Wheatley & Hempel Work at Norman Rockwell Museum
According to a press release issued by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, next week will see the beginning of their latest exhibition, LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel." Among the graphic novels on display will be Breathtaker, by Mark Wheatley (EZ Street) and Marc Hempel (Naked Brains).
Lions released from a zoo in war-torn Baghdad; a mother’s battle with lung cancer; an American expatriate searching for her identity in Mexico- serious subject matter for any medium, but particularly so for a new wave of critically acclaimed and commercially successful long form comic books. In these illustrated stories, called graphic novels (a mostly grown-up version of the comic book), themes explored include culture, society, and current events, and topics range from heart-wrenching to thought-provoking to risqué. A fascinating new exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum, "LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel," examines the history, diversity, and tremendous popularity of this phenomenon considered by many to be a comics renaissance. On view from November 10, 2007 throughMay 26, 2008, the exhibition features over 146 artworks by 24 contemporary graphic novelists and historic practitioners of this ever-evolving art form.
"Comics are a language- and it’s a visual language," observes graphic novelist Mark Wheatley. "It cuts across cultural barriers and national barriers. The language of comics is something that a man in Dubai can understand as easily as a man in Chicago."
"LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel" examines the development of sequential art through its practitioners. Their work continues to suggest new ways of seeing: wordless narratives by 1920s woodcut artist Lynd Ward and modern-day commentator Peter Kuper; revolutionary underground comix by R. Crumb and humorous, personal "Girl Stories’" by Lauren Weinstein; the visual thrill of works by "Mad Magazine" co-creator Harvey Kurtzman and "Breathtaker" co-creator Marc Hempel; and the pioneering art of Will Eisner ("Contract with God"), Dave Sim ("Cerebus"), and Terry Moore ("Strangers in Paradise"). The exhibition features original book pages and studies, sketchbooks, and videotaped interviews with graphic novelists.
"’LitGraphic’ offers a fascinating look at the development of a highly-influential art form through a talented new generation of visual storytellers," notes Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. "Many artists throughout history have employed the use of sequential storytelling, including Norman Rockwell. You can see this in a number of Rockwell’s most well-known paintings, such as ‘The Gossips’ and ‘Day in the Life of a Little Boy,’ as well as in quickly-sketched cartoons and doodles."
For centuries, sequential imagery has served as a direct and efficient means of communicating ideas and information. From the cave paintings of early man to the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt and the ceiling of Rome’s Sistine Chapel, pictures, when linked to convey an overarching narrative, have a unique ability to teach and inspire. During the nineteenth century, Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer theorized about the creation of sequential picture stories and advised artists to "invent some kind of play, where the parts are arranged by plan and form a satisfactory whole." His experiments with strip-like works employing character action and the passage of time were revolutionary in his day and set the stage for the development of the modern-day comic strips and books.
The twentieth century saw the rise of comics as a popular art form through the graphic albums of Europe, Japanese manga, and the adventures of cultural icons such as Superman, Donald Duck, and The Spirit. Although beloved by millions of readers, comics were not without their detractors who regarded the medium as a juvenile form of literature. The underground comix which originated during the counterculture of the 1960s, followed closely by the development of independent comic book publishers in the 1970s and 1980s, helped to challenge this notion, lending voice and depth to a full spectrum of characters, emotions, and stories, and opened up a new world of possibilities for this unique visual/literary art form. Contemporary graphic novels, with their anti-heroes, visual appeal, and edgy story lines are positioned to usurp the role that the novel once played, according to some observers.
"Focused on subjects as diverse as the nature of relationships, the perils of war, and the meaning of life, graphic novelists are among the most innovative visual communicators working today," says the Museum’s Chief Curator and Associate Director of Exhibitions and Programs, Stephanie Plunkett, who is the curator of the exhibition. "Abstract, poetic, and content-rich, these books invite readers to uncover storylines by bringing themselves to the process-a unique opportunity for true engagement with a work of art."
Artists included in the exhibition are Jessica Abel, Sue Coe, R. Crumb, Howard Cruse, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Brian Fies, Gerhard, Milt Gross, Marc Hempel, Niko Henrichon, Mark Kalesniko, Peter Kuper, Harvey Kurtzman, Matt Madden, Frans Masereel, Frank Miller, Terry Moore, Dave Sim, Art Spiegelman, Barron Storey, Lynd Ward, Lauren Weinstein, and Mark Wheatley.
Exhibition-related Programs and Events
A Member’s Exhibition Opening for "LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel," will be held on Saturday, November 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. Commentary begins at 6:30 p.m., with award-winning graphic novelist Peter Kuper. Mr. Kuper’s many works include the semi-autobiographical "Stop Forgetting to Remember," adaptations of such classic tales as "The Metamorphosis" and "The Jungle," "Sticks and Stones," and the influential political magazine "World War III Illustrated." The festivities will include a book signing with Kuper and other prominent comic creators. The reception includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash wine bar. The event is free for Museum members. There is no charge for children and teens, ages 18 and under. Admission for all others is $12. For reservations and more information, please call 413.298.4100, ext.221 by November 2.
"Stories in Sequence: Young Artists’ Exhibition"
Opening November 10, 2 to 4 p.m.
Discover graphic novel artworks created by Berkshire County high school
students in this festive exhibition opening.
"LitGraphic: A Preview for Educators"
Friday, November 9, 4 to 7 p.m.
Tours of "LitGraphic" and curriculum inspired by the exhibition, with
commentary by graphic novelist Peter Kuper.
"Educators’ Symposium: Graphic Novels in the Classroom"
Saturday, January 12, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
An interactive approach to student learning with graphic novelist Jay
Hosler, artists/educators Tim Callahan and Andrew Wales, and
librarian/graphic media specialist Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe.
Art Comes Alive! Family Day
Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
"The Power of Imagination"
An afternoon of exploration featuring performance artist Sarah Saerno
"Cartoons for Kids"
A reading, signing, and comic art workshop with illustrator Marc Rosenthal.
"Creating Cartoons and Comics"
A hands-on introduction to splash pages and action sequences with
artist/educator Marek Bennett.
A lively, fun-filled afternoon for families with artist/educator Andrew
Saturday Afternoon Workshops
"Writing Workshop: Bringing Life to Your Words"
January 5, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A focus on imagery and sensory detail with author Vivian Dorsel.
"The Business of Art: Self-Publishing Your Comics"
March 1, 1 to 4 p.m.
Creative production, distribution, and promotion with graphic novelist Alec
"Art Workshop: Ninety-Nine Ways To Tell a Story"
April 5, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A graphic novel workshop that will help you to think outside the box with
author/illustrator Matt Madden.
"Comic Arts Festival"
May 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Workshops, talks, performances, and more in celebration of the graphic
novel, with graphic novelists Howard Cruse, Marc Hempel, and Mark Wheatley,
graphic media specialist Robin Brenner, and others.
School Vacation Week Workshops
February 18-22, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Creating characters, sequencing, book building and more with artist/educator
April 21-25, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Storyboarding, writing, and drawing graphic novels with artist/educator
Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.
"Performance: Out of Her Mind"
Quirky, twisted tales inspired by real-life experience with storyteller
"ArtTalk: Collecting Comic Art"
An expert viewpoint on the growing comics market.