Contributor Interview: Caroline Picard

Detail from Apu Ollontay, adapted by Caroline Picard

Detail from Apu Ollontay, adapted by Caroline Picard

We continue our series of interviews with those who made The Graphic Canon possible this week, this time with artist Caroline Picard.

1) What inspired you to adapt the piece you did for the Graphic Canon?
I actually contributed two pieces—the first came out in the first GC volume, where I adapted an ancient Incan play, Apu Ollantay. It is the only play known to have survived the Spanish Invasion. I was first taken with the story because I’ve loved Incan works of art for so long and wanted to see how I could potentially incorporate some of those stylistic elements into the comic. As I worked with the story more and more, I began to fall in love with the issues it wrestled with. There are a number of strong female protagonists in the play, at the center of which lies Cosi Cuyllur, the princess, who has decided to go against her father’s wishes and sleep with a husband she chooses for herself. It’s a tragic story for her—she sleeps with her lover and is thereafter exiled to a cave, which causes the country to go to war—but those who banished her are ultimately condemned, just as she is rescued (or unearthed) by the daughter born out of wedlock. While I don’t think her final redemption makes the torment she suffered worthwhile, I think the story tries to capture the wasted lives her father’s will caused. The princess’ body becomes a politicized site, one whose impact and meaning is embodied and carried on via subsequent generations.

Detail from Apu Ollontay, adapted by Caroline Picard

Detail from Apu Ollontay, adapted by Caroline Picard

Following a similar thread, I guess (though I didn’t realize it until now), I also adapted a section from Virginia Woolf’s A Voyage Out, where the young protagonist, Rachel, (who has so far spent her entire life on board her father’s ship, reading books and taking naps) has her first kiss with a married man, Mr. Dalloway. Having Mr. and Mrs. Dalloway appear in the book was even more incredible, as I’d met them before in Woolf’s book Mrs. Dalloway. A Voyage Out was Woolf’s first novel and the couple appears in a different light, from a different perspective—that of a young girl. It almost feels like Rachel is a mirror for Woolf’s own perspective and to feel like some of her characters are at the beginning of their fictional lives is kind of incredible. But here too, A Voyage Out is about a young woman’s journey into South America and society (or womanhood), so there seemed to be a really nice thematic resonance with AO. Plus I got to play around a lot with underwater sea creature motifs, as these shadowy, peripheral fears of sexuality (for instance, when Rachel is trying to talk about what happened between her and Mr. Dalloway to another, older friend). What I especially loved was the way Woolf’s characters are kind of blase about the whole thing. The emphasis is on the peculiar feeling of being kissed, not the marital transgression. It’s a great passage and I loved getting the chance to focus so intently on it—my rendition of A Voyage Out is set to come out in volume 3 of the Graphic Canon.

2) What other projects are you working on at the moment?
For the last several years I’ve been working on an ongoing series of comics about Fortuna. Allegedly “the greatest superhero in the world,” she nevertheless suffers from a crippling case of ennui that makes her more or less ineffectual. Her adventures are fairly banal—they involve having secret dinner parties without any guests, making a goldfish sing, tracking down the source of a leak in her ceiling, spending the night on Alcatraz and quitting her job at the Christmas light company. This summer I want to start working on the portion of her story where she rides a horse across the country. The long arc is that eventually she might come into her own. You can see more of that, as well as other comics I’ve made, by going to my website: http://www.cocopicard.com.

Thanks, Caroline! Visit her site for more information on all of Caroline’s projects, and be sure to check out Volume 3 of The Graphic Canon for her adaptation of A Voyage Out!

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