Monday, October 4, 2010

CUBA: My Revolution exhibition and artist's talk.

Words & Picture: Seth Kushner

Entering the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, one finds himself immediately face-to-face with the art of Dean Haspiel.   The exhibition is  called, CUBA: My Revolution, The Making of the Graphic Novel & Related Drawing by Inverna Lockpez & Dean Haspiel.

Several of Haspiel's original penciled pages from Cuba: My Revolution are displayed with the finished printed pages, the thumbnails and script pages.  The manner in which the various steps of the process are presented together gives a real insight into the way in which the book was constructed and in how comics are made, in general.

Also on display are Haspiel's character designs, sketches and art from Inverna Lockpez, the book's writer and the subject on whose life the book is based.  Lockpez's work is from her life in Cuba during the early 1960s. They are small geometric pencil sketches and are quite interesting to see for a reader of the book.

Equally insightful was this past Saturday's artist's talk, as moderated by Publisher's Weekly's Calvin Reid, with Haspiel and Lockpez.  The writer/artist team spoke in-depth on their working relationship with each other and with Vertigo editor Joan Hilty, who was given much credit in helping shape the project.

Haspiel talked about the challenge in adapting someone else life, especially someone with whom he has a long relationship, like Inverna.  But, after working with Harvey Pekar on The Quitter and Jonathan Ames on The Alcoholic, he felt he was ready to tackle the "biggest challenge" of his career, Cuba.

The artist also spoke about how the book's torture scenes were tough for Inverna to see, and how he cast himself as one of her torturers as a means of "protecting her."  Inverna cut in and said she felt "Dean was protecting himself."

Also on display in the gallery are some of Iverna's drawings from the period of when the book is set.  Inverna explained when she eventually left Cuba for the US, she was not allowed to take any of her work and it took her several years to get possession of them again.

An audience member asked  Haspiel if he was influenced by Lockpez's drawings from the period, citing that he seemed to have channeled portions of her style into his own for the book.  Interestingly, the artist said that he had not seen those particular drawings when he started the book. 

Lockpez's struggle, as presented in the book is both heartbreaking and inspiring, and seeing her and hearing her talk about it in her own words gave me a further appreciation for the book.  That, coupled with Haspiel's talk of process made me want to take another look at a book I read only weeks earlier.

CUBA: My Revolution, The Making of the Graphic Novel & Related Drawing by Inverna Lockpez & Dean Haspiel  will be on display at the Kentler International Drawing Space until December 12.