While the Columbus art world's eyes were on the reopening of the Columbus Museum of Art in the fall, graphic novelist Eleanor Davis was in residency at the Thurber House, working on her newest comic, about the life and work of two female porn stars who inevitably fall in love.

While the Columbus art world's eyes were on the reopening of the Columbus Museum of Art in the fall, graphic novelist Eleanor Davis was in residency at the Thurber House, working on her newest comic, about the life and work of two female porn stars who inevitably fall in love.

"It's very adult, but it's also kind of sad and serious and romantic," Davis said.

That begins to sum up critics' admiring impressions of Davis' work, which has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. Her unguarded exploration of the human condition drew Thurber House and the Columbus Museum of Art to award her just their fourth joint Graphic Novelist Residency. In addition to some creative free time at Thurber House, the residency also includes an exhibition at the art museum - Davis' is on view through Feb. 14.

"I was super tickled. It's a big opportunity," Davis said about her exhibition. "Getting to see my stuff framed was a real treat."

Davis, based in Athens, Georgia, grew up with comic enthusiast parents. At a young age, she was exposed to classic comics such as Little Lulu and Uncle Scrooge. Around 10 years old, she developed an interest in anime and manga. By high school, she had been introduced to the wonderfully diverse world of zines and mini-comics and has "loved it ever since," Davis said.

Davis' work features graphic literary short stories for both adults and children. Original pages from her major work, "How to be Happy," an imaginative collection of graphic literary short stories published by Fantagraphics, are featured in the CMA exhibition. Don't be fooled by the title, though; you won't find the key to happiness in these illustrations. Instead, the story that emerges from them forms a cryptic play on society's expectations for happiness. It's a common theme in Davis's work.

"My art is mostly about trying to learn how to live in a world that's often very painful," Davis said.

The exhibit also features, for the first time, selections from Davis's personal sketchbook, revealing the artist's creative process.

"The sketchbooks really show a lot of her thinking process," said Jeffery Sims, creative producer at the Columbus Museum of Art. "When you see her sketchbooks, you can really get the sense of how willing she is to explore with lots of different ideas. Whether they are pretty ideas or really ugly ideas, she's willing to kind of face it and deal with it."

Davis uses her sketchbook to reflect on images from her own life experiences.

"I think very visually," Davis said. "Often I will have an image in my mind that seems to stick with me. So I'll sorta draw that and draw images that surround it to try to figure out what it's all about and what it's doing in my mind."

The residency is specifically made for graphic novelists or artists who both write and draw their own works and who push the boundaries of what a comic can be, Sims said.

"One of the main reasons that I make art, and a lot of the folks that I know consume art, is to fight a sense of isolation," Davis said. "It's a way to remind ourselves and to remind one another that we're not doing this alone. I guess that's kind of what I hope folks get out of my art, that sense of connection.

"I do a lot of work for inner exploring," she said. "I'm trying to work out stuff for myself. It's absolutely personal but I'm very aware of the audience."