Diane DiMassa & Cristy C. Road: Live Through This

Photo of Diane DiMassa by Love Alban
Photo of Cristy C. Road by Amos Mac
Diane DiMassa and Cristy C. Road are contributors of the new anthology, Live Through This. Edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev, Live Through This is a collection of original stories, essays, artwork and photography that explore the use of art to survive many of life’s lows, traumas and struggles. Both illustrated and contributed real-life personal pieces to the anthology.
Diane DiMassa is best known as the creator of the comic heroine Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist. She recently illustrated a graphic novel written by Daphne Gottlieb called Jokes and the Unconscious, and regularly contributes to anthologies.
Cristy C. Road’s works and publications include the punk rock zine, Greenzine; illustrated storybook, Indestructable; a series of illustrated novels based on filmmaker Esther Bell’s upcoming film, Flaming Heterosexual Female; and is currently working on Bad Habits, an illustrated love story.
Here are Diane and Cristy…

When did you start getting into illustrated novel work?
Diane: Jokes and the Unconscious is the first one I’ve done. I had never
really thought about it before; I guess I was too busy doing Hothead.
Well, the first things that fascinated me were my Cat in the Hat books. Then Mad magazine. Graphic novels bore me because they’re usually so technically perfect; perfect squares, perfect lettering, flat, empty. I hate it.
Cristy: I got started with writing zines, and that transformed naturally into illustrated novels. the first zine i saw that made me want to do something that involved merging art and writing was called “angrogynous sanity.” Then I read Tales of Blarg and Cometbus and those changed my life, too.
Why did you decide to take part in this anthology?
Diane: I tried not to, but Sabrina [Chapadjiev, editor of Live Through This] would simply not go away. I finally relented and read what it was all about. Being a depressive, suicidalmess and former scumbag drug addict, I felt I could get behind it.
Cristy: I wanted to take part in this because the concept it’s addressing is incredibly important to me. Stigmas on women artists and self destruction are so horribly one sided because this society taunts pain, or pained people, in the most disgusting way. This book is humanizing artists’ experiences.
Cristy, your illustrated essay talks about a battle to not deal with past life experiences that keep emerging. Can you talk more about this? And how art helped/helps your character, and/or you, deal and feel present?
The situation I wrote about involved constantly returning to cocaine as an emotional and mental crutch during both intense periods of depression, and following/coping with trauma.
The depression quells the desire to make art, and cocaine suppresses the desire to care for anything, except whatever exists within the confines of my chemically charged brain. Eventually, once desire and ambition started existing again, art was the only way to cope with the experience — naturally obtaining that desire to make art is the difficult part. but once it happens, it’s worth the crappy comedown that happens after any splurge with stimulants.
Diane, your illustrated essay is set for the most part during your character’s therapy session. Can you talk more about what you illustrated? What is the battle you’re trying to describe?
The story is true to life. I did start Hothead at the suggestion of a therapist. Learning to direct anger somewhere productive isn’t easy and takes a long time, but it’s worth it. I didn’t even know I was angry so I started at negative ground zero and a half. The battle is always with myself.
How does art help you deal and feel present?
Diane: I have art in me and if I don’t do it, it’s sitting in there waiting (and wasting). When I participate, I’m using what I have and so I’m alive and charged and things feel right.

What does your art mean to you, and how do you think art helps “the ones who think they are not going to make it”?

Diane: I know that Patti Smith, for one, got me through a lot. Having art available that makes you feel OK, that makes you happy, is no small thing. I was a very lost young person, and it was art and music that made sense.
Creating something and sharing it is important because it could just save someone’s sanity. My art means everything to me; I paint every day. I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing, and I never knew what I was supposed to be doing.
Cristy: My art means so many things at different times — therapy, retreat, a weapon…But what it boils down to is that its my voice, and i just used it when i was a teenager to write zines, and talk shit, and be angry, confused, etc. — there wasn’t a guidebook on how to become an artist. So, if you’re making art, then you’ve made it. You just can’t stop, however — you know, in order to make it further.
What advice do you have for readers looking to get into the illustrated and/or graphic novel genre? Are there particular challenges, female readers especially, should keep in mind?
Diane: The comic/graphic novel world is heavily boy-dominated. Muscles and fighting, tits and ass; all that animae crap…yawn. Forget chain bookstores. Go online to Last Gasp or Fantagraphics, AK Press, etc. There’s a lot of great stuff out there. Trina Robbins is a great resource!
Cristy: I honestly have never even been involved with the genre, besides reading some graphic novels and enjoying them. Ive been involved with the literary world, the zine community, and punk rock….And if the graphic novel genre is anything like those things; then itis eternally imperfect and you just have to be the best at what you do, find your niche and your community of artists, and fuck everyone who gets in the way, ’cause everyone gets in the way — especially men, with financial stature and power.
Diane, how do you feel things have changed since you started working in this field? What did you intend to illustrate when you first introduced HotHead Paisan and what are your intentions now? Have they changed?
I didn’t even intend to publish Hothead…it was just journal stuff. I kind of don’t really have intentions except to not limit the form of expression. Yes, you could call me a cartoonist, but I don’t really think of it that way. Art is emotional (for me) and it dictates to me
what it should look like, what medium it’s gonna be. Cartooning worked for what I was doing during Hothead because it’s immediate, and funny, and you can do any damn thing you want with a cartoon.
What are some future projects you are working on?
Cristy: My novel, BAD HABITS, which is similar to the piece in Live Through This. It’s about coping with an abusive relationship and the destructive routes that that healing entails. It all takes place in NYC. A lot of nightlife, acid trips, and one night stands. It should be out on Soft Skull in the fall. Besides that, I’m always working on new art for things like album covers, skateboards, and book covers.

If you could create an illustrated essay depicting the legacy of President George W. Bush, what would it look like?

Diane: Probably something like the Book of Revelations…
Cristy: GWB will be played by a hunchbacked mutant with no spine.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Live Through This is a classic!

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