Underground comics artist Lynda Barry (previously) is one of this year's class of $625,000 Macarthur Foundation "genius grant" recipients, and it's so deserved.
Barry is best known for her longrunning indie comic strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek (collected in The Greatest of Marlys, a must-have for any comics fan), and is also a brilliant novelist, whose Cruddy is one of my all-time favorite books.
She is also a talented teacher: we both taught the same Clarion class a few years back and the profound effect she had on our students shone through in their work. In early November, Drawn and Quarterly will publish Making Comics, which anthologizes her teaching exercises and her pedagogical method, honed in her years as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison art department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (it's a companion volume to her 2014 book Syllabus).
I could not be more pleased by this development. As always, the entire group of Macarthur Fellows is remarkable, a cross-section of some of the world's most exciting activists, creators, and practitioners, from restorative justice practitioner sujatha baliga to historian Saidiya Hartman to poet Ocean Vuong.
“The thing that I was flooded with was this realization that I was really going to get to apply myself to this work I’ve sort of been chasing after for 20 years," the artist said, “which is this whole thing about images and how they travel between people and why we use them.”
Key to that has been working with four-year-olds, she said, because she considers them on an important developmental cusp, before drawing and writing start being identified as separate forms of communication.
“So that was when I started crying. And then the other thing that happened was after I hung up, both my fists went up into the air, you know, like ‘Woo!,’ like that. But I couldn’t bring them down for a really long time. And the only other time that happened to me was when Obama got elected. I couldn’t bring them down.”
“The honor of it. My god,” the artist said. “It’s just such a magical, amazing thing. I’m so, so excited about the next five years and the work I’m going to be able to do. I’m so grateful for that.”
Here are 2019′s MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winners, including cartoonist Lynda Barry and Chicago urban designer Emmanuel Pratt [Steve Johnson/Chicago Tribune]