Thursday, April 15, 2010


Here's a special guest posting from BFA student Stephanie. Even though she graduates in May, she promises to send the popular librarians her tremendous reviews in the future. Thank you! Kristen and Janet

Even though this is long overdue, I feel the need to relay some of my experiences with this year’s Writer’s Conference on New Media. The first day of the writer’s conference was back-to-back events for me beginning with the noon panel and ending with the evening discussion between Dr. Jack Weinstein and Art Spiegelman. In between these events, I with a few other students from UND were fortunate to be able to have lunch with Spiegelman, and I attended the question and answer session held at Hughes Fine Arts. Overall, it was a busy day, and Spiegelman graciously answered all questions with a thoroughness that divulged not only his knowledge of his subject, but his ultimate kinship and dedication to it.

What was most refreshing was Spiegelman’s frankness. Throughout all of the events that I participated in, the constant was that Spiegelman truly believes in the medium of comix and the graphic novel. The noon panel was an opportunity to listen to three artists speak on the topic “Are Books Obsolete?” Deena Larson, Cecilia Condit, and Spiegelman discussed a range of topics including, new media and new readership, payment in the advent of new media, and the issues surrounding context, content, and comparison between books, and printed materials to that of new or electronic media sources. Prompted by Victor Lieberman—another one of UND’s awesome librarians—this event was insightful as to the discussion of looking at new media as a category of its own and not as a replacement of integral forms of media within our society. Ultimately, the book holds its own place in the world, and I was glad to hear that others thought so as well. It would be sad to lose books to the bowels of ancient history.

The next stop in the day was lunch with Spiegelman. It should be noted that the employees at the REAC Center’s Dakota Harvest were very friendly, helpful, and accommodating to our small group. Spiegleman talked of everything from his breakdown, the fuel for his writings, gave sound advice for people entering the art world, and talked a little about R.Crumb. I asked him specifically about the difference between publishing and curating, and what it boiled down to was context. Context is vital to the way in which the work is viewed, but ultimately what I gathered was that context is an important consideration in maintaining the integrity of a work. For instance, as mentioned by Spiegelman, what might look good in a newspaper, would not necessarily function well on a museum wall, and some things need a wall to communicate effectively. Overall, the lunch was a great opportunity and one that Professor Joel Jonientz of the Department of Art and Design set up and made sure was an engaging.

During the question and answer event at Hughes Fine Arts Center, I asked Spiegelman about his influence from a different media: painting. He began by expressing that at one time he harbored a strong divide between high and low art. Spiegelman had a professor who dragged him into a museum to look at paintings and Spiegelman’s encounters with Picasso bridged a way for him to think about form both within comix and painting. As a painter and avid sketcher I think it is important to recognize the relationships between mediums, and to note how interdisciplinary most programs are. The influences that artists have are most unlikely, and it is interesting to note that many times these relationships are unsolicited, and sometimes unwanted at the time. As a student, it was a great opportunity to hear this from an art world professional, and it was just as reassuring to know it was coming from a person who appeared to speak with sincerity.

This sincerity carried through to the evening as Spiegelman gave his Comix 101 presentation. His value for history was invigorating as he illustrated the means by which comics and graphic novels have been an important factor not only in the art world and popular culture, but also to our collective memory. I think that the exploration of collective history and personal memory are some of the most potent information that Spiegelman offered throughout the day. This, and that comix are an extension of the way that the human brain is wired to think. And certainly, like he stated in the question and answer panel from the afternoon, “Only I can do wrong the right way”, Spiegelman most definitely has his grasp on comix in the very right of ways.

A reception in honor of the Writer’s Conference followed at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Needless to say, after this I was glad to go home and find a warm meal and a nice pillow. This year’s Writer’s conference was one that was eclectic and forward thinking, which is an excellent way to continue any long-standing tradition.

Stephanie Clark
April 12, 2010