From A to Z(ines): An Interview with Manny Muñoz

Photo by Jacob Vecchione

By Tracy Fuentes

Back in August of last year, I began interning at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, the only art museum in Las Vegas. During this time, I met Manny Muñoz, the Educational Outreach and Programming Assistant at the Barrick. While doing archival work, we bonded over our love for movies and zines.

I was happy to meet someone else at UNLV who knew what zines were, and even more excited to learn that Manny had made his own zines as well. I had the idea of starting a zine club for UNLV students, and of course I wanted Manny on board. It took a little bit of time, but we officially started A4 Zine Club this spring.

As I spent more time with Manny, I was impressed by his appreciation and talent for all art forms. He taught me that even as a busy, working student, there are still opportunities to create and interact with the art community in serious, meaningful ways. I feel like he has a ton of wisdom and insight to share about zines and being a creator, so I decided to interview him for Kindergarten. Here’s some of that wisdom and insight. I hope you enjoy it!

Hi Manny! Introduce yourself. What do you want Kindergarten readers to know about you?

Hi! My name is Manny (lol). Intros are difficult, I would probably give you a fist bump or handshake or something at this point and ask you your name. But alas, this is not that. I am studying architecture and art history at the moment, but I feel like I’m usually hanging out with my dog or going to the movies in the wee hours of the night instead of studying. I work at an art museum (@unlvmuseum on IG). Like my coworker once said, no thoughts, just vibes (not always, I get stressed a lot, I’m trying).

Can you describe your creative process to us?

Recently, I was talking about this with a friend and we both found out that our sketchbooks have more notes and writing in them than actual drawings or sketches. I think my creative process begins with a lot of that, constantly recording and annotating everything (very messy). Once an idea for something starts to form, those notes help me organize my thoughts and move a project into production.

Who or what are some of your artistic inspirations?

Oooh, ok what are we talking about here? Music, movies, painting, sculpture, architecture, writing? There are so many reference points that I’m looking at at any given moment. I guess I go through periods where I focus on and draw from different sources depending on what I’m working on. For example, back in November and around that time, I was watching a lot of movies that stuck with me for many reasons, like their visual aesthetics and what they said about what it means to be a person. Films like the new Dune movie (omg so good) and The French Dispatch (cries), but I was also watching older films like Cinema Paradiso and The 400 Blows. I think films are just great, whoever thought they were a good idea, yeah you got it right. Nowadays, I’ve been trying to focus more on my immediate surroundings, talking and listening to people more intently (including myself), asking better questions, and taking more pictures of everyday life. I’ve been looking at drawings by Bryan Cantley and a lot of desert architecture. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Disco, I recommend you check out the song “He’s the Greatest Dancer” by Sister Sledge (slaps). Some visual artists that inspire me are David Hockney, Kerry James Marshall, Tom Sachs, Ruben Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, and Rafa Esparza.

Let’s talk about zines. How did you first discover zines?

Uff, good question. I don’t exactly remember when I first learned about zines in particular, but I think I’ve always just been interested in physical and printed media for as long as I can remember. I don’t read many books anymore, but I do enjoy flipping through (and smelling) them (lol) at libraries and bookshops. Postcards and writing letters too have always been a part of my life. They feel so intimate and special, it’s something you don’t get with social media, I guess. After I started to realize these things, zines naturally just became more present in my life, and boom, here we are.

What do you like about zines compared to other mediums? What makes them so great?

Like I said, there’s just something about flipping through a zine that you can’t get with social media or even some mainstream magazines (all those ads ew). But that’s not all that makes them great. I think more importantly, it’s the reading, browsing, and getting them out into people’s eyeballs that you begin to really feel all the time and effort that goes into writing, designing, and publishing a zine. A zine feels honest and unapologetic (that part is so sick). A lot of digital zines hold a lot of that same energy too, I even think a few blogs and e-newsletters out there have a similar ethos. Lastly, I’ll say the culture and community around zines are amazing, literally anyone can make zines, and there’s literally a zine about everything (everything!) so anyone can be a potential zine reader too.

You’ve created a few zines yourself. Which zine of yours would you consider your favorite or the one that you’re most proud of?

I think the first issue of my “some landscapes” series. I remember it was one of the first projects that no one knew I was working on, so all the accountability rested on me. I am not known to finish projects on time (or at all), so when I finally had the zine printed, stapled, folded, and effectively, done, I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment. I only ever printed two copies of that zine, so it also feels special in that sense, knowing only two exist in the entire world.

How have zines impacted you personally and artistically?

Zines have been a way for me to break out of my comfort zone as well as from this weird social code of living and doing things a certain way that I am just now becoming aware of. In the world of zines, there are few rules, and the few rules that do exist, you’re free to explore how close you can come to breaking them. Society has a funny way of telling you what to do and how to do it and not giving you much breathing room to explore your own methods and ways of living your life, it can be frustrating. Zines (and art as a whole) and the people I’ve met around them have given me the confidence to let go a little and dare to take a deep breath. It’s pretty cool.

This semester, you and I started the A4 zine club at our university. Could you elaborate more on why you wanted to create the club and your vision for the club?

I remember the conversation I had one night with you and Ash as we walked to the architecture building after a school event or something. We were trying to come up with how this club could work and getting so excited at the possibility of it actually becoming a thing. We wanted to do a lot with it, like bringing awareness to the fact that UNLV has an art museum (yes, it’s crazy – since like the 1800s people! Jk, but still, we’re here), and also reorganizing the zine library hosted in the museum. But I think after meeting all the people interested in the club and seeing them excited to learn and create their own zines, a huge part of the club now is to be supportive of people wanting to create and express themselves through zines. The club is young but full of potential, it’s exciting.

What have you loved about A4 so far?

A4 really took off right away, we’ve had a lot of successful meetings, and seeing each member bring something different and unique to the table has been a delight to see. As someone who loves organizing and cataloging things, the cataloging sessions have been so fun as well. And again, just the feeling of starting a project and seeing people react to it in a positive way is very reassuring and motivating.

What projects are you currently working on or have planned for the future? Is there a specific medium you want to work with more?

Right now, I am actually focusing on curating the Scrambled Eggs Pop-Up Gallery. It’s a project I’ve had in the back of my mind for a little while now, but I don’t know how it happened that things just sped up in the past two weeks. I called up local artist Brian Martinez (@martinez_brian_ on IG), and even with the short notice, he was super excited to be the first artist showing in the gallery. This gallery project is probably what I’ll be working on for a while, trying to host as many artists as I can before the lease runs out. Other than that, I plan on continuing to make zines and maybe (eyes emoji) experiment with some video work, we’ll see.

Do you have any advice for other young artists or people hoping to tap into their creativity?

Yes. I try to make it so that 90% of the time, my sketchbook is within (let’s say…) 10 feet of me so that whenever I have an idea, a note I need to jot down, whatever, it’s there and ready to go. Carry it around everywhere you can, and if you don’t have a sketchbook, I highly suggest you get one. I have a friend who used to carry around a pad of sticky notes in his back pocket and was always writing things down (that’s so freaking cool omg), that was his sketchbook. If you need something to read, I highly recommend Martin Gayford’s book: A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney. That book changed the way I look at art and honestly life. If it’s your birthday soon, send me a message I WILL buy it for you (limit 1, while supplies last). Other than that, I don’t have any grand or inspirational things to say here, I feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to tap into my creativity too, so if you want to talk, get in touch we’ll try and figure it out together haha.

Huge thank you to Manny for agreeing to be interviewed and for his great responses. If you’d like to check out what Manny is up to, you can find him on Instagram @chilaquilesdemanny.

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