Dark Horse Comics' The Best of Milligan & McCarthy is a gorgeous and (almost) exhaustive compendium, collecting the duo's legendary runs like "Paradax!," "Rogan Gosh," and the previously unavailable "Skin." Both Milligan and McCarthy went on to forge distinctive careers, but the work collected in this collection is explosive, bewildering, and immediate - completely ignoring the careerist ambitions and institutional strictures both artists eventually had to confront and contend with .
The comics are all over the place (sometimes head-wreckingly so) but they're always readily situated in the catastrophic top-spin of Thatcher-Reagan economic/social tachycardia. McCarthy's artwork is typically hyper-active and color-saturated, pushing the physical boundaries of panel and page (the exception being the provisionally censored "Skin" - which is wrought in unique pastel colors by the always incredible Carol Swain). Milligan's writing winds a loose balance between non-linear and scabrous - taking very little seriously - but capable of surprising moments of tenderness and expansive vision.
Their work can definitely jolt - and possibly offend (especially "Skin" - which tells the sad angry, and brief tale of a thalidomide-deformed skinhead in the 1980s UK). But it's heavily recommended for fans of politically-charged comics that explore the horizons and possibilities of graphic narrative and page art (see Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Sandman-era Neil Gaiman).
Vanity film projects are a terrible idea. Funding is shaky, poorly constructed scripts are battered about, and rumors of an impending Hindenburg of a movie are spread. Fueled by egos and inexperience, these problems offer easy fodder to the media waiting to rip apart the darling superstar who’s in over their head.
Purple Rain should have failed. However, it did not.
Upon it’s release, the film propelled Prince, and to a lesser degree the Revolution, to superstar status. Alan Light’s Let’s Go Crazy sheds light on Purple Rain's improbable success driven by an unlikely group of collaborators.
So, forget your shrink in Beverly Hills. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the tale of the quest to make a musically charged film which can only be described as magically cringe worthy experience.
Zine creators, the Portland Zine Symposium is coming up in less than a month! If your world is ruled by an academic calendar, perhaps this may be a moment when you have just a bit more time to work on creative projects, like putting together the zine (or zines!) that you’ve been thinking up in recent months.
Or perhaps you are new to zines and have never made one. Zines are usually handmade paper booklets that anyone can create. Want to give it a try? Here are some directions for turning one piece of paper into a basic zine: a version to view online or a version to print. See below for more resources about making zines and books.
Whether zines are a new idea or an old friend for you, the library abounds with inspiration and resources for your creative project! Consider these:
The Central Library Picture File is an astounding resource: thousands upon thousands of magazine and book clippings, organized by subject. These can be checked out and photocopied or scanned (you can’t cut them up and paste them in your zine, though!). Do you need the perfect picture of a bluebird, or an ancient computer, or children’s clothes from the 1960s? Look no further! Ask about the Picture Files at the Art & Music reference desk on Central Library’s third floor.
Of course clip art can be found online, but clip art books are a real pleasure to browse and use. Many of these come with a CD containing image files that you can download to your computer for resizing, editing, etc. A real gem of a clip art resource is found in the series of books called Crap Hound - each volume is created around a theme or cluster of themes (Superstition; Church & State; Hands, Hearts, & Eyes are a few), and the images are laid out in the most appealing, artful way.
The library’s Zine Collection is a wonderful resource, full of examples of zines and minicomics made by zinesters and artists from near and far. Zines can be browsed online (use the subject heading Zines or search by author or title, or try our book lists), placed on hold, and checked out just like other library materials. I recently read local zinester and artist Annie Murphy’s new zine I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Part One: My Own Private Portland - about River Phoenix, Gus Van Sant and his film My Own Private Idaho, Portland in the eighties and nineties, and the experience of growing up during this time. It is beautiful and moving, illustrated in moody black & white ink wash, and handwritten in tidy cursive. I think you should give it a try.
For more technical information about making zines and books, you might enjoy browsing some of our books about bookbinding - I recently stumbled upon How to Make Books by Esther K. Smith, which has instructions and lovely illustrations for a range of homemade books, from instant zines and accordion books to more elaborate stitched books and Coptic binding.
Waterfalls plunge through darkness, glowing white, blue, neon against the void. Mist rises from hidden pools, its tendrils reaching into nothingness. A wash of thundering infrasound, felt as much as heard, seems to be just at the edge of perception. You could get lost here, immersed deep within these cold curtains of light.
This is what it feels like when I look at the mysterious and atmospheric paintings of Hiroshi Senju, one of Japan’s foremost contemporary artists. Besides waterfalls, he’s painted glaciers, lava, rock faces, and forests, all possessed of the same quiet radiance. I love the powerful delicacy of his images, how they hover between abstract and figurative, traditional and contemporary.
While at a distance his paintings may appear to be works of modern abstraction, a closer examination reveals that they are also representations of the natural world, created with pigment and mulberry paper. As such, they are a continuation of the long lineage of nihonga, or traditional Japanese painting, though not without some new twists, including paint that fluoresces in UV light! It’s really worth a look, at both the book Hiroshi Senju, and at his website.
Milan : Skira ; New York : Distributed in North America by Rizzoli, 2009
Central Library: 759.952 B3473h 2009
I came back from my yearly trip to Mexico recently: it’s always refreshing to walk around the city of Cuernavaca where I’m from, visiting historical sites as I do year after year. This city is privileged to host the work of two great Mexican muralists. Diego Rivera painted the history of the city at El Palacio de Cortés or the Palace of Cortés and David Alfaro Siqueiros’ mural ”The March of Humanity” is found at La Tallera cultural center. If you want to know more about this kind art, follow me!
Muralism was practiced long ago when indigenous groups painted their ideas and important events in big displays on the sides of ceremonial and burial buildings. The splendid Maya murals of Bonampak are a simple example of this kind of art.
This artistic manifestation gained more importance in Mexico during the 20th century. The first murals were created in 1921 and the last were created in 1955, when murals lost the essence of an articulated artistic movement. There were several artists who brought a diversity of aesthetics and political influences; at times the artists' were severely criticized and censured, and even destroyed, as happened with one Diego Revera's murals at the Rockefeller Center in New York.
The movement is characterized by the artists' great need to express the social and political events of their times using huge platforms. In the murals, Mexicans have the opportunity to appreciate the content of their own reality and identity. The Mexican Revolution, political radicalism as an international proposal, agrarian reform, and oil expropriation inspired nationalistic artists who presented the reality of a Mexican society so devastated by these events. A group of muralist artists created the movement using the walls of important public buildings as canvases, to exalt the art and rescue indigenous and popular traditions. The three great figures of this artistic era were Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Would you like to learn more about this great art movement? Take a look at the video lecture on Maya murals below, or explore my list for further reading.
When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.
The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:
- Portland State University's five galleries.
- Portland Community College’s Cascade Gallery, Helzer Art Gallery (Rock Creek campus), North View Gallery (Sylvania campus) and Southeast Campus Gallery.
- Lewis & Clark College’s Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art.
- the Oregon College of Art and Craft.
- the 511 Gallery and other campus galleries at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
- Reed College’s Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery.
- the BC Gallery at the University of Portland.
Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.
The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)
View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.
Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.
But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!
My favorite city is San Francisco. When I was slogging through high school in the Midwest, I dreamed about moving out to California and going to college there. It took me a few years after high school, but eventually I made it out there and stayed for the next twelve years. Now I try to visit the Bay Area once in awhile. It’s changed a lot since I lived there but the main things that I loved about San Francisco are still there. Golden Gate Park, huge and green, with pockets of bison and windmills all leading to the cold, cold ocean. The neighborhoods, each with its own character and atmosphere. I was there just a few weeks ago and found a bevy of hippies still hanging out in the Haight.
My new favorite book about San Francisco is Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words. The author and illustrator, Wendy MacNaughton, has captured the people and places of SF perfectly. She visited different neighborhoods and drew the people and the scenes. And she had lots of conversations at each location. MacNaughton then gathered the twenty to thirty stories she had heard and combined them into one story for each picture. It’s both deceptively simple and deeply profound. The section on the main branch of the SF Public Library is perfect; on one page she has a list of all of the people that entered the library between 12:45 and 12:50: number 9 of 59 is “old man bent over, beard nearly touching the ground.”
Meanwhile in San Francisco captures both the characters of the city and the city as a character. Sheer loveliness.
She has a really great website too. Check it out here.
Until his death on April 13, 1973 not many folks knew Henry Darger. However, while cleaning his small, cluttered apartment, what Darger’s landlord’s found forever changed that. In the process of clearing out decades of presumed clutter, “30,000 manuscript pages, and over three hundred canvases depicting a rich, shocking fantasy world - many featuring hermaphroditic children being eviscerated, crucified, and strangled” were discovered.
Intrigued? I was. After attending an fascinating exhibit of Darger’s work at the American Folk Art Museum I was drawn into his outsider art and wanted to know more about the man behind the vast and bizarre body of work. Unfortunately, aside from speculation based on the imagery there was little to know. Luckily Jim Elledge stepped in. After ten years of research, he produced “Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy” a scholarly, yet readable history of Henry Darger that not only illuminates the man, but also his societal backdrop to better understand him.
I read a new graphic novel that is so compelling I couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely a page turner! March is an autobiography by congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. It is filled with stunning visuals by award-winning Nate Powell. The story starts with the family chickens. His care of the flock helps him build his moral core. As a reader it helped me get to know him and care about him. At the same time, this comic book is a biography of our civil rights movement in the United States. Important issue, important man: Fantastic read. Don’t miss it.
If you are interested in more comic books about history they can be found in the History through graphic novels list.