20 October 2016

recent gadding.

As a dedicated student, I make it a minor point of pride that I never go anywhere or do anything. (Joke. Don't write in.) I've never felt such kinship with Kierkegaard as when I learned that he used to go to the beginning of an opera, run home and write for the length of the show, and then come back for the end so as to be seen leaving. You're such a nerd, Søren; let's hang out. All of which means only that it's rather a surprising turn of events that I went to two different events in a row at the weekend, a panel at the Art Institute Friday night and a concert on campus Saturday.

clockwise from top: Ware, Panter, Chute, Kokielski.
Art21 Panel—Gary Panter, Chris Ware, and Hillary Chute, with moderator Tina Kokielski. I'm not familiar with Panter's work, but I studied Ware in my lit seminar in the spring, and I've used Chute's work when I've researched academic papers on comics. (Seriously, I can't recommend her book Graphic Women highly enough. She knows the score. Dr. Chute, if you're reading this: you know the score.) This event was hosted in Fullerton Hall, a really beautiful auditorium that I'd never been in before. It didn't have a very clear topic beyond "comics! we like 'em!" and although I also like 'em I think the lack of focus was a major weakness; still and all, the panelists had fascinating things to say and I enjoyed myself tremendously. I took extensive notes, which I won't share here (although hit me up if you want a look), but I am sharing from my notebook the drawings I made of the panelists. The thing about Ware, which I did not manage to capture in my sketch, is that although he remarked on his inability to draw self-portraits in fact he looks like one of his own characters to an almost alarming extent. I am not at all sure what to make of this. He also looks like my Uncle Paul, although that might just be my standard white-man-face-blindness.

What I am sure of is that everyone involved was very aware that we were there primarily to see Chris; before the discussion they showed a filmed segment of interviews with him interspersed with footage of his home and of him working in his studio. That, and the insight it provided into his process, was one of the most interesting bits. He bikes his young daughter to school every morning [insert here adorable footage of the two of them on a tandem, which delighted me because I used to ride behind my dad on a tandem when I was about her age] and works from eight to 2:45, at which point he goes to pick her up again. It takes about 40 hours to make a page, he said, which includes lots of time spent walking around hating himself—and "there's something interesting about spending a couple decades on a book that takes three or four hours to read." This self-deprecating attitude continued throughout: during the Q&A an audience member asked him to comment on the fact that his early work was much more curmudgeonly than what he's done lately, and looking discomfited he said "I guess I was just a bad artist."

Andrew Peterson at Pierce Auditorium. I don't really listen to music. There are a few artists I love with all my heart—come talk to me about Martin Carthy—and I'm vaguely fond of several others, but when I listen to something it's usually a podcast or radio program, and thinking about music doesn't often take up very much of my brainspace. I certainly don't go to concerts. The other aspect of all this is that when I listen to music don't listen to Christian music. I'm not happy about it, but there it is: Christian music today is mostly not very good. It saves time to take that for granted. This is why, when I went to the chapel that Andrew Peterson did last Friday morning, I was astonished to find out that he's actually good. No, really, he's proper good, like a male Carrie Newcomer. (He is not as good as Carrie Newcomer.) He can write lyrics, and he's got a lovely voice, besides which he's very funny.

I went therefore to his Saturday night concert, which was a longer version of his chapel set. It was transcendent; there wasn't a song that wasn't beautiful, and as soon as I left the building I texted my mother saying "if I feel as though the top of my head has been removed I know THAT is poetry." I can't talk about it in very much detail, because I don't understand music and I'm not familiar enough with his work to know the names of the songs he sang and because anyway it's so hard to write about art you loved (it's easier to be smugly cutting than honestly appreciative), but I will say that because of Paul Simon's recent birthday he played both "Homeward Bound" and "Song for the Asking," two songs which I adore with all my shriveled little heart. So, a win!

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