Artist Michael Ogilvie is the curator and organizing force behind Lust to Dust, a graphic novel anthology about prostitution in Nevada. He details some of the motivations behind the book, and the trials and tribulations of its production, in this week’s cover story. An exhibition of the artwork in the book will be presented at Reno Art Works, 1995 Dickerson Road, on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.
Tell me a little about you. Where’d you go to school? How long have you been doing art?
Professionally, being paid, for about 15 years. I guess that’s the difference between doing art professionally and not professionally is how long you’ve been getting paid for it. But my whole life I’ve been drawing. I didn’t jump out of the womb with a pencil in my hand, but I found it when I was a kid, and it never left. I went to [the University of Nevada, Reno], got my degree at UNR. I got my degree in painting at UNR and my master’s from [the University of Nevada, Las Vegas].
What about the comic book/graphic novel/graphic narrative form appeals to you?
I really like the quality of a book. It takes a form of art that has been cheap for the most part of its history—most of it is saddle-stitched, most of it is printed on crappy printers—and it elevates it. The content might not be elevated. I try to make the content elevated with what we have. But it always seems to deal with the abject. Comics tend to touch on racier topics than most art forms because that just appeals to the populace. With this book, Lust [to Dust], that’s what I wanted to do. I walked to take on a theme that hadn’t really been dealt with that much in comics. There’s been a little bit of it. There’s Rent Girl that was done by Laurenn McCubbin and a few other short stories out there. But for the most part, it’s a topic that was vacant, that hadn’t been occupied by very many people.
Can you elaborate about why prostitution? What about the subject appeals to you?
When I started doing this book, when I started putting it together, I was at a point of my life when I had been laid off. I didn’t have a whole lot of freelance work coming in, so I didn’t have much money coming in. It was becoming pretty desperate. I had to move back home with my mom as a 33-year-old man. And I just felt like I’d hit rock bottom, and I thought what were my options at the time. I had to have an income coming in, like most people do. So I needed to get a job. And at that point in time the job market was so terrible—this was circa 2010—that I felt like I didn’t have any other options other than become a soldier or a criminal. That was really what I thought. Then I started to think, what if I was a female? For a female, their options are pretty much the same except you could add prostitute to that list of choices. And I thought, ‘Oh, I could be a prostitute!’ I thought it was kind of funny at first, and then I thought, ‘You know what? It’s kind of weird that I even need to think about this option.’ It became more and more interesting to me. I started looking into it, the history. I grew up in Nevada, and it’s been a part of the culture here for a long time. For better or worse—I don’t really want to place a value judgment on it, but it’s a part of it, and it’s unique to this state. That was it. It was basically from a sheer lack of choices. I thought, I can’t become a prostitute, but I can find out what that’s like from people who do that, and maybe lampoon it, maybe highlight some things people didn’t know, and just bring something out that other artists haven’t dealt with in the past. It is a theme that has been dealt with by many artists and many writers for thousands of years.
Well, it is the oldest profession. Tell me about some of the contributing artists.
I’ll start the ones closest to home. Evan Dent—I went to school with him at UNR and we’ve been pals for a long time. He’s a very talented artist, and his ability is multifaceted. He doesn’t just do one thing. Like he doesn’t do comics. He can do just abut anything. A lot of his work is laced with humor. Often it’s dark humor, but [I] appreciate that more than anything because it’s usually closer to reality. His work’s just great. He was in [Ogilvie’s previous anthology] Drunk book too. … The artists that were in this book, many of them were in Drunk, and many of them were great to work with. And that was a big reason why I invited them to do another book. … For all the artists, it was important that they were talented, that they had a good understanding of narrative form, of storytelling. Another thing—the last book I did, Drunk, was a great book, and I really enjoyed it, but it leaned toward almost a sad vibe. And we’re dealing with the theme of prostitution, so of course it can go that way really easy, but I didn’t want that to happen. So I wanted artists who know how to deal with life in a humorous way.
Anything you want to say about the exhibition up here?
Pan [Pantoja] and Aric [Shapiro]—those guys are really starting something. They’re really a part of something that I think Reno’s needed for a long time. It’s really a center for art making and experimentation. I know downtown is starting to do that, but it really courted the artists that were already established. What Aric and Pan are doing—of course as artists they’re established there, but it’s open to artists who aren’t, and I think that kind of receptivity to up-an-coming artists is needed in any community. Otherwise, it’ll just grow stale. … I think it’s going to be a great event.