Q&A: Sarah Claxton and Cynthia Baglin, Coordinators of Gothique Gallery and Comic Con Gone Wrong

Cynthia Baglin (pictured in hat) is the lead coordinator and promoter of Gothique Gallery and its Comic Con Gone Wrong anime, comic, fan and horror art show at The International (940 Blackstock Ave.) on Saturday, July 19, 9 p.m.-3 a.m. She will exhibit at the show, while Sarah Claxton, the secondary coordinator and a professional tattoo model, will attend as a vendor and cosplay model.

Whose idea was the Gothique Gallery?

Baglin: It first started in October, 2013 at Blackstock as the Coffin Mirrors Exhibit, a collaboration from the imaginations of Roger Gregg, Sarah Claxton, and myself. It was a recreation of a Victorian-era funeral, complete with a life-size coffin—and an exhibition of the art of all three of us, with an emphasis on mortality and beauty, and death as the great equalizer. The exhibit went over so well, we were asked to come back the following month, and have had exhibitions monthly in conjunction with Temple since then.

Is Knoxville ready for this?

Baglin: Knoxville has long been a bastion of various alternative groups such as punk, goth, steam punk and the type of art we display is perfect for the patrons of Temple. Cosplay is just another form of artistic expression of being different, and this is our darker version of it. For people like us, everyday is Halloween. We have a mission to expose people to alternative conceptions of art and beauty, truth and life, which are often dark and disturbing.

What can people do at the event besides look?

Claxton: We are going to have a cosplay costume contest and there is dancing, socializing, and many tasty drinks and food.

Are you a Comic Con loyalist?

Claxton: I am a giant stalwart of Comic Con, I love all of the art and creativity that goes into costuming and design. I love going to comic cons and seeing all the smiling faces of people and the fact that it shows the true beauty of their creativity. The world without comic design would probably be a pretty boring place.

Baglin: I have never had the pleasure of attending a large comic convention personally, but I always wanted to. I am a huge nerd myself.

Do you remember the first comic-con type thing you liked?

Claxton: The first comic book I ever received was an original Ghost Rider given to me by my 8th grade art teacher, Shawn Harbin—he is also a comic book designer. Before I left for middle school he gave me a whole bunch of comics and I remember being so impressed with the design of the comics from a literary standpoint and artistic standpoint.

Do you have favorite anime or comic creators?

Claxton: My favorite authors would have to be Mike Ploog and Roy Thomas who created Ghost Rider, and Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard who came up with the design for Black Cat.

How did you convince people to show?

Baglin: Well, some had to be talked into it. I like to call us the Island of Misfit Toys. Many of our artists had created their work in isolation and did not even realize the power of their work or their talent, but once they realize they are among like-minded people, they are eager to have the opportunity.

Do you know exactly what art will be showing or will some work be a surprise to you?

Baglin: I work closely with every member and make sure everything is approved and up to our standards. It is a pleasant surprise always to see the artwork in person, because photos on facebook do not capture the power of a piece.

Is it hard to keep afloat with the monthly events?

Baglin: Currently we have more than 25 artists who we rotate in different months according to the theme they have chosen to do work for. We are always on the hunt for a new talented artist whose work would not be readily acceptable in mainstream art galleries, often because of the subject matter. I do most of the coordinating and promoting via social media. Sometimes it is like herding cats with a water hose.

Is this a bit much for young people or faint-hearted adults?

Claxton: The Gothique Gallery/Temple nights are reserved for 18-plus. This gallery is centered around things of the macabre and horror nature so you really need to know your limits.

Can you give us an example of a funny or macabre entrant?

Baglin: Funny? I would say if there is humor in any of the art, it is very dark humor and I probably should not mention it here. Eric Creature Seeker Brown, who does sideshow sculptures all over the world, wins for most macabre. He makes some really awesome, creepy stuff, like shrunken heads.

What's next for you folks?

Baglin: Every month's gallery is different. Some are holiday based like the Christmas Massacre we had in December, but we have done a superstitions theme, and we will have a Weird Science/Back to School theme in August, a fetish theme in September—and of course October is going to be a huge time for us. We have various other events planned, too. We will be keeping it creepy somewhere or another, I am sure.