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Friday, July 8 • 10:15 - 11:45
Session 1C: Motherhood & Grassroots Health

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Motherhood: Bobby, Mary, and Sarahs - Sarah Lightman

In this talk I explore the visualisation of contemporary motherhood through the re-appropriation of religious iconography and text. I begin with a selection of Bobby Baker's diary drawings. Bobby Baker is a performer and artist. In 1996 she was diagnosed with borderline personality and throughout her illness and recovery Baker made diary drawings, a select number of which were published in Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me (Profile Books 2010). In a series of two interviews with Baker at her home in 2010 and 2013, the artist showed me some unexhibited and unpublished diary drawings. Within these artworks Baker portrays the tensions she experienced between the responsibilities of motherhood and her professional aspirations. Baker’s presentation of her crisis as a working mother simultaneously decries an unsupportive society and the limited representation of the complexity of motherhood within Christian iconography. I argue that Baker performs a feminist reparative act in these diary drawings as she creates a new visual language of motherhood through her re-appropriation of biblical iconography. I will show how Baker’s self-self-portraits, and icuntography accommodate her contemporary experiences. Then, through excerpts from my forthcoming graphic novel The Book of Sarah (Myriad Editions 2017), I will present how my own artwork records my struggles as a mother, artist, creator and writer. My graphic novel developed from the lack of female voice within Old Testament texts, and the silence of my biblical namesake, Sarah. My drawings and animation films act as Medrash, a term I created to describe my extended use of midrash. Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that supplement gaps within the original texts. Medrash are autobiographically based additional artwork and texts, about silenced experiences, in this case of birth, pregnancy and motherhood.

Performing Single Pregnancy, Explaining Away Absence: From the Research 'Stage' to the Comics Page - Penelope Mendonca

Given the unprecedented growth of the fertility industry, and delayed childbearing, it is no surprise that autobiographical graphic novels are addressing conception, pregnancy and alternative parenting. The last two years have seen the publication of Phoebe Potts' Good Eggs, AK Summers' Pregnant Butch; Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, and Matilda Tristrams’ Probably Nothing; a diary of not-your-average nine months. These feminist narratives provide remarkable insights into the issues faced by their creators, as they try to become pregnant, or bear children, often within challenging circumstances. Yet the question remains, to what extent are graphic novels being used to explore inequalities between women, including their contrasting experiences of first‐time motherhood? This paper will discuss my practice-based PhD, which aims to offer a perspective on this question by positioning varied accounts of single pregnancy alongside each other. Mothers Storying the Absent Father: A Graphic Novel, involved undertaking twenty graphically facilitated interviews and workshops with single, pregnant women/single, first-time mothers of babies, aged between 16 and 52. Participants visually and verbally represented their experiences of biological father absence, while playfully exploring the ways they negotiated questions from family, friends, strangers, health and social care professionals. The issues raised ranged from falling in love or choosing a sperm donor, to sex, singleness, miscarriage, homelessness, drugs, birth and the new born baby. The raw material from these sessions was then filtered and condensed into a creative non-fiction graphic narrative, which explores difficult “truths”, while being humorous in tone. I will conclude by suggesting that combining graphic facilitation with comic art, in order to access and represent contemporary social and health related issues, may offer new knowledge, and enable researchers, practitioners and the public to access alternative representations of lived experience.

Tracing the Legacy of Women's Health Cartoons and Comics in Britain - Nicola Streeten

What is the connection between women comic artists, health and feminism in Britain? This paper will trace the legacy of recent long form comic works by women around health related subjects to the work of women cartoonists’ from the 1970s onwards. My focus will be on British women’s works. Publications such as Nursing Times regularly commissioned women cartoonists and I will consider the type of cartoons that were included, by cartoonists such as Cath Jackson. I will then interrogate how and why women cartoonists’ work began to increasingly populate health related subject matters during the 1980s and 1990s and how the comic form was used in a widening variety of contexts. In particular I will look at the work of Corinne Pearlman; Janice Goodman and Suzy Varty. I will compare these with contemporary works including Rachael Ball’s graphic novel, The Invisible Woman (2015), and Paula Knight’s forthcoming graphic memoir, The Facts of Life. My questioning will take place within the social, economic and political context of the times, locating the position of feminism within that. Whilst North American academic Hilary L. Chute’s work in Graphic Women Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (2010) identified the recurrence of trauma in women’s autobiographical comics works, I will emphasise the presence of humour as a constant key ingredient in the works, both historical and current.

RICK's Story: The Arrival of Cancer, and the Experiences and Coping Mechanisms of Those Affected in the Form of Comic Cooks-Gordon Shaw

 RICK is a series of comics of one man and his inoperable and incurable brain tumour, told through a collaged series of stories and flashbacks; a multi-faceted approach that illustrates the impact brain cancer has on the author and to everyone around him. Comics are an excellent form for understanding difficult events, as shown by Roz Chast, Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman. The presentation will take the variable thoughts and reactions further by discussing how the structure of the books are used to echo the confusion, and eventual understanding, of cancer. The comics use the fragmented thoughts and experiences of friends and family to supplement those by the patient (the author) to stitch together a story of the realisations, the fears, anger and reflections of dealing and living with a brain tumour (anaplastic astrocytoma). Some speak of the moment of “the phone call”, immediately and subsequently. These are highly emotional, but often are hidden or played down when in the company of their friend, brother or son. This is mirrored by the “mask” worn by those with cancer when around others. Some stories may touch upon the character’s way to accepting the diagnosis, whereas others may have more of a struggle. Attempts at talking about cancer are often broken with humour, connected or completely random, either to escape the realisation of mortality. Or to attack the tumour itself. On the other hand, there are people who cannot verbalise their emotions even to themselves, some delay the reality and some simply deny it. The emotions and coping mechanisms displayed by family and friends are also recognisable with those with cancer: denial, fear, depression/anxiety, fond memories, laughs, acceptance and hope. This culminates with a personal conversation with the tumour.


 

Moderators
avatar for Ian Williams

Ian Williams

Editor, Graphic Medicine
Ian Williams named the area of study called Graphic Medicine, founding the Graphic Medicine website in 2007, which he currently edits with MK Czerwiec. He is a comics artist, writer and physician, based in Brighton. His graphic novel, The Bad Doctor, was published in the UK by Myriad... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Sarah Lightman

Sarah Lightman

PhD Researcher, University of Glasgow
Sarah Lightman is researching her PhD on “Dressing Eve and other Reparative Acts in Women's Traumatic Autobiographical Comics” at the University of Glasgow and has published in numerous books and journals, as well as being a co-editor of two Special Issues of Studies in Comics... Read More →
avatar for Pen Mendonca

Pen Mendonca

Graphic Facilitator, PenMendonca - Graphic Facilitator and Artist
Pen is an independent graphic facilitator, sketchnoter and cartoonist with twenty years experience of working in the UK public and voluntary sectors, her graphics, comic strips and animations are widely published. She works in mainstream and special provision, on student/staff engagement... Read More →
avatar for Gordon Shaw

Gordon Shaw

I am a Padawan cartoonist turning the arrival of Rick, my brain tumour, into a multi-angled comic about cancer. Since 2014, I have been using written pieces by those affected to illustrate different reactions, public and private. I am exploring how we react, but also, how the heck... Read More →
avatar for Nicola Streeten

Nicola Streeten

nicola streeten
Nicola Streeten is anthropologist-turned-illustrator and author of Billy, Me & You (Myriad Editions, 2011) the first graphic novel to receive a British Medical Association award (2012). It was also the first long form graphic memoir by a British woman to be published. The book was... Read More →


Friday July 8, 2016 10:15 - 11:45
Lecture Theatre 3

Attendees (12)