21 June 2010

Virginia Lee Burton’s Adult Comic

This weekend I attended what I might call my first and last academic conference about fashion, co-sponsored by the Costume Society of America and the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife.

Elena M. Sarni gave a presentation about Folly Cove Designers, a Cape Ann cooperative of designer-craftsmen who created prints, home goods, and clothes starting in 1940. Their leader was Virginia Lee Burton, also author-illustrator of Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and The Little House.

Each designer submitted her or (in rare cases) his design to a jury of experienced members for approval. After a person finally had her first design accepted, Burton gave her a wall hanging printed with a series of vignettes about printmaking.

I’m showing a detail of Burton’s print here. Life magazine published the whole thing in 1945, and it appeared in a brochure that Folly Cove Designers issued to market their work.

The print fits my definition of the comics form. It’s made up of sequential, juxtaposed images, showing a printmaker in action from her search for inspiration through making the final print (by jumping on a linoleum block, in the absence of a press). The question marks in the top vignettes are elements of written language working with the images to tell the story; those punctuation marks become graphic elements of the whole, and they “show the invisible” by symbolizing the artist’s puzzlement.

TOMORROW: Burton’s attitude toward comics.

No comments: