Showing posts with label exhibit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exhibit. Show all posts

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Review: Black and White / Thoughts in Cartoon by Mohammad Sabaaneh


by Mike Rhode

Black and White / Thoughts in Cartoon by Mohammad Sabaaneh, Washington, DC: Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds. November 17 – December 15, 2018. https://www.thejerusalemfund.org/21159/november-cartoons

Mohammad Sabaaneh is a self-taught Palestinian cartoonist, who, like all good editorial cartoonists, often finds himself in trouble with both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments. Notwithstanding the need to teach art, and the regular seizure of his artwork when he returns from travelling (and thus he says he only carries reproductions personally), Sabaaneh has been able to compile a book, White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine (JustWorldBooks, 2017; $20). While touring the East Coast for this publication, he stopped in Washington to introduce a small exhibit of his linocut art.

Malcolm
Linocut is a negative printing process made by using sharp tools to engrave a piece of linoleum, and then inking it, and pressing it into paper. Sabaaneh was taught the technique by World War 3 Illustrated’s Seth Tobocman in New York. He took the gravers back with him to Palestine, found linoleum from a hospital’s floors, and found a substitute for the ink that was unavailable at home, and began making art. In his artist's statement, he wrote, “When I do linocut, I feel like I am giving a gift to myself! It is so exciting when you carve the linoleum, then cover it with the ink, then press it… and just waiting to find the result. No-one around you understands what exactly you are doing. I feel that I am creating a version of myself as well as creating art. The amount of wet black ink on the paper reflects me, and reflects the world around us. My daily political cartoon is influenced by the linocut technique and I like the results. Linocut is also one of the most important techniques for producing political posters.”


The Weight of Occupation
The exhibit consists of fewer than twenty pieces hung around hallways in a small office area, some of which seemed thematically out of place such as “Malcolm” which is a portrait of the 1960s black American activist Malcolm X. Others are what one expects from a cartoonist who refuses to collaborate with those he considers occupiers, to the extent of turning down exhibits with Israeli cartoonists in Europe. “The Dictator’s Melody” in which a uniformed man conducts an orchestra as bombs fall behind them, or “The Weight of Occupation” which shows a bald man carrying a slab engraved with tanks and bombs, fit into Sabaaneh’s main concern – freedom for Palestine. However, he notes, “I think as a Palestinian cartoonist I should not rely on my topic. Yes, Palestine is one of the most important topics around the world, and that has helped me to spread my art all around the world. But as an artist I believe that my art should consist not just of a strong message, but it also should be good art.”

The Dictator’s Melody

I found the strongest pieces in the show to be two pieces, “Resisting settler colonialism everywhere” and “She carries remembered worlds,” each depicting generic Palestinian people, a man and a woman, with their bodies fading into buildings. Both evoke a strong sense of place and purpose, more so than “Can you chain a heart?”, an image of a heart wrapped in chain. The exhibit also contains a long “History of Palestine Frieze” which is about five feet long and shows a history of the occupation via cartoon figures. Sabaaneh says he plans to do more large-scale works like this, and has recently completed one on the subject of women.

She carries remembered worlds

Resisting settler colonialism everywhere
 
Can you chain a heart?
At the exhibit opening, Cartoonist Rights Network International’s Bro Russell interviewed Sabaaneh, who then also took questions. (The Fund has said that a transcript will be soon made available on their website). The audience was made up of students and people already familiar with the Palestinian cause, which Sabaaneh says actually works against him, because most of the people who come to see him at a talk or an exhibit are already convinced and do not need to argue with him or his work. For those not familiar with his work, the exhibit and the book are a good introduction to a world where political cartoonists still matter enough to be regularly threatened with more than job loss.


History of Palestine Frieze segment


(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 18, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing.)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: Sense of Humor exhibit at National Gallery of Art

by Mike Rhode

Sense of Humor: Caricature, Satire, and the Comical from Leonardo to the Present. Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon senior curator of prints and drawings; Judith Brodie, curator and head of the department of American and modern prints and drawings; and Stacey Sell, associate curator, department of old master drawings. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art. July 15, 2018 – January 6, 2019. https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2018/sense-of-humor.html

Humor may be fundamental to human experience, but its expression in painting and sculpture has been limited. Instead, prints, as the most widely distributed medium, and drawings, as the most private, have been the natural vehicles for comic content. Drawn from the National Gallery of Art's collection, Sense of Humor celebrates this incredibly rich though easily overlooked tradition through works including Renaissance caricatures, biting English satires, and20th-century comics. The exhibition includes major works by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, James Gillray, Francisco de Goya, and Honoré Daumier, as well as later examples by Alexander Calder, Red Grooms, Saul Steinberg, Art Spiegelman, and the Guerrilla Girls.
James Gillray, Wierd-Sisters; Ministers of Darkness; Minions of the Moon, 1791
Any exhibit on humor that covers 500 years (from 1470 through 1997), two continents and at least five countries is going to have to deal with the vagaries of what humor actually is. Even within my lifetime, what is considered permissible humor in America has changed, sometimes drastically. The exhibit was divided into three galleries – according to their press release (available at the website) the first "focuses on the emergence of humorous images in prints and drawings from the 15th to 17th centuries. Satires and caricatures gained popularity during this era, poking fun at the human condition using archetypal figures from mythology and folklore. While not yet intended as caricatures of individuals, Italian works reflected the Renaissance interest in the human figure and emotion." To modern eyes, drawings of dwarves or grotesques do not really appear to be either humorous or a cartoon, but the curators make the arguments that the foundations of caricature and satirical cartooning are laid in this period. 
William Hogarth, Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn, 1738
The second gallery begins featuring artists that most of us would consider cartoonists as it "continues with works from the 18th and 19th centuries, when certain artists dedicated themselves exclusively to comical subjects." In this room one found a good selection of the British masters Hogarth, Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruikshank, as well as Goya and Daumier (and oddly enough the painter Fragonard who drew an errant lover hiding from parents in an etching, The Armoire). This is the most interesting part of the exhibit for historians of comics, and the strong selection of etchings and drawings is worth studying since one rarely gets to see the contemporary prints, or even the original drawings such as Cruickshank's pencil and ink drawing Taking the Air in Hyde Park (1865). The release also notes, "Included in the exhibition is Daumier's Le Ventre Législatif (The Legislative Belly) (1834), a famous image that mocks the conservative members of France's Chamber of Deputies," but the exhibit does not note that the sculptures Daumier also made of the Deputies is on permanent display in another gallery of the museum -- a lost opportunity.
The final gallery "focuses on the 20th century and encompasses both the gentle fun of works by George Bellows, Alexander Calder, and Mabel Dwight and the biting satire of Hans Haacke and Rupert García. Works by professional cartoonists such as R. Crumb, George Herriman, Winsor McCay, and Art Spiegelman are presented alongside mainstream artists like Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Nutt, and Andy Warhol." Of most interest were the McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland: Climbing the Great North Pole) and Herriman (Ah-h, She Sails Like an Angel, 1921) originals, both of which are worth examining in detail. This section also showed the paucity of the NGA's collections in modern comic art. These are joined by a print by Art Spiegelman, and several Zap Comic books, recently collected and described in standard art historical terms:
Robert Crumb (artist, author), Apex Novelties (publisher)
Zap #1, 1968
28-page paperback bound volume with half-tone and offset lithograph illustrations in black and
cover in full color
sheet: 24.13 x 17.15 cm (9 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.)
open: 24.13 x 34.29 cm (9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of William and Abigail Gerdts

The fact that the Gallery still can not bring itself to use the word 'comic book,' the standard term as opposed to paperback bound volume, unfortunately shows that it has far to go in dealing with the twentieth century's popular culture rather than fine art. Still, the exhibit is interesting, and well-worth repeated viewings which are almost necessary to understand the material from the first four centuries of the show.



(This review was written for the International Journal of Comic Art 20:2, but this version appears on both the IJOCA and ComicsDC websites on November 16, 2018, while the exhibit is still open for viewing. For those not in DC, Bruce Guthrie has photographs of the entire exhibit at http://www.bguthriephotos.com/graphlib.nsf/keys/2018_07_29B2_NGA_Humor)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Chat with Dan Rosandich, Cartoonist for Hire

by Mike Rhode

I got a tip that cartoons were included in a US Capitol Visitors Center exhibit about the 'Separation Of Powers.'  I was able to track down cartoonist Dan Rosandich, who confirmed that the cartoons were his work, but that he wasn't contractually allowed to talk about doing them. Instead, he answered our usual questions for a visiting cartoonist.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do cartoons that are gag panels and I keep myself "on call" for assignments as I get requests for special custom cartoons through my online web catalog and portfolio pages. I'm currently illustrating a logo for a micro-brewery out east and am almost finished.

I also recently finished a magazine cover for a small trade journal based in Illinois (their October issue in fact)

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I am old school, based on drawing these illustrations for 40+ years now. I have tried many drawing nibs, dip pens, markers and micro-tip felt pens and am comfortable using the Rapidograph technical pen. Normally I pencil in a gag cartoon, ink it in using the Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph and let that dry and later I clean it with a soft eraser. I then scan the artwork into Photoshop. I still use Photoshop version 6.0....very antiquated, but it works for me and I can format high resolution cartoon files and store each image into an appropriately named folder on my hard drive for easy access and retrieval.

I used to use Higgins Waterproof India Ink for coloring work but it's an obsolete practice I think.... no editor wants to have to get an originally illustrated watercolor, than have to either scan it or make a transparency from it, when all they really need to do is take any properly-formatted files supplied from the cartoonist and import it into their digital publishing software they lay their publication out with.

Technology has really revolutionized the cartooning business from that standpoint. But it's creating original paper images that I like... I could do it all on a Cintiq I guess, but what would I have to hold in my (ink-stained) hands afterwards?

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1957 north of Detroit, Michigan.

Where do you live now?

I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (aka Yooperland!)

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I never went to any fancy art school or had a formal college course in art... I immediately began sending out cartoons to magazines while in my last year of high school and sold one to a trade magazine based in NYC and was "hooked". I still can't describe the feeling you get when you aspire to something you want, and get an acceptance. You immediately get that "I have arrived" overwhelming feeling. And when it happens to a kid, that makes the impact all that much greater and memorable.

It really motivates you.

Who are your influences?

I discovered underground comics as a kid and liked their freedom of expression from the get-go. Robert Crumb's work blew my mind....his attention to detail was / is so great....the cross-hatching and use of black to make characters "pop" is so unique.

The usual comic strip influences were of course Schulz who had already published many Peanuts anthologies which were huge coffee table size books and I'd go to the library to check them out and leaf through them, absorbing all the in depth line art and the way he'd box in each panel, ever so carefully while smelling the light mildewy odor mixed in with the inks that eminated off each page....I thought I was in nirvana.

I'd also graze all the back copies of The New Yorker at my high school library and was enthralled with a guy names Marvin Townsend whose gag panels appeared in all the Weekly Readers I'd go through as a kid.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

Get a good formal art training or training in architectural design. It would be an asset in making future artwork look much better and in today's digital realm, that training might assist in getting work in other areas of illustration.

Overall, I think I got in the freelance business when there was less competition and cartoonists seemed more willing to share and help one another. Nowadays it's very competitive....especially with everyone having their own online portfolios they can show to get work.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably 'Pete & Jake' which is a cartoon panel I do for World Fencing Data Center based in Austin, Texas. I have illustrated the cartoon about two bumbling fence installation workers who work for the fictitious Boss Fence Company and their cantankerous 'boss' who also appears regularly in the cartoons in each monthly issue of World Fence News.

 I started in 1995 and just last week finished the latest package of 40 new panels and am just now creating some special color Christmas cartoons for the upcoming holiday season.

They sometimes run a few cartoons in an issue and the following month dedicate a full page to all kinds of panels and a "Best Of" series of cartoons that have appeared in previous issues.

Their editor and publisher are big aficionados of the single panel gag concept and I've also done oodles of strips and other various multi-panels for them. They are a great regular client of mine.

Advertisers seeing my work have also reached out and assigned work used for promoting their own fence or safety-related products.

What work are you most proud of?

Overall, I have to say my entire "body" of work. I have well over 5,000 cartoons I make available throughout my online catalog and my site also acts as a promotional tool in order to get assignments for book illustration work and other custom created cartoons I offer.

But aside from what is online, I have an extensive portfolio of previously published book  illustrations, direct-mail projects of illustrated, images for marketers, consultants and facilitators have used numerous cartoons of mine, including custom cartoons for books and presentations, social media, web sites, email "blasts" and more.

I've illustrated everything from book covers and magazine covers to package design and t-shirt illustrations.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I would love to publish my own hard-copy catalog. I once had Don Martin of Mad magazine send me his little catalog offering his originals for sale. It was insane, but it was an impetus for a new idea I always had in the back of my mind.

Only my "catalog" would offer cartoons that advertising agencies could buy for whatever usage they request licensing those specific cartoons for. That hard copy booklet could also be used as a portfolio I could sell if I ever visited a city and went into ad agencies on my own time.

I am still considering my options in regards to it because it takes planning, such as how to acquire names and addresses of the right people to get the catalogs to, what the expense would be (not just for printing) but for getting all the right contact names and then shipping them out.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I spread things out. I have a subscription to SalesFlower which is an online database that allows you to choose different Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC codes) of businesses. I pick out phone numbers of art directors or creative directors and make cold calls.

If not that, I switch gears and re-draw old cartoons that never sold or do work I never had time to focus on, such as giftware designs for POD sites (publishing on demand) like Cafe Press or Zazzle (I have accounts with both, but favor Zazzle over CafePress).

If not that, as you well know, paperwork is overwhelming...just cleaning up paperwork can be a relief....focusing on that can have a big impact on changing your outlook to a more positive one.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

The future of cartoons will definitely trend towards digital and the internet. The newspapers have dwindled to the point where comic strips are less and less important based on many factors....so sites like GoComics have taken up promoting those cartoonists online. GoComics isn't interested in my work I don't think, but I know of know fellow artists who report making money through that platform. That's not to say that they aren't trying, but I feel it's more in each respective cartoonist's court, to promote themselves. Build their own sites and display their work to the world on their
own...don't be part of a collection where you get lost in the shuffle. I'm not sure that's good. Your work will have it's own uniqueness if it stands alone and you present it in such a way that it's "marketed" to the right potential clients.

What conventions do you attend?

I attend no conventions as I have nothing to sell, aside from original gag panels, but I don't consider my original art as a "collectible" in any way. It's likely they'd say "Who's Rosandich?"

Have you visited DC before?

I haven't, but it's definitely on my list!

If not, what do you want to do?

I'd like to get to the U.S. Capitol . . .don't ask me why! And so many other famous monuments I would see there....plus I have an old school classmate who lives there and he was a Congressional guard in the military who said he can show me around the beltway and surround areas. The Smithsonian would be considered a "bucket list" visit!

Do you have a website or blog?

My main web site home page is at https://danscartoons.com and my blog I write, focuses solely on cartoons, comic strips, the cartooning business, cartoonists and I occasionally reflect on things related to cartooning such as gag writing and promoting and marketing your cartoons on a freelance basis. My Toonblog can be found at https://danscartoons.com/toonblog/

Friday, October 19, 2018

A 'lost' Newseum book and exhibit of New Yorker cartoons (in 2007)

Every once in a while, you run across something you've never seen. Such as this New Yorker-related book:


Fortunately, there's usually someone else to ask. In this case, I turned to Michael Maslin, New Yorker cartoonist and historian, and writer of the excellent Ink Spill blog.



I have stumped Michael before, notably with a book of New Yorker cartoons collected for a celebration of George Washington University's president Stephen Trachtenberg. He's got a copy of that now though...


To this one, he wrote back, "Wow, completely new to me! Great find!"


I complained from a bibliographic point of view about the book having a completely different second title page.


Michael cut back to the chase, noting the useful information, "Also of interest in the intro is that some of the cartoons were exhibited. So both the book and the exhibit were under my radar," and he continued, "This is exactly why the Spill was created (one of the main reasons anyway): to catch things like that. The stuff that tended to slip by, known only to the folks that were part of it," also summing up why ComicsDC exists as well.

Now I have to find a second copy for him, and a third for Michigan State's Comic Art Collection...

In unrelated news, at the same library sale, I found a copy of the only Gary Larson-signed Far Side book that I've ever seen:



Reader, I bought it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rob Roger's political cartoon exhibit opens at GW's Corcoran

Rob Rogers
by Mike Rhode


I was able to briefly stop by last night as Rob Rogers made a few short remarks about an exhibit of his cartoons, including 10 original pen and ink drawings and the companion colored prints critical of Trump that a Pittsburgh newspaper refused to print before they fired him. Also included are prints of sketches that they turned down before they became completed cartoons. Rogers' contentious relationship with the papers new editor has been written about extensively and soon after he was fired, GW announced they would exhibit his cartoonist directly across the street from the White House complex (information from their press release follows the images). The exhibit is sponsored by GWU and the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists. AAEC president Pat Bagley and Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes contributed to the text of the exhibit.

The sold-out event drew local cartoonists Mike Jenkins, Joe Sutliff, Carolyn Belefski, Politico's Matt Wuerker, and Al Goodwyn a freelance cartoonists who appears locally in the Washington Examiner, in addition to Library of Congress curator Martha Kennedy (whose exhibit on women cartoonists is on display at the Library), and the Washington Post's Michael Cavna.

More photos can be seen here.
 





Incomplete sketch rejected by newspaper

Cavna, Goodwyn, Jenkins, Belefski

Belefski, Sutliff and Wuerker

Sutliff, Wuerker and Kennedy

 
Bagley's statement




 'Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers' Opens at the GW Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

Editorial cartoonist was dismissed from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after facing censorship of his cartoons


WASHINGTON (July 18, 2018)-The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George
Washington University opened "Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers"
today. This pop-up exhibition in the atrium gallery of the Corcoran School's historic Flagg
Building features 10 finished cartoons and eight sketches that went unpublished by Rob Rogers'
employer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, between March 6 and June 3, 2018.

Mr. Rogers served as the editorial cartoonist for the Post-Gazette for 25 years, until his firing in
June 2018. Prior to his dismissal, the newspaper refused to publish a series of cartoons
produced over three months.

"I believe the role of a newspaper is to be a watchdog, keeping democracy safe from tyrants. I
hope that visitors to the exhibit get a sense of the important role satire plays in a democracy and
how dangerous it is when the government launches attacks on a free press," Mr. Rogers said. "I
am excited to have my original cartoons on display at the Corcoran. The fact that these are
cartoons about the president and now they will be on shown a few blocks from the White House,
that is pretty incredible!"

The Corcoran strives to promote diversity of thought and experience, address critical social
issues and educate the next generation of creative cultural leaders.

"Mr. Rogers' work has tremendous educational value to our students by speaking to the skills of
technical virtuosity, iteration, perseverance and creative methodologies on how to critique
power," Sanjit Sethi, the director of the Corcoran said. "His work also becomes a powerful point
of departure for this community to speak with each other about issues around censorship,
freedom of the press, journalistic and creative integrity and the consequences of hypernationalism to a democracy."

The Corcoran organized "Spiked" in conjunction with University of Pittsburgh's University Art
Gallery and in collaboration with the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.
"Freedom of speech is more than words. It's pictures, too," Pat Bagley, president of the
association, said. "This exhibit draws attention to Rob Rogers, a popular voice at the Post Gazette
for 25 years. It points to what people in power do to people who draw funny pictures of
the powerful and why that is an important measure of a free and open society."

In addition to the exhibition this summer, the Corcoran will host a series of conversations this fall
regarding issues around censorship, freedom of the press, journalistic integrity and the consequences of nationalism to a democracy, in collaboration with both the Association of
American Editorial Cartoonists and GW's School for Media and Public Affairs.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Touring the LoC's Drawn to Purpose exhibit with curator Martha Kennedy


Anita Kunz
by Mike Rhode

Last November, the Library of Congress opened a new show in the historic Jefferson building on women cartoonists and illustrators, curated by Martha Kennedy of the Prints & Photographs Division. Martha has a long-standing interest in the subject, and works in the division that collects original art (in spite of its name). She’s previously curated a show and book of Ann Telnaes’ work, but this is the first exhibit to look at the wide world of women artists. The online description of the show reads: 

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery. 

Martha was kind enough to give me a tour of the exhibit one day recently. The exhibit is in the Swann Gallery of the Jefferson Building, and will have two rotations of artwork, and an accompanying book.



Martha Kennedy: The show reflects a new approach to exhibit design here at the Library, in that you don’t see item by item labels. We have additional information on each piece on sheets at the entrance. The kind of design being used gives greater visual emphasis to the artworks themselves, and groups highly-varied kinds of illustrations and cartoons in ways that makes sense. The exhibit introduction defines six types of illustration and cartooning that are being highlighted. The exhibit is clearly intended to celebrate the contributions that women have made to both of these art forms, roughly from the late 19th century into the 21st century. We’re doing this by showing some of the very best examples of these art forms held in the Library’s collections.




We have in the Themes and Genres introduction examples of the six different kinds of illustration and cartooning that we’re featuring in the exhibition. The types are Golden Age illustration, early comics, new voices in comics, editorial illustration, magazine covers and cartoons, and political cartoons. This grouping overall also shows the two main threads running through the exhibition: 1.) how imagery of women and gender roles and relations changes over time; and 2.) how the subject matter broadens and quickens especially near the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century. These threads you’ll see in the groupings to various degrees.

For the Golden Age of illustration, we have Alice Barber Stevens showing the new woman, a social phenomenon of the end of the 19th century, as two aspiring artists. For early comics, a page of Little Lulu by Marge originally published in the Saturday Evening Post. Anita Kunz is our example of an editorial illustrator’s work; she carries on the theme of how the images of women change. This dates from 2001 and was commissioned by Working Women Magazine and shows the quandary of everyday women still today, seventeen years later. The cell phones are a little out of date, but a lot of women still feel fragmented in their lives. Barbara Brandon Croft is our example of new voices in comics greatly broadening the subject matter of women’s concerns with her strip “Where I’m Coming From” that ran in the ‘90s. For magazine cartoons and covers, Roberta MacDonald did a wonderful New Yorker magazine cartoon from the wartime 1940s depicting role reversal during World War II. Finally, we have a beautiful example of Ann Telnaes’ editorial cartooning created just after 9/11. It’s just a sparkling example of her cartooning and really succinct text and commentary. 


Mike Rhode: How did you decide to do an exhibit on women cartoonists and illustrators?

Martha Kennedy: I’ve been working on this project for quite a while. When I first started, I remember being really impressed by the quality of work by women in different parts of the collection in Prints & Photographs. And also amazed and saddened by the fact that a lot of these women aren’t known. They’ve been overlooked in the histories of both art forms. I could see that there was collection development work and acquisitions to be done in both of those areas, and I have worked to build up those areas.

Mike Rhode: So the Telnaes art came in during your time, as you did an exhibit of her work. I remember when you brought Anita Kunz in to speak.



Martha Kennedy: Yes, and the some of the others were in the stacks, like Roberta MacDonald who deserves to be better known. But out of this exhibit, I acquired art by Gillespie, Barry, Price, Bechdel, Jetter, Chast, Wilkinson, Sherman, Benson, Mergen (over 600 drawings), and from rotation 2, Donnelly, Beck, and Tamaki.

Mike Rhode: How did you decide who to include in the show and the book? Was it women represented in the collection of the Library?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, it’s entirely collection-based. What we have in the collections is what inspired me to do a project of this kind and scope. I worked on it for years. This has been a special focus for me, even though previous curators had built up wonderful holdings of some of these artists. I have worked hard to add to and strengthen the holdings of work by women.




The next grouping focuses on the Golden Age of Illustration which dates roughly from 1880 to 1930. A lot of women ended up working in children’s books or fashion illustrating. Some exceptional ones branched out and illustrated works of literature in books or short stories in magazines aimed at adult readers. For example, Mary Hallock Foote is an interesting figure. She did most of her work in the west. Her husband was a mining engineer, and when they got married in the 1870s, she went west with him. She already had established a career and had good contacts; she knew the editor of Scribner’s and Century Magazine and continued illustrating, and then writing. She’s someone who should be better known. She took wood-engraving blocks with her that she worked on. Jessie Gillespie should be better known too. She did fashion illustration early on, and we show a 1914 satirical fashion illustration of women wearing pants.






Mike Rhode: 100 years later, her drawing would still work as a standalone illustration, if slightly redrawn.

Martha Kennedy: She’s also recognized as an incredible silhouette artist. We have some of those too, which are fairly newly acquired.

Mike Rhode: Even though the work is 100 years old, she wasn’t in the collection before?

Martha Kennedy: No, and we have a stunning piece of advertising art by her that will be in the second rotation. There will be two rotations of this show; the second one will go up in May. We will end up having about 40 artists represented overall with 70 works which is just a fraction of what we have.

Mike Rhode: Will it be a complete rotation?

Martha Kennedy: It will be. Some artists from the first version will also be in the second – people like Lynda Barry, Allison Bechdel and Lynn Johnston.
 
Our next grouping is Early Comics. Women found it hard to enter the comic strip field in the late 19th century and tended to be channeled into a narrow range of subjects if they were successful and featured babies, cute children and animals in their strips. Rose O’Neill’s comic strip The Kewpies is just an incredible example, I think. She just raised the bar for that kind of comic strip. Our example is a 1935 Sunday page, from when she revived the strip which originally ran 1917-1918 and then 1934-1935.

Mike Rhode: She’s working very large and is using two pages of paper to make one page of artwork.

Martha Kennedy: It’s incredible to see her at the height of her powers and her drawing technique is so accomplished and amazing. This piece is an amusing story about the Kewpies trying to convince people that ghosts really exist, but what’s really striking is the incredibly detailed notes to her colorist Miss Hess along the margins. She goes through frame by frame.

Mike Rhode: It looks like it would have been faster for her to do a color guide and color parts of it herself.

Martha Kennedy: Yes, you’re right. Why she did it this way is unknown.

Other famous characters are Grace Drayton’s Campbell Soup Kids. She’s best known for this creation, although she created successful strips, several of which featured cute kids who looked like the Campbell Kids. The Kids were created in 1904 and appeared in the Lady’s Home Journal.

Virginia Huget’s flapper strip, Molly the Manicure Girl is one of the few comics featuring a flapper who is also ostensibly a working girl. It’s very light-hearted. Her work is really rare. In the book that’s going to come out in March, there are bullet point biographies for all these cartoonists and illustrators and more. There are about 123.

Mike Rhode: Is it a catalog of the show in addition to a book about women cartoonists?

Martha Kennedy: It’s not a catalog of the show, but there are six chapters that correspond to the sections of the exhibit.



Mollie the Manicure Girl by Huget

Mike Rhode: Also in this section is a 1965 Brenda Starr by Dale Messick, with Brenda sobbing over the missing Basil St. John… it really was a romance comic by that point. 

Martha Kennedy: For me, this era ends on a triumphant note, with Dale Messick winning syndication for Brenda Starr in 1940 which is a big deal because it was one of the first adventure strips with a female heroine. Starr would go off in search of news stories as a reporter. It was less of a romance strip in the early days.

I also want to note three years prior to that, Jackie Ormes, one of the few  African-American cartoonists, published her first strip called Torchy Brown – From Dixie to Harlem in 1937 in the Pittsburgh Courier. Her strip featured a young heroine in an adventurous life as she moved north in search of a career. It ran initially only two years, but she revived the strip later on. We have no original work by her unfortunately, and this is a tearsheet on exhibit. We’ve tried to get some, but it is very rare. She did two other comic features, and engages with broader issues such as environment, race… and paper dolls. Paper dolls frequently appear in women’s strips including Trina Robbins, Grace Drayton…

The next group is New Narratives, New Voices which includes recent comics. We have an example of a beautiful silk-screened example of a mini-comic by Lille Carre collected from the Small Press Expo (SPX). 




Mike Rhode: SPX is probably bringing in a lot of works by women cartoonists given that the show is probably approaching parity with equal numbers of men and women exhibiting.
Martha Kennedy: SPX is incredible. And so many women are winning top prizes at SPX and San Diego Comic-Con and other venues where awards are given. Peers are recognizing peers for their work.

We have Trina Robbins represented by an example of a cover for Wimmen’s Comix. She’s such an important figure in the whole history of comics and the chronicling of comics’ history. She did both writing and art in underground and mainstream comic books, and then became a ‘herstorian.”

Since the 1940s, one of the distinctions between the comics in this section and the earlier ones, is that the creators have turned to their own lives and are drawing on their own experiences and the experiences of people they know well.

Mike Rhode: On display here is original art by Allison Bechdel, Hilary Price, Lynn Johnston and Lynda Barry, in addition to the printed works we’ve already discussed. I’m wondering about the absence of Cathy Guisewite?



Martha Kennedy: She’s in the book. I wish we had more examples of her work. She’s certainly important in this era of women’s comics. 

I would like to point out the Lynda Barry piece as really interesting. It’s from one of the stories in 100 Demons, her breakout book from 2002. In this piece, she’s resurrecting and transforming her childhood memories of smell, when she noticed that every single house in her neighborhood had a different smell, including her own. She’s very funny as she describes the smells and ascribes significance to them.

Mike Rhode: Under the strip is a collage…

 Martha Kennedy: All her title pages in the book are double-page spreads and they’re amazing multi-media works with ink, water color, photographs, dried flowers… She refers to her approach as autobiofictionalography.

Mike Rhode: I don’t think that term is going to catch on with anyone else. She’s a great creator though.

Next to this section is a video screen with other examples?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, we’re seeing some later Little Lulu strips by Ward Kimball. Marge was very entrepreneurial. And there are other examples of Brenda Starr and art by Marie Severin. It has some art from every section of pieces I wished we could include, but weren’t able to.
Whitney Sherman

The next section is Editorial Illustrators as exemplified by Anita Kunz. Especially interesting is this pairing of Sue Coe and Frances Jetter. They’re both commenting on the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and have created very strong statements. Jetter’s may look like fine art, but it was published in Time Magazine and that’s the way she works. She chooses to work in linocut. She does more fine art now, and works mostly in sculpture, but she went through a period when she published a lot of illustrations. This very strong statement about the enemy war dead was published in Time, whereas Coe’s piece was commissioned by The Progressive, a strongly pacifist magazine, and is a universal indictment of war. It’s a powerful, haunting piece showing her drawing technique and the influence of German Expressionist Kathe Kollwitz. Whitney Sherman’s piece is an editorial illustration for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s annual report about the easy availability of drugs at schools and really hits hard on this. She’s in charge of the graduate illustration program at MICA. 

Bernarda Bryson Shahn is perhaps the godmother of editorial illustration, and her piece is from 1935. She drove her famous husband around the South and the Midwest as part of the WPA project, but was taking her own notes, looking at his photographs, thinking about the state of the country, and coming up with her own idea for a series. She called it The Vanishing American Frontier, and got some funding to work on it, but never finished it, because like other women, life interfered. She was supportive of his career, and had three children. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the work was published and exhibited, and we know from that catalog that she intended the series to be published as a book. It wasn’t intended as fine art, but meant for broader distribution in the tradition of editorial illustration. There will be another example of her work in the next rotation.


Bernarda Shahn


Mike Rhode: To me, this piece looks like she’s quoting Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Martha Kennedy: She claimed she didn’t know about his painting at the time.



Anita Kunz

Mike Rhode The next section is Magazine Covers andCartoons. I see a Roz Chast cartoon, and another Anita Kunz – you snuck two in…
Helen Hokinson
Martha Kennedy: I did! She’s just so colorful and compelling. This was for Ms. Magazine showing how a cover highlights a feature in the magazine, in this case a Satanic cult victimizing children. This horizontal piece of art was used as a wraparound cover.

Helen Hokinson is next. She’s a magazine cartoonist for the New Yorker who died in the 1949.

Mike Rhode: I think she’s their most famous woman cartoonist until Roz Chast arrived in the 1970s.

Martha Kennedy: They used other women cartoonists such as Barbara Shermund. Roberta MacDonald did 100 cartoons and then they accepted less and less. In her book, Liza Donnelly traces the history of women cartoonists in the magazine.

 Two magazine cover designs we exhibit show the change in gender relations. The 1920s Vanity Fair by Ann Harriet Fish shows dancers moving with great freedom, and she designed over thirty covers for them. She published in other magazines such as Cosmopolitan. 

Mike Rhode: I think part of the reason some of these people have ‘disappeared’ is that their magazines failed, whereas the New Yorker has continued publishing, and publishing cartoon collections, and raiding their back stock, while other publications are gone.

Martha Kennedy: The Golden Age of magazines is over.

Mike Rhode: The next section is Political Cartoons, and you’ve chosen some of the usual suspects such as Signe Wilkinson (one of the two Pulitzer Prize winners) and alternative cartoonist and Herblock prize-winner Jen Sorenson. Lisa Benson is less familiar, working in a smaller market.




Martha Kennedy: Benson started in a California paper and is one of the few conservative editorial cartoonists. She’s part of the Washington Post Writers Group’s Cartoonist Group, and you see her in the Post’s Saturday roundup once in a while, signing drawings as “Lisa.”
 
Ann Mergen was the editorial cartoonist for the Miami Daily News from 1933-1956. She turned from fashion illustration to editorial cartooning, and basically worked herself into a job. That paper did not have an editorial cartoonist. She should be better known. For over 20 years, she was their editorial cartoonist, and we have over 600 of her cartoons. The paper won a Pulitzer when she was on staff and her editor sent her a telegram saying, “Don’t let anyone tell you it wasn’t Mergen cartoons that won us the Pulitzer. “ She did cartoons about the environment and the Everglades; Southern Florida Historical Society has that work. Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Library did a solo show on her work, and I’d like to do more on her work. Some editorial cartoonists’ most powerful work is almost timeless, because some of the issues they address are ongoing.
Mike Rhode: Why aren’t there more print publications in the exhibit beyond the two or three? You could have included more cartoonists if you had used books or comics from other divisions.

Martha Kennedy: Space was limited. We did use some supporting material, and more is in the book. I would have liked to show more of how multi-faceted some of these women were, doing different kinds of illustrations, cartoons and book illustration and some doing book design as well. My book is intended to spotlight the great diversity and the range of inventiveness and innovation that these artists were capable of. So many of these women had to earn a living; they had talent and they wanted to use it and they moved in directions that offered them outlets.
Hilary Price


Mike Rhode: Who would you like to have included in the exhibition but couldn’t?

Martha Kennedy: Several who come to mind are cartoonists Martha Orr and Alice Harvey and illustrators Violet Oakley and Florence Scovel Shinn.

I have a whole section on caricatures in the book that I wasn’t able to include in the exhibit due to lack of space. Some are on the video screen in the exhibit. And we don’t have a lot of work by women animators. The book will be a co-publication between the Library of Congress and the University Press of Mississippi. There will about 230 illustrations and it comes out in March. We are planning some public programs too.

There are probably less than ten books on women cartoonists, so I’m hoping this exhibit will spur further research and more acquisitions, and generally more recognition of what women have contributed.

Jen Sorenson


Mike Rhode: Regarding future acquisitions – you only have limited money to buy items, but people can give you gifts and you’d be happy to talk to people about that right?

Martha Kennedy: Yes, definitely. Some types of illustration and comics that my colleagues and I would like to acquire for the Library include excellent examples of original comic book, graphic narrative, and children’s book illustration art. Acquiring excellent examples of original drawings by Kate Carew, other female cartoonists and illustrators commenting on the woman suffrage movement, Fay King, and editorial cartoons by Edwina Dumm would also be of strong interest.

Drawn to Purpose
November 18, 2017–October 20, 2018, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Graphic Arts Galleries, Ground Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building
Washington, DC 
https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/drawn-to-purpose/about-this-exhibition/