Flori-zines! Zines from Florida on Display in Special Collections

Flori-zines: Underground Voices from the Sunshine State is a show currently on view in Special Collections consisting of limited edition and unique zines from Florida. Curator Cristina Favretto coined the neologism “Flori-zines” for the Miami and Florida portion of the exhibit, which takes the viewer on a visual journey through the counterculture and fringe lifestyles not usually associated with the state. National and international zines, including some very rare early science fiction and punk zines from Special Collections are currently being showcased in a complimentary exhibit called  ?#@*$%! the Mainstream: the Art of DIY Self Expression at the Lowe Art Museum.

Zines are do-it-yourself publications, typically handmade and photocopied. They are counterculture passion projects, born from the desire to be heard, with the most famous trend coming out the punk rock scene of the 1970s.  They appeal to readers for their often highly niche topics and cover a wide range of subject matter ranging from music, literary, comix, science fiction, girl, queer issues, spirituality, and politics, amongst many others.

Florida, and particularly Miami, has a long history with zine culture and the University of Miami boasts an extensive and rare zine collection. One of the larger donations received was from the Firefly Collective in Miami.

Yo Soy Miami, from Firefly Zine Collection

According to Tara McLeigh, a founding member of the collective, The Firefly was a do-it-yourself art space and venue that had a massive zine lending library of over 1,000 items that opened in 2007. The collection was run by volunteers and represented an amalgamation of several defunct zine libraries. Many of the zines were duplicated for check out and at one point the collective had over 200 members. The Firefly has since closed, but upon donation of its collection to the University, McLeigh stated that it was “very important that the zine collection can exist and breathe once again and I cannot think of a better place for them at their new home.”

One of the more interesting items currently on display is a copy of Brazen Hussy, a Miami-based work created by Caroline Paquita. This particular zine was recently displayed in a show at HistoryMiami titled “Teen Miami”, about life as a teenager in South Florida. There are three issues of Brazen Hussy in special collections which are all part of the Erick Lyle papers. Lyle is a musician, writer, and zine editor with deep ties to South Florida.

The opening page of Brazen Hussy #8 features Paquita professing to her readers that upon completion of each issue she feels there is always more to say. To Paquita, this showcases the beauty of the zine as medium. It’s a very telling proclamation about the nature of the form and establishes an informal link between the DIY style and the potential of a constantly evolving narrative.

Paquita, who now runs her own publishing house Pegacorn Press, wrote and produced eight issues of Brazen Hussy as a teenager living in Miami from 1998-2004.  When asked about the zine she claims, “it was very important and influential part of my growing up as a young female artist, as it helped me branch out of what I thought was a limited (at the time) punk and DIY scene in Miami, to a larger web of other zine folks in the States and abroad.”

Zines, by their very nature, are imbued with the personality and character of their creators and here we see that this particular project, Brazen Hussy, was a launching pad for an artist finding her voice. Now active in both the publishing and art worlds, Paquita branched off into the two creative industries that underpin the cavalier attitude of zine publication.

Scam, by Erick Lyle, from the Erick Lyle Papers

Favretto suggests that, “zines are a window into the zeitgeist of our culture. They often represent what we’d call the ‘fringe’ elements of society, but it’s often the fringe right before it becomes mainstream.  Zine writers are not beholden to advertisers, or publishers, or even editors, and therefore are conducive to the sort of candor (and often bad writing) that simply wouldn’t make it into commercial publications. And yet they have an impact, and are crucial research material for those who want to know more about the ‘real’ late twentieth century from the eyes of a very varied group of people.”

She goes on to explain the current economic landscape of bookselling explaining, “zines have also become big business. Their small publication runs, coupled with a certain charming raw quality and nostalgia for certain academically under-documented cultures, have made them very collectible to a savvy 21st century audience. Demand for zines—especially by academic collections—exceed the supply (zines were by their very nature throw-away objects) and consequently can often be quite expensive.  Zines that sold for 25 cents at concerts or record stores are sometimes selling at almost one hundred times that price.”

Carter, by “Scott”, from the Erick Lyle Papers

It’s not far-fetched to suggest that the way youth and anti-establishment creativity utilizes the internet burgeoned from the same spirit as zine culture. Zines are a text heavy and an inexpensive way of sharing what you feel, what you love, what you hate, and what you are trying to better understand. Yet, their uniqueness lies in the desire to be heard and express, as opposed to profiting from the clicks of the internet. Due to their scarcity and truly unique perspectives on the counter-cultural phenomena they illuminate, zines have a fascinating place in the pantheon of print material.

The University of Miami Libraries invites the public to experience Flori-zines: Underground Voices from the Sunshine State which is currently on display in conjunction with the ?#@*$%! the Mainstream: the Art of DIY Self Expression exhibit at the Lowe Art Museum. The Lowe exhibition is co-curated by Favretto, with the assistance of UM Libraries Preservation Administrator Scott Reinke and Research Assistant Steve Hersh. Favretto will also be presenting at an event at the Lowe on Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 1–3 p.m., which includes a zine lecture, workshop on zine-making, and exhibition tour.

Special Collections is open to the public from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information please contact 305-284-3247 or email asc.library@miami.edu.

Nathaniel Sandler, Book Detective for UM Special Collections