchy.

So. Why is your dictator a pug?

Have you noticed how Gaddafi got pudgy and wrinkly with collagen as he got older? Stalin looked very puggish and pudgy in his later years.

What Dr. Sketchy themes are you imagining for the future?

Our next event on May 8th is Jack the Ripper-themed with Jiz Lee and Stoya, but I would love, love, love to recreate St. Petersburg’s Stray Dog Cabaret poetry house of the 1910s and cast models as poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Anna Akhmatova. I can’t believe we haven’t done A Clockwork Orange yet and Ayn Rand would be fun. Maybe Scientology? A friend of mine does a great Sarah Palin drag act, so we’re definitely planning a Dr Sketchy Is a Real American Tea Party theme.

Do you obey the burlesque almost-nudity standards so you can legally serve alcohol at Dr. Sketchy’s events?

Yes. Also, there are photographers on site and I think if there’ll be pictures of your vagina on the internet, you should get paid more than I can afford. But people love coming just short of crossing that line. I remember The Master and Margaritta Dr. Sketchy’s got especially wild.

What are you working on now?

I’m working with my collaborator John Leavitt on a new book called Straw House. It’s a story of a cursed, immortal carnival that threatens to destroy the little town of Ashtown, Pennsylvania. It’s about myth and rock ‘n’ roll and family and hillbilly angels. The carnival has been traveling for two thousand years, picking up outcasts of society — the inter-sex, the illegitimate, the autistic — under the leadership of a charismatic, sociopath carny leader Al Kelly. Instead of the very serious titty dancer Caddy, he decides to name an 11-year-old comic book geek the heir of the carnival. A battle begins.

Is this book going to be banned at Barnes & Noble like Scarlett Takes Manhattan?

No, I don’t think so. It’s very violent. It’s more socially acceptable to see violence than see a woman have on orgasm. It’s more socially acceptable to see a woman get raped than have an orgasm.

You and your boyfriend Fred Harper are comrades in arts. What’s that like?

It’s wonderful. We’ve been together since I was 19, his artist model. We live a moderately feral existence, stalking around a disordered apartment in filthy rags eating deli take out. If he was at all civilized, this would have been an issue. There are some people that put on clothes, go to offices and have regular meals. Others dance around the apartment to murder ballads at 3am to keep enough energy in their limbs and make that deadline. We’re the latter. We’re headed to Mizah Festival in Istanbul next to paint murals of Nasruddin Hoca.

Click through below for a slideshow of Crabapple’s works in progress at the Standard Hotel, memorable Dr. Sketchy’s moments, and rowdy illustrations.

Molly Crabapple. Photo: Marina Galperina

Revolution and Money. (Other paintings were themed Labor, War and Truth). Courtesy Molly Crabapple

Courtesy Molly Crabapple

Dr. Sketchy’s meets Transmetropolitan. Photo: Marina Galperina

Dr. Sketchy’s meets Transmetropolitan. Photo: Marina Galperina

Dr. Sketchy’s tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. Photos: Justin Lussier

Courtesy Molly Crabapple

Courtesy Molly Crabapple

Courtesy Molly Crabapple

Molly Crabapple. Photo: Marina Galperina