Tag Archives: Art

Tacoma Focus: Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace at the Museum of Glass

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington

You can steam bend pieces of alder wood to create beautiful and haunting images. The artist team of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace offer various compelling examples such as enigmatic birds. Their outline frames are positioned so the light casts intriguing double shadows. They beg you to ask endless existential questions. We were so lucky to view them and a wide assortment of other artworks reviewing the careers of Kirkpatrick and Mace. This show is on display through September 6, 2016 at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

Birds formed out of Alder Wood

“Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace: Every Soil Bears Not Everything” exemplifies what the Museum of Glass is all about. Kirkpatrick and Mace met as students at the Pilchuck Glass School in 1979, at the height of the studio glass movement, and have been creating compelling work ever since. Known for their oversized fruit and vegetable glass sculptures, examples of these begin the show. We then move on to works utilizing various unconventional, or understated, materials such as alder wood.

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

Oversized Fruit Sculpture by Kirkpatrick and Mace

There is an overall calming and introspective nature to this show. I don’t know that being calm is as essential a prerequisite for an artist as making daring use of unusual materials. I will say that, while glass can certainly be shattered, and we can definitely get cut by glass, the overwhelming quality of glass, the quality we seem to seek out the most in glass art, has to do with states of serenity and quiet contemplation.

Alphabet Animals

Alphabet Animals

Kirkpatrick and Mace consistently invite us to enter a meditative state. Whatever the medium, each piece seems to raise more questions than provide answers. Or perhaps the overriding answer is that we can only see so much. Nature will only reveal itself so much. We are left to understand as best we can. And, through art, we can attempt to express our limits.

The limits of our vision to understand nature.

The limits of our means to process nature.

The Limits of Expression

The limits of our means of expression.

The Museum of Glass is located at 1801 Dock St., in the heart of Tacoma’s Museum District. For more information, visit the website right here.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Museum of Glass, Museums, Tacoma, Travel

Hotel Review: Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Hotel Murano is Stimulating!

Sometimes you need to take a detour and see where it takes you. I chose Hotel Murano in Tacoma Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Washington, for a refreshing change of pace.

This week we focus on Tacoma, Washington, home to a unique glass art culture linked directly to Tacoma native and world-renowned glass artist, Dale Chihuly. For those of you considering a visit to the Pacific Northwest, it is Tacoma where you can find an intriguing blend of old and new including the Washington State History Museum, America’s Car Museum, and the Museum of Glass.

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Bite, the restaurant at Hotel Murano

Glass is about openness and clarity. I love how Hotel Murano plays with the theme of glass. Looking down from Bite, the hotel’s restaurant perched on the fourth floor, you can take in quite a spacious view.

A playful and inviting use of  space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

A playful and inviting use of space in the lobby of Hotel Murano

You sense that open feeling all around, accented with smartly placed art like the full scale horse standing by the bar. You feel as if you could ride that regal black horse, trot around the lobby, and canter down the hall. With that lampshade on its head, you just know it’s a whimsical, or magical, horse. If it were a nightmare, it would not make very good company with your scotch and soda.

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Mysterious Black Stallion as Sentry at the Bar

Friendly and courteous service count for everything in a hotel stay. Hotel Murano comes away with high marks. Beginning with the front desk service, all our requests were promptly met and all our questions were thoughtfully answered.

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

A friendly and helpful front desk at Hotel Murano

There’s an old favorite home style restaurant from many years back that I had difficulty recalling but the front desk was able to reconnect me with Southern Kitchen! If you are looking for some good catfish, that’s the place to go. And, if you do wander off, you may also want to treat yourself to the local art house movie theater, Grand Cinema.

A Comfy Bed Awaits

A Comfy Bed Awaits

Our room at Hotel Murano was just what we had hoped for: stylish, comfortable, and with a sense of fun. The bed was comfy and spacious. I rested on a pile of pillows and read for a while. I found myself reading three chapters without any disturbance. The book I was reading is about a man on a business trip. He checks into an inn but becomes restless and wanders off into the woods where trouble soon finds him. At Hotel Murano, you won’t become restless. You can either enjoy the hotel or quite easily walk over to check out some fun spots for a bite to eat in the Museum District like Elemental Pizza or Pacific Grill. And you can certainly take the nearby link rail and venture further out. And, like I say, you definitely won’t get restless with plenty to see and do.

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

Find Your Creative Side at Hotel Murano

The Murano islands in Venice are a center for glassmaking dating back to 1291. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Murano brings to mind clear blue waters and skies. The name Murano itself evokes wanderlust and adventure. It is a fine name for a hotel that helps each guest find their own special Murano experience.

When your travels bring you to Tacoma, be sure to stay at Hotel Murano.

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Filed under Dale Chihuly, Hotel Review, Hotels, Pacific Northwest, Tacoma, Travel, Washington state

Review: ‘Guardians of the Louvre’

Jiro Taniguchi Louvre comics

I would love to know the details on the Louvre series published by NBM. This latest installment, “Guardians of the Louvre,” by acclaimed manga artist Jirô Taniguchi just goes to show once again how unique this subject is and the endless possibilities for it. What a great cartoonist wants in a project, especially one who both writes and draws and has done so for many years, is a task worthy of the enormous effort. And, to sweeten the deal, make it something heroic. A cartoonist loves it when he or she can make a grand gesture.

Reading Guardians of the Louvre

Reading Guardians of the Louvre

What I’m saying about the grand gesture is so very true. Look at how Taniguchi responds to the task: his main character/alter ego is reduced to a little heap in comparison to the Louvre and its many treasures, opportunities, and mysteries. He arrives in Paris completely spent from a bad case of the flu. He is completely overwhelmed, out of his element, his observations through a fever dream. Like Little Nemo on his magic flying bed, we set off on a most unusual journey.

The Louvre, outside of any known realm.

The Louvre, outside of any known realm.

Our hero, due to a bad rabbit stew or some such mishap, is now in tune with the supernatural elements of the Louvre. When you consider that we are talking about a museum that is over 200 years old, as large as ten football fields, holding 70,000 pieces of art going back to antiquity, well, it would not be surprising to find that it has many tales to tell and that it is at least a bit haunted, right? Taniguchi asks that you run with that idea.

And so one grand gesture leads to another. We see poltergeist in all their gloopy glory floating about. We meet a beautiful ghost, presumably the Winged Victory. And, it just goes on from there as we go in and out of time, meet various artists long gone expect very much alive in this moment. The Louvre is a House of Leaves. It is a place that insists you shed your normal skin and walk amongst it. You inhabit a place such as the Louvre and you can’t help but let it inhabit you.

“Guardians of the Louvre” is the latest in the NBM Louvre series. It is a full color hardcover, right to left reading manga-style, 8 x 11, 136 pages. For more details, go right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Art History, Comics, France, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, NBM Publishing, Paris, The Louvre

Book Review: ‘All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories’ by George Clayton Johnson

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

“Maybe she is right. Maybe nobody is interested in another science fiction story about the paradoxical nature of time or the mystery of existence. Maybe all they want is a simple love story with a happy ending.

Fantasy and science fiction doesn’t really exist unless it has a reader.

He has come to believe he will have a reader, so he has always tried to make his behavior justifiable, and as a consequence he spends a large part of his time explaining himself to an invisible judge he calls, “Your Honor,” becoming verbally adept at defending himself.”

— George Clayton Johnson, from “Every Other War”

I am really thrilled to own this book. It is a book that you, dear reader, will likely never own. It is hard to come by. Originally published by Subterranean Press in 1999, it has long since gone out of print. But prove me wrong. Seek it out! In fact, I do hope that will change some day. I strongly recommend that Subterranean Press or some other publisher, say Penguin Random House, create a new version of this 450-page collection.

Keep in mind that the author of this collection, “All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories,” is George Clayton Johnson who wrote the first episode broadcast of the original Star Trek series. “The Man Trap” first aired on 8 September 1966. That first broadcast is what marks the 50th anniversary of what has become one of the most iconic television series in history. What was it about George Clayton Johnson that earned him that distinction? This was someone born into abject poverty at the start of the Great Depression, an 8th grade dropout, forced to leave home at age 15, and yet he would go on to great heights.

For those of you who faithfully keep up with my writing, you know that quite often the source of my various tangents goes back to my first meeting George Clayton Johnson some years back. When I found out about all the pop culture franchises he was a significant part of, then found out about his life, and then found myself charmed my the sheer decency of the man himself, I started seriously considering creating some sort of book about him. I was able to tell him about it as well as show him some of it before he passed away. He gave me his blessing. I told him, at the time, that I was still figuring out how to best present the issue of cannabis, as that was very important to him. He listened. He talked. He said to follow my passion. The meeting with him, in his home, in December of 2014, would be the last time I’d get to see him. I had gone to see him again, in December of 2015. I’d been invited and he still sounded hearty and joyful. But it was too late. He had been moved to hospice by then.

“I told you the other night how I’d re-read ‘All of Us Are Dying’ and how much I enjoyed it. When I came to the end of this story and read the last lines, I got goose flesh on my neck. What greater tribute can I offer you? Thanks for the neck bumps.”
–Ray Bradbury

George hung on until Christmas. George died on Christmas Day. His great mentor, Rod Serling, was born on Christmas Day. There certainly seemed to be some cosmic and poetic thing going on. And then you add George’s favorite subject, Mr. Death, the defying of death, the taunting of death. George, no doubt, left this world on his own terms. And here I am telling you yet again about what has become quite a subject for me: George and all things related to George. Yes, this is how creative people such as myself think. And, dear God, there will be a final resolution as I do intend to put the book out as soon as possible. It will be in a graphic novel format with plenty of room for the art and plenty of room for the text. They will need to trade places from time to time. Anyway, all this leads to my getting my hands on this particular book. I dare say, it is something of a Holy Grail for some geeks such as myself. My copy is a Publisher’s Copy and was from the library of writer Stanley Wiater. Stanley, if you wondered what became of your book, I’ve got it now, mate.

George Clayton Johnson with Robert Redford on the set of "Nothing in the Dark"

George Clayton Johnson with Robert Redford on the set of “Nothing in the Dark”

Each story in this book will tug at you. Take the story of two boys, George and Abraham. They just figured they’d make great friends, with great prospects, considering they each had the best of presidential first names. This was during the Great Depression when these two reveled in each other’s company. Neither of them had a cent between them. Then one day, they thought about how much they’d love to own a bicycle. If only they had a bike, the roads would be free for them to explore at will. They decide upon buying a beauty in flaming red enamel that they spot in a shop in town. The price of twenty-two dollars and ninety-five cents seems out of reach. But they find various odd jobs and their goal becomes attainable. They while away the time by mostly doing things that don’t cost them anything like listening to the radio perched on the windowsill of Abraham’s bedroom. George would be at that very same windowsill as he sits in vigil for his friend dying from scarlet fever. And so the friendship, the bicycle, that time and place make up this short story, “A Bicycle Like a Flame.” This is just one of the many gems to be found in “All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories” by George Clayton Johnson.

"All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories" by George Clayton Johnson

“All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories” by George Clayton Johnson

Fans of the original television show, The Twilight Zone, will readily come to see which of these short stories in this collection would have made for another great teleplay by Johnson. But, as this book makes abundantly clear, you don’t need any prior Twilight Zone knowledge to enjoy Johnson’s work. How about “The Hornet,” a story of man versus insect with the insect seeking justice? Or perhaps “Dealer’s Choice,” a story about soldiers endlessly playing cards in order to avoid death? Or “The Freeway,” a story set in the future when cars mostly drive themselves and contribute to much less alert humans. Johnson wrote some of the most memorable Twilight Zone episodes thanks to the show’s creator and main contributor, Rod Serling, taking a chance on him. Johnson’s first accepted story submission was “All of Us Are Dying.” Serling bought it and did the necessary reworking to have it better fit his vision, including changing the title to, “The Four of Us Are Dying.” Johnson always maintained that it was a great lesson in how to write for Serling. But, in the end, he liked his version best and thus the title to this collection. In both versions, it is essentially a shape-shifter story: a man who can change his face. In Serling’s version, there’s this specificity about the man attempting to exploit his gift. In Johnson’s version, the man is all the more vulnerable, not in control, and all the more universal.

As this book demonstrates, Johnson’s overriding plan was simply to create the best work. In later years, he went on to create more inventive work with the same care and precision as when he first started out. There’s the short story “Thorndyke,” for example. A couple argue at a party. It is a male and female. The female has been badgering the male all night. She wants to know why he won’t sleep with any of the other females. Thorndyke insists that he isn’t interested. Finally, at his wife’s insistence, he goes to see a psychiatrist about his disorder. It is determined that Thorndyke has a severe case of manogomy. And, as it turns out, these characters are actually rabbits. Thorndyke is the rebel seeking to remain faithful to his wife.

Check out the amazing cover art by Burt Shonberg, 1957.

Check out the amazing cover art by Burt Shonberg, 1957.

Wow, what do you think of the book’s cover art? That’s by Burt Shonberg, 1957. George would have been around 28 years-old when that portrait of Frankenstein playing a saxophone was first created. George and Burt and Doug Myres (the Gateway Singers) together ran a little shack of a cafe on Laguna Beach called Café Frankenstein from 1958–59. Burt created various Frankenstein art for the cafe. Apparently, he always favored a Frankenstein motif and, in his own way, so did George.

The most unusual work in this collection is “The Edge of the World,” a screenplay commissioned by Sid and Marty Croft for quite a quirky movie. It is an ambitious and colorful romp of a tale with Christopher Columbus transported to modern day New York City. What a movie this could have been! It’s fun to read such a sprawling and loose work. Johnson manages to get Columbus down into the bowels of the NYC subway system where he makes friends with a tough motorcyclist named, Cheyenne. The two get along and share a joint. This is significant subtext as it brings in references to Johnson’s home state and his lifelong support for cannabis. It also cues the reader to the building conflict, and irony, of Columbus interacting with Native Americans.

Like a rocket, Johnson’s career blasted off with his co-writing the novel that was the basis for the Rat Pack classic movie, “Ocean’s Eleven.” Johnson was only 30 years-old in 1959, when he became part of the TZ writing team. By the mid-1970s, he had written for the original Star Trek TV series and co-written the novel, “Logan’s Run,” the basis of the blockbuster 1976 movie, the most lavish sci-fi film of its day, only to be surpassed the following year by “Star Wars.” Johnson kept on writing. He even created a show ahead of its time, “A Man’s World,” where women are in charge and maintain a male figurehead for appearance’s sake. While Johnson’s show was rejected, a similar show would subsequently get the green light, “Charlie’s Angels.”

“George Clayton Johnson continues to write what he believes in regardless of the marketplace. He is the real deal. He is what other writers mean when they point to someone and say that he is a writer. He is a fellow traveler in search of the Greater Truth, of a kind of unified field theory for the human condition. For this is the true subject of his writing and the abiding core that gives it such weight and strength.
–From the Afterword by Dennis Etchison

The case of George Clayton Johnson is unique in that this was a writer who was most concerned with quality and originality. His worst enemy, Johnson was prone to say, was a meddling producer eager to copy the latest hit show. Johnson was attracted to a challenge, something unusual. A perfect example is his flash forward narrative for an episode of “Kung Fu.” Instead of a conventional flash back, the main character to this story is dependent upon something happening in his future. It is this desire to strive for the most inventive, and most immersive, storytelling that is a hallmark of Johnson’s work. This brings me back to the above quote. For those who knew George Clayton Johnson, they know he was quite a jovial and energetic defender of his work, and deservedly so.

Reading "All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories"

Reading “All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories”

You can always look up video of Johnson’s work for Star Trek, Ocean’s Eleven, Logan’s Run, and, of course, The Twilight Zone. Here is a quote from “Kick the Can,” one of the most iconic TZ episodes and one of the four that was later to be showcased in 1983’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” directed by Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante, and George Miller.

“Maybe, the fountain of youth isn’t a fountain at all. Maybe, it’s a way of looking at things – a way of thinking.”
–From “Kick the Can” (Episode aired 9 February 1962)

As Johnson describes in his short autobiographical novel, “Every Other War,” he had been struggling to sell short stories he knew in his heart would find a buyer–and yet did not. That includes the above mentioned, “A Bicycle Like a Flame.” Things looked very bleak at the time. “Kick the Can” was still in its early drafts. It would prove to be one of Johnson’s best works.

What I want to leave you with, the goal of my own book on George, is to celebrate an individual who fought for the integrity of his work and went the extra mile to be insightful, poetic, and heroic. Take a look at his teleplay for Route 66 and you see an unusual story of playing the game of life. Take a look at his teleplay for The Law and Mr. Jones and you find an offbeat path to seeking justice.

Boil it all down, and George’s favorite among his work is his Twilight Zone teleplay, “Nothing in the Dark.” And his favorite lines are delivered by Robert Redford with all the grace one could ever hope for.

“You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning.”
–From “Nothing in the Dark” (Episode aired 5 January 1962)

George was definitely attracted to the theme of death. It was H.P. Lovecraft who famously said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Death is the ultimate unknown. Lights out. What now? It’s the only game in life where, in the end, you’re guaranteed not to come out alive. It’s just a question of what you do while you’re around. George lived his life to the fullest. He won.

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Filed under Dennis Etchison, George Clayton Johnson, Native Americans, pop culture, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Star Trek, Television, The Twilight Zone, Wyoming

Essays: When You Need Help

Bryan Cranston, as Dalton Trumbo writing in bathtub

Bryan Cranston, as Dalton Trumbo writing in bathtub

Dalton Trumbo was a very prolific writer. Even during the time he was black-listed during the Red Scare, he steadily kept on creating screenplays. His one weakness was writer’s block. He solved that my relaxing in a warm bath–with a typewriter. Yep, he wrote his best work while siting in his bathtub. We all do what we need to do.

Some of us out there would never dare ask for any kind of help when working on a writing project. And, sure, most of the time, most folks can handle something like an essay–but not always. There are a number of things that can help and I’ve tried them all at different times. Let’s see, the first thing is to have a clear mind that allows you to focus. But if various factors start to close in on you, and you have a looming deadline, then keep in mind that, all is not lost. You can always find essay writing help.

Now, in college, I thought of myself as a perfectionist but, at such a young age, I was still battling a really bad case of procrastination. Lucky, for me, way back then, I had Barbara, a friend I could rely upon to help me out of a tight spot. In fact, she was my best friend in all the world. We’d go out. We’d kiss. She’d tease. But, basically, we were just friends. In the same spirit as our relationship, she wouldn’t come right out and write my whole paper for me, even though I sometimes begged her to. But, rubbing my back, and reassuring me with hugs, she would provide the necessary hints to get me going. And that always did the trick. She got me going really well with jokes, puns, even acting out passages I should dictate. She never charged a fee, of course. But I would easily have paid for her services. One of the best helping sessions, perhaps the most inspired, was Barbara’s doing a sort of charades to “Beowulf.” Yes, all those years ago, before the internet, and before that venerable classic had yet to be turned into a movie. It was such thick reading, I never dreamed it was possible to turn it into a movie!

Inspiration can never be rushed. It’s like they say, a watched pot never boils. But, once you relax, that’s when the creative juices start flowing. It’s as simple as three B’s: in Bed, on the Bus, or in the Bath. Those are three places that you find yourself off guard and ideas bubble up to the surface. I recall another story from my early years. I had a little studio apartment. I had undressed and was just about to jump into the shower when inspiration hit me. I had been feverishly trying to figure out the ending to a short story and, right then and there, I had it. I had the whole ending just dangling in front of me. I knew I could either think about it in the shower or I could rush to my typewriter. I chose to just sit down naked and start typing. It was actually pretty liberating. And, in no time at all, I had my story set down on paper! And there was a bonus to all this. The doorbell rang and I remember, just like an impulsive youth, I ran up and answered it without covering up a stitch. I had a very good guess as to who was at my door. It was my old pal, Barbara. She had never quite seen me in all my glory. I guess she was impressed. I know that we dated seriously for a while after that.

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Filed under Essays, writers, writing

Review: MUNCH by Steffen Kverneland

MUNCH by Steffen Kverneland

MUNCH by Steffen Kverneland

When an artist draws or paints expressive work, he or she owes something to Edvard Munch. Whether that work is still compelling in the 21st century, is totally up to that artist. In 1893, when Munch created the first version of what is famously known as “The Scream,” he was 30 years-old and there was no question he had unleashed something new. Steffen Kverneland taps into that sense of urgency and excitement in his graphic novel, MUNCH, the latest in the Art Masters series published by SelfMadeHero.

August Strindberg and Edvard Munch

August Strindberg and Edvard Munch

If Edvard Munch was a free spirit, then he met his match when he befriended the flamboyant playwright and artist August Strindberg. Between the two of them, they boldly embodied everything you’d ever want to know about Expressionism. These guys lived it at a raging pace with wine, women, and song. The party was supposed to never end — and then each ending was capable of tearing these fierce bohemians to shreds as they quarreled, mostly over women. That crazy energy is mirrored throughout this book by cartoonist Steffen Kverneland masterfully inserting his own highly spirited debates on Munch with his friend and collaborator, Lars Fiske.

MUNCH by Steffen Kverneland, part of the Art Masters series from SelfMadeHero

MUNCH by Steffen Kverneland, part of the Art Masters series from SelfMadeHero

What such men as Munch and Strindberg, so full of talent and lust, really wanted is explored in Kverneland’s book with great gusto. At times, you feel like you’re there with the model/lover/destroyer of the moment. In the same spirit as Munch’s vow to paint what he saw (what he felt) as opposed to what he literally could see before him, so too Kverneland engages with his subject. Munch is depicted here as any other man, full of flaws, and open to some cartoonish interpretation like anyone else. But this is Edvard Munch, after all! Due respect is made too. Kverneland’s strict use of only actual writing from Munch, rounds out the authentic effect.

Munch and his model

Munch and his model

Kverneland including himself in his work follows a long tradition. I can tell you, as a cartoonist, I find it often unavoidable and an essential element. Kverneland even finds a genuine link between Munch and the comics medium. In the 1880s, Munch had been following a plan that would have led him to auto-bio comics nearly a century before R. Crumb! Words and pictures. There’s always been that link. Munch maintained that his visual art always began as text. And, for a time, he was pursuing illustrated journals. For someone so in tune with sharing his life experience, a life intertwined with words and pictures is inevitable.

Steffen Kverneland discusses the creation of MUNCH with a friend

Steffen Kverneland discusses the creation of MUNCH with a friend

MUNCH is a 280-page trade paperback, available as of May 10th. For more details, visit SelfMadeHero right here.

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Filed under Art, Art books, Bohemians, Comics, Edvard Munch, SelfMadeHero

Book Review: REFOCUSING CHAPLIN

The Little Tramp off into the sunset. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

The Little Tramp off into the sunset. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain

Aristotle speaks of the mimesis of the first order and the mimesis of the second order. When creating art, the goal is to distance oneself from the source. Mimesis of the first order is simply art imitating nature. Mimesis of the second order is art perfecting nature and turning it into something transcendent. That rule is certainly at play in the work of Charlie Chaplin. As Marco Grosoli points out in his essay on Chaplin, this was an artist keenly aware of his myth and in a unique position to go on to make great art from that myth. Marco Grosoli’s fascinating essay is part of a collection of essays from various writers on one of the masters of cinema, “Refocusing Chaplin,” published by Rowman & Littlefield.

There may never be another artist quite like Charlie Chaplin. However, his influence and relevance continues to evolve. And so that gives this collection of essays a great sense of urgency. In the same way that an artist of the first rank like Ray Bradbury could have anticipated social media some fifty years ago, so too did Charlie Chaplin foresee the power of a meme in a career that began over one hundred years ago. To say that Charlie Chaplin was beyond famous is an understatement. He reached the level of myth. It is not short of phenomenal that he continued to grow as an artist through a career that spanned the evolution of cinema.

Chaplin in 1941's "The Great Dictator"

Chaplin in 1940’s “The Great Dictator”

In Marco Grosoli’s essay, he examines the friction between two formidable myths in Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” from 1940. By then, Chaplin was more than ready to leverage some of his celebrity for the sake of his art. The timing could not have been more perfect. The difference between the myth of Hitler and Chaplin could not have been more extreme. As Grosoli indicates, Chaplin was not merely imitating Hitler. Chaplin was channeling the myth of Hitler. In that respect, Chaplin was getting at a greater truth. In a work that deeply explores the power of meme, Chaplin plays both the role of Dictator Adenoid Hynkel and a Jewish barber who looks identical to Hynkel. Dictator and barber are, in a sense, interchangeable. In the proper costume and context, everyone accepts whatever the Jewish barber has to say, dressed as Hynkel, even if it is the total opposite of what Hynkel would say. Push two extremes together, Grosoli suggests, and they strangely equate each other, form a perfect nothingness.

"Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses"

“Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon Through Critical Lenses”

Essays in this collection feature a wide spectrum of themes including Marxism, feminism, gender studies, deconstruction, psychoanalytic criticism, new historicism, performance studies, and cultural criticism. This critical study covers a wide reach of films including The Circus (1928), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931) Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and Limelight (1952). This collection proves to be a valuable resource on one of the leading masters of cinema.

“Refocusing Chaplin: A Screen Icon through Critical Lenses” is a 250-page hardcover, published by Rowman & Littlefield. Visit them right here.

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Filed under Art, Book Reviews, Books, Charlie Chaplin, Critical Studies, film, Hollywood, movies, pop culture, Rowman & Littlefield

Kickstarter: Seymour Chwast’s AT WAR WITH WAR

"At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks" by Seymour Chwast

“At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks” by Seymour Chwast

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster, 1964. Photo: Courtesy SVA Picture Collection.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster, 1964. Photo: Courtesy SVA Picture Collection.

Legendary graphic designer Seymour Chwast has chosen to run a Kickstarter campaign in support of his latest book project, “At War with War.” Kickstarter, at its heart, is community based. And the issue of war resonates with each and every community. What Chwast has done is review war in a unique way by illustrating five centuries of conflict, chaos, and violence on a continuous timeline. The book is made up of 35 two-page spreads featuring a series of Chwast’s black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings and woodcuts. The Kickstarter campaign will run from 26 April to 7 June 2016. You can find it right here.

Anti-war poster by Chwast, 1968

Anti-war poster by Chwast, 1968

Subversive. Personal. Obsessive. Radical. There is no mistaking the work of Seymour Chwast. As co-founder with Milton Glaser of Push Pin Studios, he led a revolution in graphic design producing bold, vibrant work that pushed the limits of nearly every visual medium: posters, advertisements, book jackets, magazine covers, album covers, product packaging, typography, and children’s books. His pioneering role as a designer, author, and activist continues to influence and inspire 21st-century designers.

Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser at Push Pin Studios, 1968

Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser at Push Pin Studios, 1968

For more than six decades, Chwast, who celebrates his 85th birthday this year, has used his signature blend of design, illustration, and social commentary to wage a campaign against war.

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Chwast finds, “It’s the ongoing relentlessness of the thing, the seemingly never-ending urge to resolve disputes with deadly conflict, century after century. That’s the nagging notion through the years that keeps bringing me back to the subject of war.”

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Among Kickstarter rewards offered to backers, Chwast has opened the doors to his archive, with both new and vintage items. Included among the special items are three of Chwast’s personal copies of his first antiwar publication, A Book of Battles, which he self published in 1957; his Vietnam War era poster “War is Good Business, Invest Your Son”; and a one-of-a kind four-color mechanical for a book he wrote with Steve Heller.

Seymour Chwast, at work, 2016

Seymour Chwast, at work, 2016

Be part of a significant book, “At War with War: An Illustrated Timeline of 5000 Years of Conquests, Invasions, and Terrorist Attacks.” The Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for the production of the book, which will involve a master letterpress printer and a specialised process used for creating fine and limited editions. At War with War will include an introduction by former editor and publisher of The Nation, Victor Navasky and edited by renowned graphic design writer, Steven Heller.

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

Excerpt from AT WAR WITH WAR

The Kickstarter campaign runs run from 26 April to 7 June 2016, and you can find it right here.

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Filed under Crowdfunding, Edward Sorel, Graphic Design, Kickstarter, Milton Glaser, New York City, pop culture, Protest, Push Pin Studios, seymour chwast

ECCC 2016: The Business of Comics

Alex de Campi, author of Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Lady Zorro, Valentine, and more.

Alex de Campi, author of Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Lady Zorro, Valentine, and more.

“Living is hard. Creating is harder. I am here for you on the weeks you write zero words and the weeks you only write 500 and the weeks it all flows out of you like salt water and you’ve written 10,000. I see you when you look back over it and wonder if any of it is any damn good at all. Keep it. It’s good. Keep going. You can edit when you are done.”

Alex de Campi

You are so right, Alex! The above words are from a writer who knows the struggle front and back. I am with you, Alex. As a writer and artist, I get kicked twice. Do I have good work out there for people to see? Of course! Look here! Do I stop and ponder what happens next? Sure. But I’ve been at this long enough where I am not seeking approval. I am not asking permission to create. And, best of all, I am never stopping. Criticism, I have come to see time and time again, is all too often faulty. You take what you need from reviews. You take what you need from rejections. And you take what you need when you do get that beloved approval. Alright, with all that said, I share with you one of the most insightful panels on the whole business of comics. It came on the last day, on the last hour, of Emerald City Comicon: Running Your Career Like a Business, moderated by Marissa Louise.

The Business of Comics. Yes, it’s not all fun and games, as the actual creators of pop culture content can tell you. Consider this: legendary artists on iconic characters like Batman and Superman can be found at conventions doing sketches for forty dollars just so they can keep up with their medical bills. It’s not a pretty picture but that is what can happen to some in the comics industry. Rest assured, comics is an industry even at the indie level. It’s just a matter of how savvy you strive to be.

The general rule of thumb is that you want to mix and match what you do. Sure, everyone wants to be part of one of the superhero properties they grew up with as a kid. Who doesn’t want to work on a Spider-Man book? Just keep in mind that it will be more of an honor than a financial boon. However, the name recognition helps to bring readers over to your own original project. A cycle begins. Your creator-owned work will catch the eyes of the big publishers leading to another big title project. Rinse and repeat.

C. Spike Trotman and David  Walker

C. Spike Trotman and David Walker

Down the road, you gain in stature, your work is in demand, and you get paid what you deserve. As the panelists were quick to point out, there will be many bumps in the road. Even when you make it, you will still fall, and you need to prepare to make it again. David Walker shared his story about writing for the popular Marvel Comics revival of “Power Man and Iron Fist.” “It’s like the monkey’s paw. Be careful what you wish for. I signed over a thousand books for fans this weekend. But I did not actually sell any books.”

One of the biggest questions posed by aspiring creatives is, “How does it all start?” Alex de Campi offered up the quote by Peter Schjeldahl: “You move to a city. You hang out in bars. You form a gang, turn it into a scene, and turn that into a movement.” But, just as essential, de Campi was quick to emphasize: “You need to be careful about contracts. Get a good attorney!”

C. Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics, the most successful cartoonist on Kickstarter with a number of quality projects funded, is the first to say that the indie route is great but it will be a slow process. Leila del Duca, a member of the creative collective, Helioscope, would recommend working as a group if possible but she seemed just as open to working alone. In many ways, there is no one road map to success. And, as artist Alison Sampson will tell you, at some point, you need to do what your heart tells you to do. At age 46, Sampson returned to her love of comics and she has no regrets.

Ultimately, remain fierce. Things will fall into place in due time.

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Filed under C. Spike Trotman, Comics, David Walker, ECCC, Emerald City Comicon

Interview: Matt MacFarland and DARK PANTS

Matt McFarland's DARK PANTS comics series

Matt McFarland’s DARK PANTS comics series

Matt MacFarland is an interesting artist working in various mediums including comics. He is one of those hybrid artists who make for the best cartoonists. I am impressed with his comics and that initial interest led to this interview. Matt is a kindred spirit. That has a lot to do with us being a couple of cartoonists in the same boat, navigating still unchartered waters, which can often get pretty choppy.

Silkscreen print adapted from DARK PANTS #1 by Matt McFarland and Maggie Lomeli

Silkscreen print adapted from DARK PANTS #1 by Matt McFarland and Maggie Lomeli

Interviews can be organic and creative things in their own right. Sometimes they require the right balance. As I mentioned to Matt, I have done more interviews than I care to count but I always strive for them to be fun and insightful. I’m always hopeful of what may result. In the case of a young cartoonist finding his way like Matt, who already demonstrates a seasoned approach to his work, it’s really good to gather up some observations from him and add to our general understanding of where we are headed with the comics medium.

The focus here is a cartoonist as a fine artist and that usually means someone who does the whole thing alone just as you would if you were a painter. Matt is in a very good place as someone who has a traditional art education. I say this because Matt’s ongoing series, DARK PANTS, seems to me a fine example of going through the rigors of art critiques. I sense that the recurring theme of those dark pants is a hard-won motif. It is through these mysterious pants that various displaced characters in Matt’s story find some clarity and, most significantly, a sexual awakening.

What you will find instructive here is listening to a particular breed of cartoonist describe how he goes about building his particular work. This is the work of an alternative comics/indie cartoonist. This type of cartoonist often does not care for superhero or genre comics. And, as I say, they usually work alone. Alternative cartoonists do not concern themselves so much with whether or not their comics are legitimate art. They already know they are creating art. The ones that have taken their work in comics past a certain point, they most certainly know since they are employing the same methodology used with other art mediums. This is the sort of work I do. This is the sort of work Matt does.

Check out our conversation right below:

And be sure to visit Matt McFarland and keep up with DARK PANTS right here.

You can find DARK PANTS at these fine establishments:

Los Angeles, CA
MELTDOWN COMICS! (Hollywood)
Bookshow (Highland Park)
Cool Cats Comics and Cards (Culver City)
Comics vs. Toys (Eagle Rock, CA)
Los Angeles County Store (Silver Lake)
Mega City One (Hollywood)
The Pop Hop (Highland Park)
Stories Books and Cafe (Echo Park)

Austin, TX
Farewell Books
Tribe Comics

Seattle, WA
Zanadu Comics

Pittsburgh, PA
Copacetic Comics

And you can pick up a print and t-shirt right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Art, Comics, graphic novels, Independent Comics, Indie, Interviews, Los Angeles, Matt MacFarland, Meltdown Comics, Minicomics