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Art & Life with Emma Berliner and Amanda Scharf

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emma Berliner and Amanda Scharf.

Emma and Amanda, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Emma Berliner: My background & training is largely as a filmmaker. Prior to starting mixedgreens, I was focused on directing and working in the Art Department (i.e., props & production design for film & tv) as a means of supporting that dream. Along the way, I picked up some graphic design tools and discovered how much I enjoyed that work – it was a process of translation & distillation; reducing a concept to its core elements to create a single potent image. So when Amanda and I started talking about a potential publishing collaboration, book-making for me offered a unique opportunity to synthesize some of the concepts of serialized & sequential filmmaking practices with graphic design.

Amanda Scharf: For a long time, I kept my writing and poetry quiet, and tried on what felt like a series of half-lived mini-careers. Like lots of writers and artists, I’ve had a variety of jobs from working on photo sets (buying beers), in museums (ushering guests to their lecture seats), and in education. Most days, the time that I am not spending writing, I am teaching elementary school. I began teaching around the same time we formed mixedgreens, and like our collaboration, my work in the classroom is greatly informed and energized by the exchange of ideas and perspectives. I am driven by connections with others and the empathy that is cultivated in a classroom is something that Emma and I try to embed in our work. There is a strong component of my poetry that is informed by my visual art background and a hope for a reader to experience a sense of intimacy. Our shared hope to bring people together through book-making has helped mixedgreens create projects with sensitivity and inclusivity.

Emma & Amanda: We started out making mini palm trees out of clay in Emma’s garage for a web-series set in our sunny hometown of Los Angeles. We sat on her swing, watching helicopters land on the roof of Cedars Sinai hospital, and talked about the future from a place of post-grad unemployment. Jump to a year later, we applied to Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair in 2014 under the banner mixedgreens (a playful poke at LA’s love-affair with salad and the various other shades of greeeenzzz). We knew it was a long shot, but having both lived in New York, were big fans of the Printed Matter bookstore & their book fairs, and it was somewhere we’d always wanted to exhibit work. By some luck, we got in! Then, the work had to start. In classic LA fashion, it took a lot of car rides, sitting in traffic, recording our brainstorming conversations… but we produced our first book in just four weeks; an illustrated history of the Palm Tree in Los Angeles.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
Mixedgreens is a publishing collaboration founded by designer Emma Berliner and poet Amanda Scharf in 2014, in Los Angeles. Our projects aim to enhance the representation of a queer and lesbian voice in print by challenging conventional narratives, materials, and structures of the book. Being that we both came to publishing & book-making from outside fields, we tend to bring an outsider’s lens to our explorations of the relationship between word & image; re-contextualizing our knowledge borrowed from filmmaking and poetry as printed matter. By calling upon the intimacy & material pleasure inherent in the reading experience, our projects address ideas around human connection, tactility in an increasingly digital world, poetic narrative, and often overlooked histories.

After five years of making work together, and as we begin to look forward to what’s next for mixedgreens, we’re very interested in exploring what an experimental queer publishing model could look like. If reading is becoming an increasingly digital experience, are there ways to enhance, manipulate & engage this screen-based experience towards the ends of new radical publishing models? And what does this all mean in Los Angeles specifically — a city with a rich LGBTQ+ & literary history, but a place that is also quickly becoming one of the most expensive cities in the world to live.

From the very beginning, we really wanted mixedgreens to exist as both a space for queer & lesbian women and as a platform to share their stories and ideas. We’ve been tossing around many ways that this could exist; from open submissions to matchmaking writers with designers, to collaborative zine-making. We were able to try this last iteration in our most recent publication Dog Dykes, which we just debuted at the 2019 LA Art Book Fair at MOCA.

We felt honored to share the stories and photos of the LBTQIA+ people (and their dogs) who elected to be part of our recent publication Dog Dykes via online submission. By creating an open call submission for photos and stories via the website, we wanted to work towards including a wider range of queer and lesbian voices through publishing. We also saw a unique opportunity to extend this idea of collaborative making (which, initially, existed exclusively in a digital internet space) into the real world by bringing dogs & their dykes together for an IRL meet-up at the Silverlake dog park. This meet-up event will take place on June 22nd and everyone’s welcome!

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
The times in which we have created from a place of openness & generosity — both within our collaboration and throughout the process — have been the most rewarding projects. We are both curious people and our advice would be to follow that spark or question as far as it can go. Try your best not to predict the reception of a project before it’s been made… it’s the world’s greatest buzz kill! Always try to stay adaptable; plans change, and with that comes the unknown which of course can be frustrating or scary, but often times, our greatest solutions have come at this moment in the process. A deadline always helps! Be nice to people along the way, and you’ll usually be treated with kindness in return. We are very lucky to be in a collaboration where we can finish one another’s sentences, and this also comes from honesty and trust. And at the end of the day, or sometimes the beginning, if you’re not having fun, something has gone awry–having humility and a sense of humor can usually bring you back on track.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Check out our website and Instagram for upcoming book fairs, readings, events, workshops, and open-call project submissions! Book Show in Highland Park is currently carrying Dog Dykes — so please head over there and support a wonderful queer & female owned bookstore!! We’re also hoping to stock our books in other local brick & mortar bookshops around town. Please keep your eyes peeled for that.

Hope to see you at the Dog Dyke meet-up on June 22nd!

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