Sunday, January 1, 1995

Q&A Art Spiegelman: Lips

Originally appeared in The Boston Book Review

HB: One of the hot items in art today is the integration of text and image. But as becomes obvious in "Drawn to Text: Comix Artists as Book Illustrators", a show you curated in New York City, comic book artists have been doing it for a long time. R. Crumb does it marvelously, for example, in his rendition of Kafka's "The Hunger Artist."

AS: The Crumb piece is the most like a regular comic as opposed to an illustrated book. It's almost as if he goes directly to the narrative, rather than to the words that made up that narrative. All of the other pieces in that show use the language of the original narrative.

How to interweave with the text was one of my main aesthetic problems in "The Wild Party." I chose to over-illustrate. By over-illustrating, you acknowledge the presence of pictures as a kind of jazz riff moving around the central melody. Over-illustration took the form, for instance, of supplying blueprints. If you have the words, "studio, bedroom, bath, kitchenette" you've got it all. Showing it as well, giving it visual form in a blueprint, doesn't take anything away from the text, it runs parallel to it.

The other example is, "He gave her wrist a twist," and there's an picture of a hand with an arrow showing which direction he's twisting her wrist. Over-illustrating allowed me to function as a commentator, and also as a kind of improviser moving around and through the text, decorating a book and allowing you to have that book. This is a book that wouldn't have been published if I hadn't wanted to draw it.