Monday, February 03, 2014

Where I'll Be: "Graphic Jews: Negotiating Identity In Sequential Art" Panel @ Skidmore College, Thurs. 2/6/14

Panel Discussion
Graphic Jews:
Negotiating Identity In Sequential Art
 7:00 pm reception; 7:30 pm panel discussion
February 6, 2014, 7:00pm
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY

I was honored to be asked to participate in this event on the campus of Skidmore College, in which I'll be co-moderating a panel discussion with three excellent cartoonists. From the press release:
Sequential artists Ben Katchor, Leela Corman, and James Sturm talk about their work in the medium of comics and discuss the ways in which their work engages with contemporary constructions of Jewish identity. Co-moderated by Dr. Gene Kannenberg Jr., historian, director of and author of 500 Essential Graphic Novels; and Gregory Spinner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Skidmore College. Sponsored by the Jacob Perlow Lecture Fund and presented in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Special Programs, Skidmore College.
The panel is being held in conjunction with an exhibit of comic art at the Tang Teaching Museum, "Graphic Jews: Negotiating Identity in Sequential Art." As stated above, I'll be co-moderating the panel with Prof. Gregory Spinner, co-curator of the exhibit. Here's a video overview of the show, featuring an interview with Greg:

Tang Museum | Graphic Jews: Negotiating Identity in Sequential Art 
from The Tang Museum on Vimeo.

And here's the full press release for the exhibit, which will be on display through April 13:
Graphic Jews presents a selection of graphic novels and original pages by contemporary Jewish artists Leela Corman, Vanessa Davis, Ben Katchor, and James Sturm that tell stories about Jewishness and explore some of the many ways Jews have figured and reconfigured their Jewish identities. These works combine words and pictures into what Will Eisner, one of the masters of the form, called “sequential art”: telling stories by putting one image after another after another.

Graphic Jews builds on a long history of Jewish Americans and comics. Jews played an outsized role in the history of American comics, creating, writing, illustrating, and publishing some of the best-known comics during the medium’s Golden Age in the 1930s and 1940s. Yet for much of the twentieth century the actual scale of Jewish involvement in the medium was not obvious, as neither the creators or their creations were marked, let alone marketed, as Jewish. Cultural shifts in American society in the 1960s and 1970s took pressure off Jewish immigrants and their children to assimilate into American society, and, as result, both long-time comics professionals and younger artists began to draw comics in which Jews and questions of Jewish identity figured more prominently. Two important graphic novels from this period signaled the transition: Will Eisner’s A Contract with God (1978), considered by many to be the first graphic novel, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980-1991). Along with copies of graphic novels by Corman, Davis, Katchor, and Sturm, Eisner’s and Spiegelman’s two novels are available for visitors to explore in the exhibition.

The artists in Graphic Jews build on the emergence of overt Jewish characters and content in comics that began in the 1970s. Taken together, the works touch on the plurality of Jewish identities and experiences: struggles with alienation and assimilation, a spectrum of religious observance and indifference, and the knotty intersections of race, gender, and class. The exhibition explores how sequential art functions to visualize narrative, wherein images and texts about the past inform our present sense of our selves, thus contributing to the narrative construction of identity. We are the stories we tell and retell, from sacred narratives inherited from tradition and passed down through the generations, to more recent histories, fictions, and fantasies.

Graphic Jews is co-curated by Gregory Spinner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion, Skidmore College, and Rachel Seligman, Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs, Tang Museum.
I'll also be attending the Tang's Winter/Spring Opening Reception on Saturday, February 15, with performances by David Greenberger and A Strong Dog in One Upon. Performance from 3:00 – 6:00 pm; Reception from 6:00 – 7:30 pm. For a list of all the events at the Tang this spring, click here.

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