D.B. Dowd


D.B. Dowd has taught in the Communication Design department in the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis for 20 years. He also serves as the founding faculty director of the Modern Graphic History Library at the university, which was recently endowed and renamed in his honor. The Dowd MGHL is devoted to the culture of illustration and the illustrated periodical. In 2015 he curated Parallel Modes: Illustrated Visual Journalism and American Photography, 1955-80 at the Kemper Museum of Art. In 2014 he served as consulting curator to Mac Conner: A New York Life, exploring the culture of periodical illustration and publishing in postwar Manhattan at the Museum of the City of New York. Dowd served as a contributing curator Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine 1940-1960 at the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2007, and co-edited Strips Toons and Bluesies with Todd Hignite for Princeton Architectural Press in 2006. An illustrator and essayist, he publishes the illustrated journal Spartan Holiday. Issue No. 3, French Lesson, is due out in late 2016. Dowd issued the illustrated chapbook Charlie Hebdo: Pugnacious Elegy on January 7, 2016, on the first anniversary of the killings in Paris. He blogs on illustration history and graphic culture at his site, dbdowd.com.


Landscape as Argument: Images of Place in Spartan Holiday

I have issued three issues of Spartan Holiday: Dispatches from the Road and Notes on Visual Culture since 2012. The stated editorial fixation of the fully illustrated, episodically published magazine reads, in part:

To celebrate a Spartan Holiday is to wring pleasure from modest stuff.
To look and listen, to get a fix on things as they are. To embrace the vernacular. To enliven a rainy day…Engage the world like a traveler, canny but agape, whether five or fifty or5,000 miles from home. That’s what you can expect here. An eyeful. Spartan Holiday combines history, memoir, cultural criticism and travel writing with illustrated reportage to deliver stories grounded in place across time. Issues 1 (Shanghai Pictorial, 2012) and 2 (The Five Pagodas, 2013) narrate a research quest to find 19th century illustrator Wu Youru’s original drawings in Shanghai; Issue 3 (French Lesson, 2016) situates the reader in conflicted contemporary Paris, juxtaposed with a remembered Ohio town named for a French forebear. The text of each issue consists of approximately 1800 words distributed across 40 pages. Images alternately respond to, complement and extend the written content. Landscape and cityscape play an important role, both ascontemporary reportage and in redrawn historical sources. These dialogues of past and present, here and there, are carried through juxtaposed images of place. They offer cultural arguments both muted and jarring.This presentation will use particular spreads from the three issues to explore the use of landscape as argument. The case studies will address the creation of the content dummy, image selection, cropping, media usage and textual framing. The thrust of the talk will consider the crafting of constructed landscapes to manifest an editorial position. Early work from Issue No. 4 (Yankee Mission, 2017) will be also be presented in developmental form, including exploratory representations of American Civil War battlefields and Normandie beaches in a memoir of postwar Pax Americana gone sour.

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