Etelka Lehoczky, Mirrors And Neck Ruffs: A Graphic Novel Takes On Velázquez. NPR Books, 30 August 2017
Review of graphic novel: The Ladies-In-Waiting by Santiago Garcia, Javier Olivares and Erica Mena
Even in this crowded field, Diego Velázquez’ 1656 Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-Waiting) maintains a special hold on viewers’ imaginations. The elaborately gowned girl at the center is weirdly poised for her age. The presence of the artist himself, standing to one side with brush in hand, gives the scene a jolt of unexpected modernity. Then there’s that mirror in the background. Framing two hazy faces, it makes it unclear who’s looking at whom.
For Santiago García and Javier Olivares, Velázquez’ painting is itself a kind of mirror, offering kaleidoscopic angles on history and culture. By telling the story of Las Meninas’creation and its subsequent influence over generations of artists, they hope to find insights into timeless aesthetic questions — even, with the graphic novel format, prompting the reader to muse on the relationship between comics and high art. It’s a heady — and heavy — mix.
Maybe too heavy; García even includes a bibliography of titles like Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things. As if determined to show off the effects of his reading, he jumps between historical periods in the best postmodern fashion, dropping in on artists who’ve been impacted by Las Meninas over the centuries: Goya, Picasso, Dalí. Maintaining a knowing, high-low tone, he casts some anecdotes in the vein of sensationalistic comics — “True Crime Stories: Murder In Main Street” — only to turn around and spout lines like “Maybe it’s time to give a name to the image that appears at the heart of a text and that the writer contemplates before his notebook.” Anyone who still doubts comics’ intellectual potential will find plenty of ideas here. But while García gestures in impressive directions, he never really digs into his themes.