June - July 2023
- Yellowstone National Park
“How can deconstructing popular narratives and creating new histories support the redefinition of our place in the natural world, which is now essential in the face of environmental challenges?”
I am an artist and an author. My career has consistently been guided by experiences and experiments in the natural world. This approach first stemmed from a frenzied desire to draw and a love of wide-open spaces.
I was a part of the horse-riding community for over ten years, and it was through contact with these creatures that I began to reflect on the evident domination of humans over animals. As a teenager, an encounter with the national parks and Native cultures of the United States led me to question our supremacy over the entire living world.
These concerns inspired my various projects at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, from which I graduated in 2017 with the short film Holy Chic. The film’s eponymous nightclub depicts bodies in thrall on the dance floor, juxtaposed with raging forest fires. Taking the same direction as my thesis, this animated short marked the beginning of my research into the power of stories and their ability to mobilize consciences.
The call of the wild found its way into my artistic approach when, following a horrible experience at a refuge for orphaned baby kangaroos, I produced my first illustrated exposé and adopted immersion as my basis for creation.
In 2020, while in residency at Ateliers Médicis in Haute-Savoie, I held a talk with a class of fifth-graders and explored with them the role of collective memory in our perception of territory. This project inspired a graphic novel, Dans l’ombre du Mont-Blanc (In the Shadow of Mont-Blanc) that uses hybrid storytelling with a view to observing a culture in all its complexity, considering different perspectives, and understanding origins to help rethink narratives and build the society of tomorrow.
A graduate from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, Alice Chemama is a Franco-American artist and author. Working primarily with still and moving images, she creates pieces influenced by social and ecological concerns. Her short film Holy Chic was awarded a number of prizes at film festivals, and the Dargaud publishing house signed her after seeing her illustrated exposé, the Libé Apaj-winning Les Kangourous de l’Apocalypse (The Kangaroos of the Apocalypse). She illustrated the Eisner Award-nominated and Bassilac Prize-winning Les Zola, and released Dans l’ombre du Mont-Blanc, which came about during a residency at Ateliers Médicis. She is also a regular contributor for La Revue Dessinée, the TOPO magazine, Elles - Women Composers, and Forum des Images, among others.
While wolves have all but disappeared from their native French countryside, the vast mountain ranges of the United States remain haunted by the specter of a truly awe-inspiring predator, the American black bear. Capable of standing on two legs, climbing trees, and crossing streams, the bear has caused me a number of sleepless nights...
It was during a trek across the Californian hills that I first felt the primal fear of being eaten on the spot. And this fear was justified, fueled by the warnings uttered to me with utmost gravity, by the fireside tales, and by the entire age-old legend built around this savage beast. But the bear, although omnipresent in local lore, remained elusive, more discreet and prudent than alleged.
From long-standing myth to late-night anecdote, how has our terror towards this predator been heightened by narratives of varying levels of fantasy? What relationships do human beings maintain with predators today? If legends, fables, and tales are the bedrock of a culture and its values, how can deconstructing these popular narratives and creating new histories support the redefinition of our place in the natural world, which is now essential in the face of environmental challenges?
I hope to address these questions using the case of the emblematic black bear, which is both fascinating and deadly, totem and trophy, monster and teddy. My research will take place in the unique landscape of Yellowstone National Park, focusing on its fauna and flora, rangers, visitors, scientists, and surrounding communities. These investigations may also lead me beyond the park in search of archives, museums, and events related to Native American cultures.
With the support of the project’s partners, the Dargaud publishing house and TOPO magazine, the gathered material will serve as inspiration for a graphic novel or illustrated book, and a number of illustrated exposés.
The land of Yellowstone National Park, spanning an area of 2,219,791 acres in three states – Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana – contains one of the country’s largest populations of brown and grizzly bears.
Untamed yet heavily signposted, this space is frequented by wildlife as much as by scientists and tourists. It represents the ideal setting for observing the links that we as humans maintain with these animals.
In addition, studying the history of the park’s creation and, more broadly, of the United States, will provide food for thought on our relationship with the natural world. The collision of Native peoples and colonizers offers much insight into two radically differing ways of life, cultures, and spiritualities, as well as their resulting impacts on the shared ecosystem.
In partnership with
As a general publisher of comic book series and graphic novels for all audiences, Dargaud is as committed to promoting the heritage of comics, from Lucky Luke to Blake and Mortimer, as it is to defending contemporary creation, from The Rabbi's Cat to Blacksad, and from World Without End to The Old Geezers, or Lightness. Today, its catalog boasts 4,000 titles, with more than 5 million copies sold each year throughout the world.
TOPO is a news magazine for people under 20 years old (and others too). Chronicles, great reports and scientific popularization: facing the propagation of conspiracy theories and fake news, it is urgent to provide keys to decipher the news. TOPO is a magazine which bets on associating the pleasure of comics with the seriousness of journalism to allow young readers to develop their critical and citizen sense.