“I tend to avoid telling people what my projects mean or how they should be interpreted”, explains the Oregon-based artist Daria Tessler on her latest book Cult of the Ibis. Recently published by Fantagraphics, the hardcover book is the result of six years of work, initiated at a time when Daria became fascinated with alchemy which in turn led to a “research rabbit hole”, resulting in this beautifully illustrated story.
Highly detailed pages of black and white illustrations fill the impressive 214-page publication. Its imagery stirs up the historicism of magic; a subject that has deeply interested the artist over the past few years. She tells It’s Nice That on how the book was influenced: “I found entire magazine-like publications from the 1700s dedicated to alchemy, astrology, chemistry and magic. I read book after book about the history of magic in Western culture and about the history of alchemy during the Renaissance and the enlightenment.”
Not a believer in magic, in general, Daria takes a more evidence-based world view. “But I think the historical imagery associated with magic is powerful”, she adds on the mystical imagery that has been at the nexus of the book. She draws on the “nebulous overlap” between science, chemistry and magic to create a nuanced narrative that is wholly dependent on the viewer’s interpretation of the somewhat surreal scenes on display.
“Other influences in the comic are probably just as obvious”, continues Daria, with film noir and 1930s and 40s pulp crime literature being primary sites of worship. As a result, we can evidence the art deco landscape that the artist has crafted in the world of The Cult of the Ibis. Hinting to mid-20th century stylistic designs throughout the book, Daria’s handcrafted world is both delicate and intense at the same time.
For Daria, the art of illustration conveniently lends itself to her unique way of telling stories through images and some text. “It helps me create narrative content and express my ideas with as much clarity or ambiguity as possible”, she says on the matter. Despite this, she has a pointedly democratic view on creativity. “I think all art forms have something incredible to offer the world. Though they’re all different, they all have the potential to be equally meaningful. I think the divisions between various art forms are artificial, or social, or classist, and contrary to true creativity, which should be non-hierarchal and open to all forms of expression.”
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