By Annmarie Steffes
Are comic books considered high art? Can narrative and art go together? Is there a place for humor in art?
Senior art major Lauren Purje explores these questions and others with "Vladimir and Estragon," her comic book adaptation of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot." Her 50-page work expands on the activities and personalities of the two main characters of Beckett's existential play.
Purje's project is sponsored by a Provost Undergraduate Research Fund (PURF) award.
Purje's original inspiration for the project came from high school: She became interested in existentialism after reading Beckett and John-Paul Sartre. As her college career continued, her existentialist ways of thinking merged with her new interest in comic books.
"I think that's how a lot of artists work. They just find something they are interested in and they just go crazy with it," she said.
While the project offered Purge the opportunity to explore her interests, it also presented personal challenges.
"A lot of it is really new to me; I don't know how to make books," she said. "I'm a painter; I just put it all in one block."
In the end, she took liberty with the dialogue, taking the characters Vladimir and Estragon on feats outside of the scope of the play and based much of the original material on her personal life.
The project has "evolved into a blog," Purje said, adding that she hopes to bring her project to an audience outside of the university.
"I've really been thinking about getting people to interact with it more which is kind of what the blog is for, getting feedback and reaching a broader audience," she said.
Purje has set up interactive features on the blog to involve people in the art. For example, one section invites readers to pose a question in the "Ask Vladimir a question about your existence."
Purje plans to spend the rest of the year working on getting the book printed and dispersed with her PURF award. She also is preparing a series of paintings for her thesis exhibit centered on the themes of existentialism.
At the Student Research and Creative Activity Expo, audiences will have a chance to see both the comic book and previews of the paintings from her upcoming thesis showcase.
Purje said she sees art and humor continuing to intersect in her future.
"This is the first time I've made comics," she said. "It's become a lot of what I do and how I think now. I'll walk around and I see a punch line and then have to write it down. I see that carrying on way after school."