Saturday, September 16, 2017

Art Meets Politics at SPX


Here are some photos from today's Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, Maryland, "The Premiere Event for Indie Comics, Cartooning & Graphic Novels." It was a great opportunity to learn more about this industry and its artists and I was completely blown away by the level of talent at the show.

As a Trump supporter one thing that struck me pretty quickly was how much of a given it is that you will loathe our current President. Or at least make fun of him. Here is R. Sikoryak (@RSikoryak) with his book, The Unquotable Trump.

I like a good joke as much as anybody else and thought the book was awesome.


Here is Annamaria Ward (@annamariaward on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr), an illustrator and graphic designer who studies at George Mason University. I instantly loved her "I can't believe I still have to protest this crap" illustration, and we talked briefly about it. While Anna's presentation of self and art was somewhat muted, many artists used the event as a way to showcase political beliefs and support for gender diversity specifically.


Another artist who combined political commentary with humor was Rosscott (@Rosscott)--I loved the line "Comics Will Be Published Until Morale Improves." Not wanting to make any assumptions, I asked if this had anything to do with politics and got the nod. The energy of the exhibit, the humor, the simplicity and the modern edge of the messages on the T-shirts all caught my attention.

The overall vibe at this exhibit, along with others made me think a lot. It's great to get marketing insights out of an event, but even more valuable as a person to reflect once in a while on how important our artists actually are. They force us to get past the surface. They force us to understand the humanity in other people--how they perceive the world.



At the SuperButch exhibit, I got to talk to artist/cartoonist Becky Hawkins and writer Barry Deutsch about "36 Annoying Anti-Feminists I've Met On The Internet." Quickly realizing that I was a fish out of water here, but wanting to be upfront, I told them that I was both a feminist and a Trump supporter and watched them politely stifle a laugh.

What a different world we travel in, when we inhabit opposite sides of the political spectrum. I remember my days in New York as a college student. I would have considered myself one of them.


I had to add this photo of Faft (his website is supposedly faftkingdom.com, but it doesn't seem to work from my browser).  I asked him if he had always drawn monsters with people and he said "I didn't know you could distinguish monsters from people."

Great line!


At the other end of the spectrum in terms of being marketing-ready, Jeremy Nguyen (@jeremywins) had a carefully crafted business card ready and was genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to get the word out. He didn't even flinch when I asked the obvious: "Bushwick refers to Brooklyn, right?"

How am I judging all this art? Easy - by the cover.


Over at Cuddles and Rage, Liz Reed let me take this photo of her with a piece of art that resonated perfectly with me. Yes! That hard shell! Smiling on the outside while inside we cry. The concept of warm love and its opposite, anger. It moved me.


This is Abby Howard (@abbyhoward) who seemed so comfortable, so present marketing herself without even saying a word that I had to ask if she made a living at this. Yes, in fact, she told me that she does live full-time as an artist. I can't say that I captured every revenue stream, but was struck at the brand equity she seems to have built up in that people actually pay her to get sneak previews of her art--in such quantities that it seems her rent is taken care of.

That is impressive!

It was noteworthy, given the diversity of the crowd, that there seemed to be so few African-American artists represented. I don't know if this is a reflection on the larger art world or not, but my gut tells me that it is.

I can't tell you exactly what it means--unless it might be to take a guess that adult comics resonate with Caucasians somehow.

One artist who is not pictured here is Bitmap Prager (@BMPrager), who writes Ashen Princess. I asked what the comic was about, and the answer was a little hard to follow, but you can read more here. 

I did catch the part about "Punch a Nazi" though, at which point I mentioned that I am a Trump supporter. The immediate reaction was pretty bad, and for a minute I thought I was going to get my face punched in (seriously...just for a second there I was worried). I ended up taking a picture, but the photo was clearly not welcome, and clearly neither was I. So after a brief dialogue it was agreed that I would simply delete it.

That said, what I learned from this brief interchange was so incredibly important. There is a perception among Trump supporters that the extreme left wants to censor anyone who doesn't agree with their views. I am not sure that is the case. Rather, my impression was that the world now feels less safe for certain people (or perhaps certain groups of people) with President Trump in charge. Given this, it is probably as important to focus on these perceptions--thoughts and feelings--as it is to focus on the facts.


All in all, it was a great event and a great educational opportunity. The big message of the day is this, as written on the T-shirt:

"Art might upset you. Sometimes it's supposed to."

No matter what it is you feel strongly about, you have the right to feel it.

I hope you take the time to express it in some way for the rest of us.

Thanks to all the artists who let me take their photos for the blog today. An album is available here.

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By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity. The author shares this content for reuse under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. For more information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/.

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