Art Feature: What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over Its Head?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over Its Head?

by Zac Zander

Zac Zander lives in Connecticut with his dog, Kaki, who is named after the musician, not the pants. He obtained his MFA from Fairfield University with a concentration in nonfiction. His work appears in Now What? The Creative Writer’s Guide to Success after the MFA, and he is currently working on a collection of essays. Read his collaborative writing blog here.

Zac Zander, an inspired, passionate artist and writer, composed the visual text  “What Flower Can Grow with a Bag over its Head,” in response to the violence and discrimination against homosexuals in Uganda. In our interview with Zac, he discusses his relationship to both art and writing, the significance of visual text as an artistic medium, his creative process, his collaborative blog, and so much more. Deeply perceptive, intelligent, talented, and funny as all get-out, Zac’s insights speak to writers and artists of all genres and media. We hope you learn as much from this interview as we certainly have, and we encourage you to visit It’s Just Brunch.  


1) Can you elaborate on the inspiration for this piece?

When I was in my undergrad—when I created this piece—I watched a documentary on Uganda. For the majority of the documentary, they focused on the discrimination against homosexuals, and from that, I researched and sort of became obsessed with what these people go through just to survive. Through my research, I created this blanket.


2) Talk to us about the medium you chose. What materials did you use? Why did you choose to create this form to relay your message? Is this your preferred (visually) artistic medium? (If not, what is?) Why?

I used fairly pedestrian materials: a pre-stitched blanket, some fabric, and some paint. I knew I wanted to work with fabric and create a blanket, but I settled on this particular format to convey this message because of how I felt about it as a gay man. My own comfort is maintained by security, and I thought by doing this, I’d be making a security blanket.

I love working with fabric because, for me, it’s a juxtaposition to the written word. When I think of fabric, I think of clothes, blankets, curtains, etc., but I never associate it with text. I would say my preferred artistic medium is anything that challenges the relationship between words and images.


3) How would you describe your creative process? Do you often start with an idea, and let it manifest? Or do you start with creation, and slowly shape your final product?

An idea is usually spinning around somewhere in my mind—I find a medium and try to imagine the idea as a text and what kind of message it could produce. I would say most of the time, I’m a little ambitious in how something can come across, but I probably just need to learn to just try it.


4) We know you foremost as a creative nonfiction writer and a poet. How did you come to embrace visual text?

I think I came to love visual texts because of poetry. The reason I loved poetry was that I could go to a very strange place, and it could still have grounding in reality. When I paired that with art, I thought there was a much more rounded product. I felt I was able to communicate with the reader in a much more complex way.


5) How do you know when a piece is complete? Like for example with this piece, how did you come to decide that your message was communicated?

I don’t think I ever know when a piece is complete. It’s the most terrifying thing in the world to think that I won’t be able to change something.


6) Do you feel inclined more toward writing or visual art, or do you feel like they’re both important in different ways/for different reasons? How do these expressions relate to one another? You are a musician as well, what role (if any) do you feel music plays in your writing and artistic expression?

I think I feel more connected to them together. I love writing, and I love art. And when I think a piece can benefit from putting both of those mediums together, I am totally excited. Music plays a huge role in my life. I listen to music all the time—while I’m writing, driving, when I’m at work, sometimes in the shower. It relaxes me, inspires me; I love music. I think a lot of what I listen to comes through in my writing and art. I’m not sure exactly, but I know that without music, I’d probably be a lot less creative.


7) What artists influence your work? What artists would you recommend to our readers?

I’m reading comics and graphic novels regularly now, so a lot of artists I’m seeing are authors as well. Alison Bechdel, who wrote Fun Home, has been such an influence on me. David B., who wrote Epileptic, is also a huge influence. Nox by Anne Carson is one of the most amazing texts I’ve read. It’s a book of poetry that features scraps of the author’s deceased brother—his notes, pictures, etc. It’s a beautiful tribute to him. I’d recommend reading any of the texts I’ve mentioned (and so many more!). Visual texts are so interesting—you get to see another side to an author, you are able to get that much closer to the author’s intention, and I love that.


8) Who or what are you reading right now?

I’m reading On Writing by Stephen King, which was given to me for graduation by my friend Daisy, and I’m reading a book called, Gothic in Comics and Graphic Novels: A Critical Approach by Julia Round. I’m really loving them both.


9) If you could give one piece of advice to artists or writers who are reading this, what would it be?

Never limit yourself. Just try it out, and if it sucks or doesn’t work out, it’s okay. But it’s much more important to at least try.


10) Can you tell us about your compelling blog, It’s Just Brunch? What inspired you, Kate, and Colin to come together and focus like you did?

Ah, I love doing It’s Just Brunch. I think it came about because the three of us wanted to have a space to have a conversation with writers. We are always learning, and so we created a blog that sort of documents our journey through learning. We each post once a week; in addition, we usually publish a weekly writing prompt, guest blog, and video. The video is my favorite. It’s really raw and fun. I think that’s our whole goal for the blog—to do something really fun and funny but still keep it informative.


11) What other projects are you working on that you’d like to talk about?

Well, I’m working on my collection of essays, which I feel will never be done. I know I need to finish it, but I’ve been looking at it for so long. First in poetry form, then in nonfiction, now I’m thinking of making it a visual text. So I’ll be 170 before it’s finished.


12) Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Never stop writing. And read my blog. Is that tacky? I don’t care.


Linsey Jayne is a wave-headed poet with a penchant for jazz who received her MFA in creative writing at Fairfield University. Her writing has been published in such publications as The Standard-Times, The Dartmouth-Westport Chronicle, and exactly.what.  She has served as the chief poetry editor for Mason’s Road, as well as the student editor for the Bryant Literary Review and the opinion section editor of The Archway. Linsey is currently at work on her first collection of poetry, entitled Idle Jive.

1 Comment

  1. Fascinating!

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