Thursday, April 3, 2008

Meeting Allison Bechdel

As she read from her memoir, publicly displaying the lascauxian creation myth of herself as a queer artist, she peered out at us from beneath her brow furrowed in uninhibited anxiety. It had made an irrevocable impression on me how she had defined her past into discrete panels of reflection. Her persona was more awkward than funny, her comic more tragic than funny. I could relate to the dry, absurdist tendencies of my own malformed humor.

There was a fastidious quality that permeated her voice as she recounted episodes of OCD that made up her artistic process. Apparently it involved posing and taking pictures of herself for every character she draws before embarking on creating the panel detailed in minutia. That’s thousands of pictures over the course of the entire graphic novel. Then there were a series of layers drawn by hand and on the computer, super imposed over one another and melded into a painstaking whole. It comes out to several hours per square inch. “There went a whole weekend” she would joke, flipping through sketches of the Victorian wallpaper endemic in her childhood home. I could so clearly imagine her silhouetted in a lonely house etching the images that her (understandable) resentment had seared into her psyche. What is the difference between the compulsions that enhance our humanity and those that detract from it?

The familiarity of her fidgety and uneven breathing escalated during the q&a period when she as she squinched her face up into a lost expression as she told us she didn’t understand why she did what she did. She almost seemed to plead to the audience to validate her compulsion. Her openness was uneasy on both sides. She seemed pretty desperate about the manner.

How do the stories we tell shape who we are? How do they limit or expand the ways we can understand ourselves? The way we can relate and connect? How does making sense of the world and oneself in relation to it lend justification to our existence? Is there any such thing as credibly and authenticity when one tells one’s own story? How do we prove to ourselves that certain stories belong to us? Why do some people need to share?

1 comment:

Monica said...

Is resentment ever justified? It is a curious thought that just pops into my head.

In the mundane sense, I could say yes, in so much that the cause and condition of one's current state may be dirrectly attributed to the negative actions of another, especially a parent or partner.

But is cause and condition justification? Justified implies some sense of right, of morality, entitlement, righteousness - and righteousness has always seemed something to be wary of to my mind. Anything we think we have a right to, we cling to with our dying breath, no matter how destructive.

Resentment is a powerful thing. It is ill-will, anger, agression, perhaps even hate. It is specifically directed towards another individual. Can this ever really be justified? I cannot imaging one simultaneously holding resentment and compasion for another, but perhaps it is possible.

Resentment, like hate, is a poison. It harms the bearer as much as the object. How can anything which does such harm be justified?

Does it have to be justified? Perhaps reasoned yes, with cause yes. We definately provide cause for resentment in others often in our lives. But emotions are perhaps not entirely subject to justification, are they?