By Agazit Afeworki
“It’s only like, five pages but everything she writes is so dense, so, so much” Mimi Jaffe emphatically declares about feminist writer Audre Lorde’s 1978 essay “Uses of The Erotic: The Erotic As Power.” Wrapped by text in an aisle of Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe, Jaffe’s flushed cheeks stretch wide as she smiles “I find the desert really erotic, like there’s no sex it’s a place,” she reaffirms.
The essay, read to nourish afternoon brain mapping about sexual deviance, is an absolute address to redistribute the power of eroticism from the oppressor’s extortive whim to a women-defined resource. This conceptual shift among other fiery questions inspired the 24-year-old self-taught editor and curator, Jaffe, to explore erotic power as the theme of her fourth submission-based zine, Muses & Vices Vol. 4.
At Ballard’s Push/Pull on Nov. 30 a release party connected credited and anonymous artists, friends and the curious. Guys in sk8-his and gals in pink fuzzy coats discussed tentative disco plans for the night while making their way over to a table, clad in cow print cloth, that staged their collective work or sentiment.
Inside illustrations of women rupturing from pleasure, sumptuous bodies traced by fleshy folds and lustful poems ooing over raw nature tap into primal intrigue from readers and page flippers alike. But the zine more notably binds together a youthful community of LGBTQIA artists defining agnostic sex — inquisitive in its exploration through art rather than unevolved drivel from dated health classes.
In impact, the series permissions artists to safely author their feels, to bring both comitas and gravitas to sex as freely defined by a subversive lens.
This community energizes what Jaffe holistically defined as the overarching theme: pieces of the human condition. Practices of identity that are otherwise deemed taboo. “As a reader I hope one feels some sort of connection [in] being able to read these [zines] and look at these intimate parts of people’s lives; everyone has some sort of sexuality’” she says.
One of the 20 featured contributors, multimedia artist Cassy Brown meditated over her erotic definition in Wyoming’s outdoors. She saw the submission call on Jaffe’s Instagram story and instantly began to reflect. During a road trip through the Mid- and Northwest, Brown’s body activated in nature inspiring a free-written poem; a moment so specific yet representative of the diverse collection of sexual meanings the zine bares to collate with tolerance and nuance. “It [the zines] sort of opens up the doors for artists to express themselves in whatever individualistic sense that is,” she says, “I think that really encouraged me to dive diver into what eroticism really means for myself.”
A testament of community that speaks volumes to the series’ origin. As a freshman at Western Washington University in 2013, Jaffe rifled through loneliness and separation from Seattle’s underground art scene, so she made comics as a form of relief. Austin Welch, college friend and graphic designer (consultant for volume one), witnessed a perceptible shift, however, their junior year.
They had caught their stride during this “golden age,” he recalls. Hosted in a witchy-style home tucked in Fairhaven, Bellingham, “Mimi would have parties pretty frequently and this is just the kind of stuff that we would end up talking about muses, vices, sexual health things that you wouldn’t necessarily talk about with your other friends,” he says. She published the inaugural issue at a renaissance of comfort and conversation. “The zine was a physical or portable version of that energy,” Welch says.
“I think historically a lot of it [inspiration] stems from some sort of loneliness and then also the hilarity of being a human that is aware of itself,” Jaffe says, “my whole goal for the publication is hopefully people feel less alone.”
Muses & Vices Vol.4 is available to order on mimijaffe.com, at local shops Elliott Bay Books, Push/Pull, Left Bank Books and at Lucky’s Comics in VANCOUVER, British Columbia.