Today on the Current we launched a new series called First Person, in which we’re inviting writers from around the world to reflect on their most unforgettable moviegoing experiences. While developing the series, we were looking for good stories, beautiful writing, and a wide range of tones—melancholy, provocative, silly—that could reflect all the roles that cinema plays in our lives. To illustrate these essays—among the most personal we’ve ever published—we knew we wanted to work with someone who could bring the layers of time and memory they evoke to visual life. Criterion art director Eric Skillman got us in touch with the New York–based artist Xia Gordon, whose editorial illustrations demonstrate her gift for distilling abstract ideas and complex emotions into compelling imagery. She was into the concept, and we’re thrilled that she’s signed on to do the artwork for First Person going forward.
Since this is the first time we’ve ever commissioned illustrations for the Current, we thought it would be nice to chat with Gordon about her creative background and to introduce our readers to her work.
Tell me a bit about how you got started in illustration.
I’ve been drawing since I was young, and for undergraduate I went to the School of Visual Arts, where I majored in illustration and cartooning. After graduating, I tripped and fell into the world of indie comics, and that was my springboard for doing editorial illustrations for places like the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Penguin Random House. It’s been great working with a variety of clients and seeing how different art directors operate.
How do you tailor your aesthetic, which feels very distinctly your own, to all the different assignments you get?
My style is emotive and dynamic, and I’ve been lucky to be approached by people who already know that it’s going to be a good fit for them. Usually I’m asked to do work for articles about racial injustice, reproductive rights—things I care about. That makes it easy for me to make honest, organic work. This series differs a bit from other projects I’ve done because I was encouraged to make images that spoke to how I related to pieces of writing. But I was intrigued by it because I have a love of film, and film really influences my work.
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