arts and pop culture | December 20, 2012

My Week In Hell: How Molly Crabapple Disrupted The Art World [VIDEO]

"'Week in hell' was my attempt to break artistic cliches," new exclusive Lavin speaker Molly Crabapple told the audience at the Cusp conference. Called "THE artist of our time" by comedian Margaret Cho, Crabapple is known for breaking boundaries and has turned the art world on its head—something she did, to great success, with her "My Week In Hell" project. As she tells the audience in her talk, there was a time in her life—before she turned 28, to be exact—when she felt like she was "sick of herself". Though she was accomplished in the illustration world and had drawn for some big-name comic book companies, she wanted more out of her life—and her art.

She decided that she wanted to lock herself in a room and draw; "draw so much, and so long, and so hard, and so intensely, that [she] saw what [her] actual aesthetic was," she says. What she grappled with, however, was exactly how to do that, and how to get the money to make it a reality. Crabapple tells the crowd that her friend, comic book writer Warren Ellis, advised her not to "wait for other people's permission" to start something big. "Just rent a hotel room," he told her. "Cover it in paper. Fill the paper with art. Livestream it. You have your project." So she did just that—transforming a hotel room into 270 square feet of art while the entire Internet watched her live from their computers. She ended up raising $25,000 and, it's safe to say, broke out of her late-twenties slump.

On the stage, Crabapple urges her audiences to take hold of their dreams and make them a reality. Holding true to the advice she was given to not ask permission, she tells her students at the Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School—which she founded at age 22—to take risks and disrupt the scene around them. She is the author of Discordia (with Laurie Penny), the forthcoming Straw House, and Week in Hell. In her books and her talks, she asks us to question what it means to make art, and how public spaces can be utilized for our own artistic explorations.