Episode 553 – Peter Rostovsky

Virtual Memories Show 553:
Peter Rostovsky

“I was trained in this notion that art should tend toward a kind of inhumanity, a kind of neutrality. It can have political messaging, but we should mute the expressive nature But as I grow older – not necessarily wiser – I’ve grown okay with myself as an artist. I’ve discovered lyricism, poetry, imagination: all of those things that I once forbade myself from.”

How did a hangover in 2015 lead to an award-winning debut graphic novel in 2023? Find out as Peter Rostovsky joins the show to celebrate the release of DAMNATION DIARIES (Uncivilized Books)! We get into the origins of his gorgeously & grotesquely drawn social satire about Hell (& Hell’s therapist, Fred Greenberg), what he had to learn about comics in the process of making his first one, how comics allowed him to wed his polemical nature to a deeply personal story, and why his version of Hell bears an awful lot of similarities to life in NYC. We also talk about what it was like emigrating from Russia to the Bronx as a 10-year-old kid in 1980, how comics helped him learn English, his strategies for blending in as a teen, and how he found redemption & maximalism in heavy metal. And we discuss his history in the worlds of fine art, art theory, internet utopianism, and teaching International Art English, the time he broke up a fight between a sculptor and a painter, whether AI is a McLuhan-esque ‘prosthesis’ for art, his mother’s recent death and how he feels about rendering her in Hell in Damnation Diaries, why I think he needs to write about his occasional childhood exile in a garden in the Hermitage, how giving up his solo studio and joining Dean Haspiel & others in Studio CLOACA gave him a community, and more. Give it a listen! And go read DAMNATION DIARIES!

“I was a comics nerd, but I left it behind for a long time. It turns out I had from childhood an archived sense of the medium.”

“The delicacy of drawing, of painting, confronts you with the fragility of people’s efforts.”

“We are constantly grappling with transience: transience of thought, of memory, of all our artistic efforts. And we make art to gain communion with our fellow travelers.”

“AI takes the gift of imagining away from you.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Peter Rostovsky is a Russian-born artist and writer who emigrated from the former Soviet Union as a political refugee in 1980. His paintings and fine art have been shown widely in the US and abroad and exhibited at museum venues such as PS1/MoMA, The Walker Art Center, MCA Santa Barbara, Artpace, The Blanton Museum of Art, S.M.A.K., as well as a host of private galleries. His writing — often under the pen name David Geers — has appeared in the magazines October, Fillip, BOMB, The Third Rail Quarterly, The Brooklyn Rail, Unbag, and Frieze, and spans cultural criticism, art writing, and fiction. Meanwhile, his illustrated fiction and comics-based work has appeared in the Third Rail Quarterly, Unbag, Topic, and in Devil’s Due’s much-publicized “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force” where his contribution was highlighted by the New York Times, Vice, and other media outlets. He teaches at NYU, Parsons New School, and Lesley Art + Design. His new book is DAMNATION DIARIES.

Follow Peter on Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Peter’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Peter by me. It’s on my instagram.

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