The following is written by Academic Outreach Coordinator Kathryn Reuter
In honor of Pride month, we are highlighting some queer zines in our collections.
A zine is a hand-made and self-published pamphlet that can contain writings, collages, comics, illustrations, and other artwork. Zines are made in a variety of styles and cover endless types of content; makers are motivated by the possibilities of self-expression and creativity in this medium. For a brief history of zines, and to find more zines in our collections you can refer to this resource from the University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives.
Because of their low production cost and the lack of oversight and censorship in making a zine, zines can be especially appealing to members of marginalized communities or counter-culture movements. An early subculture that embraced zines was the Science Fiction Fan community; fans would produce zines with newsletters, fan art, and fan fiction to share with others in the fandom.
In self-publishing their own work, people who are intentionally excluded from traditional media and who have barriers to accessing the institutions of publishing and academia can “take the mic” and make a zine on any topic they are passionate about. Other subcultures that adopted the counterculture self-expression of zines include the punk music movement and the riot grrrl movement. Alongside these movements, queer folks have been making and reading zines for decades.
Some of the queer zines in our collections have an informative bent to them, such as Asexual, Bisexual, Cissexual: A Sexual Identity Glossary and Dykes and Fags Want to Know, which features interviews with lesbian political prisoners. Here we can see an example of how queer zine culture frequently blends with other movements for social/ political justice, including the Prisoners’ Rights Movement and the movement for Prison Abolition.
In the same collection – ZINES AND FANZINES (MsC0331) – we came across the zine series The Life and Times of Butch Dykes which features wonderfully illustrated brief biographies of lesbians you probably did not learn about in history class.
Queer history is a subject that mainstream society for years has intentionally overlooked. By producing and spreading zines that share queer histories, zine makers are emphatically stating: we are here, we have always been here, and we belong here.
Even with the positive and inclusive messages in queer zines, their makers acknowledged that the content of their creations would not be accepted by all. In the front matter of the zine Homocore, the editors explain how to subscribe to the zine and reassure readers that issues are “mailed in a plain envelope to accommodate your oppressive environment.” Queer people were at risk of being discriminated against by landlords, neighbors, roommates, or even family members who may have seen their mail.
Despite this risk, queer zine makers and readers were leveraging the postal system as a tool for community building. Zines like Holy Titclamps and Homocore featured sections for printing letters from folks seeking pen pals, people who were interested in zine swaps and subscriptions, and even people looking to swap records and share music.
In addition to building personal relationships, zines offered the opportunity to organize readers in social justice efforts. For example, Issue 7 of Homocore includes a full page outlining the Marlboro/ Miller Boycott of 1990-1991. The boycott, organized by ACT-UP/San Francisco and ACT-UP/Washington DC, aimed to unseat conservative Senator Jesse Helms (who was a vocal opponent of gay rights and feminism). Helms received hefty political donations from Phillip Morris, makers of Marlboro cigarettes and then-parent company of Miller Brewing. Homocore writes, “Helms lives in the tobacco industry’s back yard; he supports them with legislation, they support him with money” and outlines reasons to participate in the boycott. For decades, zine editors have used their zines as a political tool to amplify the efforts of queer organizers and queer rights campaigns.
If you can’t stop by Special Collections & Archives to read zines this summer, we highly recommend the Queer Zine Archive Project – an online archive “to preserve queer zines and make them available to other queers, researchers, historians, punks, and anyone else who has an interest in DIY publishing and underground queer communities.”
The following is written by Academic Outreach Coordinator Kathryn Reuter
Mauricio Lasanky was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1914 to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. Lasansky showed artistic skill from a young age — printmaking was his preferred medium, a choice perhaps influenced by his father, who worked as a printer of banknote engravings. After completing high school, Lasansky studied printmaking at the Superior School of Fine Arts and after just three years, was named director of the Free School of Fine Arts in Cordoba, Argentina. His work caught the attention of Henry Francis Taylor, who was then director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taylor recommended Lasansky for a Guggenheim Fellowship, a distinction Lasansky was awarded in 1943—with a renewal in 1944. This fellowship allowed Lasansky to travel to New York City, where he worked at the famed printmaking workshop Atelier 17 and, over the course of two years, reportedly studied every. single. print. of the old masters in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Drawings and Prints (an estimated 150,000 works!).
In 1944, as Lasansky’s Guggenheim Fellowship was coming to a close, University of Iowa president Virgil Hancher was looking for a Printmaker in Residence as part of the development of the University Art Department. Mauricio Lasansky accepted the position and while he initially planned on being in Iowa City for “just a year”, Lasansky taught at the University for forty years and established one of the most respected printmaking workshops in the country. By all accounts Lasansky was an exceptionally dedicated teacher; in his farewell letter to the director of the University Art Department in 1984, he wrote:
“Somehow I will miss teaching since I don’t recall one day in my teaching one-to-one that was not enjoyable. For that I am grateful to the University, the Art Department, and above all to my students, who are scattered all over the world as you know. I can honestly say that I did the best I could. Was it good enough? Time will say.”
-Letter to the Director of School of Art & Art History. Oct. 31, 1984 file: Lasansky, Mauricio. Vita and Farewell Correspondence, 1983-1984 collection: Iowa Print Group Records
Throughout his time teaching, Lasansky continued to earn accolades for his own work – in fact, in 1961, Time magazine called him “the nation’s most influential printmaker”.
Because of his skill and success as a printmaker, it is somewhat surprising that Lasansky’s most famous works are a suite of drawings. The Nazi Drawings — a set off 33 portraits of Nazis, other perpetrators of the Holocaust, and bystanders — are haunting depictions of the disgust and pain that Lasansky felt about the Holocaust and atrocities of World War II. Created over a period of five years, the drawings are made primarily with pencil on paper, with some treatments of turpentine, earth colors, and collaged newspaper. With simple materials, Lasansky was able to conjure a thick layer of horror and tragedy onto paper. The drawings vary in size: a few measure about two feet in height, but the majority are around five feet—and the largest is almost seven feet tall. The scale of these works makes them feel unescapable, they violently confront the viewer with deeply dark depictions of humanity. To see a grotesque image as a sketch on a page is one thing, but these large drawings force us to see the figures as the same size as us. They are fully disturbing.
Although the end of World War II and the liberation of concentration camps occurred in 1945, Lasansky would not begin work on his drawings until 1961. This gap in time is because, like many people around the world, he did not fully know the extent of the tragedy until decades after the war. Immediately following the war, media attention on the Holocaust was minimal, and it was only years later that stories of the persecution and genocide of Jewish people and other groups were introduced into wider public consciousness.
As an example, one of the most famous works of literature to come out of the Holocaust, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, would not be published in Amsterdam until 1947 – and only after great effort by her father Otto Frank. As a post by the Anne Frank House explains, “It was not easy to find a publisher so soon after the war, because most people wanted to look to the future.” Similarly, an English translation of the book for publication in the United States was turned down by 10 publishers before Doubleday Publishers agreed to publish the translation in 1952. The diary is undoubtedly a vital piece of history, but the writings are about Anne’s quiet life in hiding — the reality of genocide and the horrors of labor and death camps were not included in the published volume. The climate of the 1950s was heavy with post-war optimism and American society at large was saturated with a culture of positivity; most people preferred not to grapple with the tragedy and grief of the Holocaust.
For many, full recognition of the horrors of the Holocaust was spurred by the widely publicized 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, a German Nazi officer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. Eichmann was responsible for the logistical planning of genocide and escaped capture at the end of the war. In 1960, Nazi hunters found Eichmann living in Argentina and brought him to Israel to stand trial for 15 criminal charges. This trial was broadcast around the world, from April to October of 1961, and people watched on their televisions as over 90 Holocaust survivors gave testimony about the horrors of the Holocaust and the brutality of the Nazis. There had never before been this level of exposure for Holocaust survivors and the terrible truth of their experiences. During the Nuremberg Trials, for example, only 3 Holocaust survivors gave testimony because the prosecution decided to rely on documentary evidence in building their case. The Eichmann trial was widely followed by the media and exposed many people, including Mauricio Lasansky, to the truth about the horrors of the Holocaust.
In The Nazi Drawings, Lasansky was putting his rage and grief onto paper. In a biographical essay, scholar Alan Fern summarizes:
“Both the formal and the iconographic development of Lasansky’s work reached a climax in The Nazi Drawings of 1961-1966. For Lasansky, this was both an artistic watershed and an emotional catharsis, during which he turned his major creative energies away from the print to give physical embodiment to his seething reaction against the Nazi holocaust. He saw the unleashing of bestiality in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s as a brutal attack on man’s dignity, and felt it carried the potential seeds of man’s self-destruction.”
– “The Prints of Mauricio Lasansky” by Alan Fern (page 17) in Lasansky: Printmaker John Thein, Phillip Lasansky – University of Iowa Press 1975
Even with greater public awareness of the Holocaust, The Nazi Drawings were difficult for many to stomach. In 1967 Time magazine noted that the works were on display at the Whitney Museum and called them “as unsettling a set of drawings as any museum has shown in years” and reported “the impact of the drawings is so devastating that the Chicago Institute of Art declined to show them altogether…” With just pencil and paper, Lansky managed to illustrate intensely uncomfortable images and convey the immense tragedy of the Holocaust. The Nazi Drawings are an example of the power of art as process – they were a way for Lasansky to lance the wound and pour out the heavy emotions he felt. The drawings have also endured as an example of the power of art to unsettle viewers; to provoke emotional reactions from an audience. No one would venture to call these drawings beautiful, but there is no mistaking their power.
The entire set of drawings are currently on display for the first time in over 15 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This exhibit, on display until June 26th, pairs the drawings with archival media of the Eichmann trials as well as contemporary prints by Lasansky.
Undoubtedly significant to the rise of printmaking in the United States, Mauricio Lasansky’s legacy is also deeply imprinted on Iowa City. The tradition of excellence he established continues in the University of Iowa’s printmaking program, and members of Laskansky’s family run The Lasansky Corporation Gallery on Washington Street in downtown Iowa City.
As another way of remembering this difficult time in history, on April 29th, 2022 the University of Iowa will plant a new tree on the Pentacrest: a sapling propagated from the old chestnut tree that grew behind the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during WWII. Learn more about the event here.
Books in Special Collections:
– The Nazi Drawings / by Mauricio Lasansky FOLIO NE539.L3 N3 1976
– Lasansky, Printmaker FOLIO NE594.L3 T44
Material in University Archives:
– Papers of Mauricio Lasansky University Archives RG 99.0030
– Iowa Print Group Records RG 06.0007.002
– Howard N. Sokol Papers (RG 99.0017) Subject Files – L. Lasansky, The Nazi Drawings 1972.
View more digitized photos of Lasansky (from the University Archives) as well as digitized prints (from the collection of the Stanley Museum of Art) at the Iowa Digital Library
The following is written by Kathryn Reuter, Academic Outreach Coordinator for Special Collections & Archives and for Stanley Museum of Art
In 1938, Chester Carlson invented the process of electrophotographic printing. Later rebranded as xerography, this process is what fuels photocopy machines around the world. Carlson’s invention forever changed the nature of office work and schoolwork, but it also sparked creativity for artists around the globe. While many of us associate the Xerox machine with the monotony of paper pushing and working nine to five under office florescent lights, members of the International Society of Copier Artists (I.S.C.A.) saw the copy machine as an artist’s medium and eagerly embraced the possibilities of this tool.
Louise Neaderland founded the I.S.C.A. in 1981 as “a non-profit professional organization composed of artists who use the copier both alone and in conjunction with other medium to create prints, murals, billboards, postcards and an innovative array of bookworks.” (I.S.C.A. Quarterly vol. 1 no.1, 1982) Neaderland is a printmaker, book artist, and alum of Bard College and the University of Iowa. Beginning in the early 1980s, her New York City studio became a hub of copier artist activity. Rather than gathering and sharing their work in person, artists corresponded with Neaderland primarily through the postal system. In addition to artists, membership in the I.S.C.A. was open to art collectors and institutions like libraries and archives.
At the core of the I.S.C.A. was the I.S.C.A. Quarterly, a publication of work by member artists. Neaderland published the first volume of the I.S.C.A. Quarterly in April of 1982, and aside from the occasional guest editor, it appears that the operation was largely a one-woman show. Artists would mail copies of their work to Neaderland, who would organize the submissions and publish the pieces in the Quarterly. Then she would package and mail each issue to I.S.C.A. members and subscribers.
The first issue of the Quarterly contained the work of all 48 copier artist members and was released as a file of loose papers in a flat folder. By the third issue, the Quarterly had grown to over 120 members and had found its form as a plastic comb bound volume of pages, a format it would (mostly) maintain until the final issue in June of 2004.
Copier artists creatively stretch the expectations of photocopies by using different colors, sizes, and textures of paper. In issues of the I.S.C.A. Quarterly there are works that have pasted on collages, unique paper cut-outs, applied paint, ink, and sewed on appliques. So long as an artist was using a photocopier as a component of their work, their pieces were fair game for submission to the Quarterly. While some issues were a hodgepodge of works with vastly different subject matter, Neaderland frequently issued calls for work based on a theme, resulting in I.S.C.A. Quarterly issues on “Statues of Liberty”, “Walls”, “The Artist’s Studio”, and “Charles Dickens”, just as a few examples.
In the summer of 1986, Neaderland published the first of what would become an annual issue of the I.S.C.A. Quarterly: the Bookworks edition. The Bookworks issues featured xerographic artists books and book objects and were packaged in cardboard box mailers. Printed on the back of the catalogue for the first Bookworks edition are the opening lines of Ulises Carrion’s essay “What A Book Is”:
A book is a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment—a book is also a sequence of moments. A book is not a case of words, nor a bag of words, nor a bearer of words. A writer, contrary to popular opinion, does not write books. A writer writes texts.
This series of statements makes clear that the Bookworks editions of the I.S.C.A. Quarterly were meant to challenge our notions of what makes a book.
Because they corresponded and submitted art through the mail, the I.S.C.A. was undoubtedly embedded in the “Eternal Network”. Dating back to the 1950s and still active today, the Network is an informal, global network of artists who communicate by exchanging their mail art via the postal system. Postage stamps, envelopes, and other postal themes frequently appeared in the work of I.S.C.A. members.
Like the Network, the I.S.C.A. was truly international in scope, in Neaderland’s files of correspondence with other artists, there is mail from Japan, Greece, Panama, Spain, Uruguay, and what was formally Czechoslovakia and West Germany. Neaderlander must have gotten quite a lot of mail; in her Editorial Letter from December 1995, Neaderland urges fellow I.S.C.A. members to send packages to a separate mailing address instead of to her Brooklyn address because she had “a small mailbox here in Brooklyn, and a very angry postman.”
Sitting at the intersection of book works and mail art, the work of the I.S.C.A. attracted the attention of Ruth and Marvin Sackner: a Miami based couple who became leading collectors of concrete poetry, artist books, and book objects. When the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry arrived at the University of Iowa in 2019, their issues of the I.S.C.A. Bookworks editions, which Neaderland had mailed out to Miami over the course of over two decades, were shelved just five rows away from Neaderland’s own personal copies of the I.S.C.A. Quarterly, which had never left New York City until she gifted her records to Special Collections and Archives in 2003.
The records of the International Society of Copier Artists are in good company here in Iowa City with the thousands of pieces of mail art in the ATCA, Fluxus, and Sackner collections. The I.S.C.A. Quarterlies and Bookworks editions are truly delightful to page though. They serve as records of how copier artists responded to major political, environmental, and social issues of their time. In addition, they are reflections of the rapidly changing technology of the 90s and early aughts. For instance, in 1995 Neaderland wrote in her editorial letter that she would soon be purchasing her first personal computer and was excited to not have to literally cut and paste her letters from typewritten pages. Two years later, she had established an email address for the I.S.C.A. and was working on a web site. At their core, though, the I.S.C.A. Quarterlies are a testament to artist’s abilities to find creativity and inspiration within the drudgery of the ordinary, like copy machines – and the twenty-one-year run of the Quarterly serves as a shining example of the radical power of self-publishing.
Special Collections & Archives is excited to welcome Kathryn Reuter to the team as our new Academic Outreach Coordinator.
As Academic Outreach Coordinator, Kathryn will be working with both the UI Libraries and Stanley Museum of Art to increase visibility and usability of our deep and culturally diverse collections of art and visual materials. Kathryn will collaborate with faculty to bring object-based learning into the classroom and leading object-centered teaching and research workshops for instructors across campus.
Kathryn has an Associate of Arts from Orange Coast Community College, a BA in History from California State University Long Beach, and an MA in History and an MLS with an Archives Concentration from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She has interned at the Getty Research Institute as a Multicultural Intern, and as Watson Library Intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also served as a Cataloger and Researcher at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, and as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Wisconsin Milwaukee. Her research interests also include animal studies, the history of homelessness and food insecurity (as well as food justice and housing activism), and the history of vegetarianism/ veganism — and animal rights activism.
“In my new role as Academic Outreach Coordinator, I am looking forward to finding connections across the Stanley’s and the Library’s collections. I love teaching and aim to empower students to interpret art and rare materials on their own. Museums and libraries can be intimidating spaces, but I fully believe art is for everyone! And the library is for everyone! I am excited to be a part of making the library and the museum welcoming spaces where students have fun learning.”
When not at work, Kathryn enjoys mail and mail art, making and writing a lot of postcards and letters. She also collects and makes zines. Her favorite food is a veggie California-style burrito (which she informs us is a an amazing creation that features french fries inside of the burrito–so you know we’ll have to try it here in Special Collections).
We’re excited to work and learn more from Kathryn.