Self-Confessed! The Inappropriately Intimate Comics of Alison Bechdel

Sep 01, 2018 - Dec 30, 2018
Voorhees Gallery

This exhibition of the work of Alison Bechdel spans her illustrious, decades-long career. A renowned cartoonist and graphic memoirist who lives in Bolton, Vermont, Bechdel is a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant winner. Her pioneering comic strip about the lives of a group of lesbian friends, Dykes to Watch Out For, ran from 1983 to 2008 and was syndicated in over fifty alternative papers.

In 2006, Bechdel published the graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which explores her relationship with her father, her coming out, and his possible suicide. Fun Home was a New York Times bestseller and the basis of the Tony-award winning musical of the same name. Bechdel followed up in 2012 with Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, which follows her relationship with her mother, girlfriends, therapists, and her exploration of psychoanalytic theory. Both books are works of multilayered complexity, employing nonlinear storytelling and a rich trove of literary and historical references.

Self-Confessed! presents these primary bodies of work in depth through original drawings and sketches, while incorporating other aspects of Bechdel’s creative output, from early drawings to activist ephemera to large-scale self-portraits to a model of the set for the musical Fun Home, reconstructed for this exhibition. The exhibition explores Bechdel’s work as a writer, an artist, and an archivist of the self who continually mines and shares her own experiences in order to communicate something vitally human: the quest for love, acceptance, community, and social justice.

In addition to Bechdel's work, the exhibition includes drawings, prints, and books by three graphic memoirists whose distinct voices reflect experiences shared by many Americans today. Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (2017) documents the ongoing effects that immigration has on a family, even as its members assimilate to their new homes. In Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir (2012), cartoonist Ellen Forney recounts how she managed a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and her years-long struggle to find mental stability, while retaining her passion and creativity. Iraq veteran Maximilian Uriarte’s White Donkey: Terminal Lance (2016), a graphic novel that evolved from the comic strip and website he started in 2010, satirizes daily life in the United States Marine Corps. These artists demonstrate how relevant graphic novels and memoirs have become in connecting individuals who share personal experiences that may be difficult to discuss and helping them find a supportive community.

Self-Confessed! is organized by Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. The presentation at the Zimmerli is organized by Donna Gustafson, Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs.

The exhibition funded by donors to the Zimmerli’s Major Exhibition Fund: James and Kathrin Bergin, Alvin and Joyce Glasgold, Charles and Caryl Sills, and the Voorhees Family Endowment.

Related Programs
Graphic. Memoir. Psychoanalysis. A talk on Alison Bechdel by Dr. Martin Gliserman / Thursday, September 20

An Evening with Alison Bechdel / Wednesday, October 10
Kirkpatrick Chapel. Registration required.
This event is SOLD OUT! Thank you for your interest!

Alison Bechdel (American, born 1960)

Page 1 from The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For

(New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)

Courtesy of the Artist