Exhibition: What doesn’t make the headlines can fill a cartoon panel
Peruse the ‘The Art of News’ exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and you’ll discover something that is so much more than comics or journalism, and yet it is anchored in both because it tells stories. that he cannot on his own.
Topics like the pandemic, war, social unrest, environmental change, prisons, sex trafficking and more are on display on the show, which runs through January 16, 2022, and is the first major retrospective on 30 years of comic book journalism. It exhibits original drawings, reproductions, and digital works by 12 artists, featuring one many consider the pioneer of the medium, a 1981 UO journalism alumnus and New York Times bestselling author Joe Sacco.
Artists have used comics to tell deeply human stories from their own perspectives for decades, said curator and assistant professor of English Katherine Kelp-Stebbins. She is also associate director of the department’s comics and cartoon studies program.
“Comic book journalism serves a really different purpose than what we might think of as more traditional forms of news,” Kelp-Stebbins said. “It’s about taking time and being attentive, and really relying on the journalist’s experience; be clear about who you are and where you come from, and make that part of the story you tell and how you tell it.
A free public symposium featuring several of the artists on display will be held at the museum from November 19-20 and will include panels, panel discussions and gallery discussions, as well as a 90-minute dialogue and Q&A with Kelp- Stebbins and Sacco. The other guests of the symposium are Sarah Mirk, Gerardo Alba, Dan Archer, Tracy Chahwan, Jesús Cossio, Ben Passmore and Andy Warner. Thi Bui, Sarah Glidden, Omar Khouri, Victoria Lomasko and Yazan al-Saadi are also on display in the exhibition.
Comic book journalists often do without the notion of ultimate objectivity. Many describe themselves as characters in their own stories to emphasize that events are multidimensional and that what they witness is inherently colored by their perspective.
“There is a way for comic book journalism not to even break the rules, but to wonder what these rules give us or don’t give us in terms of how journalism has been taught or understood.” , said Kelp-Stebbins.
Because the labor-intensive medium continues to take hold in subscription news media, many artists make a living by publishing their work in books, selling original works of art, and by working illegally as teachers, illustrators or graphic designers. But comic book and journalism publications exist all over the world, and even close to home: Portland-based website The Nib offers newsletters and subscriptions.
Ink on paper is not the only work presented in the exhibition. Many artists’ work is digitized or native to digital media, and some of that work is displayed on touch screens throughout the gallery. Comic book artist Dan Archer used virtual reality technology to create a space filled with people and memories for the viewer to interact with. This is part of a project called “Empathetic Media” which seeks to instill compassion for a subject by letting the viewer explore it as if they are actually experiencing it.
Comic book journalism is perhaps the closest thing to seeing through someone else’s eyes, artist Ben Passmore said. But these are not always the eyes of the artist. When a script asks the artist to represent someone’s point of view other than his own, it requires a lot of specific visual questions, Sacco said, so he can get the viewer into the mind of someone else.
Most of the time, Sacco’s reporting work is done much like that of a traditional news reporter: his kit includes a recorder and camera to capture reference shots for his drawings, and when he traveling abroad, he is often accompanied by a fixer. He can use similar tools, but Sacco takes a slower approach.
“I now know of designers who go to a demonstration and draw, and publish these designs almost immediately. More power for them, but that’s not how I do my job, ”Sacco said. “I kind of looked at the limits of the medium, and one is that it takes a long time to draw something and put a book together. Mine has always been a longer, slower form of journalism.
Sacco loves how working in the comics means there is no real rulebook. As the field has grown around him over the years, he jokes that the most exciting thing to watch has been his own ability to make a living.
For more information on the exhibition and symposium, and to view video interviews with artists created by UO students, visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art website.
–By Anna Glavash Miller, College of Arts and Sciences