(JTA) — Nadja Spiegelman is no stranger to controversial art.
She’s the daughter of Art Spiegelman — the artist and writer best known for “Maus,” his seminal graphic novel about the Holocaust — and Francoise Mouly, the New Yorker’s art director, where she often produces strikingly political covers.
Now Nadja Spiegelman, 29, who has written children’s books and a memoir about her upbringing, is stepping into the political fray. Alongside her mother, she is editing a collection of comics and illustrations on the theme of “political resistance to the forces of intolerance” called “RESIST!”
Some 30,000 copies of the fervently anti-Trump publication — a special issue of Gabe Fowler’s “quarterly tabloid comics anthology” Smoke Signal — will be distributed for free in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day in January. More copies will be given away at women’s marches across the country in the days after.
As the submissions — including some from big names like Roz Chast — come in, some illustrations have already been posted online. They may not make the publication’s final cut, Spiegelman told JTA — she said the goal is to create an online archive, as well as foster a community of artists in dialogue with one another. One image shows a monk trying not to “think about Trump” while meditating. Another features a pregnant woman with her belly stuck in a pillory — a perceived jab at some of the incoming Trump administration’s proposed policies, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and overturning Roe v. Wade.
Some illustrations also tackle anti-Semitism, and the phrase “RESIST the normalization of fascism” appears at the top of the site’s “about” page. One image references Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of political insiders in Washington, showing Hitler’s head appearing at the bottom of a body of water. In another, swastikas morph into different images, like a window and a kite.
Spiegelman, who says she “can’t help but identify” as a member of the tribe, had an interesting Jewish upbringing. Mouly converted to Judaism before marrying Art Spiegelman, who famously chronicled his parents’ harrowing Holocaust saga in “Maus.” She said the family celebrated Jewish and Christian holidays in a kind of “cynical” way, with various outside influences — such as Marxist texts and “Day of the Dead” dolls.
Spiegelman says she and her mother have already received far more submissions for RESIST! than they expected — around 500 or so in the first week.
“We’ve clearly hit a nerve,” Spiegelman said. “There’s such a need that people have, especially artists, to find ways to begin to pick up a pen and fight against this. Now more than ever we do need to use our voices and make them as loud as possible.”
The concept originated with Fowler, who runs the Desert Island comics store in Brooklyn, where he produces his quarterly comics publication. He wanted to respond to the election by giving female voices an opportunity to express their reactions and fears. So for the first time, Fowler decided to have an issue edited by women. He reached out to Mouly and asked her to head the project; she subsequently asked her daughter to help.
At first, the idea was to only accept submissions from women and focus on women’s issues. The team has since broadened its scope — they are accepting submissions from men as well, but issues of female concern remain a dominant theme.
Spiegelman said it was interesting to separate the submissions by gender — the female artists tended to include drawings of women, while the male artists tended to include an image of Trump.
“When you start to see the submissions by women together, you start to hear this very powerful collective female voice that I’m glad we’re giving space to,” she said.
Spiegelman said she hasn’t received any of the online anti-Semitic abuse coursing through Twitter in recent months. But her mother received some hate mail after publishing a New Yorker cover that criticized Trump’s intention to build an impenetrable wall on the border with Mexico.
“She forwarded it to the rest of the family, saying ‘Wow, I must be doing something right!’” Spiegelman said.
SNL’s Election Special, Art Spiegelman In Chicago, And 5 Other Things To Read, Watch And Do This Weekend
This week we start sharing events outside of New York as part of our normal roster; festivals of arts and ideas in Chicago and Washington, D.C. are up first. There’s a slew of new books to tempt you, regardless of what you’re craving – history, science fiction, some hearty Yiddish humor – and a few nights of comedy to help ward off the pre-election blues.
1) Keep an eye out for Larry David in the Saturday Night Live Election Special
Whether you think of next Tuesday’s presidential election as potentially apocalyptical or simply annoying, something on which most of us agree is that it will be more fun if preceded by a hearty dose of Larry David’s spot-on Bernie Sanders impression. Luckily, the folks behind SNL agree. They’ll air an election special Monday, November 7th revisiting their best political sketches from this most surreal of seasons. Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump will surely be center-stage, but we’re hoping to see a good deal of David as well.
2) Read up on Yiddish fiction from the Forward, newly translated into English
We’re biased, but we think the new anthology “Have I Got a Story For You: More Than a Century of Fiction From the Forward” edited by Forward critic-at-large Ezra Glinter is a stunner. Over its 120 years in print, the Forward has published Yiddish writers lauded and unknown; in “Have I Got a Story For You” a set of their stories receive their first English translations, giving readers new access to the experiences that shaped the lives of American Jews. Glinter has arranged the works according to five themes – immigration, the Old Country, and war foremost among them – and introduced them with short biographies of their authors. With pieces by writers including Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Asch, the collection is a treat. (Also, the cover goes awfully well with pumpkin spice tea and candy corn. What could be nicer than that?)
3) Have a comedy snack with Rachel Dratch
TruTV’s “Rachel Dratch’s Late Night Snack,” a Dratch-curated collection of short-form comedy from different comedians, returns on Wednesday, November 2nd. Last season the show featured Alec Baldwin, Jim Gaffigan, Ellie Kemper and more; this season should feature similarly well-regarded comedians letting loose and getting wacky. Watch a sample sketch below.
4) Check out Philip Glass and Art Spiegelman at the Chicago Humanities Festival
The Chicago Humanities Festival is a yearly source of intellectual candy for Windy City residents, and Glass and Spiegelman are this year’s Jewish highlights. Glass appears Wednesday, November 2nd in discussion with Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich; he’ll also give a brief solo performance. Spiegelman’s November 3rd appearance will focus on his new edition of “The Parade,” a little-known work of Jewish artist Si Lewen with the Festival’s Emeritus Artistic Director Lawrence Weschler.
5) Head to the Washington DCJCC’s Israel Arts DC festival
November 6-14th the DCJCC plays host to a sampling of Israeli arts and culture, with events ranging from a workshop in the Israeli dance form Gaga to a book talk by author Meir Shalev. Highlights will include Sunday’s “Israel Story Live,” during which the hosts of the popular Israeli podcast will present a show focused on diverse, surprising stories of Israeli women, and Monday’s “Man-O-Manischewitz: How a Kosher Wine Became Big With the American Public,” in which Roger Horowitz will discuss the brand’s everlasting, somewhat incomprehensible appeal.
6) Sit in on talks on Jews in sports and comics at the Museum of Jewish Heritage
This week the Museum of Jewish Heritage hosts discussions of Jews engaged in two quintessentially American pursuits: sports and comics. Wednesday, November 2nd Olympic synchronized swimmer Jane Katz joins former New York Times sports contributors Robert Lipsyte and Gerald Eskenazi for “It Wasn’t Only Sandy Koufax: The Jewish-American Experience in Sports,” a discussion of the history of Jewish American athletes and their cultural impact. Thursday, November 3rd the Museum partners with the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and the Jewish Book Council for “Ink Bleeds History: Reclaiming and Redrawing the Jewish Image in Comics,” which features a panel including graphic novelists and comic artists Amy Kurzweil, Miriam Libicki, and the creators of the online series “Radzyn.” Learn, laugh, and come away with some creative inspiration.
7) Speaking of Miriam Libicki, check out the rest of this week’s hot reads
Libicki’s first collection of graphic essays, “Toward a Hot Jew,” was released November 1st; it covers everything from dating in the Israeli military to the complicated intersections of black and Jewish identity. Libicki, creator of the long-running series of autobiographical comics, “jobnik!,” is an accomplished storyteller, and her first book is already attracting attention. Along with her book and Glinter’s, fill out your shelf David Cesarani’s posthumously published “The Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949,” a monumental, minutely researched tome on the decades that decimated European Jewry, and Nava Semel’s newly translated “Isra Isle,” a multi-part imagination about what might have happened if Jews had followed the intention of nineteenth-century visionary Mordecia Manuel Noah and settled New York’s Grand Island.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture fellow. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter, @TalyaZax
Photo: Nadja Spiegelman
Art Spiegelman — celebrated comics book artist, illustrator and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” — has broken his silence on the subject of Israel. At least that’s how he put it to his Facebook followers last week when he shared a collage he designed for a recent issue of the magazine The Nation.
Prefacing the social media post by saying that he has spent a “lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel,” Spiegelman went on to say that “Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others.”
Captioned “Perspective in Gaza (The David and Goliath Illusion),” the Biblical-style art image consists of two panels. On the left is a traditional rendering of David facing Goliath. The right-hand panel presents a shrunken Goliath brought closer to the foreground. Using the tricks of size and perspective to make what is surely not an original political point, it’s a clever play on Spiegelman’s life’s work as an illustrator.
At least two important questions arise from this. First, what does it say when The Jewish Museum in New York mounted a Spiegelman retrospective which overlapped with the controversy over Israel critic Judith Butler’s slated talk there on a subject unrelated to Israel? (Butler later pulled out amidst the pressure.) Had Spiegelman spoken up against Israel earlier, might the museum’s donors and critics have applied similar tactics?
Art Spiegelman just wants to be left alone. Or, rather, he would really like it if parts of his career and biography were minimized, and others celebrated more. The central tension, both in the long conversations he had with University of Chicago professor Hillary Chute, the germ and base level of “MetaMaus” (2011), and now in Clara Kuperberg and Joelle Oosterlinck’s new documentary, “The Art of Spiegleman,” is the anxiety of success. Spiegelman is painfully self-aware that he will be forever known (and, often, only known) for the path breaking Maus (1980-1991); fearful that he will become the “Elie Wiesel of comics”; and worries that he cannot seem to escape the autobiographical voice. Somehow, some way, his career turned from the one he imagined and he’s never been able to get the old one back.
“The Art of Spiegelman,” now screening as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, is a medium-length documentary. At 45 minutes, it’s perfect for television. Most of the movie consists of interviews with Spiegelman, though his wife and daughter become increasingly prominent as the movie progresses. There are photographs of Spiegelman’s early years, and archival footage of Spiegelman and his wife printing Raw, the legendary little magazine of what we now call sequential art, but really should just call comics.
Non-Spiegelmans, like the illustrator Charles Burns, make appearances, but they are there to tell personal stories and to contextualize Spiegelman’s life. Learned, bespectacled academics with receding hairlines are sadly absent. This is not a critical documentary devoted to analyzing the contributions Spiegelman made to either his field or the whole of arts and letters, but one that allows him to tell his own story. It is a good, entertaining documentary, though limited by everything just mentioned. Those who already know Spiegelman’s work will wish it cut deeper, while those unfamiliar with his art will only have their interest lightly piqued.
The book trailer is out for Art Spiegelman’s much-anticipated “MetaMaus,” a look at the creation of his iconic “Maus” graphic novel, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
In the video Spiegelman says that “Maus” is more about the relationship between a father and son “trying to understand each other” than it is about the Holocaust. In the original “Maus,” Spiegelman tells the story of his father, Vladek, from before the Holocaust to his later life in New York.
In “MetaMaus” Spiegelman portrays himself dealing with the unexpected success of his creation and always having to answer the same three questions: “Why Comics? Why Mice? Why the Holocaust?” “MetaMaus,” Spiegelman says, is an attempt to answer these questions once and for all.
Watch the book trailer for ‘MetaMaus’:
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