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Behind the Eightball: Daniel Clowes

We can do things like these cartoons, which are amusing, and a form of light entertainment, or we can do work that is more serious in scope and feeling that deals with issues of great importance.” That’s a quote from Ghost World. Not the acclaimed, late-’90s-defining, graphic novel written and drawn by cartoonist Daniel Clowes, but [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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We can do things like these cartoons, which are amusing, and a form of light entertainment, or we can do work that is more serious in scope and feeling that deals with issues of great importance.”

That’s a quote from Ghost World. Not the acclaimed, late-’90s-defining, graphic novel written and drawn by cartoonist Daniel Clowes, but the screenplay for the film adaptation. The whimsical summer-school art teacher who delivers the line, played by Illeana Douglas, wasn’t in the comic, but in the context of an Oscar-nominated movie, it serves as Clowe’s just desserts, aimed towards the disdain he received as an “artist” before cartoonists were hanging in museums or forecasting network television.

“Nowadays comics are taken much more seriously. Kids are going to art school and taking courses on graphic novels. I’m always asked to come and lecture a class about how to break into the graphic novel market,” says Clowes from his Oakland studio about the sea change in perceptions about his preferred art form. “When I was in school the teachers would tell me that comics were fine to do in your spare time, but they were an acute diversion and they didn’t think of it as art. It was just endlessly frustrating. But now, people can’t even relate to what I’m saying because it’s so different in the art-school world.”

Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes, opening this month at the Wexner Center, is certainly no raspberry towards the art world, nor is it an endpoint. Clowes is never one to sit on his hands or buckle to the technology that has erased the days when mail-ordering  a copy of his cult-classic Eightball was a ritualistic thrill for alternative nation. Within the pages of Eightball, Clowes was a man of “strips,” or serial comics, many of which, including David Boring, The Death-Ray, and Ice Haven, have become renowned “books” in the realm of graphic novels. Hence an exhibition to see his process and evolution through original black and white sketches from those tomes, gouache paintings of his iconic characters, and sundry artifacts should be a godsend to his eccentric fan base and a legitimization of his narrative genius to those unfamiliar.

“You put together a show like this and it definitely had that feeling that this could either be a retirement party or the mid-career retrospective. I was scared about how I would respond to it when it all came together, but it actually energized me to start something new,” reflects Clowes on digging through his old work. “As an artist you’re always trying to find ways to regenerate and start afresh. That’s the beauty of doing something like comics. You finish one and then you get started on a blank slate. You can correct all of the mistakes of your past. The show is a way to do that on a much larger scale.”

In that museum setting, whether you’re seeing Clowes for the first time via the museum or a long-time fanatic, it’s hard not to glean his surrealist perspective on the human condition. Even within single panels there is black humor, grotesque honesty, and quotidian existentialism. (Be it with personalities ambling inside of awkward adolescence or middle-aged curmudgeondom, drawn with thick lines and living color, it’s hard to find a piece that doesn’t strike a nerve or elicit an inner chuckle.)

Though Clowes’s oeuvre has served as an emblem of anachronistic pop culture or as a pulse-heeding critic of a dumbed down society, his first love and inspiration is in the primordial beginnings of the cartoonist – guys like Ernie Bushmiller who created Nancy, or Chester Gould, responsible for Dick Tracy. As a companion to Modern Cartoonist, Clowes was asked to raid the vaults of the Wexner’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library to curate his own survey of the comic strip’s golden age.

“There were a few things I couldn’t believe I was looking at,” Clowes says about his geek-out experience. “There were a couple of Little Nemo originals by Winsor McCay, which were literally like looking at Da Vinci drawings in person. This was stuff I’d been obsessing over since I was 15 years old, so to see it first-hand was mind-blowing.”

Despite the exhibition’s title, Clowes doesn’t have much time to keep up with modern comics trends. Between running a family, knocking around various screenplays, and the promise of what Clowes calls his biggest, most-involved book yet, the genre’s ebb and flow is off his radar. As long as he’s inspired and an audience persists, he’s content. A very Clowes-ian temperament.

“My only interest is doing the books, whether they begin as a comic book or they appear in holograms or whatever’s the popular form of the day,” concludes Clowes. “I want there to be at least enough copies of a physical book for me to have, my friends to have, and for all of the readers I’ve built up over the years. As long as there’s some way to pay the mortgage with that is all I’m asking for.” •

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas

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While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can't wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By0yi8xhuPE/

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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Arts Fest Preview: Kate Morgan, 2D mixed media artist

614now Staff

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Kate Morgan began developing her ghostly, layered two-dimensional portraits after going back to school at the Columbus College of Art & Design in 2005. She already had some background in visual arts through her work in fashion and commercial photography, so the transition to drawing and painting was organic.

Morgan’s textured collages are inspired by folklore, mythology and a variety of artistic periods — especially Byzantine art. The 2011 Columbus Arts Festival Emerging Artist alum and 2019 exhibiting artist welcomes a wide array of complex themes into her pieces — including symbolic, cultural, historical and spiritual themes — while utilizing layers of vintage paper and original drawings to create visual depth and a sense of mystery.

Her pieces are purposely vague, leaning toward more minimalistic ideas to allow for wider interpretation by audiences. Largely her art depicts the female form, with as many layers and stories to tell as that of every human being. This is done with an eclectic assortment of materials — including sheet music, German Biblical pages, newspaper and maps — to add detail in both a topical and textural sense.

And yet, Morgan still continues to look for a challenge. From venturing away from her familiar blue hues to exploring different mediums like ceramics, her work knows no creative limits.

Morgan has exhibited at the Columbus Arts Festival nearly every year since 2011. She has gone on to win two jurors’ choice awards in the 2D category at the Columbus Arts Festival, as well as sell and have work juried at other major festivals across the country. In Columbus, her work can be seen as part of the Columbus Makes Art and Donatos Pizza collaborative mural “Every Piece Is Important” at the John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

Morgan has a BFA from CCAD and currently works out of her Franklinton studio in Columbus. Experience this stunning work first hand when you visit her at booth M572 on the Main Street Bridge during the Columbus Arts Festival from June 7-9 at the downtown riverfront.

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Arts & Culture

Be Square: Changes coming to arts community at 400 W Rich

Mike Thomas

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If you haven't visited the thriving arts community at 400 West Rich street in awhile, you might be surprised to see how much things have changed. Now, the minds behind the city's hub for the arts are changing things up to better reflect the area's evolution.

400 Square is the new collective moniker for the array of concepts that currently occupy the buildings on the 400 block of Rich street in Franklinton. The rebrand seeks to unify the community of artistic innovators who call the area developed by Urban Smart Growth their creative home.

Promo art for 400 Square by Anthony Damico

Spaces encompassed in the rebrand include Strongwater, The Vanderelli Room, and Chromedge Studios, and of course, the studios at 400 W. Rich. While the name may be changing, the group remains committed to providing and sustaining a thriving hub for creatives through education, resources, and entertainment opportunities in the area.

With the launch of 400 Square, Urban Smart Growth Director of Operations Seth Stout has led his team to develop new offerings for each of the growing spaces. Food and Beverage Director Lauren Conrath and Events Director Molly Blundred have taken the lead with changes to the Strongwater brand, while Community Director Stephanie McGlone and Art Director AJ Vanderelli are facilitating programming for all ages and abilities on the artist side.

Through all of the changes on the way, the staff at 400 Square are committed to bringing the public the same high quality of workshops, events, exhibitions, and more that have always been part of their unique creative community.

Stay tuned for more info—the new 400 Square officially rolls out during the weekend of Columbus Arts Fest 2019, June 7-9.

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