Anders Nilsen tells stories with pictures. Adam and Eve Sneaking Back into the Garden to Steal More Apples is an exhibition of stories from the 594-page comic book, Big Questions, and for Nilsen, a new exploration of fate.
Nilsen is a comic book artist. It may be more politically correct to call him a graphic novelist, but Nilsen will tell you he draws serial pictures in the deeply narrative and vernacular manner—of a comic book artist. Growing up Nilsen buried himself in a steady diet of comic books, stories and art, from Tintin and the X-Men to punk rock, zines and graffiti, punctuated regularly by trips to art museums. With the publication of Big Questions in 2011, Nilsen became a premier American voice in comics, earning international praise including a powerful review in the New York Times.
Big Questions, Nilsen’s story of birds living near an old woman and her grandson’s shack weave an existential tale of stillness, fate, life and death. Peppered with humor and absurdity, his characters endure the anxiety of their enviable doom when a ticking shell arrives. With the bomb’s explosion, Nilsen recasts the birds as skeletons, teetering between this world and the next, still without clear answers to what their life and world meant.
Separated by more than 500 years, the prints of Albrecht Dürer resonate with Nilsen’s search to express the preparedness and uncertainly of passing from this world to the next. In this exhibition, Nilsen offers his own versions of Dürer’s Adam and Eve and Saint Jerome in his Study. Like Big Questions, Dürer creates quiet but tense dramas about the expansive and existential themes of doom, death, life and love. Through sparse and delicate prose, Nilsen weaves narratives about searching and longing that transcend the pen and ink.
Nilsen earned his BFA in painting and illustration from the University of New Mexico in 1999. In 2000, after briefly studying at the School of the Art Institute, Nilsen began self-publishing his Big Questions series. Nilsen recently relocated from Chicago to Minneapolis to take a teaching position at the University of Minnesota, where his books have been used as study material for the design and illustration classes taught there. In addition to Big Questions, Nilsen has released a number of important works, including the haunting and intensely emotional Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, which won an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel in 2007. Nilsen’s works have been translated into a number of languages. He has exhibited his drawing and painting internationally and had his work anthologized in Kramer’s Ergot, Mome, The Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Best American Comics and Best American Non-Required Reading.