After reading Michael Kaminer’s article in The Jewish Daily Forward about Jewish women comic artists, “Graphic Confessions of Jewish Women: Exposing Themselves Through Pictures and Raw Personal Stories,” artist and writer Sarah Lightman was inspired to create an exhibit that featured confessional comics by Jewish women. The exhibit became Graphic Details, the first touring exhibition that celebrates and recognizes the contributions of Jewish women artists to comics and graphic novels. Confessional, or autobiographical, comics are nothing new; there have been plenty of books and exhibitions celebrating the contributions of Jewish men to the world of superheroes and comic books. But as women come into their own in the world of comics and graphic novels, it’s time that they get the recognition they deserve. Some of the eighteen artists featured in the traveling exhibition are well known to fans of graphic novels and comics, while others may be less familiar. All share something important, besides great artistic talent; they have the courage to hold their innermost selves up for scrutiny. For example, Diane Noomin depicts her struggles to have a baby in her comic “Baby Talk: A Tale of 3 (4) Miscarriages.” Her story and accompanying artwork are full of emotions laid bare; she holds nothing back. Likewise, readers may squirm at Miss Lasko-Gross’s forthright depiction of her younger self’s discomfort while attending a Shabbat dinner at the home of her more observant friend, or in her description of a bathroom incident. Ariel Schrag also deals with a humiliating bathroom situation. Bernice Eisenstein talks about her life as a child of Holocaust survivors, while Miriam Katin offers up her own experiences as a child trying to survive during the Holocaust. Sarah Glidden and Miriam Libicki both share their very personal experiences in Israel. These are just a smattering of examples. Those lucky enough to see the entire exhibition get to experience many more examples of deeply personal autobiographical, or confessional, comics by a group of extremely talented women.
The touring exhibit of original artwork and comics opened in 2010 at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. It has since traveled to Toronto, New York City, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and Miami Beach, Florida. It is currently on view in London, England, with future plans to return to the United States in 2015.
The book, Graphic Details, is a compilation of scholarly essays, interviews, and reproductions of some of the comics that appear in the exhibition. Many of the comics that are on display in the exhibit and reproduced in the book have appeared in print as individual graphic novels, in collections of comics, and/or online. The essays focus on the history, or herstory, of Jewish comic art, and delve deep into the themes of Jewish identity, self-hatred, memory, assimilation, sexual identity, and politics. The contributors to the volume are writers, artists, scholars, and professors, and while the book can be seen as an accompaniment to the exhibition of the same name, Graphic Details succeeds as a stand-alone guidebook to some of the best Jewish women comics artists working today