Jessica Ciocci’s Emails of Graphic Experiences

By: Daisy Sheff

Image courtesy Jessica Ciocci
Image courtesy Jessica Ciocci

The first time I saw Paper Rad was the summer before eighth grade, at the Oxbow School up in Napa. One of the counselors showed me her collection of comic books (Matt Brinkman’s Multiforce is the only other one I remember out of this). Ever since then, comics, and Paper Rad in particular, have been on my mind. Paper Rad is/was a collective consisting of Jessica Ciocci, her brother Jacob Ciocci, and Ben Jones, who makes/made comics, installations, videos, etc., together. I had the opportunity to talk to Jessica Ciocci over email. Currently Ciocci is living in the South, where she continues to make work.


What importance does collaboration have for you? How did the Paper Rad collaborations work?
 
Can be really fun, powerful, but also messy, confusing, difficult. Those collaborations and work we did [in Paper Rad] looking back feel really special, lucky, and also kind of indulgent, like from a very special time where things were shifting culturally –videos and other [things] were sometimes more strictly collaborative. Comics generally were just made by each of us individually — kind of hard to develop ones’ style or aesthetic “drawing” “together” “literally” (like maybe impossible). i feel like generally there’s some individual preparation or contribution, then you get together and see where that combined energy takes you, or that has been my general experience….
 
What are your thoughts on social media—you seem to use it a lot, both as a platform for showing your work and a tool— how do you think it’s affecting the art world/ regular world and do you like or dislike it?
 
Fascinated by how we can basically “transmit” thoughts now in an instant. It is pretty magical, cool, fascinating, (weird/dangerous?)
 
i think i like all “media” i engage with to be like REALLY ENGAGED, and under my control, intense, so with that requirement or attitude it’s kind of hard to have that sort of distance that i think is generally understood or expected that social media should come w., and not have it get too deep or “personal”… But i have generally been in favor of ‘misusing’ any mass produced consumer tool.
 
Perhaps some of this is better left unsaid. (woops. too late now i guess~!) And, just experienced.
 
What’s inspiring you these days?
 
bad makeup, badd hair, creativity, cats, dogs, family, winter, fashion, non-violence, art, writers, thinkers, lovers.
 

Image courtesy Jessica Ciocci
Image courtesy Jessica Ciocci

 
Where do you live?
 
i live w/family right now in the south. before that was in LA, have been off and on in NY, and new England previously for several years.
 
Where do you work?
 
usually my bedroom. or literally my bed. (sad face) i like to have my environment be sort of “all immersive” or something — like every element is at my control… if i wanted… i could rearrange the furniture, have a mirror, dance around, be in absolute control of whatever i’m watching/listening to/paying attention to and doing, change outfits, paint, etc.. but that is not necessarily my exact situation right now. I try to stay flexible.
 
Are you still making comics?
 
i still draw — the urge is in me — it turned into abstract just filling in boxes w/colors, for a while, which i still find soothing in a weird way, comics i find difficult at the moment — to get into that amount of discipline — but it’s maybe better, it’s calming and slow to space out and draw characters or ideas in forms. it might be a future goal, but the act of drawing those squares on a blank page and then filling in w/narrative is somehow depressing, or overwhelming, or feels restrictive, so i reduced it to just fill in squares obsessively w/purely decorative patterns & colors, which seemed like something i could have more expressive control over more immediately. i guess i do isolated 1 page really terrible ‘comics’… doodles, here and there. It is a goal.
 
What are you thinking about while you work?
 
Sometimes like simple abstract “slow” work is nice because then you can try not to think so much, just sort of let all the thoughts pass through without grabbing hold to anyone of them!
 
i just watched this documentary about Wayne White called Beauty Is Embarrassing (which i would recommend) and then listened to a podcast w/ him & Mimi Pond and in that podcast he says that cartooning was the thing that really taught him discipline and craft and in a way is the most difficult — you can’t fake it, all parts have to work, for it to run, like a car, i think i agree w/that. its difficult!
 
Is Paper Rad still in existence?
 
Probably! remember how pee wee’s playhouse ended by saying the playhouse would always be there? forever and ever? that’s how i feel about what we did. and, i even told my brother at some point that it would never die. i still believe that.
 
Do you have a favorite medium or technique?
 
i like them all! i think performance and fashion and photography/video w/the internet have a lot of ‘resonance’ or appeal right now, but i always crave making visual things or objects w/my hands that are material — so that is usually drawing or painting or crafting of some sort w/fabric/yarn/material or glue. i think the hand-made and slow is a really good and necessary (for me) balance to the fast and over-stimulating and mostly mental energy that comes w/digital and internet activity. it’s real and human and calming, and can be more contemplative and focusing, i think, like cooking. computers are material as well, of course, but in a very different way.
 
Where to see more:
paperrad.org/jessica or jessicaciocci.com and tumblr u know the rest