AMC has partnered with the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), located in Astoria, New York, to bring a fantastic Walking Dead exhibit titled Living with the Walking Dead. This exhibit highlights The Walking Dead’s 12 years of greatness, featuring props, costumes, scripts, storyboards, walker’s prosthetic makeup, and much more. This exhibit celebrates a series that is one of the most watched shows in cable TV history and, as a special bonus, also features some amazing Walking Dead artists.
MoMI reached out to Undead Walking to interview and celebrate the achievements of the artists selected to display their works in this exhibit. The museum was also kind enough to share several photos of the exhibit for those of us who won’t be able to attend in person.
We conducted interviews with Kirk Manley, who is well known for his Walking Dead and other fandom tribute art and is the creator of the exclusive poster for the Living with the Walking Dead exhibit. We also interviewed Sooki Martinsen, who has an amazing style of art that Manley describes perfectly, stating, “it captures photorealism in a classic way, almost hyper-real. You can’t believe it’s not a photograph.” The other artist also featured are Rob Prior, Grace Carrero, Scott Spillman, Valachy Holmes, Kailynn Heide, and Benny Miller.
The Walking Dead: Living with the Walking Dead exhibit
Kirk Manley was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to talk with us about how he got started creating art and the process of being chosen for the Living with the Walking Dead exhibit.
How he got his start:
"I have loved comicbooks since I was old enough to remember, mostly Avenger and Captain America and things like that. I grew up with that making a huge impression on me. I would look at the artwork in the comicbook and it wasn’t only the stories that would grab me but the visuals."
He remembers thinking that he couldn’t believe someone could draw that and make it look so real. He gravitated towards artists with a more realistic style like John Buscema, Gil Kane, and Bernie Wrightson, people who based their drawings on traditional anatomy and art. He would spend time tracing the work of those he admired and then attempt to draw his own creations, where he created his own comic books with art paper stapled together. He also drew inspiration from monster movies that were popular when he was younger.
He was very inspired by Robert Kirman’s The Walking Dead comic.
"With my love of comic books and facination with zombies when Robert Kirman’s The Walking Dead comic came out, that became my bible. The hardest part was waiting 30 days for the next issue to come out. What was different about Kirkman’s approach was, where other zombie comics concentrated on the gore, jump scare, they were very dark and bleak with a lot of explotation, this was real people face with a real zombie apocalpyse. What became so scary in that book and what was so captivating to read was that the zombies were the least of the things to be scared of, which was even more terrifiying."
He would eventually create a podcast with Jeff Marsick (with who he co-created a comic Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers) called Biters (that is ongoing with new people at the helm) that would dive deep into each Walking Dead episode, and this would, in turn, begin his tribute art pieces. If you have ever attended a con where Manley is present, you have seen his fantastic work that tells the story of the episodes in one frame.
His success with the tribute posters would lead to several things and culminate in being chosen to be included in this Walking Dead tribute exhibit and creating the official poster for the exhibition.
"It was a huge honor and I was really flattered. They (MomI) had gone to LA to meet with Scott Gimple, Angela Kang in the writers room and saw my posters on the wall."
Manley explains how he would send copies of the episode tribute art to Gimple, Kang, and others, and several of these have been framed and hung in the writer’s room. The representatives from the museum were impressed with his work and reached out to him to create the poster for the exhibit. After quite the process, which included some reworks and approval from AMC, the above tribute poster was created.
We appreciate Manley taking the time to talk with us. You can see Manley’s work displayed to the far right of this photo. You can see more of his work on his website.
Sooki Martinsen also took time away from her schedule to discuss her art and being featured in this amazing exhibit. She shared that she has known Manley for some time, and he is the reason she was able to have her art featured in this exhibit.
When asked about how she became interested in art, she stated that she remembers as far back as three years old, she was drawing. It is just something she’s always felt compelled to do, and her parents have always been supportive.
"We’ve done quite a bit of traveling and I have been so inspried by those experiences and learnig about other cultures, and my own culture as well. I am Korean adopted and that helped me explore and be inspried."
She began drawing Walking Dead characters because of her love for the show and attending conventions.
"I get nervous talking to people soemtimes, am not really shy but oftentimes it just feels awkward. So it (art) kind of gave me something unquie to get signed when meeting the cast. I would give them a copy and have them sign a copy and it just went from there."
She shared that fellow artists Scott Spillman and Robin Overton were the first ones to encourage her to take her artwork to conventions. So, she took a chance and went to one where she would meet Manley.
Through a friend who is on The Walking Dead series, she was able to become an extra on the series. She said it was an amazing experience to be in that environment with characters you watched progress throughout the years of the storyline. She said the cast members were the most humble and genuine people you could hope to meet. She loves that some of the cast has now seen her art at the exhibit, and she is so happy to share that with them. She gets a lot of encouragement from people’s reactions to her art.
"I’m the type of person that if I could do this for free I would. It makes me happy to make other people happy."
She expressed that the exhibit feels like a recognition of all of her years of hard work. She was flattered that Manley recommended her for the show and that he thought that much of her work was so humbling for her.
"Never would I ever have imagined being in a New York museum, especially one of that caliber. It blows my mind."
We appreciate Sooki Martinsen setting aside some time to chat with us. Martinsen’s work is displayed to the far right of this photo. You can see more of her work on her website.
If you get the chance, don’t miss out on this fantastic tribute to an amazing series. Living with the Walking Dead runs through Jan 1, 2023, at the Museum of the Moving Image.