Wonder Women, Unite!
Belen’s Through the Flower Gallery shows Maureen Burdock’s feminist graphic novels
By Lisa Lenard-Cook
When feminist graphic novelist Maureen Burdock says she “can take a bad situation and transmute it with humor and with grace,” she’s being modest. Burdock has managed to find the light side in both incest and femicide. She is one of two winners of Through the Flower Gallery’s Feminists Under Forty juried competition.
Drawings from parts one and two of Burdock’s five-part graphic novel series The F Word: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century provide the punch. The first book, Marta and the Missing, is the story of a woman who, by acquiring superpowers, puts an end to the femicide in Juarez, Mexico. With text in both English and Spanish (translation by Gabriel de Pablo), the book also contains portraits of real victims.
When Kenyan women were shown Marta and the Missing, a drawing of the perpetrators tied to a saguaro with their pants around their ankles had them laughing in recognition. “Humor is an important ingredient to make the drawings and paintings communicate not just the problems, but also the intelligence and goodness of human nature that makes transmutation possible,” Burdock notes.
“Humor is an important ingredient to make the drawings and paintings communicate not just the problems, but also the intelligence and goodness of human nature that makes transmutation possible.”
The second book in the series, Mona and the Little Smile, is a semiautobiographical tale of a little girl in the U.S. who deals with childhood sexual abuse both heroically and humorously. Mona, who magically transmutes herself from victim to artist, uses her magical powers to help other children do the same. Together, they come up with a clever solution to the scourge of child abuse by turning abusers into mushrooms, which Burdock notes are beautiful, harmless—and phallic. Mona’s text is written in English and German, with Burdock herself providing the translation.
Burdock plans to bring the same comic touch to her next book, about a superheroine who takes on the plight of Turkish immigrant women in Germany. Because patriarchal Muslim families don’t approve of their daughters dating Western men and becoming westernized, the men threaten and sometimes even murder daughters and sisters to preserve the family honor.
Burdock was born in Germany, but her mother brought her to the U.S. to escape domestic violence when she was young. Burdock says she discovered feminist consciousness early, calling the “exceptionally independent women” in her family her role models. She adds that her early art education was “absorbed” in the Chicago, Ill. museums of her childhood.
Judy Chicago, the internationally renowned feminist artist whose Through the Flower Gallery initiated the Feminists Under Forty competition, calls Burdock’s artwork “authentic [and] original in terms of content, and lively.”
Burdock is exhibiting her work at the Belen gallery through Jan. 31, 2009. Also at the gallery, as part of Through the Flower’s Cultural Corridor project, are small exhibits culled from Chicago’s own seminal feminist works The Dinner Party and International Quilting Bee.
Through the Flower Gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is one block from the Belen Railrunner station. By car, go east from Main to 107 Becker. Further info can be found on the gallery’s website, www.throughtheflower.org.
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