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Cartoonists & Poetry: Fleming Museum's Spring Happenings

03/06/2018 05:27PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
With the spring blossoms comes a series of artistic flowerings at the Fleming Museum, which pays tribute to the art of the cartoon with several events and exhibitions through spring.

Nineteenth century French caricaturist Honoré Daumier kicks off the fun on March 7 with Bluestockings, a series of 40 lithographs from 1844 that satirizes The Blue Stockings Society, a women’s literary discussion group begun in England that subverted gender roles of the day by promoting an equal intellectual exchange between the sexes. In France, it evolved into an informal women’s movement to advance their literary and intellectual opportunities and ambitions.

As expected, many men of the day did not approve, including Daumier, who mocked the Blue Stockings as ugly and unfeminine. In his images, women are shown abandoning their traditional housekeeping and childrearing responsibilities for poetry-writing, intellectual discourse, and socialist causes from the comfort of well-appointed salons. Daumier’s ridicule and dark humor reveals the early stages women’s movement that would eventually lead to universal suffrage, labor rights, economic security, and higher education for women.

On April 4th, several of Vermont’s leading illustrators—Alison Bechdel, James Kochalka, and Edward Koren—will lead a panel discussion moderated by Seven Days co-founder and co-editor Pamela Polston. All three will discuss their work and the role of cartooning in our community and culture. The discussion comes toward the tail end of a major exhibition (until May 20) of works by Alison Bechdel, whose decades-long career has earned her heaps of praise and awards, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and title of Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont—an honor shared by the other two members of the panel.

Her pioneering comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” about a group of lesbian friends, ran from 1983 to 2008 and was syndicated in over 50 alternative papers, including Seven Days. Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which explored her relationship with her father, her coming out, and his possible suicide, became both a New York Times bestseller and a Tony-award winning musical. The exhibition features original drawings, sketches, self-portraits, and a model of the set for the musical Fun Home, reconstructed for this exhibition.

On April 18th, visual and textual beauty join hands in the annual Painted Word Poetry Series, celebrating its 10th edition in 2018. Using the ancient Greek technique of Ekphrasis, which explores the emotional experience and content of an object through detailed descriptive writing, the event invites students and community members to submit original poems describing or inspired by the Fleming’s own artwork. Selected poems will be read by their authors at the event and then printed in a booklet available at the Museum.
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