A few months ago the Vancouver book launch for The Selves by Sonja Ahlers was packed with people who like everything from high art to seedy pop culture and the discussion was more eclectic and animated than at your average literary event. The Selves is full of Ahlers’ girly and weird collage art, for the first time in full colour. Ahlers is drawn to images which tell stories about the tightrope of femininity – the soft and innocent (fluffy bunnies) with touches of the demented (Sybil). Her sensibility is profoundly affected by icons of female style and influence from the ‘80s – the young Princess Diana, the heroines of teen romance novels, young Michelle Pfeiffer – all juxtaposed with her own words and drawings which are sweet, strange and devastating. The Selves is a twisted and funny fairy tale in which little girls lost in the woods come into their own power.
The Native Trees of Canada by Leanne Shapton is beautiful but it is also just paintings of leaves. The artist found a government volume of pictures of leaves on a grid for scale and was inspired to create her own, more passionate, record. I guess the coolest thing is the interaction between the original volume and the artist to produce this new work. It can be a little puzzling without context but further reflection reveals that it has a lot of impact.
Eden is a light and compact book by Argentinean artist Pablo Holmberg. The main character is a funny creature (a bit Moomin-esque) in a fantastical world who wears a crown and is charming and innocent, but sometimes cruel. It is a series of simple four panel strips with just a little dialogue and is strange and sad but sometimes lovely.
Make me a Woman, by Vanessa Davis is a substantial and heavy book (don't try to throw it) of comics and drawings made by the American artist over a period of about six years. Her illustration style edges towards the grotesque and is sometimes intentionally sloppy, with erased sections still visible, messy text and smudges. But it is all too funny and charming to resist, as Davis chronicles her attempts at relationships, work and being a competent adult. The style wouldn’t normally be my favourite but it really grew on me and seemed to mesh perfectly with the obsessive character and text-heavy frames. I am rarely won over by comics or graphic novels because I usually feel they would have been better with more words and less pictures, but Make me a Woman is a great book you can read and look at and think about all at the same time.