Show of hands. Who's surprised that the first time an artist in the U.S. was convicted criminally on obscenity charges, it was in the State of Florida? No one? Exactly.
Mike Diana was initially approached by cops at 18, fingered as a suspect in the Gainesville murders because of his suggestive underground comic books. DNA tests proved his innocence, but the po-po still insisted on riding his ass into court for his gory but artful and amusing works Boiled Angel #7 and Boiled Angel #ATE.
Diana is back in the Sunshine State, speaking at Miami Art Museum tomorrow about his evolution as an artist and his legal strifes. He also has a show up at Bas Fisher Invitational with those whose works he's influenced. We wrote a full article on the man for Miami New Times, but wanted to expand upon his musical experiences growing up in this weird part of the earth.
"the dirty rap music of Blowfly I used to listen to since age 15 became a big influence on my art,say what the frick you want!"
Amen to that. He told us he first came by the sounds of the revered Clarence Reid while shuffling through the sale comedy section at Peaches. He found Blowfly next to Richard Pryor.
Once, his sister overheard the record, and told their dad he was listening to "X-rated music." "He can listen to what ever he wants," was his father's response. "It was like nothing I'd heard at the time," Diana says, "This was before NWA."
When he got of high school, Diana got his first car. He was finally able to go to shows like the Circle Jerks, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, and Gwar. But his favorite was GG Allin, who he saw once in Orlando, Florida.
"Definitely the most extreme singer or performer I'd ever seen." Diana says, "He started out the show smashing a whisky bottle on his own head. And he was covered in blood singing -- some diarrhea, some urine -- the band was totally naked, and GG was totally naked.
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"People started running away from him out the door, and that made him angry, so he was running after them, throwing barstools outside. Somebody called the police, so the police come in halfway through the show, and they see GG and the rest of the band run into the back room and put their clothes on. I guess so they don't have to jail naked. The whole band's arrested, and the club was shut down, and turned into an Indian restaurant a month later. It's kind of funny to me, to have people eating in there, when GG Alin was bleeding, and diarrhea on the floor." (Insert joke about Indian food and diarrhea.)
He ended up working with some fascinating artists like Kembra Pfahler, the singer of Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. He found her album at an indie music shop in Florida and sent her a drawing. She ended up using it as a show poster. After he moved to New York in the early '90s, he became friends with her, and worked on backdrops and props for her shows. Diana also was asked by Marilyn Manson to create a poster for him. It depicted a girl shooting a Jacksonville police officer. Manson'd recently been arrested in the city for something wild he'd done onstage.
Oddly enough, it was also music that linked him back with Florida after all these years. Artist Kathryn Marks purchased one of Diana's paintings to use on the cover of an unreleased Otto von Schirach album on Schematic Records, called Hermaphrodite Tampon Eater. After hearing his story, she started talking to him about coming down, a conversation that's turned into a reality. And, honestly, what better place for an artist who's often drawn sawed up genitals to visit than a land where people eat each others' faces?
"Convicted for Comics: A Talk With Underground Cartoonist Mike Diana": New Work Miami 2013 exhibition with the End/Spring Break. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-375-4073; miamiartmuseum.org. Admission is $8; MAM members get in free.
"Mike Diana: Miami or Bust": 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Bas Fisher Invitational, 100 NE 11th St., Miami; basfisherinvitational.com. Admission is free.
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