“I wanted a combination of organic, monster-y kind of things mixed with things with more pop sensibility.”
Artist & illustrator Dave Calver joins the show to talk about Limbo Lounge (Yoe! Books), his first graphic novel! We discuss the ups and downs of his 40-year career in illustration, his pop-surrealism-lowbrow vibe, life in a vintage trailer park, and how he manages to draw macabre without being gross. We also get into his ’70s/’80s NYC experience (including witnessing collateral damage at a women’s wrestling match at Club 57), his time at RISD with Roz Chast and her club-days at Danceteria (!), the movie he’s writing and its Munchkinland-Goth scenery, the loss of era-specific styles, perfecting “nicotine-stained jewel tones” for Limbo Lounge, and how it all started with the image of flowers behaving badly! Give it a listen! And go buy Limbo Lounge!
“Things have moved faster and faster to the point where I think each decade has a little less of an identity. For me, the ’80s had a really specific feel to it.”
Dave Calver‘s rich, evocative, surreal work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and The New York Times. Other clients include the New York Rangers, Random House, and United Airlines. Taschen chose him as one of their favorite 100 illustrators in the world. In the Huffington Post’s review of Taschen’s 100 Illustrators, they singled out Dave as their #1 top favorite. Limbo Lounge is Dave’s first graphic novel.
“My rabbinic training taught me: care about who you are and who your people are, and use the best of that tradition to make the world a better place. Szyk was an artist who articulated all those values.”
Arthur Szyk was once one of the most popular artists in America, but after his untimely death his art vanished from public discourse. How did Szyk achieve and lose such renown? Irvin Ungar has spent the last 25 years championing Szyk’s work, most recently publishing the National Jewish Book Award-winning Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art. We talk about his introduction to Szyk, the impact of Szyk’s work in his native Poland, the UK and the US, the way Szyk’s work in so many forms — illuminated manuscripts, Persian miniatures, political cartooning, and more — may have contributed to his posthumous decline, and why Syzk’s Haggadah is like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. We also get into Irv’s dayenu moments promoting Szyk’s legacy, the curious story of how Irv entered the rabbinate as an alternative to serving in Vietnam, left to become an antiquarian bookseller, and how his rabbinic training let him recognize Arthur Szyk as an upstanding man. Give it a listen! And go buy Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art!
Irvin Ungar, a former pulpit rabbit and antiquarian bookseller, has devoted the past quarter-century to scholarship relating to illustrator Arthur Szyk. He has curated numerous Szyk exhibitions worldwide, including those at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Deutsches Historiches Museum in Berlin, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Library of Congress, and the New York Historical Society. He is the author of the National Jewish Book award winning Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art, publisher of the limited edition of The Szyk Haggadah, and producer of the documentary film Soldier in Art: Arthur Szyk.
“When you review old pieces, you have a double-sided response: On the one hand, it’s ‘Gosh, how was I so smart? How could I write such a beautiful sentence?’ On the other hand, it’s ‘Gosh, what a piece of crap! How I could I be so banal, so jejune, so ignorant?’ The combination of legitimate pride and legitimate embarrassment is a standard one.”
Critic and essayist Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his new book, If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art (SMU Press), collecting his art reviews from the Wall Street Journal. We get into the notion of legacy after his retirement from 45 years of teaching, then tackle the process of learning to look at paintings, his favorite museums, the question of whether Hockney’s happiness makes him less of an artistic genius than grim/tormented artists, whether one should buy art to match one’s furniture, his love of Marfa, TX, the differences between being a pilgrim and a tourist, the role of curiosity as a remedy for boredom, the challenge of editing a literary magazine in this day and age, whether he’s a role model to younger gay people, the first time he had a student who was the child of one of his first students (that is, when he realized he was getting old), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy If You See Something, Say Something!
“One of the things I’m proud of is that, as a teacher, I’m still learning from teachers. Not university teachers, but dance teachers, swimming instructors, yoga teachers. When you hear somebody putting you through your paces, you learn how they teach.”
“Stoner is not a book to give to a man who has just retired from being an English teacher after 45 years. I was on the train, reading the last 30-40 pages, and I was in tears. I was so glad there were few people on the train with me to see me embarrassing myself.”
Willard Spiegelman recently retired from his role as the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where since 1971 he taught generations of students how to read, to write, and to think. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than thirty years, he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure and Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. He has two previous appearances on The Virtual Memories Show in 2013 and 2016.
“Everything is in the words. Now matter how many pretty pictures I put in a comic, it’s never going to be worth anything without the words.”
Artist, writer, illustrator, cartoonist, designer, director, composer, and all-around creative force Dave McKean joins the show to talk about how the story dictates the medium, why comics-making shouldn’t be taught, the balancing act of collaborative and solo work, the missed opportunity of Tundra Publishing, his forays into theater and film with the WildWorks team and how they taught him to give up his control-freak nature, the influence of his jazz background, why it’s okay sometimes to judge a book by its cover, the problem-solving nature of a long walk, how the early loss of his father plays out in his work, his tendency to start every project with a complete failure of confidence, and the confluence of forces that led to his amazing new book, Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash! Give it a listen! And go buy Black Dog!
“Up until about 12 years old, I thought comics just arrived on the newsstand from heaven or somewhere. I didn’t realize people made a living from doing these things.”
And what the heck: here’s a load of quotes from the episode:
“I can’t do a half a life. I have to spend all my time doing the things that I feel passionate about.”
“I fell in love with the process of not being in control.”
“I think I went into art school in love with the surface of things, and then realized how limited that is.”
“Record covers were like a little art gallery in your own home.”
“I felt like whoever wrote the Photoshop manual was writing it directly for me!”
“There’s a degree of inspiration in art, but I’m very interested in paying attention to what provokes that inspiration.”
Dave wrote and illustrated Cages, which won the Harvey, Ignatz, International Alph-Art and La Pantera awards. His collection of short comics, Pictures That Tick, won the Victoria & Albert Museum Illustrated Book Of The Year Award, and many of his books are in the V&A Museum.
He has created hundreds of CD, book, and comic book covers, has created advertising campaigns for Kodak, Sony, Nike, BMW Mini, and Firetrap, and has produced conceptual design work for two of the Harry Potter films, Elton John & Bernie Taupin’s Lestat musical, and Lars von Trier’s House of Zoon.
He created and performed a musical/narrative/film work called 9 Lives, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House, and has since collaborated on the multimedia works Wolf’s Child, and An Ape’s Progress.
He has exhibited in Europe, America and Japan, and is represented in private and public collections. He is currently acting as Director of Story for Heston Blumenthal’s three-star Fat Duck restaurant, finishing a collection of silent-movie-inspired paintings to be collected in a book called Nitrate, and working on Caligaro, a new graphic novel, as well as several other film and book projects. His most recent book is Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash.