Drawn and Quarterly is a comics publisher, but Sonja Ahlers’ The Selves isn’t a comic. You could call it sequential art, I suppose, though it’s mainly collages of beautiful and slightly disturbing things, its text chosen for aesthetic value rather than to tell a story.
Babies, children and mothers; cute animals and Sylvia Plath quotations; 70s and 80s fashion, Holly Hobby and Princess Di all blend together–or rather, are layered on top of one another to create dreamscapes that create a portrait of a woman. Really, of many women, of all the women Ahlers has been in her life and all the women she will be.
“Before blogs, there were zines. Before zines, there were scrapbooks,” notes the D&Q website in describing Ahlers’ work, but it also feels very present-tense, as the scrapbook has recently taken 21st-century form with the advent of Tumblr (and even Facebook with its madcap cataloguing of things you “like” and images, updates, minute life changes). We are back to defining ourselves with images from someone else’s life or art, lines from something someone else wrote and scattering in between those bits our own thoughts and feelings, needs and loves.
Ahlers’ art is a tribute to that tendency, a need to have some collective cultural touchpoints as well as things all our own, and to share them on paper as well as online, to create something lasting, to pull together already-existing meaning and change it into something for us.