Q&A with cartoonist Daniel Clowes
Daniel Clowes made his first visit to Columbus this February to curate his Wexner Center-exclusive exhibition, “Eye of the Cartoonist” (May 17 to Aug. 3). The show features many of Clowes’ influences—all of the pieces directly handpicked from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum archives. Also on display through August is his traveling career retrospective, “Modern Cartoonist.” For the full story, check out the May issue of Columbus Monthly.
The Billy Ireland Museum has such a vast depository of art. How did you go about narrowing your selections?
Well, I was kind of floored. I figured they would have something in the ball park of a 20th of what they had. Actually, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. Basically, I just stood in front of my bookcase and looked at all the collections of old comic strip reprints I have, all my favorites, and made a list. I sent it hoping they would have one out of 10.
Can you give me a sense of what it was like making your way through these collections in person?
Well, it’s a comic strip museum—there’s something to be said for that focus. There was a moment with Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo.” I opened up a door and saw a strip I have read since I was 10 years old. It’s among the quintessential strips. It’s like looking at a [Johannes] Vermeer or something you studied in art history. It took me a couple to days to process in private.
“Modernist Cartoonist” was organized in Oakland before moving to Chicago. Has it been anywhere else other than Columbus?
No, this is the third stop. It’s been fun. We talked about different venues, about moving eastward. I certainly knew of the Wexner [Center for the Arts]. It’s in a class by itself in many ways. We were very, very happy we were able to get in there. This was before I even knew of the Billy Ireland [Cartoon Library & Museum].
How have reactions changed as the exhibition has moved east?
It would be hard for me to define the different reactions. In Chicago I was certainly thought of as the hometown boy making his return. The show in Chicago was just gargantuan. I couldn't even fathom seeing a room with my whole career inside. The Wexner is more intimate.
You and your work are very visible and have been for some time now, but does it at all make you uncomfortable to have your work presented like this?
It makes me feel very strange. [Laughs.] It isn’t what I intended for the work. I certainly don’t think in my studio, “This will look really good on the wall.” All this work is done long before show. I tend to disassociate myself from it as a sort of survival mechanism. When I walk into the room, I feel like I’m a collector of Daniel Clowes’ artwork.
Image courtesy of Daniel Clowes and the Wexner Center for the Arts