There’s no more natural a fit for the Czap Books/Grindstone Comics visual poetry series Ley Lines than Alyssa Berg — as anyone who’s been fortunate enough to get their hands on her self-published Recollection and Soft Fascinations can tell you — so now that she has, in fact, gotten “on board” with the title, so to speak, my only question is : what took so long?
Admittedly, it’s unusual to see Berg’s soft watercolor work rendered in black-and-white, but prospective readers needn’t fear : Ley Lines #21, Forget-Me-Not, is absolutely gorgeous and shows that she’s every bit as adept with inkwashes as she is with paints. Every page has a lyrical rhythm that flows into the next, and that’s true before taking her sparse and emotive verse into account. This is Berg firing on all creative cylinders — but then, she never does anything halfway.
The historical figure she trains her eye on for this book, in keeping with the series’ remit, is Hilma af Klimt, Swedish painter and occultist, and Berg pays particular attention to her role as central organizer of “The Five,” a groundbreaking all-female artists’ circle devoted to the act and art of mediumship as a means by which to communicate with worlds both supernatural and entirely natural — especially botanical. The title of this work gives that much away, I suppose, but there are two kinds of gardens that Berg is illuminating here — one within, and one without. And in her more than capable hands, both are shown as the lush, verdant, awe-inspiring environs which they are.
What took me by surprise here is how linear Berg’s lyrical narrative thrust is at first glance — but deeper, and hopefully more astute. successive readings reveal a circular, perhaps even recursive, pattern to her tone poem, and show her to be at play in a garden of everything, one where “time” is laid bare as the false construct we all intuitively know it to be. Much of this, from a purely revelatory standpoint, is necessarily couched in a soft but delicious secrecy, but that’s a running theme here, as well : exploration, after all, is the necessary precursor to discovery, and there’s a lot to be discovered in Berg’s hauntingly resonant comic.
Getting back to time, however — psychological crutch though it may be (okay, is), you’ll nevertheless want to invest a fair amount of it into wrapping your mind and heart around this work. That’s par for the course with Berg’s comics and ‘zines, but is doubly true with this one, which may run counter to initial impressions given its marginally more specific focus than her other efforts, but hey — if you’re not prepared to leave rationally-arrived-at expectation aside, you’re going to get nowhere fast here, anyway. If you can, though? Then be prepared for a journey that will take you just about everywhere you want to go.
And yet it’s more an intuitively-guided journey than one it is with a hard-and-fast “map,” per se. Berg shows you various directions of where you might go with the content she’s created, but the paths you take are, ultimately, of your own choosing. All of which means that this is one of the most involving, challenging, interpretive, and provocative works of comic art in recent memory — as well as being my personal favorite Ley Lines to date.
Forget-Me-Not is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at http://leylines.storenvy.com/products/29005444-forget-me-not-ley-lines-no-21
Review wrist check – Farer Universal “Beagle II” riding a Hirsch “George” croco print strap in brown from their “Performance” series.