CAN YOU DRAW THE MEANING OF LIFE?
The answer is "Yes!"
The question above was the title of a panel I moderated for the Brooklyn Book Festival yesterday (9/18/16). Although we could have saved a lot of time with a monosyllabic answer, it was so much more interesting to see what panelists Tom Hart (Rosalie Lightning), Cyril Pedrosa (Equinoxes), and Lauren Redniss (Thunder and Lightning) had to say about it.
All three books tackle big topics and provoke big questions about art, death, loss, and more. Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart is a memoire of his daughter, her tragic death, and his love for her. Tom is an expert story-teller. His black and white images are so expressive that I could not get through the book without weeping.
Cyril Pedrosa's book Equinoxes just came out in English (yay!) It is a cyclic story taking place over a year and over millennia. The book follows separate characters through significant and insignificant moments in their lives. The drawing and the writing reflect one another in their thoughtful and loving (yes loving) detail.
Thunder And Lightning, written and drawn by Lauren Redniss is a vibrant form of reportage that uses weather and the elements as a touchstone for relating histories, interviews, and stories about the ecological, personal, economic, and political effects of weather. Instead of using the traditional comics panel format, Lauren arranges her text in and next to her images in absorbing two page spreads. It is fascinating.
The three artist/authors had thoughtful and interesting things to say about some of the themes in their work (art, death, loss, etc.) I'm going to write about the topic of Art and leave it there.
If I was to synopsize (and I was!) the conversation... Cyril has a respect and love of art and the creative process that manifests in Equinoxes as 1) the presentations of creativity (painting, sculpture, singing) in the environments of his story and 2) the incorporation of art making (photography) and its meaning into the fabric of the story.
Lauren includes a chapter on the interrelation of artist (writer), environment, and economy with her chapter on Thoreau, his thoughts on living and writing, and his stay at Walden Pond. She provides us with a mood and environment that was important to Thoreau and his writing. She gives us an intimate experience of his influences.
The ways in which art/comics are a part of Tom's life are inextricable from his and Rosalie's story. He and his wife Lela Corman are cartoonists. For Tom drawing is work, fun, "therapy" and more. His story of grieving shows us how cartoonists use elements of their work organically for their own emotional and spiritual survival.
...And that was only a tiny part of a whole conversation. I'm so lucky to have been involved in this panel!