The Determination to Be an Artist

Posted by on July 12th, 2010 at 6:46 PM

I had something lighthearted ready to post that’s going to have to wait for another day; because the passing of Harvey Pekar calls for black borders and bunting.  It’s one of those events that if you’re of my vintage make you feel as though your time is the past.  You feel as though Pekar is in the prow of the ship going over the waterfall and you’re somewhere amidships, bound to follow.  It’s a jarring event because Pekar seemed like such a constant in the world of comics, and the reason he was such a constant was that he refused to be denied.  In a world seemingly set up to deny Pekar the opportunity to be an artist he was determined to be one.  He was determined also to prove that his own experience was as much the stuff of art as anyone’s.  He saw in underground comics a medium that would allow complete autonomy and freedom to the artistic outcast.  He put his foot in that door just as it was closing.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that he put his foot through a door that had just closed, made a hole just big enough to squeeze through.  He was no happy hippie ready to provide cultural reinforcement to a willing audience but a working stiff without even proletarian glamour and with no ready audience to speak of, least of all other working stiffs.  He struggled with indifference until indifference began to give way, as if to say, okay, I’ll pay attention to you if you’ll just leave me alone.  By the end they were making movies about him.  In the end his integrity became so manifest that his comic became a badge of prestige to publishers seeking credibility.  In the end all an artist can do is put his work in condition for people to experience it.  Sometimes you think that Pekar would have done it if he had to mix the ink and bend the staples himself.

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One Response to “The Determination to Be an Artist”

  1. […] Harvey Pekar died yesterday. Obituary by R. Fiore at the Comics Journal blog. […]