The opening night of Monstrous
Optimism at Richmond, Virginia's Artspace
Gallery was an exciting time - it was a reunion of friends,
students, family and colleagues for late artist Kerry
Talbott - but, perhaps more importantly, it was an introduction
of his work to a new audience.
Illustrator par excellence, Talbott reguarly contributed to the
Richmond daily newspapers (News Leader & Times-Dispatch),
as well as numerous other periodicals and books, both local and
national. Much has been written in the papers & magazines
in the past year about his skills and how he will be missed. There
have been other memorial and fundraiser events, such as at Gallery
5 & Ghostprint galleries. It is a testament
to the impact of an artist - and an educator - that his public
is not willing to let go of his memory.
This exhibit consists of original work by Mr. Talbott, as well
as many contribitions by fellow Virginia Commonwealth University
art professors such as Sterling Hundley & Robert Meganck;
nationally recongnized artists including Stephen Bissette, and,
most prominently, his own students who have gone on to professional
careers, including concept artist and children's illustrator,
Lewis. Hillary relates that the open-mindedness of
Talbott as an instructor was influential and liberating for her:
"He helped me to see that I didn't have to limit myself to
what my previous years in art school had me believe I had to do
in order to be an artist." She states that his critiques
- and grading - were not lenient, but he told the students what
they needed to hear in order to facilitate their growth. The testament
by Miss Lewis regarding the impact of Kerry Talbott on her career
was a very beautiful email, one which expressed a sentiment that
I know was shared by many.
Kelly Alder's recollections demonstrate the power of Talbott's
art: seeing Kerry's art in the newspapers, and eventually in a
locally published comic book, he asked the publisher, Patrick
Godfrey, more about this illustrator/cartoonist. This inquiry
led to a meeting of the three, and a new friendship. "We would
on occasion show each other what we were working on and Kerry's
work, simply put, was always amazing", relates Alder. All
three artists shared a strong affinity for the Harvey Kurtzman
edited MAD publication, and Godfrey, with assistance from Alder,
was the prime organizer of this exhibit. Both artists emphasized
that Santa DeHaven, Artspace Exhibitions Chair, made the exhibition
look as professional as it does: packed with variety by sixty
artists, primarily including prints but also originals, the presentation
looks streamlined and cohesive.
An entire gallery wall is devoted to a complete 32 page story,
plus cover art, from Knight Watchman: Skeletons in the Closet,
published by Big
Bang Comics. While the bulk of the show presents single-image
illustrations, this ambitious and accomplished sequential effort
came as a surprise, prompting this writer to learn more. A meeting
with Kerry's wife, portrait artist Christy
Lyons Talbott, illuminated more about the mind of this prolific
creator: she shared generously of her time and showed decades
of work, published & unpublished, by her late husband: sports
art; political illustration; courtroom sketches; children's illustration;
and, of course, comics. Both Mr. Godfrey and Mrs. Talbott express
that comics were Mr. Talbott's favorite form of art-making, though
his skill in so many areas might make that conclusion hard to
determine. He kept a studio in their house and was at the drawing
table "day and night". Among one of the mementos that
was shared with me was a caricature of celebrity columnist Esther
Lederer, better known as Ann Landers, signed by the writer herself.
Kerry's caricature skill is Christy's favorite talent of his,
and the family also owns a drawing he did of movie star Katharine
Hepburn, signed by the actress.
It was a joy to research this topic and discover the work of
a cartoon artist so grounded in the basics. Painter and cartoonist
Bowles, a former student of Talbott's from both high-school
(internship at The Richmond-Times Dispatch during Junior
Work Week) and college (VCU's Communication Arts Dept.),
shares that upon first meeting Talbott and expressing an interest
in his methods, "he immediately began pulling out drawings
and sketches." And, as was related to me by everyone with
whom I spoke, "I always found him to be funny."
The sale of art and prints which are on display at Artspace Gallery
benefit Noah and Lilah, the children of Kerry and Christy Talbott.
The exhbition is on view until September 21, 2014. At the conclusion
of the exhibit, prints will be available through Velocity Comics.
Artspace Gallery, 0 East 4th Street, Richmond, VA 23224 (Tues.-Sun.,
12-4PM and By Appointment)
Comics, 819-A West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220 (Mon.
- Sat., 10-7PM and Sun. 12-6PM)