Lyz Olko’s “Tiptoeing Through The Rubble Running Through The Flames”

The artist and designer tells us about the creation of her latest zine.

Lyz Olko’s “Tiptoeing Through The Rubble Running Through The Flames”

A zine can be a special thing if it’s done the right way; it can be an extremely personal and immediate form. Lyz Olko captures these aspects to the utmost in her latest zine, Tiptoeing Through the Rubble Running Through the Flames. It is Olko’s second zine after the fantastic Everything Is Going To Be Fine. In that zine, Olko brought together a talented group of friends and collaborators to create works around the titular theme. On first glance, the amazingly titled new zine seems to reverse direction, going from a collaborative effort to a much more personal look at Olko’s past. However, the thread that unifies both seems to me to be the way Olko’s friends, family, and community shaped her as a person and are inextricably connected to her expression of the personal. Looking at the photos, drawings, and artifacts assembled in the zine, the reader gets a sense of the depth of the connections Olko makes and has made.

For Olko, herself, what connects the zines and motivates her to create them is something she describes as “roundabout ways to communicate feelings,” an apt description of the artist’s project if ever there was one. Read on for more from our conversation with Olko about the zine and how she brought them to life.

Ravelin Magazine

After a great start, these zines keep getting better. What new things did you try to do with the new zine?

THANK YOU!  It means a lot to me to hear that. I had been thinking for a long time about creating a new zine, and over the past two months or so had started my process of picking up different photos and starting mini-collages around my studio, and I became fixated on certain words and the theme of fire.

One new thing that stands out between “Tiptoeing Through the Rubble Running Through the Flames” and “Everything is Going To Be Fine” is the new zine is much more personal. What was behind the decision to take a turn in a more personal direction?

David Wojnarowicz said that he knew who he was because of the parts of himself that “didn’t fit,” and it was these parts of him that caused the desire to make things or try to communicate across the gulf of distance he felt from other people.

As far back as I can remember I have kept mementos of varying materials, photographed people I connected with, wrote scraps of thoughts on paper—all these roundabout ways to communicate feeling.

The zine opens with scraps of a letter from my father written to his father about me when I was little. It is part of a collection of letters found after his death when I was a teenager and sent to me almost 15 years later. Upon the receipt of the letter collection I promptly put them in a box, and forgot — until I stumbled on them a few weeks ago. The original handwritten letters had been retyped by my uncle to translate my father’s all-caps scrawl, which I realized is also similar to my own after ripping open one of the taped up envelopes. It is later now, and I live in a world where my truths coexist; and all those parts that didn’t fit in before fit together.

I think this is like a peaceful point in my life where I’m OK with opening doors that have been painful to open in the past, uncomfortable to open now, but am now surrendering and comfortable with being vulnerable. And I can look at things now and be openly appreciative and want to share.  Putting together all the different parts of my life together and loving it as one.

It seems like this zine must have involved a lot of reflection on your past, which can be hard work in itself for a lot of people. What was the experience like for you?

I agree with you. I think though having spent the past fews years doing work to understand a lot of things about myself, which includes confronting and owning a lot in my past. Developing patience and compassion for others , something I have and still do sometimes forget about having  for myself. This zine is part of that. also having appreciation and seeing the good things that grew out of the dark/bad. This is like a physical representation of all that. It’s just the beginning.

Ravelin Magazine
As far back as I can remember I have kept mementos of varying materials, photographed people I connected with, wrote scraps of thoughts on paper—all these roundabout ways to communicate feeling.
Ravelin Magazine

The title is very poetic. How did you come up with it?

I get obsessed with all these moments in movies and will watch over over and over again, and record them on my phone and use them for reference for my work. A few years ago when the movie “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” came out, I went alone to see it in the theater and there is a scene where the young vampire woman brings home another lonely teenager named Arash, and they experience this beautiful moment in complete silence while this song is playing. I was paralyzed with emotion watching it. and the song stayed in my head for years to come.

One day while driving to NJ ( my home state) with a friend a song came on their playlist that sounded exactly like the artist of song I couldn’t get out of my head from “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.”

It turned out to be the same artist, the band  White Lies, and the song in my friends car was called “The Power and The Glory“, and the lines that stayed running through my head were “tiptoeing through the rubble running through the flames,” and now a year later, when I was writing the text with the zine it just was perfect. And also just a really accurate description of my life experiences.

Looking at all the polaroids and snapshots you collected made me really nostalgic. What do you think it is about polaroids that make them so special? And even though it’s so easy to take photographs now, do you think we’ve given something up in exchange for the convenience of digital photography?

I think everyone has their methods of recording that work for them. For me personally, starting from when I was little, I would collect things — my apartment is filled with books, a whole archive of visual and literary references for me to go back to – that one page I remember in whatever book or magazine . That photo or a paragraph I loved. I love making notes in the margins of books, underlining  – it’s so personal. I also always had an interest in photography and originally intended to major in that in school so started shooting film on a Pentax K 1000 in high school and then kept going. I love film, although I also now love my digital cameras. Polaroids are just their own special thing, it’s like holding a film still in your hand. I love them. I really love arranging them and collaging pieces together. I have thousands archived in my studio.

Ravelin Magazine

Subscribe to Ravelin’s newsletter for a dose of inspiration, magazine news, and event announcements.