If This is All You Get

A while ago Shannon O'Leary had a book idea she ran by me, an anthology about cartoonists' take on feminism. I thought it was a good idea, because I believe that women are equal to men, but had no thoughts about how to make a comic that didn't feel like a college essay. Frankly, I always felt pretty equal as a woman, especially as a white educated middle class woman. That was, until I had a kid. Then suddenly all my dreams of artistic freedom were, uh, revised. It's the only time in my life where I felt like the difference of the sexes was laid bare. I really struggled with this piece... here's the first page, and the rest is up at Bitch.com. They put this comic up to promote the kickstarter for The Big Feminist But (Shannon and Joan's anthology includes great stuff from Vanessa Davis, Gabrielle Bell and Jeffrey Brown among others). If you feel compelled to donate, that would be awesome. I'd love to hear your stories as well if you are a parent and an artist struggling to do both. 

Outside Over There, an Appreciation

Few people know how to tap into a child’s deepest emotional life and shape his or her subconscious forever. Maurice Sendak did. My favorite book of his is Outside Over There, and the reasons why keep changing as I get older. In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are seem to explore primal urges and dreams, and are resolved by the characters waking up, or going back to their mommies. I love these books, but in Outside Over There, there’s more at stake.

A baby sister is kidnapped by goblins. The baby is replaced by a changeling made of ice (the scariest thing I could imagine when I was a kid). The mother is absent--waiting for her husband who’s away at sea. Our hero, Ida, probably four or five, has to save her sister using her will, her mother’s cloak, and her wonder horn. The goblins happen to be disguised as babies. Ida entrances them by playing the wonder horn, making them dance so fast that they dissolve into water. Few people could draw this transformation with such naturalism. In the end, Ida is charged with the responsibility of raising her little sister, while her mom stares off to sea, waiting for Ida’s papa to come home. When I was a child, I looked up to Ida. I marveled that a girl could be so brave and save her sister. I longed for one of those big flowing night gowns, and I wanted a sister.

The drawings in this book changed my life. I scrutinized the sunflowers growing up and up and the facial expressions of the portrait in Ida’s room changing slightly. The German Shepherd. The musician and the sailors hidden in the compositions. Sendak’s inspiration seems to have been German and Netherlandish engravers. These drawings don’t take any short cuts. They are very rendered, but carry an emotional weight.

Do I identify more with this book because the main characters are girls? Possibly. The story seems to be more about  girls, and what is expected of them. If the protagonist was a boy, would he be expected to raise his younger sibling? Ida has big feet and flowing hair; she's going to be tall and gorgeous. She's more in control of herself than the boys in Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. She has grace.

Now we read this book to my daughter. She’s 2 1/2 and I don’t know how much she gets of it, but she wants to hear it over and over.  She thinks the goblins are aliens. Maybe she can just tell how enthusiastic I am about the story. Sendak knows he can take children to these dark places, but he builds in the security of the adult reader guiding them along. This book takes childhood seriously. It talks about love and responsibility and heroism, in a way that is never spelled out. I read somewhere that he revised the book over one hundred times, and it shows. It reads like Yeats, like perfect poetry. I don’t mind reading it over and over again to my daughter, always marveling at new details in the drawings.

Hogarth Crumb Art Time Loop

Tim and I  went to The Met to see Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine.  I loved looking at all the drawings of  people with bug bodies. I saw a defecating bottom wearing glasses and learned that is was a symbol of ignorance. Look at this  Daumier!  And this Hirschfeld and this Rowlandson... reminds me of James Ensor!  And check out the show... it's ending March 4th. Tim and I found ourselves in front of Hogarth's Characters and Caricaturas...

The first thing that I thought when I saw Hogarth's hatchy and wobbly but assuredly lithe line was how much he's influenced Crumb.  It is as if Hogarth is still breathing through Crumb's drawings.  Then Tim looked at the bottom of the print and said, "That guy is right out of the '60's" and it's true, Hogarth does seem to have drawn a belligerent hippie in the bottom right hand corner of the page. I stood there transfixed.  Was Hogarth sending a secret message to Crumb in the future?  Or maybe Crumb traveled back 200 years and made a cameo in Hogarth's picture? Hmmm....


Thanks for coming to both of the shows!

Thursday and Friday's events were wonderful, everyone!  Thanks so much for coming out to Union Hall and The Rubin Museum for my introduction to Lost Horizon. Both times I left early to get back to Jersey, and also because there is a nasty cold going around my house right now that I think I have but maybe don't. The Rubin Museum is totally amazing if anyone hasn't been there.  A whole place dedicated to Himalayan art, full of stylish people.  They have a great events series (I'm obviously biased.) But it seems like an oasis and if you want something to do on a cold winter day, that's the place to go.

Still recovering

Hi.  I just came back from vacation.  I am still recovering.  I visited the oval office at night, saw some amazing comics at Warren Bernard's house, climbed around in a giant ant hill, tried a new latke recipe, spent three days with two sets of toddler twins, and ate and ate.  And the real question is, who gives a shit? Here's a piece from my sketchbook drawn last night:  

I went to see the Bad Plus at The Village Vanguard with Tim for a romantic date!   It was wonderful how I got so much work done, drawing the entire time I was listening to the sublime music.  Then we deposited our checks at a nearby bank and made the responsible train!  It's our seventh date without our daughter in two years and three months, but who's counting?


Sketchbook Jazz Power!

Tim and I went out for a date. We go on about one a year now. This time we actually did dinner and a concert at the Village Vanguard where we saw Paul Motian, an 80-ish jazz drummer, who has played everything with everyone. When we saw him play, he kept his sunglasses on. He looked about 60 for the entire set. During the applause, he took off his shades and stood up. He looked frail and old.  See, making art is good for you!