Magazine article The New Yorker

Self-Made

Magazine article The New Yorker

Self-Made

Article excerpt

Self-Made

Sean Tejaratchi knew what he wanted to do with his life, but nobody in Eugene, Oregon, was hiring teen-agers to work as graphic designers. So he made up a fake rock band—Toad Licker—and distributed phony concert flyers around the city, like baited hooks on a trawl line. (Printing them was easy; he worked at Kinko’s.) The publicity manager of a local indie-rock venue was impressed—“You did Toad Licker?”—and paid him to make real flyers. Since then, he has been, among other things, an art director, a graphic designer for two films by Miranda July, an artist for a series of feminist postcards, and a freelance photo retoucher for a producer of pornographic videos and magazines.

“That porn company is one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever worked,” Tejaratchi said recently, over breakfast at a coffee shop in Los Angeles, not far from where he lives. “The reason is that everybody kind of has their shit together, and nobody pervs out on anything. My job was to get rid of all the little blemishes of humanity, and as a result I have a very non-idealized view of what naked people look like. I was a freelance designer for Walt Disney Records at the same time, and there’s no difference. We all want to look nice, and be seen from the best angle, whether it’s ‘Anal Destiny’ or the Muppets.”

Tejaratchi was born in 1970. He has receding brown hair and wears glasses, and for breakfast he had ordered iced coffee and a bowl of fruit. Since 2013, he has probably been known best for LiarTownUSA, a Tumblr blog that has an intensely devoted following but is impossible to characterize succinctly except by saying that Tejaratchi, in addition to being extremely funny, is also a Photoshop virtuoso. He has now collected almost all his Tumblr material in a book, “LiarTown: The First Four Years.” It was published in November by Feral House, a small imprint for which he once edited a deeply disturbing compilation of photographs taken by a homicide detective from the Los Angeles Police Department.

“People guess at my influences,” Tejaratchi said. “One I get a lot is National Lampoon, but I was too young for that. For my friends and me, in the early nineties, it was more like ‘Let’s go have beers and read The Onion.’ ” Tejaratchi’s book is dangerous to open if you’re in a place where you’re not supposed to laugh really hard or there are children. It includes meticulously executed fake magazine covers from several decades (“Shit Weddings,” “Black Power Taxidermy,” “Confusing Premise” ); fake gay magazines from the early nineteen-fifties (Sophisticated Acquaintance, Ladypals); fake wall calendars (Birds with Human Penises); fake musical compilations (“Difficult-to-Strip-to Hits”); fake billboards (“Injured? …

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