The Paper Mirror captures a pivotal collaboration between two influential artists, painter Riva Lehrer and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For, Fun Home). Lehrer completes a compelling portrait of Bechdel as both artists explore new & unexpected terrain.
Back in the early winter of 2010, artist Riva Lehrer told me that she was drawing a portrait of cartoonist and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. I emailed Riva and told her that filming Riva drawing Alison’s portrait would make an interesting short film. Riva and Alison soon agreed to let me film them talking and working on the portrait.
I got the chance to talk with Alison about the process of writing Are You My Mother? At that time she was in the midst of writing and drawing her graphic novel. Over the course of the next two years, I would pop in and out of Riva’s art studio documenting the ups and downs of creating the portrait of Alison. Riva and Alison are both funny, poignant, extremely talented artists who graciously allowed me to document these intriguing and intimate moments in their lives.
One of “The Paper Mirror”’s strengths is its depiction of Bechdel at an interesting career crossroads. The cartoonist may have followed up the ending of her long-running comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” with her well-received graphic memoir “Fun Home.” Yet it’s clear her discomfort at dealing with her thorny relationship with her mother has hampered her ability to complete her follow-up graphic novel. The brassy Lehrer provides a wonderful counterpoint to Bechdel. The painter is someone who can turn wearing rainbow shoelaces into an act of defiance. More importantly, her process of creating the painting triggers some new sense of creative awareness in the cartoonist. The end result of the two women’s artistic collaboration yields a highly satisfying work of psychological insight.
Peter Wong, from Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily