Friday, December 28, 2007

Zeitgeist! Standortgeist! Kunst, kinder!

I'm basically an athiest. Technically, I guess I would be defined as an agnostic since I don't claim to know whether or not god exists. But agnosticism is like a slippery tight wire - you always end up falling to one side or the other. You can claim to be in total disinclination to belief one way or the other, but eventually, in real life practice, you find yourself tending towards belief or non-belief. So, I'm a non-believer, an athiest basically. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and all that. All a bunch of neurons firing or not firing, creating a highly developed collective consciousness. I don't know but that seems to be the case. And yet, sometimes coincidences, connections, serendipities, etc, give me pause. They float me into thinking that something's pulling puppet strings around me. But mostly they make me appreciate the poetic randomness of the world, rather than believing in some otherness operating in mysterious ways. Sometimes you are just in the right time and the right place for something.

For example, I've been working on my graphic novel, Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy for quite a while now. There are probably a lot of people in the world working on graphic novels right now, but I don't know any of them. I have friends who read graphic novels and who appreciate the nature of the medium, but it's not like there are people I hang out with who have been going through this particular interesting/pain-in-the-ass process over the past [___] year[s]. It's taking forever and while I'm probably 95% through the whole process, that 5% is daunting. Then on Monday, I went back to Pittsfield for Christmas and my mother mentioned that they were having some sort of exhibit on graphic novels at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, 25 minutes from where I grew up. I borrowed the car and 25 minutes later I was looking at the only museum exhibition of the art form of the graphic novel that I'd ever seen. (There was a comic book museum in Northampton 45 minutes away, back in the 90's, but that wasn't specifically about the graphic novel, as opposed to the comic book. This was about graphic novels, not just superhero comics. I don't make the distinction to make a qualitative statement; they're just different forms in scope and content.) There - out of all the places in the world, near the house I grew up in. Then - out of all the times in my life, when I'm embroiled in the middle of just such a project. I just found it odd. Like I was smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist (defining spirit/mood of a time) and standortgeist (defining spirit/mood of a place). Like I was meant to grow up there and to cycle back there, then, now. Random or not, the whole experience has pumped me up for the final five%.

Random. Paper salesman Papa VTK was relocated from Chicago to Pittsfield in 1974 or 5, so we ended up a few minutes away from the home of one of the greatest artists (not just "illustrators") of the twentieth century - Norman Rockwell. In his life, Norman Rockwell was ridiculously prolific in making some of the best portraiture work of his generation, of his century, in the conversation of of all time. Yet he received no respect from the despicable "Art World". Oh those were very nice illustrations, technically impressive; he's a fine draftsman. But it's not cubist and it's not dada and it's not surrealism and it's not futurism and it's not abstract expressionism and it's not minimalism. So, it's not something that should be thought of as art in the modern era. It's been done, so it's irrelevant. In recent years, the Art World has been so charitable as to recognize the skill of Rockwell, and has begun to recognize the skill involved in the artform of the graphic novel. But comic artists and illustrators have been disrespected similarly to Rockwell for decades, which is certainly why the museum chose to do this exhibition. But there I go railing against the art establishment (fuck you) again. Sorry.

The point is that if you are within striking distance of Western Mass (and Stockbridge is next to Lee, which is an exit off the Mass Pike) you should check out this exhibit and the rest of the museum. It has lots of original drawings, sketches, and gives great insight into this particular creative process. It features the works of R Crumb, Dave Sim, Frank Miller, fellow Progressive collaborator Sue Coe, and to my surprise and excitement the work of my favorite graphic novel artist, Marc Hempel, who did the artwork for The Kindly Ones, the best illustrated of Neil Gaimon's Sandman series, in my occasionally humble opinion. (that's his work to the left and up at the top)

Kunst, kinder! Art, children!


marshall said...

OH SURE, Dan, Rockwell was an artist. But Damien Hirsch-- now there's an artiste-- sharks in formaldehyde!

Dan said...

To call Damien Hirst a fraud would be to give him too much credit.

Ian said...

My top three would be:

1.Daniel Clowes (David Boring)

2.Alan Moore (Watchmen)

3.Chester Brown (Ed the Happy Clown)

Happy New Year,



I did have a chance to meet Barry Sanders when my brother was playing for the Lions back in the day, he was a nice guy and next to Eric Dickerson he was the best RB I have ever seen!

Dan said...

I know the first two, but not the third (chester). I'm reading "Epileptic" by David B right now. It's awesome. Thanks to whoever dropped it off on my doorstep with a mysterious non-location-specific garage parking stub labeled "4 Dan". Good call.

I don't remember watching Eric Dickerson too much (maybe I was too young to care that much, maybe I only watched the Steelers and the local teams, maybe they didn't have LA games on out here a lot). Imagine if Barry had Emmitt's O line? That would have been crazy.

Ian said...

Check it out,Chester Brown has done some very nice work:

When will your graphic novel be completed?


Jeannette said...

Im working on one. You know me.

Good luck with yours.

Dan said...

ian - thanks for the link. I'll check him out. I'm on pages 159/160 out of 184 right now. I keep getting slowed on my progress due to painting commissions. which I can't complain about. Should be done in 5 or 6 weeks. But I've been saying that for 5 or 6 months. Chipping away though.

jeannette - when do we get to see some previews? good luck. konichiwa.

Ian said...

I have been an atheist for years, how long have been a non practicing non religious person?


Dan said...

Well, the moment that sparked the collapse of my faith can be traced back to 5th grade in Catholic school, but I continued to be a suspicious, barely practicing member of the church for several years after that (largely as a favor to my mom). It wasn't until the early nineties when I started studying philosophy and psychology that I fully purged the crucifix from my head and settled on the aforementioned description of my belief status. I've seen nothing in the last 10 or 15 years that would cause me to believe otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I like many things about this particular VTK post.

happy new year.


Dan said...

thanks N-Lo. Happy New Year to you too. Good luck in Dot.