sarah lightman
 
     

 

How long have I got left?

Is it my choice any more?

Was it ever?

 

sarah lightman

Things are never as they seem
on the outside
Outside surrounded by reflections.
Inside the scaffolding of self is entirely evident
And I am barely holding up
I am not established, ready or secure in the high winds of criticism or storms of disappointment

 

Press About Sarah Lightman

Interviews and articles below include:

Michelle Cove, 614 - Hadassah Brandeis Institute Ezine

(May 2014)

Nadia Valman and Rachel Garfield,The Jewish Quarterly

(December 2013) 

Danica Davidson, Lilith Blog

(December 2013)

Paul Gravett, ArtReview

(May 2013)

Jessica Lack, Jerwood Visual Arts Blog

(November 2012)

Ariel Kahn, International Journal of Comic Art

(May 2009)

 

The Book - and Life - of Sarah
Interview with Michelle Cove
614- Hadassah Brandeis Institute Ezine (May 2014)

Why Sarah Lightman is so determined to bring exposure to the works of Jewish women comic book writers.

In 2010, artist and journalist Sarah Lightman co-curated the show Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which showcased the contributions Jewish women have made to the world of autobiographical comics. This world is a natural fit for Lightman, who created her own autobiographical comic called The Book of Sarah, which she calls “a book of the Bible based on my life story.” It includes everything from sibling rivalries and the deaths of her grandfathers to finding her husband and bearing a son. It is “my own genesis and exodus,” she explains. In the interview below, Lightman shares her passion for creating confessional comics and for helping other Jewish women comics get the exposure they deserve.

Why was it important to you to co-curate Graphic Details and to showcase the contributions that Jewish women have made to the world of autobiographical comics?

As a curator and academic, I believe I have a responsibility in the creation, and correction, of contemporary culture and especially Jewish culture, cultural memory, and knowledge. As a woman and a feminist, I can see art history has been very much that – art HIStory. In this regard, comics are no better, and maybe worse, than other areas of artistic endeavour. A major exhibition of comics earlier this century only showcased work by male comic artists. I recently attended a comics conference in the UK where all the speakers were men, and they only spoke on comics by men. It was like being back with the dinosaurs, but it was happening in the 21st century. And the most common response I get when I mention Graphic Details is the same question – “I know about Will Eisner/Superman/Maus, but I didn’t know Jewish women made comics.”

Why does this happen in this day and age?

The problem is that people have not heard of Jewish women who make comics – not that there aren’t Jewish women making them. In a recent talk I gave at Camberwell College of Art in London, I explained that we only know the artists who get significant opportunities, if they have the big shows in the major museums, feature in catalogues, collections, get major reviews and the like. But these museums were and are still overwhelmingly weighted towards men, even now in the 21st century. Many art schools still have more female students than men, but there is certainly not a 50/50 split in the works at the Tate or the Royal Academy in London. I splutter over my coffee when I read these art magazines, where for page after page, men write about male artists. So, when I gave this talk at Camberwell, to the next generation of artists, I wanted them to know that they are still facing major challenges.

How did you get involved with co-curating the show?

I was spirited into action by my co-curator Michael Kaminer’s article in The Jewish Daily Forward in 2008. I had previously curated exhibitions for the Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art, and, though I was working with other artists, I was feeling very isolated with regards to my own practice – namely visual diaries and autobiographical comics. I really missed having enough other Jewish women artists to relate to and reference, so after reading Michael’s article I was thrilled to discover how many more there were.

What did you learn from co-curating the show? Were there any generalizations that could be made about Jewish women comics?

I can’t think of any generalizations about the work, except that the artworks in Graphic Details all have universal appeal, not just to other Jewish women, or men, for that matter. Graphic Details shows how art can survive beyond the immediate event and resonate outside our community, to those beyond, to become a universal currency and language.

And tell us about the book Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews, which you edited. What was your goal of creating an archive?

Yes, Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews is the first book on Jewish women and comics, to be published in June this year by McFarland. I wanted to ensure there was an accessible archive for Graphic Details, a life for this collection of works beyond the exhibition and the press that accompanies it. I wanted future generations of artists and comic artists to have easy access to the works, as well as to the interviews and essays by an array of academics and writers that theorize the works in this show.

One of the things you said that appeals to you in the comics of Jewish women is that there “is a triumph of weakness over strength” and that “admitting your failures and mistakes is rewarded.” Given the emphasis on education and achievement in Judaism, why is this important?

Well, let me answer with a question – how many Jewish parents tell their child, “When you are older I want you to be a comic artist”? Or an artist of any sort, for that matter? I think if you are in the creative arts, you are already “opting out” of the straightjacket of conventional expectations in the Jewish community. You are already on the wrong side of education and achievement in terms of success and prestige. You are free from any expectations and blueprint for how to behave and what line to toe. I also think that the emphasis in Jewish society and culture is about survival, being alive and thriving, “in spite of” what has happened to us. We laugh at the mishaps we make in life, the short straws we pull, and the “wrong” turns, an ongoing celebration of our continuing checkered paths. I think that the personal herstories celebrated in Graphic Details are a microcosm for a national identity built on the recitation of disasters (Tisha B’Av), near misses (Purim), and how we have suffered, yet have still been saved (Pesach). The injection of humour, the beautiful artwork, the unremitting honesty, are all transformational devices to make “losers” into “winners.”

Tell us about The Book of Sarah and what inspired you to create it. I read that, in part, it was a reaction to the fact that most of the women in the Bible figure “mostly as signposts,” and you wanted to create a female voice.

The Book of Sarah is my life work, literally. I started it as I moved away from my religious teenage years, disenfranchised by Modern Orthodoxy and the chorus of apologetics I kept facing with regards to feminism; I began an artwork that took my voice and life and celebrated in a format that was still “owned” by Jewish men. Whereas in my religious life I need permission for certain acts, in art I was free to express and create.

In the Torah, we so often just trace the male lifeline, where women hover around the shadows and sidelines, referenced just as “begetting” the next generation, or briefly acknowledged for baking cakes (see my namesake Sarah). I wanted to make sure women knew their lives, however undistinguished, are and were important. The banal and domestic is newsworthy, profound, and poetic. This is very much in tune with how Jewish life infuses the mundane with spirituality and awareness. I am very excited that The Book of Sarah will now be published as a graphic novel by Myriad Editions in 2015.

Introducing Sarah Lightman

Rachel Garfield and Nadia Valman

The Jewish Quarterly (December 2013) 

Sarah Lightman’s project to document her life as it unfolds in an ongoing visual narrative is unusual in the scale of its ambition. But it is also unusual in the extent to which the experience of a religious upbringing is central both formally and thematically. The Book of Sarah [forthcoming graphic novel for Myriad Editions; 2015] is a visual record of Lightman’s life, but its scriptural title also draws attention to the absence of women in Biblical narrative. Lightman notes that her Jewish education involved close familiarity with a text that narrates the story of male patriarchs and prophets, in which women figure mostly as signposts to a male character’s story. Instead, she wanted to make women’s experience central to the story she told. But if her subjects are invariably undramatic and quotidian this is not just a feminist strategy, it’s also an aspect of Jewish religious life, which imbues everyday life with meaning and holiness. Ordinary objects – shoes, candlesticks, a bra -- in her drawings not only figure symbolically but are also endowed with significance in themselves.

Lightman’s drawings often analyse the originary text of a photograph, especially those that traditionally record key life-cycle events – her siblings posed at her brother’s barmitzvah, or her honeymoon photograph. Jewish rituals in particular have given her a way of narrativizing life, a way of marking time, of focusing on particular events as moments that invite reflection, resonate with memory or provoke ambivalent and complex feelings. But the highly structured nature of Orthodox life, in which life is anticipated, narrativised before it is lived (the laws for the first year of marriage, for example, are known and studied long before marriage itself is experienced) mean that she is always striving to identify and distinguish her personal responses from those that are already scripted.

This ambivalence is evident in her formal technique too. Lightman’s panels invariably speak with two voices at once: an image and a line of commentary. Sometimes the text is an explication of the image, sometimes a counterpoint, sometimes both. Often the text is marked much more faintly than the image, as if the commentary is fragile, tentative, confessional, even prayer-like – difficult to articulate against the bold, heavy, imprint of the images, the weight of tradition and expectation. Even the paper looks vulnerable, a bit battered and weathered. There’s a reserve in her work, a sense of containment; the marks on the page are surrounded by wide borders of whiteness. The panels are often cryptic; they are confessional but they do not give too much away.

Lightman’s work is about situating herself within a culture that is overwhelming yet obviously much loved. This is a common preoccupation of contemporary (and modern) Jewry, which is partly its allure. The real power in the work, however, comes from Lightman’s wit and imagination, which has a lightness that belies the seriousness of the existential questions within. Formally it is the juxtapositions and tensions that make the work live: between the text and the different functions the imagery serves. There is a tension between the boldness of the images and the fragility of the written mark. There is tension too between the narrative linearity and the imagery that work through a range of strategies, such as symbolic forms, metaphor as well as more literal depiction to explore her place within community.  There is an interweaving of themes such as gender and memory and a concomitant interweaving of the everyday ritual of an ordinary life and the symbolic or ritual of religious life. The work is both portentous and deflationary.

Lightman also works in series.  Always in pencil on paper that allows her the flexibility to draw and redraw and the simplicity to just do it everyday. Drawing for her is a ritual in itself, she says, because she moves the pencil again and again, creating and building marks, until they become an image.  Some of the imagery is repeated in different contexts, motifs accumulating meaning and a rhythmic definition across different narratives.

This link between art and the rituals of Judaism has an illustrious genealogy that brings to mind artists like the abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman whose work often referenced mystical Judaism.  Lightman is also working, however, in the more contemporary vein of Wolfgang Tillmans, who trumpets the everyday ritual of painting and brings together the portentousness of the newspaper story (from which he paints his images) with the fragility of his painting style.  Lightman’s drawings can also be compared with the early work of Sonia Boyce, in which she uses her familial context as a lens to represent and discuss her diasporic Caribbean background. These influences meet the contemporary scene of self-publishing and the rise of the autobiographical ‘zine in Lightman’s visual self-narrative -- a meditation on her own life as a woman and a Jew that also speaks to more universal questions of female subjectivity and cultural inheritance.

Sarah Lightman is an artist, curator and academic with a special interest in Jewish women creating autobiographical comics. She’s the co-curator of the touring museum exhibit Graphic Details: Confessional Comics and has just completed editing the book Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which will be published next year by McFarland. This will be followed in 2015 by her own autobiographical graphic novel, The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. Lightman is also a director of Laydeez Do Comics, the first women’s led comics forum to focus on autobiographical comics with branches in the UK, Ireland and USA. While the concentration is on women, anyone may attend.

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf

 

 Women's Voices Through Comics

Interview with Danica Davidson

Lilith Blog (December 2013)

 

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf

Sarah Lightman is an artist, curator and academic with a special interest in Jewish women creating autobiographical comics. She’s the co-curator of the touring museum exhibit Graphic Details: Confessional Comics and has just completed editing the book Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which will be published next year by McFarland. This will be followed in 2015 by her own autobiographical graphic novel, The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. Lightman is also a director of Laydeez Do Comics, the first women’s led comics forum to focus on autobiographical comics with branches in the UK, Ireland and USA. While the concentration is on women, anyone may attend.

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf

Sarah Lightman is an artist, curator and academic with a special interest in Jewish women creating autobiographical comics. She’s the co-curator of the touring museum exhibit Graphic Details: Confessional Comics and has just completed editing the book Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which will be published next year by McFarland. This will be followed in 2015 by her own autobiographical graphic novel, The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. Lightman is also a director of Laydeez Do Comics, the first women’s led comics forum to focus on autobiographical comics with branches in the UK, Ireland and USA. While the concentration is on women, anyone may attend.

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf

Sarah Lightman is an artist, curator and academic with a special interest in Jewish women creating autobiographical comics. She’s the co-curator of the touring museum exhibit Graphic Details: Confessional Comics and has just completed editing the book Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which will be published next year by McFarland. This will be followed in 2015 by her own autobiographical graphic novel, The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. Lightman is also a director of Laydeez Do Comics, the first women’s led comics forum to focus on autobiographical comics with branches in the UK, Ireland and USA. While the concentration is on women, anyone may attend.

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

- See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2013/12/womens-voices-through-comics/#sthash.wzWjZgrj.dpuf
Sarah Lightman is an artist, curator and academic with a special interest in Jewish women creating autobiographical comics. She’s the co-curator of the touring museum exhibit Graphic Details: Confessional Comics and has just completed editing the book Graphic Details: Essays on Confessional Comics by Jewish Women, which will be published next year by McFarland. This will be followed in 2015 by her own autobiographical graphic novel, The Book of Sarah to be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. Lightman is also a director of Laydeez Do Comics, the first women’s led comics forum to focus on autobiographical comics with branches in the UK, Ireland and USA. While the concentration is on women, anyone may attend.

Danica Davidson, whose journalism on graphic novels has been published by Lilith, MTV and CNN, interviewed Lightman.

Danica Davidson: Can you tell us about Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women?

Sarah Lightman: Graphic Details is co-curated by myself and Michael Kaminer, who’s a New York-based journalist and comics collector. He wrote an article for the Jewish Daily Forward about some Jewish women comic artists he’d seen at a comics event. I read the article and realized that was exactly what I was doing in the UK, but I hadn’t found many other Jewish people doing the same thing. It was really exciting. I suggested to Michael that we make an exhibition out of his article, because I had already curated a number of shows, including a series on contemporary artists at Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum of Art in London. Also, I’d just curated a show “Diary Drawing,” at The Centre for Recent Drawing, with Ariel Schrag and Miriam Katin. So I already knew a few Jewish comic artists but I didn’t realize there were quite so many making autobiographical comics!

The project snowballed from there, and it’s been touring for three, four years. It’s opening in Miami at the end of the month, at the Jewish Museum in Florida. The show is coming to London at the end of next year to a really great gallery called Space Station Sixty-Five. We’re going to be doing a one-day symposium about Jewish women comic artists at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre for London, and we’re looking to do a study day as well for artists.

I just finished editing the book about the exhibition, and it’s about 400 pages. It will be published by McFarland, and it’s got essays and interviews, information and images about all the artists in the show. It’s going to be the first book ever published to focus on Jewish women in comics.

DD: What other work have you done to promote the work of women in the comics field, particularly Jewish women?

SL: When the exhibition opened in New York, I co-chaired a symposium with two New York academics, Tahneer Oksman and Amy Feinstein. I’ve just written a chapter about Diane Noomin’s comic, called “Baby Talk: A Tale of Four Miscarriages” that’s in Trauma Narratives and Herstory published by Palgrave Macmillan. None of the other essays in the collection were about graphic novels and it’s always great to bring comics to a new audience. I’ve written for websites, books and newspapers about Jewish women and comics. For example, I contributed to 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die, so I wrote about Charlotte Salomon, Ariel Schrag, Gabrielle Bell. I can make sure these women get included in collections. I also wrote about Jewish Women and Comics for the new Routledge Handbook to Contemporary Jewish Cultures(2014). Most recently I wrote for the Canadian website “A Bit off the Top” on the Israeli comic artist Ilana Zeffren.

I’m also doing a doctorate on autobiographical comics at University of Glasgow: “The Drawn Wound: Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics.” I’m really interested in traumatic narratives and how people draw and visualize their lives and whether there’s potential for something called Post Traumatic Growth. It’s the idea that if something terrible happens, your life can change for the better. I’m especially interested in exploring how the creative process of making comics can make a difference.

In addition, I’m looking at how Jewish women have been written out of Jewish textual history and intellectual history, and how they’re using comics now to ensure their voices and life experiences are heard and recorded.

DD: Can you tell us about The Book of Sarah?

SL: The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!

I was at the Slade School of Art for my BA and MFA and I felt a bit lost. I decided I had to make work about myself and my history to help me learn who I was. At the same time I was also moving away from a more Orthodox lifestyle, because I was quite frustrated by women’s lives within it and how we were constantly asking permission from men to do things: talk in synagogues, read from the Torah. Also, I spent a year in Israel at yeshiva and I couldn’t comprehend how we only had male commentary on the texts. I wanted to know what women were thinking and how women would reinterpret the rules and stories we live by. So I decided to make my own book of the Bible and be a female commentator of my own life, rectify the silence of all those years without women’s contributions. I’ve got thousands and thousands of pages of these drawings about my life. Often they relate to Jewish moments or situations I find myself in, and I’m kind of trying to find a way to acknowledge the tension between living in a modern world and having a very traditional background.

For example, I did a series of drawings about my first year of marriage and it’s all the things I knew about in the Bible, like how a man’s not supposed to go to war the first year of marriage. He’s supposed to stay around and make his wife happy. But how does it feel to be the woman? And I want to explore the space between the inherited texts and my own lived life experiences—which included traveling and thinking about starting a family.

I make short, three-minute films with my drawings. Sometimes these are about very specific Jewish experiences, like “The Family Table,” and “The Reluctant Bride.” The latter is about feeling torn between having a traditional Jewish wedding (and finding it a deeply anti-feminist affair) and also my grandpa dying at the same time. I was caught between feeling frustrated by Jewish tradition and also finding it quite reassuring to have a set response to manage difficult times. I did another film called “Half Full, Half Empty,” where I traced my life through this half-full glass of water I draw every day. I used it as a way of knowing how my life was going and how I was feeling. If my job was going well, if my boyfriend loved me, the same glass looked full. It was amazing to use an object to tell my story for me, and that work got a great reaction. Even though it was about my life as a single Jewish woman at that time, it was really about how life has ups and downs. The object doesn’t change, but the way we look at it changes.

I like to engage with the traditional text but make sure I’ve got a feminist or alternative commentary on them. In my film “Family Table” I made a visual midrash on Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.” In my film I reference not just brothers but also sisters, mothers and fathers, grandmas and grandpas. Why should the male term cover all the other people? Why can’t the others be named individually?

The Book of Sarah will be published by Myriad Editions in 2015. I also exhibit my drawings and films in art shows and I had a show last year at Oranim College in Israel. This year I had a show in London, of The Book of Sarah, so I like to exhibit my artwork as well as collect it in this book.

DD: How did Laydeez Do Comics get started?

SL: It started because I went to a comics conference with a friend, Nicola Streeten, and it was frustrating to see all-male lineups on the panels. (It is better now but it still happens!) I was looking for a reading group about comics, and the one I went to was interested in zombies, and I wasn’t so interested in zombies. So Nicola and I decided to set something up, and it’s just been amazing. It’s expanded massively. There are about eighty people attending London branch every month. There are four branches around the UK as well as Ireland, San Francisco, Chicago. It’s open to men, it’s just run by women. There are three speakers at each event, and lots of time for discussion and questions and informal networking. It’s run in a way to make it informative and friendly. The academic world can be quite critical, hierarchical, and patriarchal, and we definitely needed an environment that’s none of that. At the beginning you get a cup of tea and a piece of cake, and at break you get tea and cake, and it just changes the environment to make it much more democratic and inclusive. If you went to a university lecture, you wouldn’t get that atmosphere.

DD: If someone is not familiar with Jewish women’s autobiographical comics, where would you recommend they start to learn more?

SL: Laydeez do Comics has got a blog, and it’s a great resource and has links to people’s books and websites. It’s a great way of seeing how much is going on at the moment. If you go to the Graphic Details website, you can see all the artists in the show and they have so many brilliant comics. I just taught a course at JW3, the new Jewish Community Centre in London about Jews and comics, and I was able to introduce people to so many works they’d never seen before. What was really wonderful was to then receive all the comics the students made in response to what they’d seen. That was beautiful, a really great experience.

 

'And God Remembered Sarah' (Genesis 21:1)

By Paul Gravett

ArtReview (May 2013)

Not every autobiographical comics artist is driven to create her own private book from the Bible. Sarah Lightman’s motivation came from the fact that while the Book of Daniel and the Scroll of Esther bore the names of her brother and sister, there was no Book of Sarah. Until now. Lightman began her diary drawings in 1995 at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, which she displayed as projections and accompanied with her spoken texts. Looking back, she thinks, “I am not sure if I could have survived my life without also drawing it. Often I make art about questions and situations in my life before I have even discussed them with friends and family.”

Unlike most first-person graphic novelists, Lightman tends to avoid representing herself, preferring potent symbols like a glass of water or a table surrounded by empty chairs, sensitively recorded in pencil. “I see my object drawings as a cross between visual haiku and vanitas still- life painting, where our mortality and humanity become evident. I see a chair the same way – almost unnoticeable in a person’s presence, but a constant reminder of their absence.” She conveys this poignancy in her short animated film Family Table (2012) by personalising the original wording of Psalm 133 – ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together’ – to also encompass sisters, mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandpas. This was how she experienced the psalm itself and the dinner table on Friday nights.

Brought up within an extended Jewish family, Lightman sees her artwork bridging two forms of knowledge – learnt and experienced, or as she puts it, “History/herstory and my story. In Jewish textual tradition, midrash fills the gaps in biblical texts. My artwork lives in these spaces, as a visual midrash.” Lightman has found many parallels with her Old Testament namesake, voiceless and barren, who nevertheless bore Abraham’s son, Isaac, late in life. Recently married, Lightman reflects on her uncertainty about parenthood in her new Strip overleaf, And God Remembered Sarah, through such spare, evocative imagery as an egg carton and baking tins.

Lightman has signed with Myriad Editions to publish The Book of Sarah in 2015. “It will be formed of two chapters: Genesis, my beginnings, and Exodus, about leaving home and to some degree leaving religious life as well. Though I am still very excited by Jewish culture and intellectual heritage, I don’t always feel I belong. So I feel a little exiled right now.”

One community she does feel at home in is one she has actively helped to nurture, namely the blossoming scene of women’s autobiographical comics. Central to this has been her codirection with Nicola Streeten of Laydeez Do Comics, a monthly creative and supportive forum, run by women but welcoming to everyone, which started in London and has spread across the UK and to San Francisco and Chicago. Equally vital has been her cocuration with Michael Kaminer of Graphic Details, the first exhibition of confessional comics by Jewish women, which, after touring North America, reaches London next year. Her latest pieces, in an exhibit supported by a grant from the European Association for Jewish Culture at Occupy My Time Gallery in Deptford till 1 June, form another part of her life story and of her life. Both of them works in progress.

Sarah Lightman

by Jessica Lack

Jerwood Visual Arts Blog (1 Nov 2012)

 

Sarah Lightman is a graphic artist and co-founder of Laydeez do Comics, the first women’s led autobiographical comics forum in the UK. She co-curated the exhibition Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women which has just opened at The Oregon Jewish Museum in the US and her book Graphic Details: The Book, will be published by McFarland in 2013. Here she talks about the inspiration behind her comic masterpieces.

There is very little sequential art in the Jerwood Drawing Prize, why do you think that is?
Whilst there were no traditional comics there, there was more narrative art than I thought there would be, although these were pretty much limited to animations. I really enjoyed Karolina Glusiec’s winning animation, Velocity (2012) and Carl Randall’s Notes from Tokyo’s Underground (2011), the series of drawings was framed in panels like a comic, which I found very effective and beautiful. But I think narrative drawing just isn’t valued by many people, more from ignorance about the fine art qualities of comics, than anything else.

How do you think the art world perceive comics and graphic novels these days?`
I think comics are an undervalued an art form considering the care and attention involved in their creation. It often surprises an audience to come face to face with the original artwork and see skill, dexterity and innovation of the art of comics. Perhaps also comics have been dismissed because of their perceived emphasis on being stories for children – all super heroes and world saving, instead of being a form to tell adult experiences and the portrayal of the superpowers of just surviving our often difficult real lives.

What was the first comic you drew?
When I was younger I’d make comics for my family on their birthdays. I also often drew humorous comics about the family holidays we went on and all the mishaps and squabbles. My mum has kept them all, and likes to bring them out as impressive evidence of my precocious talent.

The first comic book I remember reading was a comic book version of the Old Testament. It was amazing to see biblical characters I heard about in my dull Sunday school classes in colour on the page. I’d stare at the images for ages, all those bearded men and brightly robed women. I recall how the printing had slipped somewhat so they all seems to bleed colour from their outlines giving an almost 3 dimensional effect.

You studied Fine Art at the Slade, what made you decide that comics were the medium in which to work?
I have always loved reading and literature as well as drawing; I did consider whether to study English or Art at University. It’s funny how I felt I had to decide and split myself into sections when I was young, like squeezing into an ill-fitting pair of shoes! I was letting the courses choose yet what really works for me is to combine both text and image. Making comics and a visual memoir was the natural fit I just didn’t know it then although I was introduced quite early on to Charlotte Salomon’s brilliant Life or Theatre? which made a huge impression on me.

I started drawing my visual narratives more seriously when I went to art school.  I made a large one-page comic based on a poem by Sylvia Plath on my Foundation Course at Central/St Martins. Then, when I was an undergraduate at The Slade School of Art, I started drawing my life story. I decided to focus on making the simplest art I could think of which were pencil drawings. I didn’t enjoy having a communal art space, making art in public even today fills me with dread, so I went back to my parents house to draw, where I found some old family photos. The work I made on my own was always really powerful and true to me.

Since then I’ve always been thinking about how can my life story can be presented in words and images? My drawings can bring my life experiences to the public in a meaningful and powerful way. I am not embarrassed to show the bad as well as good times and I have always found making art about difficulties a way to make sense of my life so I agree with this text by Stephen Joseph in his new book, “The key to enabling […] growth is to take control of the stories that survivors tell themselves, [and] re-author these stories,” (What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth Piatkus, 2011 p.148.) I want to take pain and unhappiness in my life and make something beautiful from them. The distillation of time and experience in the drawing process can produce beautiful and poignant art that, although based on my own personal experience, can also have universal appeal.

As a Jewish artist, and someone who cares about her culture and heritage my artwork also incorporates religious themes. I call my on going life-drawing The Book of Sarah. In the Bible it is really only the male characters that are written about, the women are just incidental to the narrative. In Genesis, Sarah, my namesake and Abraham’s wife gets her own chapter but it only includes a line about her death and then moves quickly on to other people and events. I’ve been creating The Book of Sarah in response to the silence of my biblical namesake, and also because my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel, and they both have their own Biblical literature; The Book of Daniel, and The Scroll of Esther. Since there is no Book of Sarah, I need to create one.

Do you approach making comics any differently to the way you made drawings in the past?
I want each of my drawings to be a stand alone art work as well as part of a series, but I like how I can play the text and the image against each other, like with my food diary drawings when I draw the anxious thoughts that prompt me to eat: “Two bananas when I thought my boyfriend no longer loved me”.

What is your PhD about?
I am researching my PhD on Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics at the University of Glasgow. In my academic research I ask how does a comic draw out a traumatic story in words and images, and how far can the production of this comic heal the artist and reader? My methodology has included interviews with female comic artists as well as exploring theories of trauma and mourning, art therapy, and posttraumatic growth.  The artists I interview include comic artists Diane Noomin, Sharon Rudahl, Nicola Streeten and Sarah Leavitt. These artists have all created art about traumatic events, including miscarriages, divorce, family illness and bereavement. I have also interviewed Bobby Baker, her Diary Drawings are beautiful and inspiring.

Finally, what is your favourite comic word?
My favourite moment is “oh” in Diane Noomin, Baby Talk: A Tale of 34 Miscarriages. The character, Glenda is telling her friend she is pregnant, and her friend suggests she wait till she is 3 months gone before she tells people.  Suddenly all Glenda’s previous exuberance is crushed. Her “oh” is visualised silence a big speech bubble, with only a little text inside.

Only comics can make a silence a sound and a space. It’s a poignant moment.

 

 

'In Memoriam'- Diary Drawings by Sarah Lightman

By Ariel Kahn

The International Journal of Comic Art (May 2009)

 

Sarah Lightman is a diary artist, comics scholar and curator. She studied at the Slade School of Art for her BA and MFA, where she won 6 awards for her work, including the Slade Life Drawing Prize and The Slade Prize. She is currently researching a PhD on ‘Autobiography in Comics’ at the University of Glasgow. The engagement with the critical and creative contexts for her own work is evident as Lightman comments:

I am really trying to find my own artistic language within the tradition of extended graphic narrative. At the same time I am still keeping the work organic, and daily, which means that I don't plot out storylines. It feels like a delicate, even precarious balance.

The delicate pencil work of these drawings amplifies their crafted nature, and lends them a tentative quality, while the textual commentary, poetic and suggestive, allows us to mediate between objective and subjective, between the seen and the felt, perception and passion:

I think I am trying to draw each object as a person. Or perhaps as a symbol. I think that many things can really be portraits or self-portraits. Objects can have so much love, or life invested in them.

The creation of identity, and the relationship between what we own and what we know, are profoundly linked in these works, which also suggest the possibility of alternative kinds of relationship ? to the past, to experienced reality, to the self:

I am aware that the person in my diaries is both me, and also someone other, but also I become the person I draw. The drawings become an alphabet of considered responses to life, and become how I think of things in the future - I drew it, thus I named it.

 

 

© Sarah Lightman 2013