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Monday 19 May 2014

Excellent Women: Molly Crabapple

Photo by Steve Prue

Molly Crabapple is a name you should know - it's certainly memorable enough. Her work as both an artist and writer has gained her international acclaim while at the same time highlighting causes close to her heart, from the Occupy Wall Street movement in her home town of New York, to Guantanamo Bay, where her reportage saw her shortlisted for a 2013 Frontline Print Journalism Award.

(Above and below are from Shell Game, Molly's kickstarted show inspired by the financial crisis, now available entirely on creative commons)

Molly originally brought art to the people with the foundation of her alternative life-drawing salon, Dr Sketchy's Anti-Art school which now takes place in over 120 cities.

'I never, ever imagined that my hair-brained scheme of alternative life drawing would end up taking over the globe. I think it succeeded in part because it was a scheme to unite the underworld - glittering burlesque performers and dorky comics artists combined.'

Molly herself enjoyed a brief stint as a burlesque dancer, like those who inhabit the realms of Dr Sketchy nights, but confesses,

'I was a terrible dancer myself, but always worshipped the tough, glittering girls and boys of the demimonde. Being a dancer is a lot like alchemy. You change in a dirty kitchen and schlep your bag through the snow, because, for five minutes, you can embody Glamour and Desire.'

Described by The Guardian as being 'equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, William S. Burroughs and Cirque du Soleil,' you can see that the fantastical characters Molly paints stem from her love of the otherworldly, but her portraits of people like Trayvon Martin are equally moving.

In 2013, she discovered that one of her posters for the Occupy movement has been bought by the Museum of Modern Art. She also found out that the FBI has a 3,000 page file on her, though they still haven't revealed what's in it. But knowing she's under their watchful eye hasn't stopped her travelling the world reporting on political events with her sketchbook, as well as speaking at institutes like The Museum of Modern Art, The London School of Economics, and Harvard university.

Molly's collaborated with many wonderful authors, journalists and musicians- she and Kim Boekbinder aka The Impossible Girl created 'I Have your Heart', a charming short film which they made with Jim Batt.

It's amazing to think that Molly only began writing in 2012, in response to her arrest during a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Since then she's covered everything from Guantanamo Bay, to the war in Syria to Banksy, as well as this brilliant piece on the slightly less controversial subject of turning 30.

(Molly was forbidden from drawing the guards' faces at Guantanamo Bay)

She still manages to get straight to the heart of the issue;

'Age is a weapon society uses against women. Each year that you gain comfort in your own flesh, your flesh is seen as worth less. Thirty, like 40 or 50, is a demarcation line, but a particularly loaded one. Cross it, says the world, and you leave the trifling-but-addictive privileges of girlhood behind. Invisibility this way, ma'am.'

I turned 30 last week, and found that, as usual, Molly's words hit the spot.

I hope you enjoy discovering her work too. Next year her illustrated memoir, Drawing Blood will be published by Harper Collins, but in the meantime you can buy her previous books and prints on her website.


  1. She's awesome & will get better with age & is an all around modern day thoughtful "renaissance woman".

    1. Agreed- ridiculously talented, and putting all her skills to such good use!


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