The Artist Also Known as Geneviève Castrée Was Multi-faceted Autobio Cartoonist and Performer
by BK Munn
Geneviève Elverum, who published comics as Geneviève Castrée, died of pancreatic cancer on July 9.
While she also was known as a talented musician, Elverum made comics and drawings of great subtlety and beauty. Her art delved poetically into aspects of the self, our bestial nature, and our relationships with the natural world.
As she chronicled in her moving 2015 autobiographical comic Susceptible, Elverum was born Geneviève Gosselin in Loretteville, Quebec and raised by her single mother into her teenage years. She self-published her own zines and mini-comics before releasing her first book, Lait Frappé (L’Oie de Cravan, 2000) at the age of 18 and immediately established herself as an intriguingly powerful visual storyteller. Elverum first became known to a wider English-language audience with short stories published in Kramers Ergot #4 (2004) with “The Fire In Mr. Pea,” and Drawn and Quarterly Showcase #3 (2005) with “We’re Wolf,” a wonderful meditation on Tintin, childhood, and lycanthropy. D+Q also published Susceptible in 2013 to great acclaim.
Elverum also released a series of obscure, highly-personal lo-fi records, often accompanied by comics-style booklets of her art, beginning with her comic Pamplemoussi (L’Oie de Cravan, 2004), for which Elverum taught herself guitar. Inspired by the songwriting of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadler and the punk and indy bands of her teen years, her songs are filled with talk-singing, howls, dirge-like chants, and fragments of nostalgic reflection. Elverum performed and recorded under a variety of names including Pauline Sniff-sniff, Pirate Morceau, Pipi Migou, Woelv and Ô Paon, singing often in French and accompanying herself on guitar with the occasional assist from other musicians, including her husband Phil and multi-instrumentalist Gus Franklin.
Elverum’s art was the subject of several solo exhibits both here and abroad, with shows in New York (Adam Baumgold Gallery, 2008), Richmond VA (Thanky, 2009) and Tokyo (PressPop, 2012), among others. She was also a tireless promoter of other people’s art, teaching comics workshops, contributing to group shows, and co-founding the What the Heck festival with husband Phil Elverum in Anacortes, Washington, the town where the couple settled in 2008.
Fans were shocked earlier this year when it was announced Elverum was suffering from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, diagnosed shortly after the birth of the couple’s daughter. A widely-publicized GoFundMe appeal for donations after a year of battling the cancer resulted in a huge outpouring of support.
Phil Elverum posted the following on July 8:
Geneviève died today at 1pm.
She was truly driven to work and stay living right up to the last minute, insisting on getting up and going to work in her studio way beyond when many would have surrendered to rest.
Last night and this morning she declined quickly and receded into her own eyes as her body vetoed her wishes, her lungs filling with fluid. She died at home with me and her parents holding her, hopefully having reached some last minute peace.
It’s all very sad and surreal. So much is left unfinished for her. She was a firehose of brilliant ideas that never turned off.
We loved her and everything is weird now.
Thank you for all the money, all the support and love.