Shawna Kenney, author, zinester, and overall bad ass punk from the DC Area. Author of the memoir, I Was A Teenage Dominatrix, who just got a reissue with a new cover by Rockets Are Red’s Jeffrey Everett. Everett, a jack of so many artistic trades, designer, illustrator, and also author has been working the last twenty-plus years on art pieces for so many bands featured on Punknews as well as a plethora of work for corporate and non-profit organizations. The two will be exhibiting items at the The Punk Rock Museum with an all new temporary exhibition for the titled Reflexxions. The exhibit is showing now in Vegas and is running for a limited amount of time. Contributing Editor Samantha Barrett spoke with the two about the collaboration.
Jeffrey, you did the book art for the latest pressing of Shawna’s Teenage Dominatrix. How did this collaboration come about?
Jeffrey Everett: I did my first poster The Bouncing Souls at The Black Cat in DC in 2010. Shawna happened to be at that show and she got the poster. She liked it enough to hang it up and possibly saw herself in the piece, riding the metro, listening to music, watching life go by. She reached out inquiring about the art work for the new edition of the book. I remarked that I was a much better illustrator now and her book deserved something unique.
Personally, meeting her was fantastic - she ended up being a person I knew about but didn’t know personally. She wrote a book I read in my twenties, she helped book shows at the small hardcore venue I loved, she knew all the people, and was super creative. I feel truly honored to have this all work out and I have a new friend to pester with cat photos.
You both currently have a show happening at the Punk Rock Museum titled REFLEXXIONS. Tell me about the collective process of getting this together?
Everett: For me, it was editing down over 400 posters to a possible 40 to show. Luckily, the lovely Lisa Johnson helped organize and edit the work, picking the pieces and talking about choices. We had a good back and forth - some of her favorites weren’t mine, some I had to explain why I loved them. It was a good collaboration. The hardest part was FINDING all the posters. In my career of over twenty years, I have done over 600 posters and they could have been organized better. We had a few posters I just couldn’t find…
Shawna Kenney: Jeffrey invited me to write the intro for his book, Let it Bleed, then to do some shows with him in promoting it. This coincided with the re-release of my memoir, I Was a Teenage Dominatrix, for which he designed the cover, so it seemed a natural collaboration. Since I am not a visual artist, we decided to share some of my punk archive and pieces of ephemera that trace back to 1985, when I started a zine, which lead to becoming a journalist, then author and teacher.
The opening for your show is happening, how is it going?
Kenney: We will see how it goes! I handed over stuff and Jeffrey designed everything along with the vision of curator Lisa Johnson, who I know from her photography in my LA days. Tonight there is a meet and greet and on Saturday I’m teaching zine-making, using old flyers from the Safari Club, the club I booked in DC years ago.
Everett: Right now, I am done with all the setup and install. We had a terrific crew at The Punk Rock Museum assisting us. Thank you Mona, Baxter, and Vinnie for your help! I am excited to work with the museum which is already a stellar destination and continues to get better. I’ve walked through the place a few times and keep seeing new things to geek out over.
Jeffrey, I literally have too many of your posters up in my home. Of your super productive span of 20+ years of design, what were the determining factors to how you picked the works on show for this exhibit?
Everett: Lisa Johnson had a lot of good insight on what goes up. There were a few pieces I would want - like my work for Girls Against Boys - but didn’t quite work for the show. She had a few picks and thoughts that made me rethink pieces and see them in a new light. When you have so many pieces you are gonna need to edit and cut pieces and be okay with that. I do think that the exhibit showcases the range of work - not only with the bands but the styles and the growth in skill. There are a few pieces where I see glaring flaws but anyone who is creative will see that in their work.
Of all of the pieces on show, which one was your favorite that you created?
Everett: Oh man… that is like picking a favorite kid. If I had to pick, I would say the full Social Distortion series from last year is up there. Seeing all four posters work together as a long series makes me smile on the wall. There is a lot to take in - the cars, the motorcycles, the dog in the windows, the small signs. There was thought in all of those details. Mike Ness got personally invested asking for details to be changed - different car, white wall tires, different guitar - that reflected his life more.
Shawna, How has the upbringing you had in such a punk subculture in DC influenced your writing?
Kenney: Growing up in the DC scene has influenced every aspect of my being, as far as holding certain values dear. My writing has shifted away from music in the last decade to become more focused on shining the light on marginalized artists, cultures, people and issues (animal rights, prison reform, transportation and environment, and people with interesting stories to tell.) I don’t know that I would have been so aware of the personal as political at such a young age had I not grown up in this scene. We were protesting right in front of the White House, and handing out food on the National Mall. It all made me feel like everyone can participate in their communities, in this democracy, in this world, in their own way. It introduced me to veganism, DIY ethos, straight-edge, feminism, anti-racist action, and overall acting with integrity in a way that informs my story choices, my teaching and my way of moving through the world. DC showed me how to do community and I have taken that with me everywhere.
You are a total zinester. How are flyers and zines important to help create this subculture?
Kenney: Flyers and zines were a way of communicating with a wide network of people, pre-Internet. For me, as a shy kid, the zine gave me a reason to talk to people by interviewing bands or trading zines with people all over the world. In this digital social media-heavy world we are in now, I find myself returning to the meditative feeling of making something with my hands, so I have been teaching zine classes at my local art museum and now sharing at The Punk Rock Museum. I am thrilled to see young people on TikTok and youtube making zines, too–they’re all so clever and it’s cool to see them getting the same kick out of this form of self-expression as I do.
Flyers were the artwork of the day. I really treasure the handmade collage style ones, made pre-Photoshop or design software. It’s a certain handmade aesthetic that will always appeal to me.
I totally relate, Punknews is a way I use to talk to folks that I probably would never have the guts to talk to…
Jeffrey, you just put out a hardcover book to celebrate the last 20 years of work titled Let It Bled How was the process in which to get this book out?
Everett: Oh how long do you want me to talk about this? It was a lot and done over two years. I started the book as we were living through Covid and my parents were clearing out their processions as they get older. I don’t want to saddle my children with 600+ posters (400+ gig posters, 200+ gallery and personal pieces) and have them wonder what to do with them. I figured a well crafted book would be easier for them to handle. Granted the book is 444 pages, oversized, and weighs seven pounds. So hopefully everyone continues to purchase my remaining copies!
Technically, I broke down all the work that needed to be done. So of course I did the cover first! I originally wanted to call it “Facing the Music” based off my gallery show at Lost Origins in 2017. Another design firm got to that first - publishing their book about two years before mine. I named my firm Rockets are Red based on a Girls Against Boys song and I went back to them again with “Let It Breathe”. I then thought of the reference, Let It Bleed, and it all clicked. Yes, it is a Stones reference but I also loved how it was a design reference (bleeding ink off the page) and covered my design intent of letting your heart bleed out through your work. I think I did 15 different cover directions before landing on this cover.
Once that was done I had to document each piece; write a whole bunch; ask people like Patton Oswalt, Bryan Kienlen, Scott McCloud, and more to write something for the book, get paper and printing options, figure out how publish and fund, author photos (ugh), and so much more. I kept a running list of needs on my phone and I chipped away at it daily. An email or burst of thought. I liken it to crafting a canoe; you start with big swings with an ax to get the shape, move to a knife to whittle the curves, and then sandpaper at the end.
I had a lot of help from new and old friends and it meant the world to me. Too many to list so I will just say thank you to them all now.
The book is releasing now and can be seen at let-it-bleed.com
What are you both currently listening to these days?
Kenney: I still listen to a lot of old stuff–listened to Avail all the way here to Vegas, for some reason. They are good traveling songs. Made a playlist for The Punk Rock Museum with all the bands I booked or loved in the late 80s–Gorilla Biscuits, SOIA, Underdog, Soul Side. I do like Friendship Commanders, Turnstile, End It and Scowl, too.
Everett: In the last few years I have been listening to a lot of Idles, End It, Amyl and The Sniffers, Jeff Rosenstock, and Scowl along with the tried and true Bouncing Souls, Tuscadero, Velocity Girl, Girls Against Boys, and Against Me!