In December 2021, I sat down with Aly Maderson Quinlog in their art studio, Magik Press. Magik Press is in New London, Connecticut. We had a wide ranging conversation about life, art, Covid, justice, and zines. Enjoy!
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:00:01] And I think art can change the world because it can change us.
Music by Aly: [00:00:06] [Synthesized music begins then fades out]
Isabelle Barbour: [00:00:15] Hi, I’m Isabelle Barbour of Truthteller Consulting. That was Aly Maderson Quinlog Aly is an artist in New London. Aly is also the force behind Magik Press, a community art studio. I sat down with them in December of 2021. I wanted to learn more about Aly, their artistic style, and how they view the world. Here’s Aly giving some insight into the early part of their origin story.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:00:43] I remember kind of just the sense of being able to having something in my head and trying to translate it onto paper. And I remember that being a little bit of a frustration, I think, too, because it was so clear in my head and to like put it on paper, it wasn’t as clear. My mom tells the story about me showing her a picture and her not believing that her being well, where did you trace this from? And being like me having to convince her that I actually drew it. But whenever I think of kind of early art, it was just like being in my own world. Yeah, I think that’s kind of like what art was for me. I really I started out just loving to draw and just putting pen to paper and really getting kind of caught up in that. It wasn’t even always just drawing a thing. It would be just for the love of drawing itself. And I’ve always been, I don’t know, obsessive is the wrong word, but like really intense. My focus is intense when I’m focused. I was really into horses. I grew up riding horses. So I would do, you know, like the simple drawing that you see that all kids kind of learn to make of the horse heads, right? Where it’s like the big circle, the rectangle and the little circle and the big eyes and, you know, and it was just like the horse head with the neck. But I on every single page, every horse was like slightly different. And I gave them all names and categorize them. And then I saw The Little Mermaid and I did those same thing for like mermaids where like, I would, would draw formula at mermaid that I invented. And then I would just draw like every version of a mermaid in every, like, skin color and different haircuts and like fill a whole book until I kind of wore myself out of that. And I think that kind of sticks with me where I have an idea and I just like, run it down.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:02:39] When Aly talks about making art as a kid, it was clear that they had support from their family. Aly credits the pens and pencils from their mother’s office job as important early tools. The support from their mom, grandmother and father help them to pursue new ways to make art.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:02:59] What was available to me made the decision as to what I was going to use to make art. And then my dad was a photographer and he just amateur. And he gave me one of his cameras in high school and it was like a Nikon metal body camera. And that’s where I really kind of connected with photography as well. And so drawing and photography and then to a certain extent, printmaking became a part of of my media. Really, I’m just kind of curious about how to make things. If I see something that I really like. My first thought is like enjoyment. And then my second thought is usually like, Oh, how do they how did they do it? How do they make that?
Isabelle Barbour: [00:03:42] This curiosity led Aly to find an art form that used a bunch of their skills.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:03:48] Bookmaking is something that I really discovered in graduate school, and I think it works well because it took all of these other skills that I had already. I was I worked in a frame shop doing picture framing. I worked, you know, with my dad doing woodworking, and I did printmaking and drawing. And then I also wrote poetry just for myself. So bookbinding. Allows me to express like all of the like different things that I can do, all the skills. But then also it’s a really rich way to like express ideas too.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:04:27] Aly wouldn’t be Aly without art. The impact of art on their life is really profound and really leads them to work with others so that others have opportunities to make art.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:04:41] I know that art made me aware of, like, social things. And, you know, like it definitely made me aware that queer people existed. That was one of the major ways in that like, Oh, these feelings are not new that I’m having. And so that was interesting to be able to see myself in that way. But I think now what I realize is that being an artist helped me kind of view traditional systems that control us, like whether it be government or school or politics with just kind of like I of curiosity and interest, but also like skepticism to like healthy skepticism in that I’m always questioning. And so art really has always been a tool for me to process the world. And because I knew it was that important of a tool for me to process the world, when I started to realize not everybody had the same opportunities that I did. Then I it became a passion to to make sure that everybody could access it the way I did.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:06:00] Aly and I met during the COVID 19 pandemic, and we talked about how to do this recording safely. Covid was really front of mind for both of us.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:06:12] I can understand, intellectually like, you know, the world is really difficult right now. But art offers me this way to like. Except it. And but also it’s a way to change it.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:06:33] Part of how Aly changes it is by giving of their time and talent generously and working to make art accessible no matter what.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:06:41] I’m a teacher, I’m an educator, but I tend to work outside like institutional educational models because I think they are less accessible to everybody. And so just like practically, you know, I do work since March 2020, since the pandemic became part of everyday life, I have done a mutual aid project called the Art Bags. I kind of noticed in my. Instagram feed that a lot of my artists and creative friends were like cleaning out their art closets, right? And being like, Does anybody want some markers? Does anybody want some crayons? And so when I was thinking about like what kids might and people might be missing a lot of kids, their only access to fine art materials would be at school. And so my first kind of thought was like, Okay, well, what’s the most direct way to get kids a some art supplies? So I just kind of did a call out and said, Hey, give me your art supplies. And I basically just took and repackage them. And then I kind of hooked up with some of my friends who were doing like free food pantries and stuff. I have friends that work in mutual aid all over the state and even like some in Rhode Island. And basically anybody I knew, I’d be like, Hey, you want like 20 bags? And I just, like, drop it off on their front porch.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:08:08] The art bags were a great hit, but they’re not the only way that Aly shares with the community.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:08:14] You know, I do a lot of I just do a lot of kind of just like pop up events that are free. And then I do a lot of art stuff out in public, or I did. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that in the pandemic in a safe way, but really like it’s almost like a guerrilla style art making and thinking of art as just this public property, you know, and that it belongs to all of us, which is hard sometimes because capitalism exists. And I feel like the way that we dismantle capitalism is just by acting differently and behaving differently. And so I do that by giving away a lot of stuff.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:09:05] Time and attention are part of what Aly freely shares.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:09:10] I’ve been doing a lot of kind of mentorship, and I just kind of follow my heart with that. Like, whoever shows up, whoever reaches out to me, I’m there just trying to practice like a form of radical hospitality that I meet people where they are. So if they just want to talk to me about art and I just talk to them about art, if they want to learn from me, then like, you know, let’s do it. You know, I’m always curious and ready to collaborate with others to.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:09:38] One of the places where Aly collaborates is their Magik Press Studio.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:09:42] Magik Press is how I how my art is in the world. It’s also a place where I can invite people into Aly world or that little art space. And it has become to a place where other artists are now. Like, I’ve published zines for poets and musicians, and it’s a space where I can collaborate, right? And I hope one day maybe that can grow for others to use too. That’s kind of the dream of it, is that it becomes like a real, like functioning press where there’s like multiple authors, multiple artists represented.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:10:28] One of the things that caught my attention immediately was Aly’s logo for Magik Press.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:10:34] My logo is a brain and heart with like kind of a heart bull’s eye between the two. Where that logo came from is that I believe that art connects the brain and heart. That’s really like the thesis of this whole project, right? It’s not even a project. It’s just my life that, like, I believe that systems of power, like patriarchy and capitalism and socialism, you know, and like all these kind of oppressive forces, they want our mind and our hearts to be separated because when we are not in connection with ourselves, we can’t be in connection with other people. And so then we’re much easier to manipulate with fear. One thing that people. I’d like people to understand about Magik Press and the kind of publishing that we do. Is that I call myself a micro press, and that’s because the projects that I do are intentionally small and that actually the scale of the projects are part of the philosophy of Magik Press and that they’re meant to be personal, they’re meant to be intimate. And so when I make zines, I may only be publishing 30, 50, 100 is usually the top. And that’s intentional because I believe in kind of like rhizomatic, where one thing leads to the next and one thing gives rise to the next. And so small is Ok.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:12:11] So a zine is a small pamphlet that’s usually circulated in a small circle or group of people. It often features texts and pictures and can be reproduced by photocopier or by printer.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:12:27] I teach with zines a lot. And so zines are not only like a book, but they’re a teaching tool. Now to when I do a workshop, I create a zine for every workshop that I make, because when people like make the scenes themselves, they’re like reading the pages, right? And they’re like, and so it becomes this like interactive thing, the materiality and the holding, the object in your hand and making things to trade, which is part of zine culture and of. Coming together around like a single piece of paper. There’s something really special to that. The part about zines that is really important to me is that they speak to a queer theory of art making and art practice and really just a way of being in the world in that. We either couldn’t find publishers to publish us or what we were publishing was actually illegal to publish. So we did it ourselves. And there’s this kind of underground kind of trading and like a circuit of pamphlets or, you know, what I love about going to zine like fest and stuff is, is that I get to see these people and I trade with them. It’s like, Oh, what did you make and what I make? And, and this exchange and this kind of like proof that we were here and that we, we made it under our own. Like we didn’t have to compromise to get it made because we made it ourselves. That’s a really important part of DIY for me and for a lot of queer people, particularly trans people, you know, they just I mean, we’re we’re we’re crushed out of public life. And so this is like kind of like a really defiant way to be just like publicly queer and weird and un capitalist and all these things. I talk about really serious and political things, but like at heart, I’m just like, I just want to have fun and I want, you know, it’s like for me, like it’s that liberation for me is about the joy of the liberation. Like, the struggle is just what you have to go through to get to it. And so, like, yeah, like the struggle is real, and the joy is really, really real too. And so I hope that my art is, like, a way for people to, like, make time for that joy. I really, I, I think it’s important that we make time for joy and play because it can’t just be about the work, you know, it can’t just be about the struggle. It has to be about like the humanness of it, too. And that’s where art comes in for me, is that it’s that humanness and that. And I think really humanness is about connection. And so for me, art is about connection.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:15:34] Aly is attuned to the fact that not everybody fits into mainstream culture and they work to create a special and safe place for folks that need something different.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:15:47] People need permission to get weird. And so I’m always like, get weirder, please! I love it! And so and what I found too is that like, particularly when it comes to like queer young people who I, you know, that’s who I think of when I make my art. And I would say that’s primarily who my practice is for, is that it’s like I’m waving my freak flag as high as I can so that they can see it, you know? And it’s like, Hey, this is why I’m here. And you know that there is this kind of I love I love the word liminal because I think that’s where art happens, is it happens in those in-between spaces. And I think that’s it’s very. A subtle is not a word I would use for myself, but the impact of art and I think the impact of Magik Press is subtle.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:16:47] When Aly thinks about the future of Magik Press. Youth are part of it.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:16:53] So for Magik Press, I dream of a youth press. So it would be a art space that maybe would contain my own personal studio, maybe not, but that it would be a space made and for made and run by also young people. And I would just kind of simply be there as a guide and so that young people would be able to publish their own work and their own zines.
Isabelle Barbour: [00:17:23] Aly scoffs at the idea of the lone artist, and they work to bring others into their space and to learn new skills as well.
Aly Maderson Quinlog: [00:17:32] You know, I found really collaboration to be my new kind of I think that’s just where I’m going. That’s the kind of the path that I’m following because I just keep finding people to collaborate with. I mean, I just made a tape with a musician. It was fun. It was playful. Like we came and we made something together and now it’s out in the world. And that’s really inspiring for me.
LEKAYMI : [00:17:57] [Futuristic music with Aly’s voice] Baldwin says my soul trembles, your soul trembles. Recognizing the self we encounter the other. . .
Isabelle Barbour: [00:18:14] If you want to find out more about Ali, collaborate with them by their art or support the Magic Press studio. Go to their website. www.magik.press. Magic Press. Priestess. Also, you heard two pieces of music in this podcast. The first piece was an original by Ali. The second piece was called Baldwin Says by Ali and Michael. Ali and Michael record as LEKAYMI– L E K A Y M I. You can find their music on Bandcamp– Bandcamp.com. This concludes our podcast. Thank you for joining us.
Music by Aly: [00:19:04] [Synthesized music begins then fades out]