An American in Istanbul: Molly Crabapple on art and activism

Pacific Standard: “To draw is to objectify, to go momentarily to a place where aesthetics mean more than morality,” Molly Crabapple writes in her memoir, Drawing Blood, an addictive volume that I devoured a few weeks ago during a flight from Rome to Istanbul, the city that stands at the center of Crabapple’s fascination with what was once called “the Orient.” With her artwork already placed in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, her essays and illustrations published in venues like Vanity Fair and Vice, the 33-year-old artist is a curious composite of entrepreneur, revolutionary, and bohemian artist. The book is an account of Crabapple’s formation as an artist and political dissident, from her childhood in Long Island to teenage travels in Europe and the Middle East, to her mature return to New York in the heart of Occupy protests at Zuccotti Park.

Drawing Blood is designed as a notebook, where Crabapple sketches her life story in both words and lines — 30 short chapters featuring snappy episodes from the artist’s life crammed together with illustrations done in the style of a courtroom sketch. The book’s central characters and places, meanwhile — a group of intellectuals, artists, sex workers, refugees, dissidents, bookstores, and streets who have helped shape Crabapple’s conscience — come to life in the book’s sketches, wherein Crabapple seems to have painted each at the moment she first came into contact with them. [Continue reading…]

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