Naked People with Snakes


The Believer this month has a really good interview with designer / painter / comic arts legend Gary Panter — best known as the guy who did the sets for Pee-wee’s Playhouse, somewhat less well-known for his Jimbo comics, and notorious (among the smallest circle of these three) for practically living on chocolate milk. The interview made a half-hour wait at the DMV last week pass much more quickly; either that, or the infamous ink fumes from The Believer just got me high. Maybe both. Anyway: I’ve put a few of my favorite quotes after the jump.

The Believer asks him “what is it about childhood creativity that still inspires you?” He answers:

When my daughter was born, she was already a full-blown personality, from two weeks old. And I could watch as month by month the media and the culture infiltrated her sense of who and what she is and what she might be interested in. And it’s changed over time and become specific to her generation. That continues for all of us throughout our whole lives. I think artists try to remove that, and figure out who you might be without the culture. A lot of what we want and who we are is way out of our control. It’s nice to get some glimpse of what we’d be like without that.

When he gets onto the subject of religion — Panter grew up in a very religious household in the 50’s and 60’s, but has now disavowed religion — he might as well be describing a series of his own drawings:

My grandparents had this very old Doré bible, and the engraved illustrations really fascinated me, like when Ezekiel (or whoever) calls the flesh back on the skeletons, and the images of the witches of Ensor. I really liked Adam and Eve: naked people with snakes. I liked angels with flaming swords. The earth swallowing people up was always good too. I had these crazy distant relatives who’d write their own interpretations and revelations and handprint pamphlets. That was great.

Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →