Caswell, Filipi talk about new ‘Bone’ exhibit

Jeff Smith’s joint exhibit his Bone comic opened up last weekend at the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library and Wexner Center for the Arts.’s Kiel Phegley interviewed the two curators Lucy Caswell and David Filipi.

David, you may have just answered my next question, but I was wondering for each of you, what was the element of piece of the show that really had you going “Wow”? The thing that made you feel everything was coming together.

FILIPI: Well, I think for me once Lucy and i said “Let’s do this” I had to come over and convince a contemporary arts center that’s never done anything like this before to do this. And so all I could show them were the comic books or the Bone One Volume, and if you’ve seen the One Volume, it’s not the same as looking at an original page. The people I had to â?? well, convince is maybe too strong of a word.

CASWELL: But they were just not familiar with Jeff’s work.

FILIPI: Yeah. Exactly. But seeing Jeff’s original pages for the first time and seeing how beautiful they were as art objects and the level of craft that goes into each page just convinced me that there’d be no issues hanging these on a wall and that people would completely be able to appreciate how this art â?? yes, they’re pages from a continuing story, but each page stands on its own as a work of art. That was a moment for me where not only was I trying to convince the people I had to at the Wexner Center, but it was a very reassuring moment for me when Lucy started getting original pages for us to look at, and we could be absolutely convinced that they’d work in a gallery setting. That’s not to say that seeing an original George Herriman was not incredible. And the color Thimble Theater Lucy got for the show is amazing.

CASWELL: I think for me â?? the Library is doing an exhibit of The Lantern, Jeff’s student cartoons called “Before Bone,” and obviously I hadn’t read through that stuff since it was published in the paper in the ’80s. He donated the originals to the Library when he left Ohio State, and when I went back through all of the ones he had given us, I was astonished at how well the work held up. He was so sophisticated as a student cartoonist, and we see all of the Bone cast of characters in the Thorn comic strip that he did as a student and all the proto-Bone story is there. The interesting thing is that there’s also a Ronny Doody satire of Ronald Regan. There’s a Jerry Falwell satire. There’s all this other stuff going on too, so it’s not just a linear story. By the time we get to Bone it’s a very linear story, so it’s so much fun for me to look back at the early work. Our show will be up all summer too, and we’re hoping that people will visit both places. It really is fun to see how Jeff matured.

FILIPI: They’re a great compliment for each other.