cover image Art Life

Art Life

Catherine Ocelot, trans. from the French by Aleshia Jensen. Bdang, $20 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-77262-046-7

This sardonic, somewhat navel-gazing volume fantastically illustrates conversations between a stand-in for the author—a 43-year-old cartoonist and mother—and a variety of comical characters. Everyone is drawn as colorful half-birds, with wings for arms, who stand upright on human legs. The cock-eyed gaze is set in the opening, as a university president approaches Catherine, the author of Talk-Show, a graphic novel, at a public pool. First he invites her to participate on a panel, only to disinvite her once he sees her child and learns her age (he’s shocked that she’s over 40). Catherine, struggling to find inspiration for her next project, then queries a series of fellow creatives about their process. Her friend Natacha makes work based on her world travels, so Catherine decides she will make observational drawings, but only of the interior of her own apartment. The whimsical bird-figures and layered watercolors are reminiscent of Lisa Hanawalt’s work—but without facial expressions, Ocelet’s flock tends to blend together. Though the looping handwritten dialogues offer insights into artistic friendships, they can also drag; it’s possible some of the wit may have been lost in translation. Quite lovely to look at, but insular in focus, this autofiction will be most meaningful to the niche of artists also questioning the direction of their voice. [em](Apr.) [/em]