MOCCAFest: It’s Where the Art is this Weekend!
Starting bright and early (well, 11:00. . . ) this Saturday morning is the MoCCA Arts Festival, which is Comic-Con for those whose favorite ‘comic book’ movie is Ghost World.
This convention, focusing on independent and small press comics/creators, was first organized in 2002 by the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, an organization whose mission was to, “promote the understanding and appreciation of comic and cartoon art along with the artistic, cultural, and historical impact of what is the world’s most popular art form.” The museum lost its home but was luckily (for both sides) acquired by the Society of Illustrators in 2013. The society has continued hosting the event, which is run by Society staffers and friendly, intelligent, and attractive volunteers (full disclosure: I’m volunteering on Saturday).
MoCCA Fest will be at a new location this year. The main site will be at the Metropolitan West (639 W. 46th Street, between 11th and 12th avenues) with panels and discussions being held around the corner at the appropriately titled Ink48 hotel (653 11th Avenue). Panels will include spotlights on creators like Sonny Liew (creator of the recently released The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye) and Phoebe Gloeckner, (author of The Diary of a Teenage Girl) as well as panels on subjects like, “Making Comics for Younger Readers,” and, “Autobiography: Revealing the Self in Comics.”
The exhibitor hall will house the MoCCA Gallery, displaying work by featured artists including the aforementioned Liew, Cece Bell (author of the Newberry Medal of Honor winner El Deafo), and others, as well as a café. But the main attraction – as with any convention – is the exhibition floor. This is what it’s all about! This is where creators and publishers set up tables and booths to showcase their work and wares. You can browse and buy books, prints, t-shirts, stickers, pillows – whatever can be drawn on will have been drawn on. Sometimes cut and sewn and THEN drawn on! Many artists are available to take commissions for original sketches as well. The main pleasure, though, is the opportunity to meet and talk to the weird and wonderful creators themselves.
The combining of words with drawn pictures in a static medium makes comics an intensely personal art form. While it’s been used with some success in other genres (did you know that, before he was a movie star, Batman was in comics? It’s a fact!), its greatest strength is in its ability to convey subjective, personal, first-person, experiential truth. That’s probably why independent comics tilt so much toward the autobiographical or confessional. Conversely, the same qualities make reading a comic much more visceral and experiential for a reader. You are experiencing what is happening in the artist’s head, like a proto, lo-fi, Virtual Reality rig. Getting a chance to meet an artist, to see his or her face, to hear his or her voice when reading the words, adds another layer of intimacy (or maybe removes another layer of distance) that is well worth the $5.00 admission price to get on the floor.
The MoCCA Fest runs from 11:00 to 6:00 on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3. It’s also smack dab in the center of Comic and Cartoon Art Week, with events scheduled through Sunday, April 4th. This includes German graphic novel artist, Reinhard Kleist drawing while being interviewed at the Goethe institute on Friday night, as well as book release parties and drink-and-draws around Manhattan and Brooklyn.
MoCCA Fest 2016
Metropolitan West (639 W. 46th Street, between 11th and 12th avenues)
April 2nd-3rd from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
Admission price: $5.00
Tickets available at the door. Cash and credit cards accepted. Children under 12 are free.
Reading comic books makes you a better person. Reading independent comics makes you even better than that!