Writog? A writer-photographer. Citizen journalist. Unless indicated otherwise all content, text and images, here at www.writog.com (C) Copyright 2006 - 2017 Luke T. Bush

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Location: Plattsburgh, New York, United States

Writog: writer-photographer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Graphic Memoir: Personal Stories Beyond Words


A professional journalist isn't supposed to walk into an event without any preparation, i.e., background research.  But I'm not a pro journalist, I'm just a  blogger.

So I enter the Rota Gallery and Studios, that funky DIY place, to check out the latest exhibit.  The spot is active, a good crowd for the opening reception.  I remember reading something about the exhibit involving graphic storytelling.  OK, comics books, I think, like in graphic novels.


Sure, there's sequential art kind of stuff on exhibit, the flip-the-pages kind, but also other forms of visual art, like drawings hanging on walls but without pretentious frames, separated from the viewer by high class glass.  The glass effect?  Only to be found with the displays on digital screens.  There's a slide show presentation on a laptop computer, the story Son of a Wise Ruler by MacKenzie Hand.  It's told using a lined notebook turned sideways, each illustration children's book style.  But this children's book is about being the son of an alcoholic parent. Bright fantasy kid's art, dark subject. 

You can pick up the actual meatspace notebook and flip through it the traditional manner but the laptop via earphones offers narration by the creator, a more personal experience.  The writer-artist shows through his illustrations how his father would transform from a fun-loving drunk monster into just a monster.

I snap a few shots to visually document the exhibit reception.  I notice someone peering at the detail of an orchid drawing on one wall, close up, twisting her head.  It's not until I talk with Professor Elizabeth Cohen of the Plattsburgh State English Department, the impetus behind the exhibit, that I learn the lines of the orchid are actually sentences of a tiny print memoir.  Angle your head at various degrees and follow the story path.


Elizabeth Cohen shares a work by one of her graphic memoir class students.

Elizabeth shows me various works by her students, providing background info with each one.  One item she points out: a small travel case on a table, its lid up to reveal various items including a photograph of an open road, sunglasses, canceled stamps -- and a crumpled beer can.  Dealing with alcoholism, she explains, is one of the main themes in the student memoirs.

The Rota exhibit features works from two different sessions of her memoir writing course.  Writers crossing over into visual art, two different mediums becoming one.  Like a writog, a writer-photographer.

After I leave the exhibit I'm talking about it with (to use stereotypical shorthand) a hippie and a punk.  This graying freethinker is surprised by their reactions.  Writers/college English students can't be real artists.  One of them who saw the exhibit initially thought it was work by a bunch of elementary school kids.

Man, what criticism.  I'd expect it from fine art snobs, not a hippie or a punk into the DIY scene.

Hey, isn't people's art supposed to be groovy, edgy?

*    *    *

GRAPHIC MEMOIR: where storytelling meets art will run until Friday, February 24th, at the Rota Gallery, 19 Clinton Street, Plattsburgh.  Rota is open from 12 noon to 5 PM each day.  For more info: http://rotagallery.com/ .  Email: rotagallery (at) gmail (dot) com.  Phone: (518) 314-9872.


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