For years, artist Drew Friedman has chronicled a strange, alternate universe populated by forgotten Hollywood stars, old Jewish comedians and liver-spotted elevator operators.
Vermeer of the Borscht Belt is an in-depth documentary tracing Friedman's evolution from underground comics to the cover of the New Yorker.
Friedman grew up in the New York literary scene of his father, writer Bruce Jay Friedman, but he was more at home with the Three Stooges, Car 54 and MAD magazine. Vermeer of the Borscht Belt traces fifty years of American popular culture through the unique lens of Drew Friedman.
We'll talk with Friedman's friends and colleagues, exploring his influences and inspiration. We'll watch as he transforms a rough sketch into a full color painting.
And we'll go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Friedman's private “Jewseum” perhaps the world's largest collection of artifacts devoted exclusively to Jewish comedians.
We can only do this with your help. Our Kickstarter campaign has something for everyone – from DVDs and limited-edition posters to executive producer credits.
Drew Friedman's latest work More Heroes of the Comics is a sequel to his acclaimed Heroes of the Comics. Spanning the birth of the industry to its first few decades, this book has approximately 100 full-color portraits of the legends of American comic books―publishers, editors, and artists. Its subjects are popular and obscure, men and women, and it includes several pioneering artists of color.
Drew Friedman is an award-winning illustrator whose work regularly appears in dozens of major publications. For years he was renowned for his "stippling" style of caricature, employing thousands of pen-marks to achieve photographic verisimilitude, but in recent years Friedman has switched to painting. His painstaking attention to detail and parodies of Hollywood icons is widely admired.
Friedman's work has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Observer, Esquire, RAW, Rolling Stone, and MAD Magazine.
Friedman attended New York's School of Visual Arts from 1978 to 1981, studying under such legendary masters as Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Edward Sorel, Stan Mack, and Arnold Roth. He launched his career in the 1980s writing and illustrating morbid alternative comics, often collaborating with brother Josh Alan Friedman. These stories depicted various B-list celebrities, such as Abbott and Costello, Tor Johnson, and Joe Franklin, in seedy, absurd, tragicomic situations. Friedman's work won high praise from Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who compared him to Goya, and Robert Crumb, who wrote, "I wish I had this guy's talent."
During the 1980s and early '90s, Friedman's comics were published in Heavy Metal, Weirdo, High Times, and National Lampoon. The Friedman brothers published two collections, Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental and Warts and All.
In 1986, Friedman introduced a monthly feature, "Private Lives of Public Figures," for (the now-defunct) SPY magazine; these were collected in a book published by St. Martin's Press in 1992. He provided illustrations for Howard Stern's two best-selling books, Private Parts and Miss America. Friedman served as comics editor for the National Lampoon in 1991, and since 1994 has provided front-page illustrations for the New York Observer.
In 2006, Friedman published Old Jewish Comedians, a collection of portraits of famous and forgotten Jewish comics of film and TV in their old age. Steven Heller, in the New York Times Book Review, proclaimed it "a festival of drawing virtuosity and fabulous craggy faces, . . . Friedman might very well be the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt." Jerry Lewis chimed in: "Jesus Christ I love it! Holy Moly what a book!" The following year he published a collection of newer work, The Fun Never Stops!, including many comics co-written by his frequent collaborator and wife, K. Bidus. Booklist tabbed it one of the Ten Best Comics Collections of 2007. More Old Jewish Comedians was published in 2008. (Here's a Wall Street Journal article about a March 2014 exhibit of Friedman's "Old Jewish Comedians" art held at the Society of Illustrators, in New York.)
A collection of magazine illustrations and fine art portraits, Too Soon: Famous/Infamous Faces 1995–2010 (Fantagraphics), was published in Fall 2010, followed in 2011 by Drew Friedman's Sideshow Freaks (Blast Books), which presented 50 color portraits of strange and bizarre (and real) circus entertainers from bygone years.
Friedman was recognized for his work with the National Cartoonist Society Newspaper Illustration Award for 2000, and was nominated again in 2002 and 2007. That organization also awarded Friedman their Magazine Illustration Award for 2000. His work has been included in nine volumes of the American Illustration annual.
Friedman and Bidus share their home with adorable champion beagles.
Risks and challenges
We have a great team ready to go and don't foresee any challenges.
"Vermeer of the Borscht Belt" is being produced by Kevin Dougherty who is solely responsible for the content and fulfillment of Kickstarter pledges and related obligations.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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