DIMITRI is a full-time working/struggling artist from Providence, RI., with representation in Florida, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. He’s a staff illustrator at The Rumpus and has published book covers with Canarium Books and Furniture Press, and illustrations with Smoking Glue Gun, The Kenyon Review, BOMB Magazine, and Heavy Feather Review. His Hello Mussolini series can be found on Tumblr, while additional work is catalogued at his website, Sootghost.
ON CARTOONS AND STAYING SANE
A week before the election I decided to make ten drawings a day for a month. Then on Nov 8, the drawings morphed into cartoons on the spot. There was no forethought.
I never read comic books growing up. I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m an interloper. Cartoons are immediate and they’re also kind of anti-art. They lean toward the grotesque. Painting is always caught up in ornament or ornamentation at some level, even when I am desperately trying to resist it.
The series has changed. The first drawings were strictly pencil on paper, intentionally, as a statement of urgency. More recently, I’ve been inking them and typing in the text. I’ve been putting a finish on them to balance out the drawings, which are so raw.
It’s been keeping me sane, honestly. It’s cathartic and compulsive. Otherwise I’d be going around ranting constantly, driving everyone nuts.
ON MAKING SENSE THROUGH ABSURDITY
I’m a big fan of David Rees’ Get Your War On. I loved it during the Bush years of lied-up war and tax cuts for the rich. It was one of the few things that made sense during that time. It’s always interesting to me that absurdity is the antidote to madness and mendacity. I think GYWO did that.
Maybe that’s what the connection is to Hello Mussolini — absurdity and a kind of joy at flipping off power.
The vulgarity is also a reflection of the subject. Trump is a bag of shit. The man was endorsed by the KKK. His closest advisor is a white nationalist. Every one of his cabinet appointees is an enemy of the public good.
I was thinking the other day: Jeff Sessions is worth $7.5 million. How does an inbred imbecile who spent his adult life in politics accrue so many millions of dollars? How corrupt are we?
ON NAIVETÉ AND HOME DÉCOR
My work has always been driven by the pressure of world events. My first show was titled The Epic of GilgaBush in 2003, which I put together with a great painter friend of mine, Martin A.B. Guenette. It started off political.
During the Barack years, I was lulled into a metaphysical worldview. The paintings reflected that. This election is a call back to the barricades.
I don’t see the point of making home décor—ever really—but especially now. I get the feeling a lot of artists and writers are looking at what they were doing pre-election and thinking that they can no longer abide by it.
I’ve also been making street art. It’s been pretty compulsive, a bit like the cartoons. It’s another way to reach out and connect. I keep hoping that art in general has the ability to leap the walls that divide us. With the cartoons, I hope that the humor can do this. That may be naive. I don’t know.
Want to be considered for future installments of The New Comics? Send your work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.