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I Was a Teenage Riot Grrrl Wannabe
Written by janice headley | Filed under Megan KelsoFantagraphics Bookstoreevents 5 Jul 2011 11:13 AM

Riot Grrrls Not Dead
photo credit: vanigliavvelenata on Flickr

"Revolution Girl Style Now!!!"

Um... that's what I might've exclaimed when Fantagraphics Bookstore curator Larry Reid told me that we'd be doing an exhibit on the "Riot Grrrl" scene of the '90s to celebrate the reissue of Megan Kelso's incredibly-important (in my humble opinion) collection of early work, Queen of the Black Black.

Was I a riot grrrl? Er, not exactly. While the scene was emerging from Olympia, WA, I was a pre-teen, stuck in the boring suburbs of Fort Worth, TX. I had no scene, and I had nothing to rebel against, except maybe curfew and school dress codes. But I did happen to have a subscription to Sassy Magazine...

If you're too young to remember Sassy Magazine, I'm afraid I can't provide you with a current cultural comparison, because nowadays there isn't a publication like it around. (Hell, nowadays, magazines themselves hardly exist, but I digress...) But, let's just say it was the "alternative" to teen girl magazines at the time. The first issue I ever bought came with an R.E.M. flexi-disc attached to the front, a cover of Syd Barrett's "Dark Globe." Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth penned an advice column one month. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love were cover stars another month. 

Bikini Kill zines

Anyway, Sassy Magazine had a column titled “Zine of the Month," and  I became absolutely mesmerized by zines and the concept of self-publishing. In a bold, ballsy act of naive confidence, I had somehow already landed myself a job writing about music for our local newspaper by the age of 14. But with zines, I can say anything I want? Hell yeah! Wait, I mean... fuck yeah! That's more like it! I started stuffing Hello Kitty envelopes with well-concealed cash, ordering zines every month.

Bikini Kill introduction

From the introduction of Bikini Kill issue two: "And sometimes this is all very hard cuz this world doesn't teach us how to be truly cool to each other and so we have to teach each other." What outcast adolescent girl wouldn't be drawn to the Riot Grrrl movement and its message of female empowerment? Even decades later, I still feel moved by those words.

In 1996, I had started my own zine, copacetic -- yes, intentionally lowercased, and yes, named after the first Velocity Girl album, released on Sub Pop Records in '93 (although not "grunge" nor "riot grrrl"-ish). Sadly, by the mid-'90s, it felt like the Riot Grrrl scene had quietly disappeared, even though its influence on me hadn't. 

So, as you might imagine, I'm really excited that we'll be celebrating the work of three artists from that scene this Saturday, July 9th: the girlish and commanding comics of Megan Kelso; the sly, stylized postcard art of Stella Marrs; and the beautiful and reflective silhouettes of Nikki McClure's work. See you there!

The Quiet Rrriot: Visual Artists from the Riot Grrrl movement by Megan Kelso, Nikki McClure, Stella Marrs

Opening Saturday, July 9th from 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Artists talk with Megan Kelso and Nikki McClure at 7:00 PM, followed by a book signing.
Exhibition continues through August 31, 2011

Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S.)
Seattle, WA 98108
206.658.0110
Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM
This event is free and all ages