Whit’s Thursday Review: Daryl Seitchik’s Minicomics
I met Daryl Seitchik at MoCCA a few years back, as we tabled next to each other for two years. I have been a fan of her work for a while, but recently realized that she has taken a real artistic leap forward, refining her line, which only reinforces her already strong storytelling. I will be reviewing three of her recent pieces: Still Life #1, Sub, and Missy. Seitchik’s three autobio-ish pieces differ in their content yet share many themes.
I began with Still Life #1 which allowed me to work back developmentally, starting with young adulthood and moving to her childhood in Missy. Daryl never quite leaves childhood, or rather childhood never quite leaves her as is initially evident in her well-rendered caricature: a tiny girl with wondrous (and at time blank) eyes and wavy hair. Her short stature, as well as her attitude towards the outside world reminded me of the Peanuts as well as Madeline. Daryl is the quintessential observer, one who navigates the world with a level of disconnection, wondering, “Is this it?” while also experiencing brief moments of awe and silent beauty. To be a successful autobiographical cartoonist you have to be able to balance the outside world with the inner world which Seitchik does this quite well.
Daryl constantly struggles with integrating her old, younger life into her current one. Her past haunts her, though not necessarily in a bad way. She has a preoccupation with ghosts, which points to her coming to terms with remnants of what she used to be. The ills of the modern world continually resurface, whether it be a couple mindlessly heading to The Gap, musing on the inherent illogical nature of posting on the internet, or Googling symptoms for a for a foot that has fallen asleep. This last story was my favorite as it hints at Daryl’s relatable neuroticism and over-thinking in this circumstance. And the best antidote is just letting go; in this case dancing.
Sub is an exploration of autonomy, control and projection. It begins with Daryl being unemployed and living at home with her mother. Aimlessly searching for food in the kitchen, she decides upon a glass of water, which she partially tips over. She heads up to her room to cartoon and falls into a lucid dream where she finds her self deep in a body of water. It’s this submerging into water, which symbolizes diving into her unconscious. A visual shift occurs here as well, as Seitchik transitions from her thin line to soft charcoal.
Surfacing from this lake, Daryl realizes that she is in control of her environment and floats around in the water for a bit completely naked. Shortly after, she emerges from a swimming pool only to find her mother and a monster-like male stranger [who looks like a nightmarish Charles Burns character] staring at her disapprovingly. Her mother urges her to put her clothes on as Daryl explains that this is HER dream. Apparently even in her dream she can’t escape her reality completely. Her mother’s judgment of her nakedness symbolizes Daryl’s feeling of exposure. She flees, but the prickly grass morphs into larvae/maggots. She slips, cries for help, and begins to fall, crying out for her mother. Despite her desire for autonomy she is still dependent and feels lost.
This piece is quite Jungian. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, believed that individuation was crucial in distinguishing individual beings from one another. This process, which often occurs through dreaming, is essential for the integration of the psyche with the outside world. Sub is rife with symbols, even if all of them are not clearly decipherable, hinting at the deeper issues that Daryl is working on to achieve this integration. As Jung notes in his chapter “The Importance of Dreams” from his book Man and His Symbols: “As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason” (Jung, Man and His Symbols, Dell Publishing, 1964).
This strong use of symbolism continues in Seitchik’s most recent minicomic Missy, which was published by Oily Comics. “Missy” is the name of Daryl’s childhood journal, and the piece is composed of short entries from it. The language may have childish simplicity, but Seitchik conveys deeper meaning from the images, whether through her use of facial expressions or her aforementioned use of symbols. Daryl dresses as a ghost for Halloween, feeling invisible yet again, in this case as two classmates talk behind her back. As Daryl writes about her parents impending divorce she picks an eyelash out of her reddened eye, shedding a tear and blowing it away, perhaps with a wish. Missy is all about the smaller moments, and how they may be more meaningful than the bigger picture.
This piece is full of understated, well-timed humor, which is needed given the heartbreaking nature of children dealing with divorce. It’s never easy, but as a child, one does not have the perspective to really understand what is going on. My favorite story is when she and her sister sit in the bathtub talking about boys. Selecting three boys from her school, her sister asks her who she would set on fire, who she would save, and who she would marry and then “devorst”. Again, minimal language, but her answer is complemented by the drifting of transient bath bubbles.
Seitchik is able to sustain a mood throughout her pieces which requires greater skill than typically acknowledged. She uses the autobiographical medium effectively, meaning that you can look at her specific situations in a universal and inclusive way, even if it’s hard to watch at times. She lets you borrow her eyes with a refreshing level of subtlety, restraint, and trust which leaves you wanting more.
For more of her comics: http://darylseitchik.tumblr.com
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