My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt
Writer & Artist: Lisa Hanawalt
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Lisa Hanawalt’s first major collection makes for an interesting comparison to Tom Gauld’s You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, with which it shares many similarities. Both works avoid long-form narrative, embracing the comic strip rather than the comic book. Both also have obvious obsessions (Hanawalt’s include horses, Chimeras, hands, movies, and genitals), and both like to take an idea and spiral out from a sensible next step or two into surrealism. But where Gauld’s aesthetic is all restraint, Hanawalt’s visual style has more in common with that of Brecht Evens: she thrives in watercolor and bold hues, often rendering figures with blobs of pigment that either remove or minimize outlines. One drawing spread across two pages features a number of human-animal hybrids (mostly human bodies, animal heads) attempting to capture a giant purple-pink horse with the aid of lassos and helicopters. It doesn’t have a joke or a story to drive it, but it’s a delight to look at.
But unlike some of the more obnoxious anti-narrative work out there, My Dirty Dumb Eyes doesn’t aggravate. Perhaps that’s because Hanawalt mixes her illustrations with movie reviews (her coverage of Drive was all over the Internet), lists, and journalism (a visit to the Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York). Or perhaps it’s because her id-driven images of people molesting each other with hand mixers or a combination of wildflowers and veiny penises seem to spring from an unfiltered place. She’s not trying to impress anyone; she can’t help but draw these things that her brain chews over.
One longer story, about a moose-human who compulsively carves fingers out of clay while struggling with artistic difficulties and mild depression, ends with one character saying, “It doesn’t matter if you feel good or bad while you make stuff. . . . Stop crying and move your hands!” Parable, comic a clef, or whatever it may be, it seems to hold the key to these pages: draw it, do it, let it flow, and the results will be at least something. Happily, My Dirty Dumb Eyes is something kind of awesome.