Friday, October 21, 2011

Genesis providing insight into Crumb as an artist

Genesis is one of the many works of Robert Crumb. While the topic of interest within the piece (a bible story) is very atypical for Crumb, he stays very true to his own style with how he illustrates this rather serious and sensitive topic. To refer to the prompt, I believe he chose to illustrate Genesis in order to extend his own brilliance, and at times perversions, to the text. As I watched the film, I never sensed that he would be the type of person who would do a project such as this as a way to try to change what people had thought about him. He seemed to be a person that was, at that point in his life, pretty comfortable with who he was and for this reason, I think that Genesis was just another challenge and very interesting source of text for Crumb to apply his interesting drawings to.

In the film, there are moments that focus on his drawing of the female body. The part I found particularly relatable to Genesis was when his wife was talking about how he drew her body and made her feel more confident about herself because he drew and enhanced parts of herself that would have previously made her self-conscious. In Genesis, Crumb’s typical style of drawing the females with large behinds and thick legs was evident. The beginning of Chapter 3 shows many images of Eve and her body is represented in this way. This aspect of Genesis gives insight into what Crumb finds attractive in a woman, as shown by the scene in the museum with his wife and also when he discusses the girls he used to like in high school – pointing out each of their flaws and saying how they only added to his attraction towards them.

There are many counts of nudity and explicit scenes illustrated in Genesis. The film showed a lot of Crumb’s work depicting strange scenes relating to sex, so it’s easy to see why he would be interested in these parts of the text. One very strange scene like this is when the two sister’s got their father, Lot, drunk and slept with him. Another strange scene is when Sarai asks her husband Abram to have a child with their handmaid. This scene also came to my mind while I watched part of the film where Crumb is talking to one of his ex-girlfriends and says to her face that he never really loved her. This displays the same kind of insensitivity that Abram had towards his wife (which could go either way, perhaps, considering that it was her request for him to sleep with their maid but he still did it without questioning it at all, which I found to be disrespectful). This and many other scenes show a kind of disrespect towards women which was a theme in many of the pieces shown in the film.

Lastly, satire is a common theme in Crumb’s work and while Genesis appears on the surface to be work that is not deliberately trying to be offensive, even Crumb himself acknowledges that some people may be offended by it in the introduction. Perhaps this was not his main goal, but instead something that just kind of arose while working on the illustrations. The Book of Genesis is a very special text to people in certain religions and adding explicit images alongside their sacred text, changing the text, or depicting the characters in certain ways could absolutely be offensive to them.

The recurring themes in Genesis could allow readers interested in Crumb’s other works to become familiar with his repeating ideas and style of drawing. If one can read Genesis and not be offended, or appreciate the fact that it is just a book and choose not to be offended by it, they can have an insight into Crumb’s sense of humor and they ways that he puts his own opinions of society into his work. His choosing of this particular text is interesting in that it tells a strange story- a story a strange man like Crumb would find to be very fascinating considering his own interests and experiences in his childhood and adult life.

1 comment:

  1. There's a slight danger in the 1st paragraph of boxing yourself in - if Genesis is *too* much of a piece with the rest of his work (as the film shows it to us), then you might end up with nothing substantial to say.

    Your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs do something very interesting: they argue, schizophrenically, much like the film arguably does, that Crumb's work both idolizes and degrades women (Eve is like Aline Kominsky-Crumb; Abraham's behavior to Hagar is like Crumb's behavior to at least some women, although possibly not Aline). It's interesting, but like in the film, there's no resolution. Not that you need a final answer - but one interesting thing here is that you might be linking problems and questions we might have about the portrayal of women in Genesis to somewhat similar questions we might have re: Crumb's work.

    I find the last couple paragraphs pretty vague and scattered. Your closing claim of the strangeness of Genesis as being somehow akin to Crumb's own strangeness is fascinating, but needs more work. Where is that kinship? In the treatment of children, perhaps? In the simultaneous uplifting and humiliation of "chosen" children? Or in something having to do with sex/reproduction?

    This seems like a scattered beginning which needed a firmer focus - very likely on how we might relate Crumb's portrayal of women in general to the portrayal of women in Genesis in general.