Mary Fleener’s Stylistic Dynamism

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I read more than half of Mary Fleener’s Life of the Party (Fantagraphics) before admitting I was bored with it. The book collects a number of short autobiographical stories. The milieu (California) and situations (parties and lovers and bands, etc.) just doesn’t interest me enough.

What does interest me is Fleener’s use of cubism and futurism to punctuate her otherwise plain style (her use of patterns is also rather interesting). At times of strong emotion or dream-like states (drink and drugs being prime reasons in this collection), her drawings explode into the multiple flat planes of cubism or the kinetic all-at-once motion of futurism. For instance this face:

Or this frenetic sex scene:

While sometimes the cubistic style is used throughout a story, more often it is interspersed with a conventionally representational style. This stylistic shifting between panels in the same work is rarely seen in comics. I can think of very few artists who do it at all (the manga “superdeformed” style is the first that comes to mind). Stylistic consistency is a conventional virtue, yet comics, more so than many forms, is ripe for this sort of experimentation. For more see my post on “levels of abstraction.”