Comic Relief: Anna and Kabuki

During treatment I was making these collage journals and I was obsessed with pictographs. Anna came home at one point with a gift for me: This time it wasn’t her comic work—which I LOVE and find objectively to be the most brilliant in the universe–but that of some guy named David Mack. She said that when she saw his work it reminded her of mine.

The comic book was called Kabuki, and it was one of the Alchemy series. That guy’s work struck me immediately, visually, viscerally and physically so deeply inside from the first images inside. As I utilized a magnifying glass to access the print, I found myself reached out to from somewhere unknown to me. Japan? Kentucky? Who knows-Who cares? Kabuki became my hero– I related to her scars, her confusion. I devoured the artwork and the story. I wept when I read about the machine for Little Girl to navigate big world. I wanted one. I remember thinking that I have been inside some world renowned museums and galleries, but that slippery $3.99 issue in my hand had affected me as profoundly as any other artwork I’d ever encountered. I wished it was my work. I claimed it’s protagonist as my new friend and fairy godsister. I needed her in those dexamethasone nights. Kabuki was my Achemi— my secret friend—she kept me going.

After chemo and radiation were completed, I found myself in another new environment: New York City ComicCon. It’s pronounced as one word, but it stands for Comic Convention. And my one goal of attending with Anna was to meet this David Mack guy and thank him. And…maybe…maybe…to have him look at my own strange and awkward attempt at a comic book about my experience—if he were willing.

Not only did David receive Anna and me graciously, but in minutes we were relating about pain scales and life’s challenges and making art work. He encouraged my work and I felt him to be sincere in his commentary. I have asked him to write the Forward for “The Adventures of My Left Breast”—the humble beginnings of which are included in the ReEntry station of the Ex Voto Exhibit. David has something like nine billion Eisner awards but he still stands for hours at the convention, signing and answering, taking photos with person after person…relating to people as people. And at no time did this hip young man ever treat this middle aged puffy almost hairless Shrek like female (that would be ME) with condescension or impatience. In fact, he treated me like a comrade. I was buoyed. I felt the power. I did a couple of secret side kicks and round kicks in my head. I was Kabuki.

As Anna and I walked out of the Javitz Center that day, a young man looked up at me from his booth and shouted out, “Hey!– cool hair!” After 49 years of feeling like a geek who didn’t belong, I had found my people.

Back in Bennington, when I went to thank Betsy Browning—the amazing, local midwife and patron saint of females across the globe—who diagnosed me, she said the most awesome thing: She said that it was my art that saved me because her assistant had been calling me for artwork for her new office walls that day. Had it not been for that call I might not have been diagnosed for several more months.

Betsy was right. Art has saved me many times over the past several years, but not just my own work—-and not just that of the more obvious well-known suspects—my friends Vuillard and Neel, Park and Kahlo.

The power of art to heal lies as much in how others show us through their art how they see us. It shows in how the art of one artist in Kentucky can make another in a Bennington chemo room feel understood, feel the energy of a two-dimensional friend on the page.

Thank you, Anna. Thank you for the Kabuki comic, for being one of the two most awesome women in the universe. Thank you for your incredible and inspiring work. Thanks for helping me learn how to make my own and for all those hours during treatment where we sat at the table and worked together. Thanks for continuing to help me search for issue #8 of Kabuki (Alchemy) at the comic book stores. Thank you for remaining forever young and for thriving in spite of life’s challenges. Thank you for being you–for being my hero. It is my privilege to be Phoebe’s and your mama.

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viola moriarty

(American, b. 1958)
Modern Expressionist Painter
2012-13 Recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

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