The graphic novel Nubia, written by the author L.L. McKinney with art by alum Robyn Smith 11F, is one of several graphic novels featured in a recent New York Times article.
The graphic novel Nubia, written by the author L.L. McKinney with art by Hampshire College alum Robyn Smith 11F, is one of several graphic novels featured in a recent New York Times article about how Black artists are reconceiving superhero mythologies.
Smith came to Hampshire College from Jamaica with the intention of centering her work on the visual arts. Thinking that becoming a teacher was her most realistic career path, she also studied art education. “But because of the way Hampshire is structured, I explored a lot of other things,” she says. “History was always important to me. And I got interested in the sociology of race in America, which is different from how it is in Jamaica.”
Classes with Susana Loza, associate professor of critical race, gender, and media studies, furthered her sense of U.S. history, specifically in regard to class, gender issues, and being Black. Smith found herself drawn to examining representation (and the lack thereof) in culture—music, books, and, of course, comics.
After Hampshire, Smith earned her M.F.A. from the Center for Cartoon Studies, where she created The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town, a mini comic about her own sense of isolation living and studying in an all-white Vermont town. It was named to the list of the Best Short-Form Comics of 2016 in The Comics Journal, which praised how her “delicate and expressive pencils are used to subtle effect in this autobiographical howl against forces external (racism) and internal (anxiety) alike.”
The success of her M.F.A. work led to a collaborative effort called Wash Day, written by Jamila Rowser and illustrated by Smith. It’s a day-in-the-life comic story honoring the beauty and endurance of black women and their hair. The project won a 2019 DiNKy Award for Best Floppy Comic.