School of Visual Arts: Fresh Meat 2009

Categories:  Features

The phrase “meat market” isn’t too far removed from the sense one gets shuffling up and down the halls of your average comic convention, sizing up the works of—and, on occasion, attempting to avoid eye contact with—those who’ve bared their souls along rented folding tables, hoping their creative expressions catch more glances and collect more dollars than those of their neighbors. By that measure, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a better name than Fresh Meat for the annual showcasing of works by soon-to-be SVA grads.

At first blush, Fresh Meat looks to be a fairly standard indie comic con, with minis spread out on the tables in front of their respective artist who sketch on pads or socialize with one another. The show’s quite a bit smaller than an SPX or a MoCCA, of course, nestled in amongst the leather couches and vending machines of the school’s Monkey Bar Lounge in midtown Manhattan.

What truly sets Fresh Meat apart from those aforementioned cons, however, is the fact that this event marks the first time many of the artists present have attended a show on the other side of the table. The result is an odd combination of timidity and the manner of self-assuredness that precedes the outside world’s spirit crushing anti-art sentimentalities. There’s plenty to be confident about, of course—the small room is jammed-packed with hungry artists, both figuratively and literally, as the  several SVA-provided pizza boxes consumed with piranha like speed could attest.

If SVA’s impeccable track record is any indication, of course, this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of many of those in attendance. It’s difficult—and perhaps unfair—to attempt to handicap this batch of graduates, however. Not surprisingly, there’s a fairly pervasive theme of roughness running through most–if not all–of the works present. But so too is the ever-present potential for many of this crop to become major players on the indie comics scene with a fair amount of practice and persistence. After the jump, check out a few quick favorites pulled from my stack of mini comics.

[Fresh Meat Flickr set.]

Flamingo Island by Hanni Brosh—Scholastic ought keep an eye on Brosh. Flamingo Island follows the adventures of freckle-cheeked little girl who drifts out to an enchanted desert island, with just a pair of talking Water Wings for company.

You Are a Jerk! by Megan Brennan
—Brennan goes in a million different directions in a few quick pages with these short stories. The book kicks off with a Minty Lewis-like tale of a unicorn and winged tiger engaged in a bake off. Also included are stories about bowling, an adolescent wannabe crime fighter, a Nazi unicorn, and, of course, Vincent Van Gogh. Brennan experiments with a number of different styles, but her lines stay fairly loose throughout.

Man-Eating Tiger by H.H. Finkelstein—The short story Hiver, 1949 is the highlight of this two-sided mini. The largely wordless piece is the most experimental of the book, both visually and story-wise. It’s also hands down the most interesting, set on beds of backwards French newsprint—one could easily see the story extended to a book length work for a publisher like Sparkplug.

Wall of Fire by Kat Larkin—I asked the author why she opted to adapt an L. Ron Hubbard story into mini-comic form, and she answered (to paraphrase) “because I hate him.” Fair enough. Larkin’s book adapts this cornerstone of Scientological dogma with a visual style that invokes Naked Lunch-era Bukowski through a Saturday morning cartoon filter.

Fish Food by Ashley Quigg—Quigg’s fantasy stories put an emphasis on the short, rarely spilling over more than two pages. The artist’s line work is incredibly tight, and she wears visual influences like the Hernandez Bros, Terry Moore, and Molly Crabapple on her sleeve. This is some visually stunning stuff.

Kitty Dead by Stephen Pellnat—This is a rough little book, both in terms art and packaging, but damned if Pellnat’s tiny burst of surrealism wasn’t one of the more compelling works at the show.

When Corgis Attack! By Allison Strejlau—Strejlau knows from cute. In a room full of adorable books, this single page story of a corgi and a bunny may well have taken the top spot.

The Courage of Thor by Cherise Ward—Ward’s book carried on the theme of comics for kids, which encapsulated so much of the work present at Fresh Meat. Her perspectives can still use a bit of work, but the artist’s use of watercolors and big Maurice Sendak-like monsters could easily find their way into the kids section of your local bookstore in the coming years.

Will Play For Food by Pat Woodruff–Woodruff had a couple of works on display that showcased a penchant for creative packaging. This book was sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, a prop straight out of the story contained inside. His cartoony and grotesque style tells a tale of tragic redemption.

–Brian Heater

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2 Comments to “School of Visual Arts: Fresh Meat 2009”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 6, 2009: Kabuki
  2. Fresh Meat aftermath « Rel’s Blog