WMU News

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist talks about power of images

Sept. 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman will bring his energy, enthusiasm, and comic insights to Western Michigan University for a talk set for Monday, Sept. 22.

In a presentation at 7:30 p.m. in Brown Auditorium of Schneider Hall, Spiegelman will speak about the history of comics and the power they possess to make people think. The lecture is part of the Centennial Scholar and Artist Series and is free and open to the public.

Spiegelman is the author and artist who created "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" and "Maus II." Both works are graphic memoirs of his parents' survival of the Holocaust, a story depicting the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats. "Maus" won him a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Known for his arresting cartoons, which have graced the covers of ten years worth of The New Yorker magazine, Spiegelman creates illustrations that "are not meant just to be plainly understood, but also to reach up and tattoo your eyeballs," according to the Los Angeles Times.

He recently resigned from his position at The New Yorker, but continues to serve as editor for RAW, a cutting-edge magazine that publishes the underground work of cartoonists and graphic artists. He founded the publication in1980 with his wife, Francois Mouly, the art director of The New Yorker.

Spiegelman believes the importance of the comic is on the rise.

"Comics echo the way the brain works. People think in iconographic images, not in holograms, and people think in bursts of language, not in paragraphs," he has said in previous publications.

His work is not strictly limited to cartooning. He is working with composer Phillip Johnston on the libretto and sets for a new opera "Drawn to Death: A Three Panel Opera," which traces the history of comics. He also has published the children's book "Open MeI'm a Dog" and edits "Little Lit," a series of comics anthologies for children. He is currently working on a new book, "The Jew's Kiss." He has been nominated for The National Book Critics Circle Award and he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

"Spiegelman's work is brilliant but hard to categorize. Is it fiction, non-fiction, visual art, personal history, or political commentary?" asks Dr. J.D. Dolan, associate professor of English. "Because of this, it's difficult for any one entity to support his visit, and we've been fortunate to have the support of so many groups. This sort of cooperative effort is a good example of the breadth of intellectual and artistic discourse the University brings to its campus and community."

The Centennial Scholar and Artist Series has been in the making for more than a year and includes an exciting lineup of lectures, performances and presentations. Guests for the series are national and international achievers in the arts and culture, business, education, government, health, science and other areas. Several are WMU graduates, and others have longstanding ties to Kalamazoo.

Spiegelman's visit is sponsored in part by the WMU Creative Writing Program, the Department of Art and the Jewish student organization Hillel. It is also underwritten by the WMU Centennial Committee, with additional sponsorship by University Archives and Regional History Collections; the Haenicke Institute of International and Area Studies; WMU's colleges of Fine Arts, Arts and Sciences, Education, Engineering and Applied Sciences Health and Human Services and Aviation; the Haworth College of Business; and the Lee Honors College. Other collaborators include the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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