Trouble with Lulu

by Lindsey Westbrook

Artist David Faulk started reading the Lulu comic books about 10 years ago. Lulu had already been out of the public eye for 30 or 40 years by then, but Faulk felt a strong and immediate attachment to her character. Soon it was almost as if he couldn’t keep her out of his paintings. “Lulu is interesting,” he says, “because she’s smart, charming, independent and a little bit feminist” . Cartoon characters always carry with them a set of associations and pre-established references, he observes, but they’re also flexible -- especially one as old as Lulu. “People recognize her and like her, but usually they can’t remember where they know her from.” There isn’t always a logical story, but there is always some kind of challenge or obstacle. In "Sisyphus Lulu" she pushes a giant cartoon Nancy head up a steep slope; In other paintings her arms and legs are weirdly elongated, her torso cut in half, or her hands are chopped off at the wrist. Lulu never lets a dire situation get the best of her, though. Even with her hands cut off she keeps her head, looking out at us calmly as blood drips from her wrist-stumps. That kind of superhuman stoicism may only exist in comic books and paintings, but Faulk, who has AIDS, clearly holds it in high esteem. It seems that when the disease threatens to consume his last bit of artistic energy, he finds inspiration in Lulu’s cool-headed resourcefulness, especially when mysterious, malicious forces prey on her body. Faulk’s work is supported in part by Visual Aid, an organization that encourages artists with life-threatening illnesses to continue their creative work.

This revue first appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian after the opening of Faulk's Exhibition:TROUBLE WITH LULU at New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco, October 2001.