Seattle has spawned some weird things: grunge; the Space Needle; iced half-caf cappuccinos with a hint of mocha. But nothing is weirder than Jim Woodring’s art.
Woodring is best known for his surrealist comic Frank, about the dream world of a bearlike anthropomorph, and his autobiographical The Book of Jim. Jazz fans will know Woodring’s work from guitarist Bill Frisell’s 1996 album Gone, Just Like a Train and 2001’s Bill Frisell With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones. The two have teamed up again for Trosper, a children’s hardcover book that really shouldn’t be read by children: kidnapped babysitters don’t go over so well with kids. Adults with wide imaginations and brief attention spans will love it, however. Frisell provides a suitably moody soundtrack-all of six minutes long, which is longer than it takes to read Woodring’s wordless 18-page narrative.
Trosper is about a little elephant in a country palace who likes to play with his beach ball. When the guard/babysitter watching Trosper is attacked and eaten (or something–it’s surreal, remember) by a masked assailant, the baby elephant drops his ball and runs away. But monsters of all sorts haunt the palace, and Trosper keeps crying and running into them in every room. It’s not until he stumbles upon his beloved ball that his tears abate and he’s happy again.
The whole project is like a Little Golden Book on acid. Frisell’s delay-laden guitar billows and builds upon itself, making for perfectly hazy accompaniment to Trosper’s tale. Woodring’s art is at once innocent and menacing, like if Dali drew tomes for tykes.
For more information, log on to www.fantagraphics.com.
Frisell and Woodring are also collaborating on an hour-long stage presentation, Mysterio Sympatico, which will open the Seattle Summer Arts Festival in July 2002 at Meany Hall on the University of Washington Campus. The guitarist is composing an original score that will be performed live while a sequence of more than 200 of Woodring’s grayscale drawings are projected on a screen. The two developed the music and art’s themes together in brainstorming sessions.
For more information, and samples of art from Mysterio Sympatico, log on to www.jimwoodring.com.Originally Published