|studio arrangement. "floating trace" in five panels. polaroid and abstract symmetry|
|Erin Curry. floating trace. 3.5" x 18". gesso and graphite on mylar. made with drawing spindle. |
This little work was the unexpected product of early this year when I took a course at the Sequential Artists' Workshop(SAW), a small school which recently opened here in Makerville (Gainesville, FL). Sequential Art refers to comix, cartoons, as well as the extended works of graphic novels. It's a form that has enjoyed growing public recognition of the dedicated artists who have been showing the rest of the world comix is more than the Sunday funnies or superheroes. (It seems France is way ahead of the States in this matter, so I acknowledge I'm speaking from a clearly American perspective.) SAW began taking full time students in the fall for an MFA-like one-year-long program, but also offers classes and short term workshops to the general public. I was lucky enough to take one of the first introductory courses back in February with Tom Hart who I'll ramble at length about some other time because he's remarkable for a whole host of reasons. For now, I'll just say he's a person with a wonderful sense of curiosity, an artist with great dedication to his work, and an exceptional teacher who I continue to learn from.
If you've been visiting here awhile, you know my work is usually materials and process-oriented, occasionally sculptural, often abstract, and sometimes deals with seriality. The idea of narrative only enters my work as a kind iconography. For instance, handspun thread is my shorthand to refer to the idea of story while denying a specific narrative. Though before taking the class, my knowledge of comics was superficial at best, the idea of trying to learn more about sequential art seemed like a compelling, if unlikely, way forward. Besides, if something as unusual as a comix school opens up just blocks from home and two blocks from the studio, I'll take it on faith that something of value will be found there. I'm pleased to have been right.
Truth be told, I was a rather lazy student and produced very little of note in the six-session class itself. During the class, I slowly realized I was still resisting narrative even though usually the point of comics is storytelling. Tom, recognizing this, introduced to me one of my now favorite artists, Warren Craghead III, who in turn introduced me to Abstract Comics which led me down a very deep rabbit hole I'm thrilled to be exploring.
Probably the best way to get a feel for Abstract Comics is to find a copy of Andrei Molotiu's Abstract Comics: The Anthology or poke around the abstract comix blog a bit, but the general sense is that abstract comics is non-narrative, sequentially read artwork. Abstract comics uses the specific forms of storytelling present in comics, without needing the story to have clarity which is the perfect place for me to start playing.
Meanwhile, the tools of comics I was introduced to during the class have slowly been emerging in my regular work and I'm enjoying visiting the school now and then to learn from the amazing artists who are associated with it.
Though I'd like to think I'll take time in the next few weeks to expand more on some of the things I've been learning, I'm worried I won't, so here's a link fest to stuff.
SAW is preparing for two workshops this spring. John Porcellino and Ron Rege are both teaching. Last time, there were students from Chicago, New York, and Australia so don't think it's just local folks participating.
As the school is still very new, they are running a fundraiser for 2013. There are lovely thank you prints to be had for donating. I can whole-heartedly say supporting the school is worthwhile.
Oh and I haven't mentioned it, but Leela Corman, Tom's wife had an amazing book published this year. Unterzakn is about two girls who grow up in New York's Lower Eastside around 1910. The images are beautiful, the story rich, and the lessons Ether and Fanya learn hauntingly important even today.
Tom has a heartrending project he's working on now. For those of us who have lost someone who anchored us to this world, he's touching on something we know in our bones and doing it with all the care and mastery of an artist who knows his craft.
And as far as interesting abstract comics, Warren Craghead has a project which is an wonderful example of a web-specific form - a maps little spell.
And if you are still here, this is a great panel from the Small Press Expo "Perverse Comics Form: Challenging Comics Conventions." I've listened to it at least twice, so it's worth sitting through the poor sound quality. Perhaps the best synopsis of the reason for the panel is Chris Ware is quoted as saying, "the difference between comics and fine art is in fine art is if you look at the work and you don’t get you are stupid whereas in comics if you don’t get it the artist is stupid." It's said as a way to broadly generalize two methods of creating and relating to the viewer/public, but it does seem to get at why the space being explored by the artists on the panel is so intriguing.