Coping, Connection and Creativity through Comics: Artist Bryan Moss

Bryan Moss working in the former home of artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

Columbus-based artist Bryan Moss is a comic artist, painter, and educator. Moss is also an art instructor at Columbus College of Art & Design and the Columbus Museum of Art. He is currently working on his own comic book as well as freelance projects including large-scale murals, immersive experiences, designing treasure maps, and more.

Bryan is currently the full-time caretaker for the home of the late Aminah Robinson, which Columbus Museum of Art has recently renovated, thanks to a grant from the Columbus Foundation, to serve as a home and studio for a new artist-in-residence program.

Memphis artist Johnathan Payne was scheduled to be the first artist-in-residence in summer 2020. That has been delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moss has lived in the house since August 2020, creating art in Robinson’s former studio. When the pandemic began in spring 2020, the Museum commissioned him to create a series of comics in response to what was happening in the world. Today we’re sharing a sneak peek of that project.

Can you tell us about the story these comics tell and where we were a year ago?

As we all know, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit and the city shut down, it was an extremely isolating, surreal time, so the comics begin in that space of isolation and loneliness. Right before the lockdown, I had been working on a show for the Gateway Film Center, so I had all these large-scale paintings filling up my studio and when the lockdown hit, all of that came to an abrupt halt. So the comic shows that – the sense of all this build up and energy and then the city suddenly being empty with no movement or activity. I tried to document some of the routine I established during quarantine – walking downtown to my studio, reading in the mornings, and making work – but the comic really captures this kind of extended stasis I think we all felt during that time.

I didn’t want to stay in that space though. As much as we were all isolated and stuck in our homes alone, I knew there were other stories and other experiences still happening in the city, so as the comic unfolds, I wanted to try and show that by telling other people’s stories. I put out a call across my social media to ask for people’s stories in quarantine, and as I began to get responses from people, I began to tell those stories in the comic. I hope that reading the comic will make people feel that same feeling of quarantine – the initial isolation and loneliness – and then the feeling of the world opening up again as we found new ways to connect and relate to one another.



How have the comics evolved through 2020?

I think as we moved through 2020, we realized that Covid-19 was not the only social upheaval we were facing, and the comics reflect that. Especially as we went into the summer and saw the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement around George Floyd’s death, I felt like I need to document how that movement and the pandemic were intertwined, how we were seeing just this enormous outpouring of pain from the Black community. Racism is a public health crisis just as much as Covid-19 is, and it felt really important to me that I allow that to be a part of the evolution of the comic.


Tell us about your creative process for creating this series.

Much like our posts on social media, I wanted there to be an immediacy to this comic. Whether it was me telling my story or illustrating the stories of others, the process was very quick, very intuitive and organic. The stories feel lived in and the world is fully realized in this comic, but it all came together fast, just like when you post to Instagram or send a Tweet.

How has the process of creating this comic been different from your approach to writing and illustrating other comics? What has been similar?

I very rarely make comics about my own life, so that is already a departure for me in terms of writing and then depicting myself in comics. It was a welcome opportunity, though, because, like I said, it was this chance to document all these huge social upheavals that we were going through. I think I’ll look back on these comics like a snapshot of this year of change and growth and struggle in the community. All of my work tries to reflect the community some way and tell their stories, so even while writing about myself was a different experience, writing about the community is very consistent and very in line with what I do.



What has surprised you the most about this project?

I think just that core narrative – how the comic moves from isolation to a cacophony of voices. That wasn’t where I saw the comic going, but I’m grateful that I’ve been trusted to tell all these stories from the community and bring them to life.

What impact has the process of creating this Covid-responsive project had on you?

Working on this comic really saved me from feeling isolated and alone during quarantine. It became this way to reach out to the community even though we were all physically separated. And then on the other hand, it also allowed me to process everything that happened over the summer with the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. To have this space to work out everything I was thinking and feeling alongside the community was incredible, and I am so grateful to have the space and time for this process.

How do you hope people engage with this comic? Or What do you hope people take away from this comic?

I hope that this comic gives people the inspiration and the permission to go back to their memories of quarantine, lockdown, the BLM protests, and everything that we maybe view as “negative” or difficult about 2020 and see how those experiences actually shaped us and helped us grow. I want us to keep telling stories about this moment and really have the space to reflect on this time of great change.

What role has living in Aminah’s house played in your creative life, your creative process?

Being at Aminah’s has been a very healing process since the loss of my mom — it’s a very maternal expression that I feel being in this space. I also love being in the neighborhood and building relationships with the neighbors. That’s allowed me to recreate a value system that I kind of lost when I moved downtown. It’s cool to tell the neighbors about what projects I’m working on and then they’ll see me on TV or in the news and they’ll congratulate me in a very sincere and authentic way. The neighborhood’s so active and alive: I love seeing the kids playing or walking around the streets; there’s lots of animal life, too, which is unique for a space that’s so close to the city.

Being at Aminah’s makes you feel like you don’t have to leave for days because you have everything you need right here. When you’re in the house, you’re kind of having this dialogue with her all the time. I find a lot of answers that I’m trying to work out in my art in her artwork in the house, her books, the notes people have left for her on the walls.

Thanks for sharing your work & experiences with us today, Bryan. You’ve certainly kept busy over this past year and the CMA Comics project is just a small component of what you’ve been working on. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we sign off?

Thank you! I appreciate the support from CMA always, so it’s exciting for me to get to share this project. I’m currently wrapping up two other big projects: my first graphic novel for Abrams Books, Eightfold Path, which will be out in early 2022. I also just completed a very fulfilling collaboration with White Castle and Coca-Cola. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of their partnership, I created a mural at the White Castle Headquarters here in Columbus and designed three cups that are now available at any White Castle nationwide.

Interested in learning more about Bryan’s work? Follow him on Instagram @strangethingsmoss

Neighborhoods #MyCMAStudio Challenge

Exploring your neighborhood can conjure up lots of creativity and inspiration.
 
Use the prompts provided to inspire you throughout the month. What can you create that represents your neighborhood?
 
Collecting data on repeating items and patterns.
 
How many streetlights, stop signs and fire hydrants do you encounter? Can you compare the differences in mailboxes or front doors? What patterns do you see in the sidewalks and on the streets? What are the buildings around you made from: metal, wood, brick?
 
Who frequents your neighborhood?
 
Do you see lots of children at play? Are their people out walking their dogs? Is everyone in a hurry? Are people walking in large groups or on their phones?
 
What kind of story can you create from the familiar faces?
 
When do things change?
 
How do the seasons effect your neighborhood? What used to exist in your neighborhood that’s no longer there? What changes would you like to see? How would those changes affect your daily life or that of your neighbors?
 
What sounds do you hear?
 
Can you observe the sounds in the morning, the afternoon and at night? How do they change? When is it the loudest? What images represent the noise?
 
How can you celebrate your neighborhood?
 
What characteristics define your neighborhood that make them special to you? How can you depict those elements in your work? What makes a neighborhood worth celebrating? Is it the neighbors? Is it a space you frequent?
 
Explore the theme of Neighborhoods by challenging yourself to sketch, photograph and observe the space that makes up your home.
 
Join us for free online programs that continue to explore this theme with teaching artists in partnership with Streetlight Guild and Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.
 
2/4: Creative Happy Hour
2/11: Creative Mindfulness
Tuesdays at 4pm Studio Workshops + Aminah Workshops
 
Share your creativity with us by tagging us on social media with #myCMAstudio
 
#myCMAstudio is a digital version of our drop- in program, Open Studio. Which is currently unavailable to the public due to Covid-19, and part of CMA’s JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity Studio to explore ideas, solve creative challenges, and collaborate with friends and family.
 
Pick up a Studio in a Box with all the supplies and materials needed to aid you in our weekly challenges.

Image credit:
Unknown American Artist
Unidentified Photographer
[Man with Camera in Neighborhood] , c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
2 9/16 x 2 1/2 in. (6.5 x 6.3 cm)
Gift of Peter Cohen

Envisioning the Future: Vision Boards 2.0

Welcome to 2021!

With every new year we all have the opportunity to rethink our goals and hopes for the future. While we can never predict what will happen from one day to the next, we can always dream.
Many people make vision boards around the new year. Vision boards are fun and simple collages that express things that we don’t have but would like to have in the future.

(Example of a vision board)

In this project, we will take the same idea of a vision board but use a variety of materials from markers, paint, decorative papers, magazines, old newspapers, drawings, found objects, fabric or whatever you have around the house.
 
Before you begin to create, I first invite you to close your eyes for 2-5 minutes. While your eyes are closed think about all the good and positive things you wish to see in the future. This could be something you would like to see later today, in a week, a year, several years or during a lifetime. Consider things you want for yourself, your community, the country and/or the world.
 
Lastly, were there any images ( ie. Blue skies, birds, houses) or words (i.e. health, family, prosperity) that come immediately to mind? If so, make sure to represent this in your work in some way.
 
Here are a few examples I created:






Remember, stay positive and happy creating!!!


Artwork and prompt created by April Sunami in partnership with Art in House by the Ohio Alliance of Art Education.
 
April Sunami is a professional visual artist primarily focusing on mixed-media painting and installation. She earned her Master of Arts Degree in Art History from Ohio University and her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Ohio State University. Sunami is also an award-winning installation artist through the 2012 Columbus Art Pop-Up Project sponsored by the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Her work has been widely exhibited in galleries and museums including the Columbus Museum of Art, National African America Museum and Cultural Center and the Southern Ohio Museum. Sunami is married to writer and philosopher Christopher Sunami. They both live in Columbus, OH and co-parent two bright and imaginative kids.

Find a CMA Studio Challenge that speaks to you and share your creations on social media by tagging #myCMAstudio.

#myCMAstudio is a digital version of our drop- in program, Open Studio. Which is currently unavailable to the public due to Covid-19, and part of CMA’s JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity Studio to explore ideas, solve creative challenges, and collaborate with friends and family.

Pick up a Studio in a Box with all the supplies and materials needed to aid you in our weekly challenges or allow our CMA educators to guide kids 1- 8th grade in an free online Studio Workshop.

The Story Behind Our LEGO Schokko


Read the story behind our Lego Schokko, described by one of our docents Sheryl Ellcessor.
    
“In the spring of 2015 a group of docents took a Road Scholar trip to Philadelphia. While there, Wendy Johnson, Marilyn Donahue, and I toured the Nathan Sawaya ‘Art of the Brick’ exhibition at The Franklin Institute. We were amazed at the works he made out of Legos, but especially enamored with the Lego paintings. We came back to Columbus with an idea to have the CMA docents make a Lego painting for the next Lego exhibit in the fall.
    
As Docent Chair that year, I asked Wendy Johnson and Marilyn Donahue to lead this special project. It was decided that Schokko would make a great painting since she was our informal mascot and had a wonderful array of colors. We worked with an online Lego site to determine how to lay out the Legos and what sizes/colors we would need. Merilee Mostov gave us a large tub of Legos, many docents contributed Legos, and we purchased the colors that were not in a standard set. Wendy and Marilyn created a grid with instructions and coordinated the entire group of docents working on the piece when they were in the museum. It only took a couple weeks to complete our Lego Schokko. We had Lego Schokko framed at Reed Arts. That fall the museum included our Lego Schokko in the Lego exhibit and it has been included each year.”

Museum Store 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

      

Though our galleries remain closed into mid-December, the Museum Store is open and as well-stocked as ever. To help support our museum and bring comfort, joy, and creativity to the end of a tumultuous year, here is a selection of our staff’s favorite gift ideas this season.

Visit us in-person for special shopping hours Wednesday, December 16 to Friday December 18 from 12 – 5 PM. The museum is returning to normal hours starting Saturday, December 19. Call 614.629.0314 to make a private appointment, arrange curbside pickup, or shop online.

 

LEGO Activities

We miss Think Outside the Brick this winter, but these kits are available to inspire your own LEGO exhibition at home! $21.99-$24.99. Available in-store or by phone only.

 
Puzzles

Choose your own skill level: from 300 pieces ($19.95) to 2,000 ($38.95)! Or roll up your sleeves for the challenge of a Mystery Puzzle, available in 500 or 1,000 piece sets.

 

Quotable Gifts


If you’re searching for the right words to say this holiday season, we’ve got you covered with our selection of quotable cards, mugs, bags, magnets, and more. Pictured bag is $9.95, mugs are $14.95.

 
Hot Sox


These vibrant, humorous socks make great stocking stuffers! Check out our selection of men’s and women’s sizes for $9.95 a pair.

 
Bee’s Wrap

Sustainably save your holiday feast leftovers. This all-natural product uses organic cotton and beeswax to create a washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to single use plastic wrap. $7.95 – $22.95.

 
Modgy Expandable Vase

These expandable plastic vases come in fun and masterpiece-inspired patterns. Perfect for shipping, they lay flat in their packaging. $9.95. Fill one with: Pom Pom Mum Gel Pens, $4.95.

 
Mad Man Ultra Light Bamboo Watch

This minimalist watch is a comfortable and casual timepiece. With a bamboo and stainless-steel face and a soft leather strap, it’s stylish and won’t break your bank at $60.

 
Featured Jewelry

Explore our broad selection of jewelry, from local artists to Italian jewelers and everything in between. Some of our brands include Patricia Locke, Jianhui London (right, $130), Italianissimo (left, $105), Shinola Detroit, and Hanna Hoffman.

 
Lingua Franca Cashmere Sweater

Spoil someone with these soft and beautiful cashmere sweaters, hand embroidered with custom sayings (pink: “art makes us better people”, grey: “Creativity takes courage”, or orange: “art equals hope”). $380 each.

 
Pixie Mood Bags

Pixie Mood bags have been a shop favorite for years. These stylish and affordable bags are 100% cruelty-free, made out of PETA-certified vegan leather and other recycled materials.  

 
Browse Our Library!

We have a huge selection, including novels, cookbooks, coffee table books, and beloved exhibition catalogs. Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals is $39.95.

Catch These Hands (For Aminah) by Scott Woods

At the virtual CMA Members’ Opening of Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn’s House and Journals on November 18, 2020, Columbus poet Scott Woods captured Aminah’s spirit in a vibrant poem. Here is the poem and some of the objects and scenes that inspired it.

Catch These Hands (For Aminah)
Scott Woods

“The beginning of one’s life never begins with oneself.”
– Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson


Sockman, 1980, mixed media, Estate of the Artist
 

When writing a gospel,

always note the place, then the activity.

The place will not always stay –

sometimes they crown our emancipated spaces someplace else –

but someone will always need a sock or a chickenfoot.

Keep track of these bones.

One day you may have to make flesh clay of them.

Someday someone will somehow

sometime your something.
 

What you need a bed for anyway 

when you got all this world to sleep on?

Kitchen is just a place to cook more art.

Dining rooms make great studios, 

bedrooms profound museums.

A hallway is a perfect place for another gallery.
 

So claim your space now and loudly:
 

Kitchen

Bathroom

Poindexter

Beatty Center

The Cameo

The Pythian

Ted’s Place

All of the schools

Aminah’s Living Room


Uncle Alvin Says….in 1200 AD, Mixed media, Columbus Museum of Art, Bequest of the Artist
 

These places where we ruled and now hold on to with our teeth,

where we have been before, and before before,

her Uncle Alvin says as early as 1200, 

when Afrikans settled the Ohio Valley

in ships made from stitches and stories.
 

Those ancient Afrikans who became 

the silt and dust of Poindexter Village,

whose children would disappear into its obsidian streets

and upon whose flesh you could grow the grandest blackberries, 

which just goes to show that stories run in Aminah’s veins.


Themba Bears Witness, 1996-2012, mixed media, Estate of the Artist
 

Raggin on from Sapelo Island to now,

a cart full of brown smiles turned to scowls as they passed,

baptized by an orchard of ripe and hanging kin,

always looking back,

first over the shoulder, 

then with arms open wide to the past

as if the trees might give up their ghosts.

And in her hands they do.


Incantations, 1996-2912, Estate of the Artist
 

The masks of Themba are not disguises 

but our true selves hollering into the red sky,

all these Black people who smile

but do not show they teeth,

calling forth all the buttoned-down gods of man

to come catch these hands.
 

Let us make a quilt of the quilts,

Needle to thread life, a maestro of souls.

Even if you out of work, you work.

Hands are the first tools of a people and

all her hands large enough to hold the world.

At least this one.

Quilt Meetin’ catching up on the gossip, 1994, mixed media on paper, Estate of the Artist
 

Called out each morning from a

sidewalk shaped grocery list 

a street full of prayers

a block of hymns and 

the mundane sold in ecstasy,

head kicked back in laugh you can almost hear,

a dancers gait frozen and held aloft

on pedestals of auction block wood

and family albums that look like gallows.


Auction Block, 1980, pen and ink and pastel on paper, Estate of the Artist
 

Iceman, Breadman,

Ragman, Sockman, 

Cameraman, Vegetableman,

Chickenfoot Woman,

come get your hustle on!

It’s a blues life, a jazz walk,

a symphony of Mount Vernon lives

dotting the musical staves 

of songs sung in the leathery tongues

of Eastside angels. 

 
Brownyskin Man, 1998, watercolor, Estate of the Artist
 
      
Chickenfoot Woman, 1998, watercolor. Estate of the Artist
 

Oh, to need a rag so bad you buy one.

A sock delivered to your door,

ice so heavy the sun take its sips and leaves
 

Learn to be one thing on this avenue

and you’ll live forever.

To become what you carry is to become a patron saint of the bramble:
 

Umbrellaman is a golem of shades,
 

Chickenfoot Woman a priestess 

of every good Saturday night supper for seven blocks.
 

Aminah made of brush and rag and button and hogmawg,

carrying all of her people like a Brownyskin Man,

a pantheon of Black Jesuses.


Brownyskin Man, 1997, mixed media, Columbus Museum of Art, Museum Purchase with funds donated by Wolfe Associates, Inc.
 

And I stand here,

in this archive of captured dreams,

an Alexandrian library of long gone mystics,

looking at this button,

a goddess’ eye looking back at me

strung firm into the face of an ancestor 

I did not know I had,

Themba whispering to me that a life is a walk;

that ragonnons,

unfolding and unfolding through time,

take a life to create and capture at once.


Dad’s Journey, 1972-2006, mixed media, Columbus Museum of Art, Gift of the Artist
 
The beginning of one’s life never begins with oneself.
So says the Artwoman, the Buttonteacher.
 

So says the Hogmawg chef and the empress of blackberries,

the Envelope steamer and the gupa goddess.
 

So says the gardner of bottles and spirit catchers,

the mayor of villages that sink into the concrete 

and come back blacker still,
 

as if their roots were oil and slave blood.


Robinson in her front yard bottle garden

Button Beaded Book, date unknown, mixed media, Estate of the Artist
 

So says the Afrikan time traveller and the eternal Ohioan,

The Trustworthy Daughter Thus Named.

So says the realtor of holy places and sensei of stitches,

the librarian of sleepy-eyed languages, 

an optometrist of cowry shells

the archeologist of memory over searching, 

the carrier of homes, 

the avatar of unrequited love letters 

that have had their bellies steamed open

to make room for more love.


An Old Custom from the Blackberry Patch, Unwritten Love Letter, 1988, mixed media on envelope, Estate of the Artist

The Teachings, 1992, Mixed media, Columbus Museum of Art, Gift of the Artist
 

So says the teacher of this last lesson,

who is somehow gone but present,

still drawing on the walls,

still penetrating all hallelujahs,

midwifing the Middle Passage back into now,

still catching every newborn/old world

in her great hands.