Saturday, October 30, 2010

Student Salute: Ogun Afariogun

“My name is Ogun Afariogun. I’m a sophomore fine arts/cartooning major.” The music of Georgia Anne Muldrow bounced off the walls of Ogun’s small single. I took a seat on an ottoman, still warm from the heat of Ogun’s laptop, and started an interview with one of my most inspiring and enlightening peers.
[Read on to take a journey with one of our young out-of-major cartoonists.]

Ogun continued by explaining his strange title. Although he was now officially enrolled as a fine arts major, transferring near the end of his freshman year, his passion engulfs both fields. “I’ve always loved art,” he calmly reflected with a large grin, looking up for a brief instant as though he was peeking into his own head. He thought back on his initial influences, the romance with Japanese art, animation, and comics that still enthralls him. It was later in life when he was introduced to American comics through Hellboy and Spawn, the latter of which he didn’t get into, but found his perspective opened by. He dug to find gems in American comics until experiencing a life-changing event over a year ago.
“Kabuki changed my life.”

I recalled a moment from orientation week. While perusing a comic shop, Ogun excitedly showed me pages from David Mack’s comics. His excitement then was no different.
“The story is personal and magical.” Ogun explained how Mack presented his own story in a metaphorical way through the pages of Kabuki. The work was Ogun’s definitive reason to come to SVA as a cartoonist.

So why did he make the transition to fine arts?

Ogun changed his major because he wanted a full education as an artist, to be able to express himself and learn more instead of just focusing on comics. Although his enrollment status no longer reflects his love for the medium, he was supremely grateful for the “dream schedule” he has this semester. He took a moment to reflect on the inspiration he’s been finding in his Art and Shamanism course before returning to a model sheet he consistently worked on over the course of the interview; it was an assignment for Gary Panter’s Storytelling class, another favorite.

When inquired about how comics affect his other art, Ogun responded that they were a total influence. “My whole mentality is so narrative.” His brain and heart have a place in comics, a fine artist on the outside with a warm cartoonist center. He motioned back to his work for Panter, based on ideas he has developed since he was fourteen. Back then his primary influences were manga, Kill Bill, and Buddhism. While the ideas have been with him since adolescence, they were now being expressed through his elegant rendering.
Familiar with David Mack’s work, the influence of fine art on Ogun’s comics are fairly obvious. He feels with fine art there is more room for interpretation. He views his narrative style as having “less of a character-driven approach, more interpretive approach”. In many ways, his comics are poetic, uniting symbols with elegant verse which require some extra work on the reader’s part to decipher the message. He remembered a quote regarding David Mack’s work as “the quintessential example of fine arts as comics.” Ogun went on to discuss the installation paintings by Inoue Takehiko, the artist behind Vagabond, and James Jean, who influenced Ogun more last year than he does now, but was the original example of the transition from comics to fine arts. He also brought up the works of Dennis Brown, including Superhero Bobby, Brown’s homage to Astro Boy.

When asked about how he ended up in Gary Panter’s Storytelling class, Ogun recounted the serendipity that helped him stumble into his favorite courses. Over the summer, one of his registered courses was canceled, forcing him to search out more credits. This is how he found his seat in an enlightening course on shamanism. Later, a spur-of-the-moment decision on Ogun’s first day of class led him away from his printmaking class to sit in on Panter’s course, easily sold and eager to make a bridge back to comics. He was quick to thank Fine Arts Chair Suzanne Anker, who was very helpful through the process of switching classes.

With my notes becoming barren of additional topics for conversation, I couldn’t help but ask Ogun about the music that seemed to form the soundtrack to his life, constantly playing throughout the course of his work and the interview. Georgia Anne Muldrow, Saul Williams, and Janelle Monae had been getting lots of attention from his ears as of late. “I listen to these artists lately, but it’s hard to talk about,” he reflected. “These artists are doing what they’re supposed to do, as artists and for me,” leaving him with clarity and nothing left to say. He compared theirs work to the Void in Taoism, his Void.
As a final note, Ogun urged for majors at SVA to be more open. Right now he can find a balance to enrich himself in all his pursuits, but he feels he received a lot of help on both a practical and fate level. Everyone should have the privilege of manipulating their own boundaries and getting the education they desire.

Also, he just bought three issues of DEMO and loves Becky Cloonan’s work.

Check out more of Ogun's work on his deviantART page!