It occurs to me that I’ve been remiss in my responsibilities around these parts to keep you all up to date on the comings and goings of Ley Lines, the long-running visual/comics poetry ‘zine from Czap Books and Grindstone Comics that explores the intersections between this beloved medium of ours and other forms of art/culture by presenting a different cartoonist’s take on the work of somebody else with each issue, so we’re going to be playing a bit of catch-up around here in the coming days until I’m a) all caught up, and b) consequently feeling a lot less guilty. First up on this journey : Ley Lines #18, W.T. Frick’s One & Three, which came off the riso in late 2019.
Taking the form of a vicarious tour through a multi-media conceptual art show inspired by the works of legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin — specifically The Lathe Of Heaven — Frick’s immaculately-detailed realist illustrations are juxtaposed with text captions both heavy and sparse in equal measure, establishing a highly unusual rhythm to the work as a whole that keeps readers wonderfully, dare I say tantalizingly, off-balance throughout. All of which means, in short, that this is a highly experimental and unconventional entry in a series where such things are already taken as a matter of course.
It’s also — and this is the crucial part — quite beautiful and immersive, with Frick bringing you indirectly into her world in order to, for lack of a better term, lull you into Le Guin’s. One needn’t be terribly familiar with The Lathe Of Heaven — goodness know I’m not — in order to feel both siren-called toward it (which could very well be the whole point here) and reasonably familiar with, at the very least, its conceptual framework and concerns by the time all is said and done here, but this is by no means a linear exploration of its subject on Frick’s part. No, that’d be too easy and too dull. Rather, this is an examination of it from the perspective of an ambitious double remove : after all, attending a gallery show is by its very definition an exercise in observation, so when we, as readers, are observing those who are in turn observing the exhibition themselves, well — that’s reification squared.
Compounding the effect further still, some of the art herein isn’t by Frick herself — although she’s offering her visual interpretation of it — but is, rather, by the likes of Louise Lawler, Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Koseth, and even Tilda Swinton. It probably would be beneficial to have at least a passing familiarity with Le Guin’s original text in order to limn the connections between it and these works, sure, but again — I’m not prepared to say that’s a “make or break” deal. I emerged from the other side fairly confident in my having pieced most of this together, and the “blind spots” I went in with that still persist strike me now as being intriguing blank spaces I’d like to fill in rather than frustrating knowledge gaps. But perhaps I’m deluding myself?
It’s certainly been known to happen, so I’m not prepared to rule it out, but this is nevertheless a very inviting and tonally reverential look at various looks at Le Guin, a number of which are conscripted into said service rather than having been created with such aims in mind. Trust me when I say it only sounds confusing — if you drop your guard at the outset and allow yourself to go with Frick’s flow, it all feels quite true, and where I come from that means a hell of a lot more than making hard-and-fast, concrete sense.
Admittedly, this doesn’t exactly put me in an optimal position when it comes to determining whether or not Frick has achieved what she set out to do here, but comics poetry, like its literary equivalent, is all about individual interpretation, anyway. From where I’m sitting — as a voyeur twice-removed — I’m still processing the impressions that it left me with, and I never feel cheated or unfulfilled by art that takes me time to first process, and then process a reaction to.
One & Three is available for $6.00 from the Ley Lines storenvy site at http://leylines.storenvy.com/products/25429437-one-three-ley-lines-no-18
Review wrist check – Formex “Essence” automatic chronometer brown dial model riding a Formex blue strap.