Velvet Rasputin’s History, Artist’s Statement and the Gutterotica Manifesto
How Velvet Rasputin Came To Be
Catnose Comics did not begin with a focus group or a bunch of corporate types trying to make a buck. We’re too independent and our roots are too underground for that. Ours is the story of a misfit kid who made comics to deal with inner demons for fun and profit.
I’ve been drawing since I was a young child, as a way to communicate and vent about everything that bugged me about life. I began working on “En el oriente”, the short story that eventually became The Legend of the SOUP Wars, at the age of nine. Initially it was just the story of a little rich Japanese girl and her ridiculously pampered life. An overwhelming fear of what seemed to be the inevitability of the Soviet Union and the United states going to war. This anxiety was compounded by some really messed up situations involving sex, mental illness, my migration to the United States and the agonizing erosion of Puerto Rican culture. This transformed my work in a rather radical manner. My creative output became brutal, intensely perverted in an anti-erotic way, coarse and strangely preoccupied with the Soviet Union and the idea of the outsider. It was simultaneously infuriating and, embarrassing to me, as a teenager. Yet, this horrific art kept me sane through the nightmares of my dream world and my reality, so I worked on it compulsively. These dark creations were what eventually developed into the world of Velvet Rasputin.
I began creating zines, prints and mini-comics by sneaking into the principal’s office copier room and piecing my booklets together with needle and thread, back in 1989. These publications tended to be heavy in political satire, sex, violence and just plain weirdness. Family Circus or Garfield these comics were not. It was a hell of a lot better way to make extra cash than babysitting. Velvet Rasputin didn’t have a name yet, but it already existed.
This clandestine operation of a teenage rapscallion went legit. ZNLArts produced free and mainstream regional entertainment zines like The Electric Walleye and Synergy back in the nineties. Both publications boasted a maximum circulation of 15,000 units each, and were distributed in four states and Puerto Rico. Some of our comics were also regionally self-syndicated. ZNLArts ceased operations in 1997. Out of its ashes, the Catnose Comics department of VAS Littlecrow emerged.
On May 4th, 2013, Catnose Comics and Velvet Rasputin merged into a single entity.
The Birth of Velvet Rasputin
On October 31st 2002, marked a major turning point in my career as an artist. I was working at the Chicago Club (then called Legends) nightclub, in Minot, North Dakota as an exotic dancer. There were featured dancers scheduled to perform upstairs, and a sexy Halloween costume contest downstairs. I knew there was no way I would meet my earning quota without my usual hours or with the competition that was present at the time. Being a mouthy creature who actually danced, hid her unmanageable hair under a bad wig, carried no silicone parts and a wore pair of thick glasses, didn’t help matters any.
Frustrated with the fact that my value as a performer was diminished by the fact that I was not a porno clone, I changed out of my lacy outfit and platform heels. I donned practical shoes, a white sports bra, white cotton panties with matching skirt and a Burger King crown, in lieu of an actual outfit. If I wasn’t going to make money, at least I was going to reveal what I really was about. I made a knife out of duct tape, commandeered a few garbage bags, several packets of ketchup and a Queen CD. When it was my turn to go onstage, I performed a rather unhinged interpretive dance routine inspired by Bohemian Rhapsody. As I performed a striptease, I shouted teary-eyed epithets at the audience about their pleasure in my objectification. I simulated my own suicide and eventual resurrection. I didn’t meet my earnings goal, but I got pretty close. The crowd loved the show and people asked questions. The bar manager was not amused, but she let it slide.
In on April 13, 2006, I created the webcomic Rasputin Catamite with the assistance Caylie Dean. Its print-version, was known as Velvet Rasputin, and was often sold during my burlesque shows along with caricatures for the club’s patrons. Eventually, this brand was expanded to include all of Catnose Comics‘ outsider art projects.
The Birth of Gutterotica
The bar manager’s growing indignation over my repeated performance of outsider art numbers, combined with some irritating experiences where the original Velvet Rasputin comic projects faced censorship, spawned the Gutterotica Manifesto in July 6, 2008.
Years before Lady Gaga made the artistic and feminist use of sexual violence mixed with absurdism mainstream, artists such as Marina Abramović, Amber Hawk Swanson, Ugly Shyla and myself, were already engaged in such creative explorations. Our aesthetics have presented stark contrasts to the pissed-off pacifism stereotypes that came as a result of Rita Mae Brown’s A Manifesto for the Feminist Artist.
So-called feminist “shock artists” often touch on taboos that even so-called feminists vehemently enforce. “Proper ladies must not speak about or even think about violence, or its meaning. They must not do this, even when violent victimization is a potential or real danger.” Such attitudes reflect a sexist sentiment that comes from a position of assumed feminine weakness. Men are told to stand up for themselves. Women are told to shut up and take it, in the hopes that the violence will eventually stop. That doesn’t sit well with me.
For these reasons my art is often preoccupied with sexual violence and other grotesque aspects of the human psyche. You can’t defend yourself against an enemy until you understand what you are up against. As an artist, I seek to change that kind of victim-mentality attitude using an extreme form burlesque humor coupled with a sense of responsibility towards my readers. That kind of expression is what I call, gutterotica.
Velvet Rasputin and my gutterotica art are nowhere near as extreme as they used to be, but my sentiments still stand. I have become more pro-egalitarian in my age. My artistic delivery has become considerably more refined. My work’s intent is more focused on historical and philosophical education. Nonetheless, it’s important for the roots of the Velvet Rasputin Gutterotica Project to be acknowledged within their proper historical context. As an artist, I cannot fully appreciate my journey if I forget why I started on this path in the first place.
The Gutterotica Manifesto – FUCK ART! (Fourth Revision)
The only difference between pornography and shock art is that one needs a bullshit story to justify its existence (an artist’s statement,) and the other has the audacity to stand upon its own merits, as an expression of a human being’s baser instincts without apology or explanation. Gutterotica is at once a hypocritical compromise that bridges the intellectual honesty gap between art and pornography — be it in the sexual or strictly violent sense.
Gutterotica functions by presenting imagery common to both pornography and erotica, and potentially taking it to its most disturbing extreme, even if only by implication, though not necessarily. This is done with great care to maintain the humanity of the participants, regardless of how malevolent, objectified or dehumanized they are. Gutterotica is post-feminist, post-nihilist, horrific, fetishistic, offensive, thought-provoking, contradictory, subcontrary and self-mocking.
Gutterotica is guttural: It gives creative minds the ability to speak with a voice that is at once grating to the general sensibilities of civil society, and pleasing to the ear of those who need an outlet of release. Gutterotic artists should always make a concerted effort to warn away those individuals whose psyches are not ready for this type of expression, as well as those persons who are charged with protecting the well-being of those individuals. When possible, accessibility to gutterotica should be restricted. If those who are warned or shielded away from gutterotica choose to ignore the warnings, then the artist should not be blamed. If the artist purposely denies or destroys the viewer’s option to avoid participation in gutterotica, the artist also destroys his/her credibility as someone able to speak with the voice of this artistic genre. Shock for shock’s sake is not gutterotica. An agreement between the viewer and the creator to be mutual participants in the artist’s shocking fantasy world, is essential for gutterotica. Consent is the key between the artist and the spectator.
Gutterotica is a psychic gutter: It provides a safe metaphorical outlet for the expression of frustrations, anger, disturbing desires, hatred, vengeance and the darkest exploratory urges of otherwise responsible and functional adults who are able to distinguish reality and fantasy. Practitioners of gutterotica recognize the benefits and dangers of artistic expression with open eyes. Gutterotica artists seek to find a balance between social responsibility and brutal art that knows no boundaries. It takes evil imagery from the hands of predators and transforms it into a way for former victims of acts such as marginalization, abuse, rape or bullying, to deal with their demons. This form of expression reveals the thought process of those who treat them as prey, even if there is no desire to comprehend why or sympathize with how the mind of the predator works that way. With this knowledge victims can decisively end the cycle of being prey by developing a trust of their instincts and an immunity to the paralyzing effects of fear.
Gutterotica helps desensitize victims of evil acts by helping them confront their phobias head on. Once desensitization is complete, the artist or viewer can benefit from gutterotica by looking at the horrific visions and concepts from an objective standpoint. If gutterotica serves its function, people will be able to ask questions about why the horror depicted in these images exist in fantasy as distilled from the reality filters of the artist. If the viewer and the artist can do this with honesty and compassion, then a sensibility will return, but not necessarily to the depictions of evil, but to the causes of evil.
Gutterotica serves its function when both the viewer and artist are moved to find ways to prevent, fight or create awareness of conditions and situations that foster inhuman behaviors in otherwise “human” beings. Nevertheless, gutterotica is not a psychiatric tool. It can be potentially detrimental to those who are either unable to cope with the past, unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, and those who are too young or immature to understand the power of harsh imagery. Gutterotica exists for artists who are ready to face their fears and memories, for those whose experience with evil has been so extreme that traditional methods of group therapy fails to provide an outlet to let go of pain, or viewers who are curious about the imagery from an aesthetic, emotional, instinctive and/or philosophical standpoint.
Gutterotica expression takes guts: This artistic approach offers no justifications or apologies. Creative minds that choose this path may find relentless opposition. Gutterotica is not for everyone, and not everyone needs to appreciate gutterotica. Gutterotica exists for the sake of existing, not public consumption, even if there are times when the public accepts, or even embraces, gutterotica.
The application of gutterotica on the human psyche cannot be verified as a legitimate artistic theory until further analysis can verify or disprove the claims presented in this document. At present research on the correlation between sex, violence and media has been explored for years, and yet the results remain inconclusive.
Whether the cathartic effects of gutterotic art on the author of this document were simply a fortunate fluke or a verifiable phenomenon, is not relevant. The only thing that matters to zir is that gutterotica is serving its function in life. Everything else is for the public and history to decide.