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I have been reading a lot lately, and not really blogging about anything. Ugh. I know I should be writing more.  Baby steps. Here is a little bit about some of the graphic novels I’ve read lately.


Goliath by Tom Gauld
Aw, man. Real good, but also real sad. This is the story of Goliath, yes the Goliath of “The Bible” fame. I mean, I know how this story ends, I just definitely wish this one didn’t end like this. Tom Gauld’s style is so pared down and simple, it makes this very well known story very wrenching and sympathetic.  I always like stories that have a thoughtful and likable weirdo at the center, and this fits the bill very well. Basically I’ll read (and probably love) anything published by Drawn & Quarterly.


Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi
Recommended! I started reading The Amulet series (highly recommended, too) a while back and fell totally in love with it. After that I looked up all the comics by Kibuishi in the library catalog and read all of them. Daisy Kutter is earlier than the Amulet series, but you can see so much of Kibuishi’s sensibility building. There are robots and old-timey things alongside one another. It sounds sort of steampunk, and it is, but not in a lame way. It’s more like Firefly, which is a very apt comparison particularly because it’s also a western.

I really like how Kibuishi writes female characters. They are strong and awesome, but not flawless sexy martyrs. The book might be short (or shorter than a regular novel) but there are so many character-developing glances, movements, and affectations.

Also there’s a really bad ass robot gun.


Batman: Death by Design by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor.
Very disappointing. I’ve been going through a bit of a Batman kick lately (the new movie, and episode of The Indoor Kids dedicated to all things Batman, and an episode of How Did This Get Made about Batman & Robin). I give it 2 stars instead of 1 solely because of the architectural details.

At first glance, the art looks really beautiful — moody, responsive, and atmospheric — But it really didn’t make sense when reading the comic. It took me a while to figure out why it looked so weird and then it hit me: most of the characters’ mouths were closed when they were talking. It looks so ridiculous. And the color palette is awful. It’s almost all a soft charcoal color, with some not-very-dark darks and some very strange pastel color accents. Gross.

There’s also just waaaay too much writing. It was so boring to plod through because there was too much to read with so little visual pay-off. I had no investment in the plot or the characters, and one of the characters is Batman!


Unterzakhn by Leela Corman
It had been a while since I read a true graphic novel, as most of the graphic stuff I read (at least in 2012) is non-fiction. This book is about two Jewish twin sisters living in New York in the early 20th century, and the different paths they take. Life was pretty rough and tumble in those days, and there aren’t very many sentimental frames in this book. It was a time of great possibility, but also of some very sharp and harsh differences in class and culture along those ethnic lines.

Corman really brings life to the pages through the Yiddish dialect and the bustle of the streets. She captures the excitement, difficulties, and clutter of the time period. Her drawing isn’t pristine (something I really like in my comics) but it is stylish. There’s room for outrageous expressions and comic portrayals as well as beautiful and careful renderings, and the story isn’t hampered or diverted by that.

The sisters end up in vastly different places than I expected, and the story was always shifting and growing with these fallible and very flawed women. All in all, a very successful book.


2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Allie has
completed her goal of reading 150 books in 2012!
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I have been reading a lot lately, and not really blogging about anything. Ugh. I know I should be writing more. Baby steps. Here is a little bit about some of the young adult novels I’ve read lately.


Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
READ THIS. Here’s the gist: a plane full of beauty pageant contestants crash land on an island and have to fend for themselves.  It sounds pretty silly, but trust me it was amazing.

It was insanely awesome to read a book that is about all the things I love (disability, bodies, gender, sexuality, beauty pageants, television, etc.). Most novels (YA especially) I’ve read that deal with any one of those issues has done it in a way that is so tacky and dumb. This book was so goofy and fun while also being A+ on the stuff I care about. I was so energized by reading it!


The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Do not read this. Here’s the gist: A boy, Thomas, wakes up in an elevator that opens into a glade with enormous stone walls where a bunch of different boys are living. This glade is in the middle of the maze, and the doors to the maze open every morning and close every night.

This book was so unsatisfying. About 100 pages in there was a really exciting moment that hooked me for about 20 pages and then fizzled out! I hated (HATED) the main kid. Obviously in these distopian novels, the main character is special in some way. But what makes those characters tolerable is that they don’t really know or believe that they are special. This kid knows it and he is insufferable.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Recommended! Here’s the gist: a girl living in a weird old house discovers a door that opens into a house a lot like hers but creepy. There’s her other-mother and other-father in the other-house with her other-neighbors, same but very different.

Neil Gaiman is definitely my favorite author, but satisfying endings are not necessarily his forte. This one definitely has a great ending though. I can’t believe this is for children, because it was very scary! All of the situations were very evocative and so strange. It was a fun, quick read and I can see how and why it was adapted into a graphic novel and a movie!


2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Allie has
completed her goal of reading 150 books in 2012!
hide

Panel from "Fun Home". Image from salon.com

I have been reading a lot lately.  This might not be unusual for most people, but it’s quite rare for me.  In addition to my Novel challenge (ha), I read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A family tragicomic.  I am most familiar with the Bechdel move test, where in order to pass the movie has to have 1. two named female charcters, 2. who talk to one another, and 3. about something other than men.  I am also acquainted with her series Dykes to watch out for.  We have a ton of the books in the GSC library.

After I finished it, I talked a little bit with Scott (known for his love of all things comic).  He said that he liked it, but thought it didn’t quite succeed as a graphic novel.  That you could have taken out all the pictures and it would have been just as successful.  I can’t say I disagree, though I think the subject matter is far more compelling than any other graphic novels I have read.  I found the book so affecting.  I love reading about how she finally put a name to her sexuality in her college library, and the insatiable desire to read all things queer after that.  She reads Collette, Rubyfruit Jungle, The Well of Loneliness, all books I read in the past four years, and all books in the GSC library that  I worked so hard to wrangle and organize.  I think I’ll donate my copy to the library, because we don’t as yet have one but I definitely think we should.

Father-daughter relationships are always interesting to me.  Bechdel’s experience with her father was so unlike my own, but there were aspects of that relationship that I identified with.  It is odd to think of our parents as people unto themselves, and she seems to have had some extreme revelations about who her father really was.  It is heartbreaking both that she only started to know who her father was so close to his death and that he had lived so much of his life in secret.

I’ve recently been posting a lot about publications.  Well I just uploaded the GSC’s latest, Bodies, to the internet!

Cover of Bodies, published by the GSC. Photo: Megan Hafner.

From the GSC website:

Our bodies are sites of pleasure, pain, gender, sexuality, joy, shame, and celebration. Our new publication wants to navigate our relationships with our bodies. We want to explore subjects like body positivity, health and illness, fat acceptance, sex, ability, sexual violence, modification, and any other way society shapes the way we view bodies.

It is a really beautiful book made entirely of contributions from the Carleton community.  People contributed poetry, written pieces, drawings and prints (including my print, which I posted about earlier), and their editing and design talents to create a wonderfully cohesive book about so many facets of our human bodies.

You can read more about Bodies and all of the GSC’s other publications here on the website: https://apps.carleton.edu/campus/gsc/publications/

Read it here:
Bodies (Online Book) | Bodies (PDF)

I have been reflecting a lot on post-Carleton stuff lately.  One of the things that is getting me through is looking at the work of Dustin Yager, a Carleton alum from not that long ago.  We met him at NCECA where he had a piece in the La Mesa.  The piece in the show was called “Orgy Basket” — a pristine porcelain basket with simple line drawings of men having sex with other men.  He filled the basket with flowers, which I think is a particularly memorable touch.

Porcelain, 2010; image from ceramicsandtheory.com

Much of Dustin’s work is in series form (with some exceptional titles): “Will You Fake Marry Me?“, the series that the Orgy Basket is from, which includes many other baskets adorned with various masculine/feminine/gay/straight visual indicators; “Rimware“, a porcelain table set with gold lustered rims, on which  are drawn illustrations of various stages of a rim job; and “Cups with Something to Say“, a series of porcelain cups on which he wrote or imprinted phrases often heard in the context of gay/queer culture, but also phrases relating to sexual relationships.  I love how he pairs a very drawing technique with brash and uncomfortable images.  His work is astonishing, and I am very glad to have met him.

Dustin is an artist that I really relate to.  He approaches ceramics as a vehicle to express ideas about culture and form.  He makes beautiful pieces in their own right, but what makes them exceptional is the decorative elements.  He combines drawing, pottery, and commentary seamlessly into his pieces.  They make the viewer uncomfortable, which is something I always appreciate especially because his work deals with queer issues and those are very important to me.  Sometimes I find it frustrating to make ceramic work (particularly thrown work) that isn’t just beautiful and functional.   It’s not that that area of ceramics isn’t valuable and fantastic, but sometimes I find myself aching to make something more meaningful.  It is reassuring to find artists making poignant work combining traditional ceramic forms, substance, and beautiful surfaces.

Shalene Valenzuela is totally rad.  She makes ceramic irons, blenders, shoes, pencil sharpeners (The Grind, pictured left), nail polish bottles, pot holders, toasters, and all kinds of other girly shit.  She’s delightful!  She takes these objects and paints on them stereotypes of women’s roles, and sometimes text about the dichotomies women are often placed in.  A lot of her work is a commentary on those dichotomies, which I think are entirely damaging to any true understanding of a person or experience.  I have always loved those 50’s illustrations of women (a la Vogue patterns or something like that) and I really love when people use them to subvert conventional ideas of gender.  I highly recommend checking out her website at http://www.shalene.com/.

As you can probably tell from my post about Misty Gamble, or my entire life if you know me at all, but I’ve been thinking tons (more) about gender lately.  Mostly about gender representation and presentation because of my comps (which I am tentatively calling Sexual Dimorphism).  So much of femininity is tied up in appearances and presentation.   I put antlers and other animal-gender-signifiers on women initially because I am obsessed with antlers and because antlers are beautiful.  But antlers are associated with aggression, power, and ownership.  They are prized, valued, and hunted — words I normally associated with courtship (can tell I’m in man-hater mode of late?), but also words that I associate with women’s quest to adapt to typically masculine mannerisms in order to succeed.  Antlers are at once masculine and feminine, and I think my point is that nothing is ever as simple as you think.  Every situation, every gender and experience with gender, is more nuanced than you think.

I also like Shalene Valenzuela because she has a blog.  It’s hard to follow, but it’s there.  I really like hearing artists’ ideas about their work and their lives in a vernacular that is less formal than an artist’s statement.  I also really love that she plays up the kitsch factor.  So much of my work (especially in ceramics) is kitschy, and I can’t help but love things that are gaudy and tacky despite my love of simplicity too.  Valenzuela’s work en masse reads like a pantry, which I think is so tremendous.  I would love nothing more than for my future house to be populated with household wared designed by her, with my goofy antler junk on the walls.  That would be some kind of heaven.  I love work that really gains momentum as you add more, and  Valenzuela’s work especially plays into that cluttered 50s advertising aesthetic when you see her pieces together.  Anyways, I love her and her work.  I leave you with probably my favorite piece of hers, the Virgin Mary in a slice of bread:

I am obsessed with Misty Gamble.

My favorite of her works is the Chanel / Big Hair series.  She makes ceramic sculptures of older-looking women, allsitting in chairs, wearing Chanel suits, and with enormous hair.  They’re beautiful.  Many of her pieces focus on issues of femininity: the Tan Hands series — ceramic hands on a wall, each differently positioned with a ring on a finger; or the Sweet Terror series — 5 sculptures of young girls, each innocent and horrifying in their own way.  In Chanel / Big Hair, Gamble explores the blurred line between youth and age among cosmetically altered high society women.  Their suits are classic and pristine and their hair is extremely well kept, but there’s something strange and terrifying about them.

My favorite piece  by Gamble is a ceramic “stump” (she dicthes the traditional bust or torso and calls them stumps) with a beehive hairdo (pictured at right with the artist).   That’s exactly how I wore my hair to senior prom in high school!  I also love that this particular stump has red hair just like me!  Unfortunately that’s where the similarities end.  The stumps are modeled after dress forms, have skin textured like fabric, and oddly protruding necks.  They are so fascinating.  I love them and I am also jealous of their hair.

On her website she has photos of her working, which I find particularly illuminating.  It is so cool to see artists at work, especially when that artist is coil building enormous hairdos.  I am building some busts of my own for comps.  I tried to coil build one of them, but I think building solid and hollowing out is more suited to my needs.  I had some issues hollowing out the first one (pictured left) and it got kind of wonky when I put it back together again.  It still hasn’t been fired and doesn’t have antlers yet (I am making them separately) but at least it’s something.

For more info on my favorite, Misty Gamble, visit her website at www.mistygamble.com.

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