‘It Felt Like Coming Home’ For One Fine Artist Crossing Over To Comic Book Art

By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Correspondent for Bleeding Cool

Exhibit Poster

The Picture This Gallery & Custom Framing owner Marisol Gomez hosted a reception for her Annual Open Media Art Exhibit in Long Beach, California last Saturday evening, March 15th. In a juried competition, twenty artist were selected for the month long open themed exhibition showcasing artists’ work in mixed media, oils, acrylics, cloth, photography, and wood. Bold colors, muted patterns, broad-brush strokes, and collage expressed abstract, religious, post modern, portraiture, and whimsical themes around the elongated one room gallery space that also served as a framing shop.

 Marisol Gomez_Gallery Owner

[Nicholas Diak and Marisol Gomez]

As people clustered with friends to chat or spend time looking at the art, I spoke with Gomez who purchased the space back in 1996. While most of her business comes from custom framing, each month she hosts a themed show, such as “Animal House” and “Catadores” Cigar Art & LBFD Fundraiser and both are events that Gomez uses to raise donations for local organizations B.A.R.K. and the Long Beach Fire Department. This month is “Open” and she was quick to inform me that she has a jury that evaluates each entry and makes the decision on which artists are ultimately invited to participate in the show. She said that she started doing a open themed show that provided artists the opportunity to explore a theme that wasn’t already represented by one of the other months throughout the year at her gallery.

Baron Samedi

I went around the room looking at each piece and met one of the artists, Tom Oliver who has been showing in galleries for the past six years. He comes from a background in architecture and is a planner for the City of Los Alamitos. I was curious how he fell into painting and showing his work at galleries. “It was social media – Facebook,” Oliver told me. He started posting photographs of his work. While he had two abstracts paintings hung in the gallery, he said his paintings of buildings around downtown Los Angeles, especially the Phillipe, attracted interested buyers. The rest is history, so to speak.

Tom Oliver_Artist

[Tom Oliver]

As I took another look around the artwork hanging in the gallery, I could have been looking at single panes representative of Saga, Zero, Trillium, Criminal, or Frank Miller’s Sin City series. In that moment, I realized just how fine art and pop art are sometimes closely related. I know that the similarities are at times serendipitous, but at other times, are the result of artists who have purposely crossed over the line and blended the two together. For instance, I immediately think of Ben Templesmith and Menton3, two members of the creative group Flood44, who have established unique artistic styles that have successfully cohabitated art book and comics (from Flood44’s Tome and Lust to comic books Memory Collector and Ten Grand as recently published projects). And, Hillary Bauman, a Los Angeles based artist who had a painting in the show, is carving a similar path for herself.

Hillary Bauman_Artist[Hilary Bauman]

Bauman’s oil painting “Desiderata” is inspired by Max Ehrmann’s 1927 prose poem The Desiderata of Happiness and is part of her “Aerial” series. Aerial tells her perspective: “I am above the earth looking down at my subject and rising above and outside of myself where I can find beauty in all things,” she said. Looking again, I could see the sweeping motion made by her broad brush strokes for the sandy beach contrasted by blotches of blues, greens, and white paint (mixed with joint compound and glue) forced through the spread out bristles of her brushes indicating a delta of the Nubai Desert region. The upper left corner was deep blue of a calm river. I really felt I had an omnipresent view of one part of the world.

Cirrus 1

As an established painter, I did wonder how Bauman crossed over into the territory of comic books. As a scenic/set painter as well as actress and dancer (you may see her in Mad Men as a secretary in the background), she said that working on sets is a “hurry up and wait” kind of situation, so she had time to read comic books and create storyboards for friends. In 2007, writer Tony Chavira approached her to collaborate on a comic book, Mirage Post Meridian, and for Bauman, it was a epiphany: she said “it felt like coming home.”

“Desiderata” embodied her approach and style; it was the same in Cirrus, a comic book series in which she painted all of the panels. In this day of digital art, I asked her how challenging was her method to paint a comic book? Without hesitation, she said, “It was K2.” She said many thought she was crazy, but she added, “Digital may be faster, but it’s too clean – I like the imperfections of brush work.”

Reception Crowd

What’s on the horizon for Bauman? On the fine art side, she’ll explore her hesitancy with the color red in a series aptly titled “Red” and she is currently working on a new graphic novel, Rift, which she enthusiastically describes as Casablanca in space. A teaser issue will be available at WonderCon next month. And at the reception, she was promoting …and All That Jazz, a collection of short stories and art by Bauman, out this autumn at the Long Beach Comic Con.

Mixed Media_Boxes

Whimsical AstroSignsHandmade Rosaries

The exhibition continues through March 29th where Bauman, Oliver, and the rest of the artists’ work can be viewed. Check the gallery for hours ahead of time.

*All photographs in this article are courtesy of Michele Brittany

Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.