Two very different kinds of art will be featured at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor during these crispy fall days— graphic art by well-known cartoonist Barbara Slate and photography by Canio’s co-owner Kathryn Szoka. Slate will be reading from her book Getting Married and Other Mistakes this Saturday, September 29, which should be a real treat, considering her heroine looks and talks remarkably like a youthful Slate.
It comes as no surprise that the graphic novel (resembling a long comic book) is semi- autobiographical, yet Slate’s story is universal and relevant to any woman with a passion for freedom, a wish to find herself and a mother pushing her to get married. The anecdotes are pithy and hilarious, and the pictures arresting and witty. What’s more, the tone is satiric with life lessons equally ironic. In a word: “edgy.”
These characteristics are Slate’s trademarks, seen in the internationally known comic books she developed and/or wrote, including the Betty and Veronica series for Archie Comics, Angel Love for DC Comics and Marvel Comics’ Yuppies From Hell. And we can’t overlook the Barbie series for Marvel, where “We made Barbie a feminist,” Slate said. “She could be anything, a model one month, a rocket scientist the next.” Then there are her Beauty and The Beast and Pocahontas comics for Disney, reflecting more idealized versions of life.
What also distinguishes Slate’s stories is her art, panels of individual cartoonlike images working together to move the plot forward. (This sequential narrative is different from a book with illustrations, according to Slate, where drawings merely complement the text.) Graphic novels can also be compared to paintings, since a double page spread is like a canvas.
Looking at the first few pages of Getting Married and Other Mistakes, we see how Slate’s art achieves symbolism and metaphor within the narrative. The first page shows a bride placed in a tilted picture frame. The box-like frame connotes entrapment; the tilt suggests distortion. Both the “box” and tilt become visual motifs throughout the book. The next two pages (or double spread) feature the picture frame from different perspectives, indicating that the heroine’s lack of freedom is pervasive.
Never fear. Slate and her protagonist survive.
In some ways, Szoka’s photographs are about survival as well. The iconic scenes, whether they are farmhouses or grape arbors, are captured so effectively that they convey a sense of permanence and comfort. Szoka also pays particular attention to linear composition, adding another level of security and balance. For example, her “Swans at Dawn” and “Fog Blanketing a Potato Field, Watermill” are both symmetrical. Yet “Wolffer Under a September Sky” shows both symmetrical patterns in the background and diagonal stretches of grapes, suggesting stability and instability, respectively.
It is this subtle opposition that makes Szoka’s work so intriguing.
Barbara Slate will be reading from her book “Getting Married and Other Mistakes” at Canio’s Books on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. Kathryn Szoka’s photographs will be on view throughout October. Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call 631-725-4926 for information.