You can read Part 1 here.

Edie Everette (www.everettecartoons.com) was a fine artist for years until, impassioned by culture and politics, she became a full-time cartoonist. Her recently published comic book HazMatters deals with...

56 replies on “My Art School Breakdown, Part 2”

  1. These cartoons don’t illustrate art school; they illustrate a person with deep psychological issues that going to an art school won’t fix.

    Or I’ve been reading the titles wrong, as a breakdown *of* art school rather than breakdown *at* art school.

      1. If you look at the reader comments posted under “Art School Breakdown, Part 1,” it shows a chorus of disgust and confusion. I think editorial prefacing would help make sense of these cartoons. I also didn’t downplay anyone’s experience. It’s inherently confusing to see someone make a cartoon of themselves defecating in swimming pools and having sex with their professors.

        1. i imagine books are read in most art schools? b/c a [very] short survey in 20th/21st century lit might clear up confusions with first / third person POV and help assuage the “chorus of disgust” that results from depictions of psychological trauma.

          1. …?

            EDIT: I see, you think the POV is the primary issue with reader reaction. No, it was the content. They didn’t know what to make of it. POV is a *secondary* consideration in trying to frame the content. That’s why the editor of Hyperallergic changed the title to “My…” *after* this discussion.

            Also, POV in grammar is learned around the age of 3 and is native to humans (see Chomsky’s ‘universal grammar’). It’s not learned in college. But good job with middle school humor while missing the point: A+.

      2. It’s unfortunate you’re downplaying your reader’s issues with it. How are we supposed to know this is autobiographical? How are we to know that the person is about came through this time? You understand the context, you had the backstory. We as readers did not. Acting as though this is not a problem because YOU understand it is incredibly condescending.

        1. “The perfect storm: a young alcoholic with no life skills (her parents never her made her do chores or work or deal w/ confrontation or go to bed at a certain time) is 700 miles from home and feels powerless”

          Given this specificity, does this read as autobiographical, or as somehow meant to be projected onto others?

          1. No, it is not. It could easily be read as a fiction piece. There is nothing here leading anyone to believe that this piece is even real.

          2. Ok, so is it the fiction/pseudo-autobiography that is offensive (the actual cartoon itself) or only the fact it was presented as-is with no “explanation?” I seem to be seeing most of it centered around the latter (wrapped around a genuine dislike for the artist right down to personal attack), but isn’t the artist the first who is responsible for contextualizing, and it isn’t it actually the curator who often gets in the way if they must post what we are supposed to think about a work before we see it?

          3. A quick glance at all the comments here (including mine) will answer your question. Myself and others here have nothing against the artist (although you seem to like to imply that it is here), my beef as well as others is in the wrong way this comic is presented. It appears to exist solely for it’s own sake rather than any other purpose and given the obvious terrible things going on in it (and the specificity of location, in this case “art school”) THAT is a problem. Hyperallergic could have done a better job here, and they know it hence the modified title. Why on earth would I be upset with the artist? I’ve seen much worse examples of illustrative storytelling. I see no “personal attack” happening around here. Those who are clearly concerned with the actual story are speaking about the obvious serious psychological issues throughout these shorts. With the way these comics are presented they seem to be glorifying/reinforcing stereotypes about female art students as melodramatic and loose. A blip written by the artist or Hyperallergic would have cleared up any confusion, but naturally the right thing is the exact thing most people refuse to do so here we are.

          4. “These cartoons don’t illustrate art school; they illustrate a person
            with deep psychological issues that going to an art school won’t fix.”

            “I also think that while “creating” these comics may be healthy for the
            artist I think she is exposing her self to a huge amount of criticism
            and shame which might not be very healthy.”

            “someone rly hates themselves or women in general hard to say”

            “Everette got the immaturity firmly grounded in the work, that’s for sure.”

            “Dislike this very much! This was so crappy that I looked at #1. What’s the deal? Shock factor? I’m sorry you have anorexia & dropped out of school! . Is this a women who super hates herself? I feel horrible for her! Get it together girl! I went to a private art school and let me tell you… It was nothing like these cartoons depict! What the hell? Go get some counseling or help & stop making nasty cartoons ”

            –Sourced from Facebook as well as in this thread.

  2. I think what bothers me about this series is that it makes light of serious psychological issues in a way that most people can’t relate to. When i was in art school there was about one or two in every freshman class that literally had a mental breakdown and was never seen again. It was sad and disturbing. A more skilled cartoonist might be able to tackle this subject but this one just leave me feeling cold. Allie Brosh makes cartoons about her mental health struggles is a way that is simutainiously heart warming, heart wrenching, and yes funny. Not that i think she should just be coppied, but work with layers of emotion is much more compelling. I like many of the other cartoonists you guys feature on here but this one needs some more practice. Props for publishing something risky, but recognize that it doesn’t seem to be resonating with your audience.

    1. Actually, it may not resonate with one sector but I’ve had many people tell me they like them. Sadly it is the negative people who comment. Also, the comic is autobiographical.

      1. It isn’t your job to defend the cartoonist from valid criticism, or from people who simply don’t like the work.

        1. Thank you! I personally see little of value in this cartoon and it is my right to feel that way. I and many other people do post when there is something positive to say so I disagree that it is only the “negative people” who comment. On youtube, sure, but give your readers a little bit more credit than that.

          Hyperallergenic usually posts well thought out and interesting content that I learn something from. As you can see by the comments from many readers; this cartoon series, or at the very least, the way you present it, is not appreciated by a decent portion of your audience. I’m not asking you to defend this cartoon, I realize it is the artis’s personal experience and am glad to hear she is doing better, I’m just stating my opinion of her cartoon work. I do not think it takes on serious issues such as mental health, eating disorders, or extramarital affairs, in a way that is funny, clever, challenging, or interesting. So instead of you one by one responding to comments maybe Hyperallergenic could add to the post a trigger warning for people who are sensitive, and give us a bit of info as to why they see this as worth publishing.

          1. I’m going to assume you read the other comments, including the one that really valued the comic.

            If you don’t like the comic, that is you choice. But when we take on comic artists we offer them the freedom to explore their lives and histories (it is a big commitment, yes). Those histories and choices may not be to everyone’s liking and I’m fine with that.

            Personally, I have to say I can relate to this comic in many ways, and for me it resonates with my own college years and personal issues. Perhaps knowing that Edie is fine now makes it easier to read and understand for me. Perhaps the distance I have from those years also help me to see and reflect on the awfulness. These are all things that came up for me and felt it made the work worth publishing and sharing.

  3. I’m glad she’s getting people to see that those experiences exist for young women, although many people see these through a lens of disgust rather than exploring the connected issues of deep institutional failing and the interconnected issues such as sexism, ableism etc. that exists in art school. Personally comics aren’t my favourite form to explore these complexities, but we saw what the Simpsons did for example to dispel some denial, now we barely react to the Simpsons but when first aired it really struck a nerve in people re: family alcoholism etc. I think she’s successful in this way, as we can see below her experiences really bother and irritate some people, you should ask yourself why on a deeper and less judgemental level.

    1. The problem is not any social or moral issue you mention, but rather a matter of reader confusion:

      (1) Lauren Purje makes first-person comics that most artists relate to.

      (2) Steven Weinberg makes first-person comics that contrast his life with that of most artists.

      This cartoonist makes first-person comics (at least in this series), about very serious matters, that do not have a *clear* experience-based relationship to readers. No one is being moralized. It’s just a matter of appropriate apprehension readers are struggling with.

  4. Hrag personally I think its brave to post these in Hyperallergic, you always do a good job in getting us to think.

  5. I’m not really interested in the experience of most artists? If art schools are doing their job as people say, I think most artists could read some disability theory and put this comic within context for themselves.

  6. As an artist whose work is also autobiographical I would NEVER allow someone to present it to a public forum without context or preface. Judging from the moderator’s responses below, this never even crossed his mind. Just because YOU know what is going on does not mean your audience does or even will (after trying to comprehend it). This, and the other Art School Breakdown were poorly presented even though they are thoroughly autobiographical.

    1. She consistently talks about her experience (actually the whole series and every one she creates is about her experience) — she is telling a specific story and exploring what that means. As I mentioned elsewhere, the inclusion of “my” would’ve helped this for many, but Edie has a style and I try not to direct it since the comics are very personal. They are about blurring boundaries and really do make the viewer uncomfortable (whether it is in the difficulty to read them, etc.). I do think I will add a “trigger warning” in the future to the top of a comic such as this.

      1. Our point is WHERE is that story in words? WHERE is that context? There is no text. There is no preface. There is nothing that alludes to this being the story of a person who even exists in the real world. Not even a link to a blog written by the artist. I have no problem with her story, I have a problem with the way it was presented. At face value, and even somewhat beyond that this seems somewhat exploitative and strictly for it’s own shock value. If what you’re telling me is the case, by all means: EDIT both articles by making the suggested changes! It would take all of five minutes.

        1. Actually, her blog can very be easily tracked down, to be honest. That’s how I found her “I am an artist” series (a few of which made it to Hyperallergic in the past).. Her name is linked right under the title that has led to so much contention, complete with a short bio, and yes, links.

          Perhaps noticing that is why I was a bit confused as to context being an issue, but as Hrag also noted I was also already familiar with her work (and saw exactly the same tone of commentary in the past directed squarely at Edie, regardless of context).

          1. I think the artist has been done (or is doing) herself a disservice with the way these comics have been presented.

      2. Yeah, just some kind of cue for the reader. I posted what I did for clarity, given that most of your advertisers are art school programs and would likely not want this cartoon to reflect typical experiences of their students (or what professors would do with them). I like the rawness of the comics, but how to approach them isn’t clear.

  7. I think the lack of context or ‘cue for the reader’ is an important part of the content here. (I think it’s wrong to even modify the title.) The meaning of this excellent work, for me, lies in its powerful, brave and humorous handling of the issues addressed. It is not important — or even any of our business — if it is autobiographical or not (unless the artist wants that to be known). I sincerely hope the artist does not water down her art for those that don’t understand it. It would make it far less compelling for those that do.

    1. That was a paragraph contextualing the artist’s piece, with various personal and theoretical frames, to argue the importance of its decontextualization. What is the difference between writing that and writing nothing at all? It’s infinite regress.

      1. Your request for a “cue for the reader” seemed to ask for context. You also claimed that “editorial prefacing would help make sense of these cartoons.” I think it’s stronger w/o it. They make perfect sense on their own.

        1. Stronger to what end?

          What sense has been perfected?

          If these questions seem sophistic or pedantic it’s because “no context” means they have no answer.

          1. I’m not interested in trying to convince you of my view. It’s perfectly fine to dislike this, or any artist’s, work.

          2. I like the work. I dislike the way it was handled and dislike bad defenses of the way it was handled.

            Anyway, have a good night.

          3. “So you dislike that it was presented.”

            Wow, looks like I have to quote myself for you.

            “I dislike THE WAY it was handled…”

            “I dislike THE WAY it was [presented]…”

            I never said I dislike THAT it was presented. I even said “I like the work.” Why is this not sinking in?

          4. When you claimed that “the content” of Everette’s work was “the primary issue with reader reaction” and referred to readers’ comments as showing a “chorus of disgust” (and other such comments), you weren’t reflecting your own views in any way? In later comments you say it’s just about the way it was handled, which doesn’t make sense to me; the work was shown in its entirety, with no qualifications that the artist didn’t make herself. It’s her work, she decides. And if the descriptions that you attributed to other readers didn’t reflect your opinions, then why were you speaking for them? This is where the confusion lies, for me.

          5. “When…’chorus of disgust’…you weren’t reflecting your own views in any way?”

            Not one bit. I saw anal fisting my freshman year in art school and photos of my classmates peeing on each other. I don’t have opinions on such things and if I did it wouldn’t be as interesting or worthwhile as looking at the personal and social dynamics at play that create the conditions in which such events occur. “Why did my classmate offer for class critique a photo of himself pissing on someone?” That is interesting, and that’s akin to why I referred to the “chorus of disgust” as relevant; it attends to a collective reader reaction that’s worth making sense of.

            “[Y]ou say it’s just about the way it was handled [or presented].”

            Yes, that is key to making sense of its reception. Readers of this publication will have a natural expectation that a cartoon published here will be a lighthearted take on the life of an artist, naturally following the precedents set by Lauren Purje and Steven Weinberg who have published here a while. Everette’s cartoon was wildly out of sync with the editorial tone already set for cartoons published here, and no attempt was made to take note of that shift. Confusion and disgust was a natural reaction for people.

            If you had been served water at a restaurant for several months, naturally accustomed to it, and then served straight vodka with no notice, you would likely spit it out, with confusion and disgust. You wouldn’t appreciate the surprise and revel in great variety of gastronomic pleasures the restaurant offers. “Please thank the manager for such a wonderful experience!” If you did take pleasure in such a shock, it wouldn’t be due to having some kind of aesthetic open-mindedness people who would spit out the vodka lack.

            “And if the descriptions that you attributed to other readers didn’t reflect your opinions, then why were you speaking for them?”

            I am not speaking for them. I am explaining what happened. They didn’t AT ALL expect what they got, and that was a bad thing in this situation, rather than a good one.

            “This is where the confusion lies, for me.”

            Most people who comment here are giving their personal opinion in a fairly direct way and it’s natural for people to think I am doing the same, when I am not. My first comment here was completely *expository* and Mr. Vartanian responded as if i was “downplaying” a person’s experience. This might be due to my description of the woman as having had deep psychological issues in need of fixing, as if that was negative against her, rather than a summation of the cartoon’s contents. (I could buy a nice car with the money that I have spent on psychologists, therapists, and medications over the years, but that isn’t at all relevant to what’s being discussed.) I don’t judge anyone whose psychological condition results in them doing what this woman did, nor her making a cartoon about it, and I never did.

            My motivation for “expositing” the cartoon was actually because so many, if not most, of Hyperalleric advertisers – what keeps the publication afloat and you reading cartoons – are art schools. It is in the interest of the publication to separate what happens at art schools in general, from this person’s experience, in this cartoon, because without context, the cartoon could make art schools (VCU, NYU, etc) think twice about having their name next to an image of professor having sex with a 19 year old going through a psychological breakdown. “Apply today!”

            Yes, how this cartoon is handled matters.

  8. Hi All! Yeah, these “My Breakdown” panels might work better in the context of a book vs. as stand alone-s. Ooo an entire sequence of my art school horrors! Thanks for the insightful, ass-kicking comments and…Happy New Year!

    1. I’d love to see more horrors. All of us have some. I think the online pieces need to be clickable so readers can get a larger (maybe full screen) image. I hope you keep the rawness in your work.

    2. First, thanks for posting about your series, and Happy New Year to you as well!

      I was already aware that your work was autobiographical and satirical, but I realize now that it came from the privilege of having clicked and read the bio and blog links that Hyperallergic had provided well ahead of time (as well as reading many similar comments in previous cartoons).

    3. Dear Edie,
      Late to the discussion, which has played itself out, but I found Art School Breakdown Part One and Two to be quite good. I appreciated the toughness of the subject matter and and the use of the comic strip form (in which many readers expect a light-hearted moment) to work well rubbed up against each other. As a woman who has watched friends and the daughters of friends deal with eating disorders I was encouraged to see that issue brought into the light. As a middle-aged person who had to learn how to define herself through her own hard-earned self worth versus the attention and opinions of others, I recognized the autobiographical struggles of your protagonist (you) and appreciated them deeply. There are many instances in which people in power (such as teachers) take advantage of others more vulnerable. It happens ALL THE TIME and in many ways. The strip is clearly autobiographical, yet contains many emotional moments that I relate to and empathize with even if I have not had your exact experiences. A compilation would be quite different, but also effective. I think of Lynda Barry’s comics. Serialization, by its nature, leaves dangling threads or open space within which the emotions presented can take on significant (and often uncomfortable) volume. This is a strength of the form. But reading one after the other in a compilation (just like binge watching a weekly tv show) creates a whole different effect.

  9. There’s a better set of comics about this stuff. Check out a book called Art Schooled by Jamie Coe. It’s a fantastic book and beautifully drawn, and includes just as many hilarious stereotypes and stories.

  10. Some of these remarks are so smug and unkind. Not fair to go after this artist personally, at all.

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