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PCC’s Art Beat festival welcomes acclaimed graphic novelist
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College is welcoming acclaimed graphic novelist Nicole Georges to its campuses in May.
The author of “Calling Dr. Laura” is the featured artist of the 2014 Art Beat Festival. From May 13-15, the 27th annual Art Beat will showcase nearly 60 presentations, performances, demonstrations and workshops by regional and local artists specializing in music, literature, sculpture, and painting. All events are free and open to the public. Art Beat will spread out over all of the college’s campuses, including Rock Creek (17705 NW Springville Road), Sylvania (12000 SW 49th Ave.), Cascade (705 N. Killingsworth St.) and the Southeast Center (2305 SE 82nd Ave. and Division St.).
Other Art Beat attractions include music performances by Brownish Black and The Ben Darwish Trio, interactive painting demonstrations with PCC faculty, a singing workshop by Anne Weiss, an artist talk with Iraq refugee and oil painter Samir Khurshid, poetry reading and discussion with James Grendon, and plenty of student art presentations throughout the week.
PCC purchased three original pages from Nicole Georges’ “Dr. Laura” work, which focuses on her dysfunctional relationship with her sisters and mother. The featured pieces will be framed and installed in a refurbished building on the Sylvania Campus. Georges will discuss her methods of using humor to tackle difficult subjects from 11 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, May 13, in the Little Theatre, Sylvania Campus and Wednesday, May 14, in Room 222, Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Cascade Campus.
Georges, originally from Kansas City, Mo., has been living in Portland for 14 years. She has been publishing the autobiographical comic “Invincible Summer” since 2000, and has toured the country extensively, including two month-long appearances on Michelle Tea’s “Sister Spit: Next Generation.” Her work has been featured in many publications, including Tin House, Vanity Fair and Slate.com. Her graphic memoir, “Calling Dr. Laura,” was called “engrossing, lovable, smart and ultimately poignant” by Rachel Maddow, and “disarming and haunting, hip and sweet, all at once” by Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home. In her spare time, Georges volunteers with senior citizens in North Portland, chronicling their experiences through comics and writing in a zine called “Tell It Like It Tiz.” She is currently the 2013/14 Fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.
Q&A with Nicole Georges:
How much are you looking forward to visiting PCC?
Nicole Georges: I am excited to visit students at different campuses and show them my work. I am looking forward to showing students the depth of the stories one can tell in this medium, comics. And, more generally, I do just like doing public readings and slide shows. I will share the five-year process that brought a 260-page graphic memoir to fruition.
Tell us about how you got into being a graphic novelist?
Georges: I have been drawing and writing together for as long as I can remember. I write visually. It is significantly more difficult for me to tell a story with only words or only pictures. Each element informs the other. I started publishing my own work when I was in high school, 20 years ago, and have never looked back. I did many short comics before committing to this long, linear story-line of “Calling Dr. Laura.”
Did you learn your craft at school?
Georges: I am a self-taught artist. It took me longer to learn every element of my practice, figuring it out on my own. I encourage students who have the resources and access to school to soak up as much as they can. Taking advantage of studio time, critiques, readings and lectures can make a huge difference in your career. It can bring you to a place in two years that some other people may not reach for 10.
What is most important aspect to your process?
Georges: I need a lot of alone time. As an autobiographer, I value my privacy, and the pieces of my life I do not share in my art-form, dearly. When I write, I don’t listen to music and I prefer to be alone. Once the writing is done, which includes a written draft, a thumb-nailed (story-boarded) draft, and then formal pencils, I can start to loosen up and listen to music or podcasts. I like books on tape.
How has Portland treated you over the years?
Georges: I love Portland. It is my home. People say we live in a bubble, and that is true, but I value the bubble. I chose it.