To recap: I flew from San Francisco to Ohio on Thursday for the opening of the LitGraphic exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art on Friday, and then flew back to San Francisco on Saturday. About the flights: just imagine sitting in an airplane for four hours, sitting in O'Hare International Airport for three hours, sitting in a much tinier airplane for one hour, then doing it in reverse two days later. Then add delays and thunderstorms over the Midwest. We hit some weather coming into Chicago on Thursday, which made for a long and bumpy flight but repaid me with pictures like this:
The Moon, floating above it all.
The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) is a very impressive jewel. The legacy of Edward Libbey, who came to Toledo to make his fortune in glass, TMA opened in 1901 and has one of the most eclectic collections I've ever seen, ranging from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art, with many household names (Rubens, Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, Cezanne) represented. Program Coordinator Judy Weinberg, who picked me up at the airport at midnight and took outstanding care of me the entire time, explained that TMA's philosophy is quality over quantity, acquiring the best available examples of an artist's work rather than a lot of them.
The front of TMA. Behind me as I shot this photo is a separate museum building dedicated just to works made of glass, honoring the institution's origin.
The museum lobby, with the LitGraphic exhibition
through the doors dead ahead (behind the bouquet).
One of the best parts of the Libbey legacy is that admission to TMA is free. Although all museums wish they had more community involvement and support, from what I could see this joint was jumpin'. The same night as my talk, they had a wine bar with live music going on in one gallery and a weekly glassblowing demonstration happening in the Glass Pavilion across the street.
My gracious host and babysitter, Judy Weinberg . . .
. . . who then turned the camera on me.
Judy arranged for me to have lunch on Friday with Michael Walker, a comic artist and graduate of the Kubert School. That was great! Michael and I must have walked six miles through historic Toledo and downtown, talking shop. It added a lot to my trip to have a local show me around; it added a lot to my professional life to hear stories about comic art legends like Irwin Hasen (whom I've met and Michael took classes from) and Joe Kubert. He was generous with his time and I appreciated it a lot.
I think my talk went pretty well. I wish I were a little smoother speaker, but then again you don't want to be so smooth you're slick. I do think I achieved my goal of giving the 75 or so people who attended some things to look for as they toured LitGraphic and maybe some appreciation for comics as art/literature. I also met Chris Marshall, who interviewed me for his Collected Comics Library podcast a couple weeks ago and drove down from Michigan for the event. Great guy, and it was very nice to see a familiar face even if I'd never really seen it before.
The LitGraphic exhibition itself was beautifully done. TMA seemed to have quite a bit more room to display the works than the Rockwell Museum did, and I thought the extra breathing space helped. Monitors showed the same video profiles of some of the artists (including me) produced by the Rockwell Museum. Decorative banners and interpretive text were very nicely done. The whole thing was first rate.
Eight pages of original art from Mom's Cancer. I got in trouble taking this photo when a security guard nicely but firmly ordered "Sir, no pictures." "But I drew those!" I protested. "How do I know you drew those?" she reasonably asked. "Look!" I said, pointing to my self-portrait on one of the pages, "That's me!" She was unmoved and unconvinced. Luckily, Judy appeared just in time to prevent my ejection.
Another niche of the exhibition. Let's say I took
this photo before I knew I wasn't supposed to.
My entire literary oeuvre available in the TMA
giftshop. I signed most of these after my talk.
As for Toledo itself, I thought it was a great city whose citizens seemed a little too eager to apologize for it. I say no apologies are needed. While it's obviously a distressed industrial town, there's also obviously a lot of good work going on to revive it, and terrific architectural bones to build on. Michael and I ended up discussing house prices and property values, and my California ears could hardly believe what they heard. For what I'm paying right now for my two daughters' college tuition, I could buy mansions--actual historic mansions--in Toledo. Watch yourselves, girls.
Toledo skyline from a bridge overlooking the
Maumee River. Nothing wrong with that town.
The bed and breakfast a short walk from TMA in which I was put up for my stay. Toledo is lousy with great old residential and commercial buildings like this.
Altogether, I had a wonderful time in Toledo, think I performed ably and learned some things I hope to do better next time, and would love to go back again sometime. If you're in the neighborhood, check out the Toledo Museum of Art; definitely worth the trip and it won't cost you a dime. My sincerest thanks to Judy and everyone who made me feel so welcome.
Hey, "Ode Lo Toledo" isn't just a bad palindrome: It's a yodel!
EDITED TO ADD: Here's that video put together by Jeremy Clowe for the Norman Rockwell Museum and now showing on one of the monitors in LitGraphic. My desk still looks about the same.