Maow Maow Dreams On the Page

Maow Maow Dreams On the Page
Lorenz Peter had a dream where the phrase "Maow Maow" was repeated over and over. After sharing the story with fellow artists Fiona Smyth and Vesna Mostovac, a hallucinogenic fever began for the 62 page Collection of Dreams bearing the phrase — the name of a now extinct people, the Maow Maow. Peter's work kicks off this culture jam, which brings together 13 artists in a mad collision of line, space, narrative, and fleeting moments. The artists in Maow Maow share more than an interest in dreams. Many of them have collaborated in the past, and continue to work with each other on comics, music, and performance pieces.

Chris Hutsul's artwork in Maow Maow features a bleak, X-ray vision sequence of snarling pack animals. "I decided to simply illustrate one of my more vivid dreams," says Hutsul, "running in a black abyss with sick lookin' dogs and rabid businessmen. So the little dogs and creepy people are sort of swimming and struggling in this relentless blackness." Relatively unknown outside of Toronto, Chris Hutsul's "Dunk McDougal" strip is found in print within the pages of local weekly Eye .

"The Suicide Club," Roxanna Bikadoroff's contribution, is a wispy journey into strange realms where today's special is giant scorpion. Her illustrations have graced the pages of books published by Penguin and Douglas & McIntyre, as well as the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Saturday Night magazines. Bikadoroff has also worked with the renowned Maurice Vellekoop and Fiona Smyth on the comic book Fabulous Babes.

Indie artist Tim McGregor has been book-mates with Lorenz Peter, Fiona Smyth, and Chris Hutsul before. "Hack," one of the delicious nightmares in Maow Maow, is the closest to traditional comics, featuring the clean black and white panels only a brush saturated with ink can provide.

Following up McGregor's spooky contribution, Jean-Guy Carisse presents a study in the grotesque. Bizarre nudes parade horrifically across four pages, leaving one with a strange, bitter aftertaste. How sweet, then, to be gifted with the dream of Marc Bell.

Bell's work is consistently dreamlike, and has delighted international audiences with humour and craftsmanship. Bulbous, cartoony critters such as Shrimpy and Paul have adorned the pages of mini and maxi comics for years. Bell's "Amy's Dream of Kittens w/ Kittens" and "Marc's Dream of Cartoonist Camp" in Maow Maow are a joy to read and view. Exquisite detail in each panel compliments a rambling, hilarious narrative culminating in a sarcastic summary of comic jam antics.

A horse of a different colour, Shary Boyle's equine adventure spans five pages, containing familiar dream imagery presented as vignettes. The painterly pieces reverberate with some of Boyle's public art performance to the theme of "shame." Boyle, also a filmmaker, has exhibited and screened in selected Canadian provinces as well as in the U.S. and Europe.

Vesna Mostovac's "Foolish Girl" strip evolved out of her budding interest in the Toronto zine and comic culture of the mid- to late ‘90s. Mostovac is the publisher and editor of Maow Maow, and contributed the tragic tale of "Foolish Girl Chases the Monkey" to the collection.

John Ashton is probably better known as Corpusse, a towering Kabuki-slash-Frankenstein monster-slash-musician. Maow Maow dreamer Lorenz Peter and Ashton jam musically and visually, having met at a zine festival some years back. While Corpusse performances are deafening, gristled, and sweaty, John Ashton's series of drawings in Maow Maow are more understated. Reminiscent of childhood scribblings, Ashton's chunky portraits are serene, solemn, and beautifully gloomy.

Rick Trembles paints up a geometric rhyme that dances over two pages in Maow Maow, then follows up with "Superchomp," a one-page boot to the brain. Trembles maintains an online presence at Snubdom.com, where reams of his "Motion Picture Purgatory" comic-format movie reviews can be pored through, and Trembles' sordid past can be unearthed.

Back in the day, Mark Connery's surreal mini-comics were a personal inspiration to me. Connery truly knows the meaning of absurdity, and his work always carries a dada-esque flavour to varying degrees. Over the years, he has danced with and around the idea of narrative, sometimes slapping it in the face, sometimes pouring hot molasses all over it. Connery's contribution to the collection of dreams, "The Garden of Rudy's Deelite" sums up his style with flare, and features my long-standing favourite character of all time, Rudy the Magic Cat.

Fiona Smyth has a rare presence in Toronto. Her work has adorned myriad surfaces in this city, including walls, clothing, and gazillions of street posters. An early inspiration to Queen Street West scenesters, Fiona's illustrations have floated within view of the art and music community since the days when the "trendy strip" was wasn't trendy at all. It's fitting that her work should form the bookend of Maow Maow, rounding out a cast of characters and contributors whose dreams interconnect in ways most of us can't understand.

There are only 485 copies of Maow Maow, A Collection of Dreams to be had. The cover price is $15. Copies can be purchased by mail (119 Spadina Ave., P.O.Box 71 Station 'B', Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2T2 Canada), or through Marginal Distribution in Canada.