August 2003 Archives

Gaming Needle Arts

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I'm not very crafty myself, but I definitely respect the DIY impulse of crafters. I am downright blown away by fiber artist Becky Schaefer, whose work was recently featured on Game Girl Advance. Schaefer creates embroidery and needlepoint designs based on 70s-styled patterns and inserts images of Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft into the backgrounds. It's sort of of like video game-inspired pixel art crossed with a retro Holly Hobby aesthetic.

Comics Swap Meet Online

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I really like the idea behind Sequential Swap, which I read about on Neilalien's site. It's a one-for-one trading site for graphic novels. The stated intention is to allow people to read the format more widely. I'm a big fan of such share-the-love projects, even though I probably won't participate in this one. I don't have that many graphic novels to swap, since I'm more of a comics issue reader--or "pamphlet" reader, as some would have it.

I've learned to appreciate the virtues of the graphic novel format, even though it's a grudging sort of appreciation. To me, the graphic novel inspires the same sort of feeling that a "Beatles' Greatest Hits" CD might inspire in a record collector. It says to me, "Here is the sad, material proof that you have arrived just a tad too late for this party." Then it gets shelved into the bookcase, like any other book.

Contrast that with the thrilling feeling of greeting boxes upon boxes of neatly bagged and organized comics, then, before filing away my most recent comic book purchase, sitting down to flip through my complete collection of Conan numbers 1-100, perhaps pausing briefly to run a loving fingertip across each Barry Smith cover.

Online stamp exhibit

I came across an unsual exhibit of stamps, all of which depict persons thought to be gay or lesbian throughout world history. It is an unusual idea and a very interesting collection, indeed.

The stamps are divided up according to time period. For instance, there is the ancient civilization section, which includes images of Sappho, and a section labeled the Victorian Age, with links to Oscar Wilde, among others.

The stamps come from around the world, which provides a few revelations. For instance, who knew that Turkmenistan had so much enthusiasm for Freddie Mercury?

What is interesting in this exhibit is how the author has used stamps, with their mixture of graphics and text, to assemble a narrative--in this case, about the history of homosexuality. Stamps are interesting in that they can contain many layers of narrative. For example, there is the narrative of the issue set, the group of stamps to which any single stamp belongs. In some, but not all cases, these sets are thematized.

Another narrative is provided by the stamp itself. I recently finished reading Susan Sontag's book of essays, "Regarding the Pain of Others,"

Finally, there is the collector's narrative: a story told through the collector's grouping of stamps.

I am Obi Wan?

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Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?
My quiz results from Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You? Good fun.

New Reading List Feature

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Two In Sequence readers have mentioned that they decided to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay because of a recommendation they read on this weblog. This news is very gratifying, because it's a great feeling to be able to turn people on to things that I love. It also happens to coincide with my plans for a new feature on this weblog: themed book recommendations.

A few weeks ago, I noticed several other weblogs posting Summer Reading Lists. That put the idea in my head, and because I am big believer in seasonal reading, I figured I might as well offer my own list. So, although it's a bit late in the season, I'm offering my first reading list on the "Light, Summer Reading" theme.

Criteria for inclusion on my Light, Summer Reading List: I have tried my best to craft a list of great reads that offers no redeeming moral value whatsoever. In some cases, you might actually be embarrassed to read these titles in a public space other than a vacation getaway where no one knows you or will ever see you again. Those few titles on the list with moral or literary merit I justify due to their extreme hilarity, salaciousness, or both. In case you're wondering why there are no graphic novels listed, remember my first criteria: no redeeming moral value.

Since this is a non-commercial web site, all book titles link through to All Consuming, a free aggregator site that keeps track of what's being read and written about in the blogosphere. In the event that you buy one of these titles, any affiliate money will go to support All Consuming feature development and site maintenance. Also, if you have or open an account at All Consuming, feel free to look me up through the In Sequence URL and put me on your friends list.

The weekend before last, the Cute Little Red-Headed Girlfriend and I went to see a talk by political graphic artists at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. The talk was sold out in advance, and there was even a sizable waiting list and a press of people trying to get in the door when we arrived. Not a bad turn out for an arts event that wasn't about French impressionism.

I suppose one could attribute the demand to pent-up political frustration, since there was definitely a radical edge to all the speakers and to the audience members as well. In fact, it was quite refreshing to be in the same room with so many card-carrying pinkos.

Before the event started, we wandered around Track 16, looking at the two art exhibits on display. The first exhibit was a group show called "Le Dernier Cri: Legendary Publishers of the International Underground", which included some prints by comic artist Julie Doucet.

The second show, "East-West Graphics of Resistance", was devoted to two political graphic artists, U. G. Sato of Japan, and Lex Drewinski of Poland. Although they are from different areas of the world, they are both minimalists and share several interests, including anti-nuclear and anti-war activism. Both artists also engage in the practice of "fax art," which involves using fax documents both to create and to distribute graphic art.

The first speaker was Robbie Conal, who I've written about here on several occasions. He spoke energetically about being raised by left political activists and discussed some of the financial challenges of being a political graphic artist. Interestingly, he cautioned would-be graphic artists on the difficulties of distributing one's work on the street, indicating how much time and energy is required to reach an audience that is diverse but fairly limited.

Next was Shepard Fairey, who is best known for his Obey Giant campaign. Charming and unassuming, he talked about growing up in a mainstream family in South Carolina and the huge impact that punk and skateboard culture had on him in the development of his artwork. While I had seen the "Obey Giant" images before, I felt that I gained a great deal from hearing Fairey discuss the project, which he sees as using the imagery and language of advertising to critique consumerism and its manipulation of our impulses--specifically, impulses to obey or not to obey.

The last speaker, Barbara Carrasco, was the artist the least known to me, but after seeing her speak, I plan on keeping an eye out for her work in the future. Carrasco is primarily a muralist, but also does other types of work, including jewelry and prints. As a graphic artist, she has for a long time been associated with Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers. She is incredibly humble, but her life has been filled with such dedication and integrity--I found her quite inspiring. She spoke about her experience as a teacher and also her experience with censorship, a topic that was touched on by all the participants.

I can't recall an occasion where I have heard artists speak so simply and so personally about their work. In each case, the artist's impulse towards political graphics came from an intensely personal experience of frustration or inspiration.

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