Cartoonists talk art at Vt. Folklife Center

Comic books long ago went beyond mere kids’ play; writers and artists of many diverse interests use the comic format to produce serious works that consider important contemporary and historical events and issues. The Vermont Folklife Center on Saturday, June 16, will provide a forum for learning more about the complex world of comics right here in Vermont at its second Non-Fiction Comics Mini-Fest. The event, which will run from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., is free and open to the public at the organization’s ADA-accessible headquarters at 88 Main St. in Middlebury.
From science to politics, history to health care, cartooning has exploded as a legitimate medium for exploring non-fiction topics and the textures of lived experience. This day-long event presents a diverse group of Vermont and New Hampshire cartoonists engaged in non-fiction work, including political cartoons, memoirs and diaries, and covering such topics as science, graphic medicine, history, cooking and more.
In addition to an opportunity to meet and chat with the exhibiting cartoonists, Non-Fiction Comics Mini-Fest also features presentations and panel discussions: At 11 a.m. Stephen R. Bissette will present “The Paleo Path,” 1 p.m. will see “History and Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Jason Lutes,” and 3 p.m. is the panel on “Ethnographic Cartooning.”
The Paleo Path
Long before Jurassic Park, generations were educated (and miseducated) about dinosaurs by the comics. From Punch’s 1890s “Prehistoric Peeps” to Jim Lawson’s Paleo and beyond, Stephen R. Bissette will trace the tracks of how prehistoric life was and is represented in comics. The creator of “Tyrant” and “Swamp Thing” says forget about The Flintstones, dinosaurs and prehistoric life forms have a rich comics history, and this overview surveys four-color dinosaurs of fact and wild fiction in comic strips, comic books and graphic novels, illustrated with ample archival art and eye candy.
Bissette won many industry awards in his quarter-century in comics as a cartoonist, writer, editor and publisher.
History And Historical Fiction In Berlin
In 1996 cartoonist Jason Lutes launched his stunning work of historical fiction, “Berlin” — completing his epic in December 2017. “Berlin” explores the final years of Germany’s Weimar Republic and the Nazi rise to power through the eyes of characters like an art student, a journalist, a politically divided family, a touring group of African American jazz musicians, a policeman and others. Although a work of fiction, Lutes throws his characters up against stark historic circumstance and has them navigate a living representation of this turbulent period in German history.
Lutes and cartoonist and UVM English lecturer Isaac Cates will explore the interplay between fiction and non-fiction in Lutes’s masterpiece.
Ethnographic Cartooning
Although drawing has long been a part of the field practice of anthropologists and other ethnographers, only very recently have researchers begun to explore the use of comics as a medium for representing human experience and culture from an ethnographic perspective. An early example of ethnographic cartooning is Gillian Crowther’s 1989 fieldwork cartoons — comics created as field notes during her dissertation research in remote British Columbia. However, it was not until the 21st century that cartooning as ethnographic practice (and cartooning in the service of ethnography) began to gain traction.
In this panel, anthropologists Sally Campbell Galman, Carol Hendrickson and Dana Walrath will explore emerging use of cartooning in the context of ethnographic representation, and the paths they have taken as they began to explore how comics and cartooning inform ethnographic practice and can function practically and conceptually in the service of ethnographic representation.
Stop in this Saturday and meet local cartoonists, check out their work, and learn about how comics can describe our world, teach us, and tell stories of everyday life. For more details go to vermontfolklifecenter.org/non-fiction-comics-minifest.

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