The Strop Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: 5 Artists Whose Work Moves the Needle

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1. Ash Thorp, The Gentle Art

Ash Thorp is a visual artist and creative director whose credits include Total Recall, Prometheus, Ghost in the Shell, Assassin’s Creed, and other major titles. He also trains jiu jitsu, has a killer guard game, and recently released a short film titled The Gentle Art — which, in just over two minutes, perfectly encapsulates the artistry, force, and beauty of jiu jitsu. “There is a very special moment in jiu jitsu where you must leave your ego and reconnect with your true primal self, essentially being broken and reborn, and that is what I envisioned capturing for this film,” he writes on his website. That breakdown of self, that abandonment of ego, that expression of body — it’s plainly felt here, and it’s beautiful. I’ve trained with and learned from most of the people in the film, but watching them grapple under smoky spotlights created a meaningful layer of separation: I wasn’t just watching people I knew. I was watching their years of training crashing against each other like heavy waves against a shore. As I watched their practiced fluidity set against an atmospheric score, I was reminded why I believe the grappling martial arts are some of the most humbling, yet rewarding pursuits: jiu jitsu forces you to learn how to use your mind and body as a weapon, as a tool, and as something that can come back from being broken. The Gentle Art is about bodies and movement blending together into a relentless pursuit of action, and if you’ve ever wondered why people practice jiu jitsu, or martial arts in general, this film is Thorp’s answer — and mine, too. – Rebecca Paredes

2. Kayla Mattes

Kayla Mattes is a contemporary artist who embodies current news and internet culture through weaving. Subjects such as tweets from Donald Trump and the candy brand Skittles are painstakingly enlarged and given much needed pause and emphasis through her decidedly analogue process. By taking these fast-paced, technology driven snippets of information through the slow, painstaking process of weaving, Mattes effectively asks us to slow down and analyze what we are seeing. A tweet that may fall through the cracks into the infinitely growing void of content created and shared every day is given new life and significance. In her most recent work, feelings of climate anxiety and post-capitalist angst are delightfully filtered through meme-like cat imagery that simultaneously references the internet and the “cat lady” craft tradition. Through this rich tradition of weaving, Mattes weaves the story of our current age, with all of the irony, political rage, existential dread, and silliness that entails. A solo exhibition of her work opens in Los Angeles at Richard Heller Gallery on Nov. 9, 2019. Here’s her website. – Megan Koth

3. Danielle Corsetto, Girls With Slingshots

Best known for her long-running web comic Girls With Slingshots, Danielle Corsetto has also done cover work for Lumberjanes and the Adventure Time comic books. The original Girls With Slingshots comic started in 2004 and wrapped up in 2015, but is currently being re-released in full color on The comic itself features two best friends, Hazel and Jamie, as well as the friends they make at a local coffee shop — including Jameson, who owns the aforementioned coffee shop; Clarice, a librarian that moonlights as a dominatrix; and McPedro, the Scottish-Mexican talking cactus. Yes, a talking cactus. The comic might have concluded, but there’s a lot of fun to be had, even without weekly updates. The strips are often light-hearted and goofy, while also diving into some heartfelt, deeper discussions of adulthood, sexuality, romance, and what it means to build stable, adult emotional connections in your life. Hazel struggles to find stable work and living, moves back in with her mom at almost 30, and struggles with keeping friends around. Like most long-running web comics, Girls With Slingshots can feel a little daunting to pick up if you aren’t there at the beginning, but it’s more than worth the binge. – Daniel Mazzacane

4. Ben “Mystery Ben” Mangum and the Mystery Skull series

Mystery Ben, as Mangum is known online, is one of the artists and lead for the series of animated music videos known as the Mystery Skull series for the band of the same name. Mangum and his team have animated three videos, starting with “Ghost” in 2014, following a Scooby Doo-esque crew of investigators with dark secrets. Three of the investigators are being pursued by the ghost of their former teammate, Lewis, who was murdered by Arthur after he was possessed on a previous mission.  Their dog and mascot, Mystery, might be the bound soul of a kitsune demon, and Vivi, the only girl in the group, may or may not be the reincarnation of the girl who bound him. It’s a lot to pack into three minute videos, and the quality of the animations put forward by Mangum and his team are astounding. They’re not attached to a studio, and are fully funded out-of-pocket and through support of fans through their Patreon and merch sales. Watch them here. – Daniel Mazzacane

5. Tracy J. Butler, Lackadaisy

Butler, known online as “Lackadaisycats” and a self-proclaimed “cat propagandist,” is best known for her comic series Lackadaisy, which started in 2008. I first heard of Butler, and her comic, on Deviantart back in 2009. I was immediately drawn in by its cast of anthropomorphic cats, realized in sepia-toned 1920s nostalgia. As a fan of Don Bluth films and the 1997 Warner Bros. film Cats Don’t Dance, Butler’s art style and her mature themes felt like a natural continuation of a childhood fascination. Set in prohibition-era St. Louis, the comic follows the ups and downs of the Lackadaisy speakeasy after its founder is murdered. Butler mixes comedy with classic mystery and crime elements, all rendered in her characteristic soft, painted style. Lackadaisy can be read at, and Butler is supported through her work and the support of fans via her Patreon. – Daniel Mazzacane

Header: Ash Thorp, “The Gentle Art”