Keiler Roberts: Powdered Milk
23 June – 7 August 2016
Tabitha Buckley, Arts and Entertainment Editor
This month, the Naughton Gallery plays host one of the most unique and original voices in contemporary comics, Keiler Roberts. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the UK, or indeed anywhere else outside of the the U.S.. The works that make up this exhibition include original artwork from her Ignatz Award-nominated minicomic series Powdered Milk, wall drawings, preliminary sketches and copies of the minicomics themselves, all coming together in a show that captures the innocence and mirthfulness of childhood.
Based on Roberts’ own life, Powdered Milk is heavily influenced by her relationships with her daughter, Xia, and her husband, Scott, as well as interactions with extended family and friends, all captured in stunningly simplistic linework. Intermingled with wonderfully entertaining moments which will have you laughing out loud are glimpses of the artist as an anxious, dispirited mother who must juggle looking after an energetic, gleeful young child and looking after herself, a task made all the more difficult by her bipolar disorder.
Discussing the experience of showing her work in the Naughton Gallery, Roberts explains:
“The ultimate experience in my mind for experiencing a comic is to read it in a book. Seeing a show of a cartoonist’s work once, however, will change the way I read their work forever. It’s interesting to see the scale, materials, and corrections on the original pages. The formal qualities are more apparent. I think you can gather up the tone of the work while standing in a space and absorbing it all at once, that is different from reading it as a book.”
“Growing up I read the Sunday paper comics and collections of The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and occasionally my brothers’ Groo The Wanderer comics and Mad magazine. I had no idea what was out there. I was always drawn to books with pictures and thought a lot about making a children’s book, but I wanted it to be for adults.”
Keiler Roberts began creating comics in 2009 on a course taught by Aaron Renier at DePaul University. Her husband, Scott Roberts, suggested that comics might be a good route for her to take, as she was trying to find an artform to replace painting. Her comics are now available on her website as well as through Amazon and, of course, available to read in the Naughton Gallery.
What Are Autobiographical Comics?
“I can’t say that [autobiographical writing is] better or more important. I’m drawn to it like I’m drawn to cookies. It’s in my nature. I love realism in all art forms. I always want to know more about people’s lives and I want to know the truth. I think knowing what people are really like has helped me accept some things about myself, and it has definitely opened my mind about how people think and behave.”
Autobiographical comics first became popular in the underground comix movement of the 1960s, which produced self-published and small press comic books which were often socially relevant, satirical or controversial in nature. The form has since become more widespread, gaining the most popularity in Canadian, American and French comics.
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