Exhibit preview: Local cartoonists pull inspiration from James Thurber in The Cartoon Carnival

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From the June 19, 2014 edition

Obviously a lot has changed since Columbus-raised humorist James Thurber was making cartoons and writing essays. In the 1910s, Thurber attended Ohio State University but did not get his degree because a childhood injury that blinded him in one eye kept him from passing the mandatory ROTC course. 

Cultural differences aside, Thurber's art legacy continues to influence cartoonists. Thurber's 1932 cartoon for The New Yorker called "Touche!" is credited with changing the face of cartooning. Instead of the Victorian-style, overdrawn, loquaciously captioned cartoon characteristic of the era before it, "Touche!" was a loose-lined, brief illustration of a sword fight with but one word below it.

Fitting, then, that "Touche!" leads the lineup of 23 works in Wild Goose Creative's June gallery exhibit. For "The Cartoon Carnival," members of the Goose's weekly Sunday comics artist meetup took a Thurber illustration and put their own modern-day spin on it. 

The images are displayed in one long row — Thurber's work on top, a placard listing where the illustration first appeared and when in the middle, the new take on it by a local cartoonist on the bottom. Wild Goose's gallery shows this year have been exciting (next month is a roundup of work inspired by the music and art of Patti Smith), and this clean display of the work lets the viewer take it in from several different points of view. There's plenty to see.

"I love looking across Thurber's body of work and seeing how tight it is even though it can look loose or naive," said Wild Goose's artistic director Jessie Glover-Boettcher. "And looking at the new work puts a new perspective on the content."

The modern work often highlights subtle nuances of Thurber's cartoons, like the sinister nature of some of it — divorce, hauntings, fights. The humor remains in many, though, and the most memorable of the current works are those that put several spins on Thurber's themes, such as Michael Neno's drum-slaying Ophelia and Lora Innes' interpretation of generational divides. 

The show is up at Wild Goose through the end of the month, and this Thursday's reception includes a Q&A with several of the artists and representatives from the Thurber House museum. 

Photo courtesy of Wild Goose Creative