How did you discover the work of Barbara Shermund? I’ve been researching Barbara Shermund for 7 years. I discovered her work in the archives at the cartoon library, but couldn’t find much about her at all. I started digging up information on this woman’s history. I found out she was one of the most famous and well-respected female cartoonists at The New Yorker. Then she went on to become a mainstay at Esquire.
Tell me about the journey this discovery sent you on. A lot of my scholarship is on women in comics and the representation of women in comics, so when I found out about this extremely talented and accomplished cartoonist, I wanted to uncover her history,
The exhibition itself is a retrospective of her work, while, through the labels, telling her life story. The exhibition is broken down into themes, as she covered a wide range of topics. For example, she would poke fun at high society and modern art and she was the first cartoonist at The New Yorker to cover queer topics. I used those themes from the cartoons and uncovered how those themes related to her personal life.
How did you learn about Shermund’s life, when so little is known about her? I was able to find a couple references to her in a few books, and found out that the New York Public Library in New York City has The New Yorker archive, so I went to New York and did a research stay there, trying to learn about her as much as I could. I did a lot of ancestry research and archival research to try to put together her life story. I was able to connect to Amanda Gormely, one of her living relatives. She was amazingly on the same journey as I was; she was on her own trying to figure out how to put the pieces together. When we connected, it was weirdly serendipitous and we became good friends in the process.
What are you planning on doing with all of the research you have done on Shermund?
I am writing a book, working with the research that started with this exhibition, and expanding on that. Hopefully, it will come out in 2021.
Tell Me a Story Where the Bad Girl Wins: The Life & Art of Barbara Shermund opens at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio on January 25 and runs through April 26, 2020. Admission to DACO is always free.