5 Questions; 13 Photos: Zoe Zag Makes Punk Fresh All Over Again
Zoe Zag's approach to creativity is like the CrossFit path to physical fitness. A Los Angeles-based and Venice-matured artist, Zag's pursuits include paintings, prints, photos, set design, zines, and a personal presentation that pushes style somewhere beyond fashion, to a zone defined by creative individuality.
Check the online archive of Zag's Cry Tuff path for a deeper consideration of film and print projects that include Sia's "Chandelier" video and staggered visions of Elvis from Hell. One unifying thread in all this accomplished work is the sense that the artist is just getting started.
The Kind: What's so great about punk rock?
Zoe Zag: Punk is interesting because there are so many layers to it. Punk isn’t just fast angsty music; it is the idea of saying and feeling what you want. People are told to be a certain way, and punk plays with that idea. I never fit in at school, and then I heard “Typical Girls” by the Slits, and it all made sense. You don’t have to be a certain way. It made me question the people I see on TV and magazines. I was a crazy kid listening to the Clash in grade school. When I dug deeper, things started to make sense. I moved into other areas of punk and started to say, “Wow someone said it.” In Richard Hell's "Blank Generation," it starts out with: I was saying let me out of here before I was even born/It's such a gamble when you get a face. This is what it felt like. Now punk is a reminder that I can do and say what I want. I don’t feel that I have to limit myself and act or look like the people I see. I can create things for me, not for everyone. Lastly, punk made it possible for anyone to play music. A lot of the songs I love are from people who never had piano lessons.
The Kind: What turned you into being a working/paid artist?
Zoe Zag: It is all really an experiment. I realized that there are so many things you can do besides selling paintings. I started designing sets, which was more fulfilling than small work. You get to make things at such a larger scale. Also, clothing really helped with getting work out there. I'm really focusing on clothing and collaborating with designers to keep building. It’s just finding the loopholes where you can make a job out of it as well as enjoying what you do.
I take pictures to document my life and the people in it at that time.
The Kind: Are you based in Los Angeles by default or by choice? How come?
Zoe Zag: At this point, I have surrendered to Los Angeles. I have tried to leave, and I always end up back here. I found that you can really do anything here. Every day is different, and you can stumble upon interesting things at any time. If you wanted to be a tap dancer, you could probably make that happen. You could decide to be the trash man, pharmacist, or a mime. There is an opportunity to be what you want, and that is the challenge. You don’t even need a college degree to get into the film industry. Besides all that, there is a lot of beauty here. I am sort of obsessed with old Hollywood and the changes this city has gone through. Once you find your place here, you see what you want to see. If you like nature, it exists. If you like small towns, it exists. I don’t get caught up in anything I don’t like.
The Kind: What's different about taking pictures of friends and taking pictures of strangers?
Zoe Zag: I rarely take pictures of strangers. It doesn’t hold meaning to me. I take pictures to document my life and the people in it at that time. The last stranger I photographed was a man holding a watermelon on his head walking down the street at night. That is a perfect example of what I would take a picture of if it wasn’t a friend.
The Kind: Drawing. Photos. Film. Which is most fun and why?
Zoe Zag: Definitely film. You can’t grow bigger than film in my mind. A drawing can be blown up, screen printed, and wall papered. But with film, that is it. It allows you to do anything, if you can figure it out. Seeing the final edit is always a trip. I definitely get that feeling when I get film developed too. I always forget what I took pictures of, and you get to revisit your own life.