I grew up in Koreatown in Los Angeles. All my elementary school crushes were on Korean boys, my middle school friends got me into a Korean boy band called H.O.T. (which stands for High-five Of Teenagers… yikes), my friends in high school taught me how to read (and haltingly write) Korean. I can tell a Korean person with my eyes closed (it’s that familiar smell). With so much Asian influence, I was pressured into the drama that surrounds comparing who had the biggest collection of glitter-ink pens, offered in a seemingly endless number of colors, stickers of Badtz-Maru and Kero Kero Keroppi, and the ultimate staple of a grade school girl’s desk accessories: the pencil case. How many hidden pop-out compartments does yours have? Oh, just two? How sad for you.
I wasn’t Korean, however, and that bothered me because it meant that I was an outsider. Somehow I got over it, but not before I discovered Lisa Frank. Lisa Frank was the non-Asian kids’ version of Sanrio. You could get Lisa Frank back packs, trapper keepers, pencils, pencil cases, erasers, coin purses… the list goes on. You name it, Lisa Frank probably shit a rainbow all over it. Finally I could keep up with my Korean friends; I had access to the ugly shit that resulted when rainbows vomited up cheerful animals, and got slapped on a binder. Finally.
I wonder why my parents let me buy this crap. I remember visiting Thrifty (now known as CVS) to get school supplies, and picking up a folder with golden retriever puppies on it. By the end of the year, I had added scars, fangs dripping blood, black eyes, Frankenstein-inspired neck bolts, and all other kinds of horrors to these adorable puppies. And yet somehow, even after defacing the most lovable of animals, I felt compelled to pick up something like this, and say, “Mom, I want this one.” More startlingly, my mom looked at said cheerful monstrosities and said, “Yes.” Then mommy’s eyes started bleeding (I would imagine).
I’m trying to picture Lisa Frank’s art teachers’ response to her work.
“Wow, Lisa, that’s… interesting. What is this?”
“It’s a unicorn. It was force-fed skittles, and now it has rainbow-colored hair. And diabetes.”
Later, in Pretentious Fucking Art Academy (PFAA):
“Lisa, don’t you want to try expressing yourself with other color palettes? How about a still life?”
I’m trying to picture a young woman with a strong vision facing discouragement and harsh criticism at every turn, and triumphantly fighting through it all to finally achieve success, only to discover that the only demographic with eyes sharp enough to catch all the horrifying detail of her creations, but brains dull enough to withstand the onslaught of tastelessness and technicolor animal abuse: grade schoolers, the portion of our population whose acceptable social activities include eating their own boogers, and throwing tantrums until they pass out.
Bravo, Lisa Frank. Bravo.
In case you just can’t get enough Lisa Frank, you can visit this blog post about her by a similarly impressed female blogger, which I found while scouring the interwebz for the free laser surgery service more commonly known as Lisa Frank.