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Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics
1988-98

The introductory piece that appeared in several issues:

"What's this Saloon? Can I get a drink there?"
"That's Salon."
"All right, so I go there to get my hair perma-frosted."
"Not quite. A salon is a regular gathering of intelligent and creative people, presided over by a hostess of wit and charm. It's a high-level form of networking. It's a place to find good company, entertainment, and new ideas."
"And this other word here?"
"Aesthetics."
"I knew that. But hey, what about the next guy, that ain't cultured like me? You know the old saying - never underestimate the ignorance of the public."
"Wait a minute. This isn't just any public we're talking about. Salon readers and contributors are quite aware that aesthetics has to do with the way the arts relate to other areas of knowledge and experience - like sociology, psychology, history, business, anthropology, or any other field you could name."
"Yeah, yeah. But you know what I think?"
"What?"
"I still think you should write all that down and put it in the magazine."

The first cover:

The whole tone of the publication was set by the cover art for #1, depicting a salon of the best kind, with controversial paintings on the wall and clipart figures of men and women in attitudes of civilized discourse. Their speech balloons contained the words "Controversial assertion," "Pointed witticism," "Frivolous banter," Cogent remark," "Murmured aside," "Irrefutable statement," "Incisive analysis," "Thoughtful criticism," "Sparkling repartee," "Profound observation," and "Clever rejoinder." The paintings are an insane clown with bloodstained hands (by Dale Hartman), a despondent, broken man lit by single pitiless light bulb (by Dale Hartman) and a naked androgynous bird-headed figure (by Ann Stretton.) Yes, the first issue had a penis on the cover.

The contributors:

Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics lasted for 25 issues - some of them well over 100 pages - and showcased the work of 265 artists and writers. To my way of thinking, artists are the most highly evolved examples of humankind and they have a lot to say worth listening to. I planned the themes ahead of time and asked for contributions, and was amazed at what came in. People who normally got paid for their writing and art would send in stuff for free. Nobody ever got paid, least of all me. As hobbies go, publishing is less expensive than a coke habit, but not by much. Some already well-known writers and artists appeared in our pages, and others have accomplished spectacular things since being in Salon. Generally there were no bios. I liked the idea of a fairly even playing field. There was never a table of contents, and except for the last four issues, the pages weren't numbered. The idea was, no contributor could consult the table of contents just turn to their own stuff. They had to look through the zine and at least glance at the other people's stuff. I know (being one of them) how these egotistical creative types are.

The themes:

Great Collectors
Artists and Reincarnation
Love, Sex & Relationships (several)
Critiquing the Critics
TV and Art?
Humor
Vision (twice)
Artists and Suicide
Logic, Reason and Rationality
Dope and Creativity
Computers and Art
Freedom of Expression (several)
Holocaust Revisionism
Success, Fame, Ego, Heroes and Mentors
Poets and Poetry

 

 

 

The method:

Of course a lot of creative individuals, having read about Salon in Factsheet Five or some other zine, sent in whatever they had on hand. Then I'd hang onto it for some future theme issue I had in mind. (I still have about 30 accordion files full of material and twice that many theme concepts.) Editing a zine is an art form in itself, like curating a museum exhibit or conducting an orchestra.

Perhaps uniquely among zines, each issue of Salon was published as a numbered limited edition, signed by pretty much everyone who was in that particular issue. With the locals, it was easy enough to get the autographs. To each of the out-of-town contributors, I mailed a chunk of labels and an envelope with the return postage. Some people merely applied their autograph a couple hundred times; others really got into it, making each label a little work of art. Some issues had covers with touches of hand coloring. With some I enclosed posters, photos, toys, zines that had come my way as trades, and other colorful detritus.

On the logistical side, Salon was fortunate to have a crew of supporters who lent space for collating sessions, showed up to stack and staple all those pages, provided transportation and other kinds of help for publication parties, put the finishing touches on covers that included hand work, proofed the pages, and so on. Many people helped with different aspects of the publication at different times, most outstandingly Joe Hutchinson, Tim Van Schmidt, Steve Emmons, and Keith Sillin.

The events:

There were publication parties for every issue until exhaustion set in. Each Love, Sex & Relationships theme issue was accompanied by an art show, the Peace & Love Exhibit of Non-Violent Erotic Art. We also had a science fiction art exhibit; an international mail art show called "Postcards and Souvenirs from Non-Existent Places;" and four Banned Books Read-Ins. One publication party was held at a used book store and billed as a Farenheit 451 Gathering: Come as the book you would memorize in order to preserve it if all books were to be burned. We provided stick-on nametags at the door, but instead of your own name, you'd wear the name of your chosen book.

The mission:

Philosophically speaking, the purpose of Salon was to explain art to libertarians and libertarianism to artists. Many libertarians, as private-sector supporters of the arts, want to be knowledgeable and conscientious in this role. Many artists are not aware that aspiring to government support is immoral and self-defeating. A lot of creative artists who consider themselves "apolitical" are, in lifestyle and philosophy, latent libertarians who need only a nudge to realize that there is a place for them in the political spectrum. The motto Spit out that sugartit! expresses a hope that creative artists can wean themselves from the belief that their only hope of survival is through government funding of the arts.

Salon published interviews with L. Neil Smith and Leon Louw; various types of creative work by D.R. Blackmon, Milt Borchert, Joanne Burney, Dave Danielson, Leslie Davidson, Mary Margaret, Bill Judson, Richard Kostelanetz, Von K. Lechner, Brian Micklethwaite, Stormy Mon, Lorne Strider, Jim Stumm, Mark Taha, and Chris Tame, Dr. Richard Jaggard, and Karl Hess; and reviewed work by Walter Block, William Murray, L.A. Rollins, Robert Anton Wilson, and many others of libertarian leanings.

Zine publishing was a field of limitless possibilities, a medium for highly specialized interests, affinity groups, citizens concerned about any number of things. One thing I learned from being involved with zines: When you add up all the misfits and outsiders, they total more than the so-called mainstream. In fact I don't believe there is such a thing as the "mainstream" The human condition is more like an immensely complicated tapestry - which may be how we got the expression "fringe groups."

The rewards:

Salon received lovely fan mail and fantastically positive reviews. One of the theme issues was named Editor's Choice by Factsheet Five, the zine equivalent (to my mind, anyway) of winning an Oscar. Every issue contained copious quotations pertaining to the theme. I didn't just look up Suicide or Reincarnation in some anthology. All the quotes, from hundreds of sources, were from my own files, gleaned in the course of many years of relentless reading, and it was a great relief to finally have someplace to put them.

 

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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