Tommi (aka Katie) Parrish is a comic artist and illustrator, and is currently art editor at The Lifted Brow. Their work has appeared in various anthologies, magazines, mini comics, gallery shows in New York, Argentina, and throughout Australia, as well as the online column Advicecomics.
Which member of your family influenced you the most?
Tommi: Probably my dad, he’s a painter and sculptor. Growing up dad used to have these amazing studios behind his house. They were these treasure troves of broken toys, oil paint, furniture and ancient photos he’d found on the side of the road, all of it waiting to be incorporated into a new project. Dad would pick me up from my mums when I was a kid, or maybe from a party when I was a bit older and we would go get a coffee and then drive around the streets looking for hard rubbish, talking about ideas for artworks and the person I was crushing on at that moment.
How similar are your political beliefs to those of your family?
Tommi: Not that similar really, though my family has a whole ‘work hard and don’t be a dickhead’ philosophy that I guess I subscribe to. My mum’s side especially are old school labour party unionists, which has always seemed kind of restrictive and conservative to me. The narrative that I grew up hearing was so focused on stability, nuclear family, sacrifice and stoicism. I can’t really apply any of those words to my lifestyle.
How do your values differ from those of your family?
Tommi: I believe in the importance of trade and chosen family. I’ve always been pretty independent and stuff has more or less worked out somehow. There have been so many times that I have rocked up to a new city in the morning with nowhere to stay and had a couch to crash on by the afternoon. I try to live by radical queer politics, that means being inclusive and practising intersectional feminism, kindness, learning and teaching always, all that stuff.
Do you have a favourite family story?
Tommi: I had just spent 4 months in South America after doing a month long residency in Argentina and I was taking a flight from Ecuador to San Francisco where I was gonna crash for a few weeks with some friends of friends before heading back to Melbourne. I was pretty over it, tired and broke and a bit lonely. Anyway I had a stopover at LA airport where I got hauled over to the backroom for questioning (when I was 20 I had overstayed my visa in the States by almost a year – idiot). After a day sitting alone and miserable in the back room watching Sesame Street reruns I was driven by two bulky armed guards to a holding cell in the detention centre downtown. The room was big and concrete and empty except for a toilet and a phone. So exhausted and angry with myself I called the Consulate who called my mum. She was amazing, god. Organising a flight, she laughed when I told her where I was.
What do you hope for?
Tommi: To live in a way that’s fulfilling.
What do you think is your main purpose in life?
Tommi: To try my best.
Do you think its ok to lie?
What does freedom mean to you?
Tommi: Freedom is an illusion under capitalism.
What do you think are the most important social issues today?
Tommi: Probably raising a greater awareness around systemic racism. Also, despite all the media attention that trans issues have been getting lately, it hasn’t actually improved the lives of any trans people I know, so greater, easily access to support for queer people. More lessons on consent and sexuality in schools. I dunno, there’s a lot of stuff.
Do you think things happen for a reason?
What beliefs do you have that you think will never change?
Tommi: I think violence is never necessary, and I reeeaaallly don’t want kids.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
Tommi: When I was a little kid my step-mum used to take me to get my aura cleansed and I have a lot of friends who read Tarot and can feel spirits. It’s fun to talk about and getting your Tarot read can be really affirming. I believe in people carrying energy and trusting how that energy feels.
Is any religious text important to you?
Tommi: Kramers Ergot, anything by Arsene Schrauwen, and Blink 182.
What do you like the best about your body?
Tommi: My hands because I use them to draw, but the rest of me is pretty good too.
What do you think would be the best thing about being the opposite gender?
Tommi: Male privilege.
Who is the best teacher you have ever had?
Tommi: My friends.
Have you ever been lost?
What was your favourite book as a child?
Tommi: The Golden Compass.
If I asked a good friend of yours what you were good at, what would they say?
Tommi: Working out how to talk to new people.
What stays the same in your life, no matter how much other things change?
What is stopping you?
Tommi Parrish appears as part of Comic Tragics: The Exploding Language of Contemporary Comic Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre (WA), until 25 July 2016 – artgallery.wa.gov.au
Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet, until 17 March, 2019
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