The dark faces of the refugees gaze at you, each stroke of the pen highlighting the inner emotions. Their faces may look familiar, but they aren’t described in detail in mainstream media like this one. Each crease and curve reflects what some might not see in a photo: all the emotion of each face, represented by artists focused on the story and skin tone of each subject.
A page from Joe Sacco’s journalistic graphic novel “Footnotes in Gaza” shows the faces of those so often seen, but never fully expressed in this vivid form. Even when a reporter takes a photo or writes a story, he still can’t express the underlying feelings of a moment with his subject quite like that.
Sacco’s work is one of many works in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art exhibition “The Art of News: Comic Book Journalism”. Thirteen journalism artists have been chosen to be part of the diverse exhibition that covers many regions, people, languages and histories. Collectively, the artists represent four continents and nine different countries.
“What we have is such a perfect representation of the different techniques, subjects and artists that are currently working in comic book journalism,” said Kate Kelp-Stebbins, professor of comic studies at UO, who helped organize the exhibition. She has been working on this exhibit for three and a half years now.
The current form of comic book journalism has all of the traditional aspects of reporting, such as finding topics, interviewing, and writing your story. But with the artistic expression of the detailed drawings, the reporter can show the subjects and their stories more closely. Drawings can incorporate maps and diagrams to make large numbers or complex stories easier to digest. Comics, comedy news, and virtual reality are all ways of telling these non-traditional stories.
There are so many words and worlds to unwrap that when you first enter the Art of Current Affairs exhibit, it can seem overwhelming. Each exhibition description panel is presented in English and Spanish.
Some of the works shown are original pieces with a pencil lead slightly visible under the pen. Others are original watercolors or scribbled notes on the page. “These comics have such fine pen line work, compared to the stitches in the old comics. It’s amazing to see the details, ”said Travis Smith, a fifth-year UO senior who browsed the show. From finished work to sketches, every step of the comic book creation process is on display.
This is not your typical journalism and comic book idea, as there are no weird depictions of elephants, donkeys or enlarged heads of world leaders like you can find in a comic cartoon. and opinionated. A gigantic comic strip by graphic journalist Dan Archer explaining the essence of comic book journalism introduces the concept of the exhibition.
Archer, a 14-year-old comic book journalist, has a few comic book pieces on display in addition to his work in virtual reality technology. “I was really interested in exploring the different ways of using immersive media, like virtual reality, to physically explore spaces that, until now, were sort of what I did using the agency between comic book panels, ”Archer said. He hopes his exploration of comics and virtual reality will inspire new journalists to explore these techniques.
In each of the visual pieces on display, we see the subjects’ blood, ink, sweat and emotions. Omar Khouri’s work for the book “Guantanamo Voices” presents a heavy line expressive work to portray the fear of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner. Each piece makes it possible to feel the emotions of these real people whose emotions rise to the surface of the drawings.
“It may challenge what we know about objective reporting, but it makes it just as valuable because it makes us question what we know and how we know it,” Kelp-Stebbins said. To get the level of detail in the exhibit, Kelp-Stebbins and his students conducted in-depth interviews with all of the artists, all of which can be found in a JSMA YouTube Playlist. All the hard work that has gone into organizing and gathering information about the artists and their works has helped to create a large and stimulating exhibition.
“The Art of News: Journalism in Comics” will be on display at JSMA until January 16, 2022. The exhibition will invigorate the minds of student journalists, artists and anyone interested in the medium.