I first crossed paths with Charles Burns in the mid-70s, when we both attended a small college in rural Washington State. I later learned that Burns wasn't entirely comfortable in an art school attended by eccentric Charles Manson enthusiasts and Symbionese Liberation Army sympathizers. By contrast, I had finally found my people. Burns soon departed for the greener pastures of The Evergreen State College, where he joined talented young artists Lynda Barry and Matt Groening.
Upon graduating in 1978, I opened the experimental Rosco Louie gallery in the tony Pioneer Square section of Seattle. I was privileged to give both Lynda Barry and Charles Burns their first gallery shows. Burns later served as soundman at Rosco Louie for a performance by San Francisco band Pink Section, which included his then-girlfriend, fashion designer Carol Detwieler. He in turn designed the cover for the 1982 Sub Pop 7 cassette compilation, which included my wife's band, Little Bears From Bangkok. At the same time we were both frequent contributors to Seattle music monthly, The Rocket.
As Burns migrated to the East Coast, we both continued our association with Sub Pop. In 1988, Burns illustrated the stunning cover to the momentous Sub Pop 200 LP. Shortly thereafter, I promoted a Tad, Mudhoney, and Nirvana show at my alternative space, the Center on Contemporary Art, which found Kurt sporting a Burns tee shirt. (As seen in Charles Peterson's photo above.) On a subsequent Seattle visit in 1993, I accompanied Burns to a secret Tad and Nirvana show at a small downtown venue, where he was received as a rock star himself.
Throughout my tenure at Fantagraphics Books, I've continued to encounter Charles Burns, a pleasure that will repeat itself this evening when Burns appears at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery to present his new graphic novel, Sugar Skull. Please join me in welcoming this immensely influential artist back to his hometown.