People who have lived in Port Angeles for a long time tell me that this cold is unusual, even for Port Angeles. I have a new appreciation for those who say “Snow is beautiful. Let it stay in the mountains where it belongs”.
But staying indoors, in the studio, is a good way to produce more art. And here is my latest. It is called “Build” and it is a dialog-with-self about what creative people can do to resist the authoritarian forces that have been chilling us for the past many weeks.
You can click on any image to see a larger version.
“Build”, front and back, closed
The size closed is 10″w x 13.5″h, x 4″d. It’s made of an old wine gift box, linen, acrylic paint, scraps of leather, telescoping tubes, plexiglas, handmade paper, and some of my figure drawing (dancers) pigment printed on transparent film. (A couple of years back these drawings were printed very large for an artist book installation.)
Here is my text which I hand printed in the little book.
To construct something complex by putting parts together over a period of time.
Tyrants divide and dominate. They manipulate communications to spread the fear of “other”. Then they work the resultant loneliness to their personal gain. Tyrants reward the venality that allows the tyranny to live and metastasize.
The bully has no use for tellers of truth. No forbearance for people who think their own thoughts, write their words, share their stories, dance their dances, generate peace. No tolerance for the Victor Jaras of this world.
Yet, there are many ways to resist despots, all requiring courage. This book urges rejecting the lies, mending the broken bonds and curing the loneliness. It advocates the building of community — groups too large and joyful in their purpose for the tyrant to crush.
This book suggests the following physical and metaphorical items for individuals and communities to build.
Build friendships, families, a nest, a bridge, a menu, a book, a bookshelf, a library, a house, a home, an armature, a trellis, a boat, a life, a seedbed, a garden, a nursery, a farm.
Build a base camp, understanding, a sanctuary, a troupe, a shelter, a future, a chord.
Build harmony, a sand castle, a montage, a movement.
Build diversity, trust, a path, a reputation, peace.
Build a theater, a team, a dialogue, build strength.
Build a tree house, stamina, links, a framework, a lean to, a habitat, a buttress, scaffolding, a gazebo, trade, structure, meaning, a fire, build resistance.
Build what gives joy. Build it well.
Build a ground-swell.
[Victor Jara was a popular teacher, poet, singer/songwriter, theater director, and political activist in Chile in the time of Allende. When Pinochet came to power in 1973, Victor was tortured and killed by the military junta.]
You can see this book in action, and hear the text in a 2 min. video.
Next month I will drag Oola out from under the double down quilt to take an Amtrak ride to the Bay Area. We will see what adventures come from that.
After the historic events of last week my struggle to hunker down and get organized has been more massive than usual. Deep breaths, let’s dive in.
This is what an Artist Book show looks like at the 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland. The show, Pop-Up Now II, opened last week. Oola and I took the train down to Portland. Lots of rain, but in spite of that lots of people turned out (this pict was taken early in the evening. It got harder to move about shortly after this.)
As Laura Russell, the owner of 23 Sandy Gallery, and an artist book maker herself, says in the catalog: “It’s easy to make a whiz-bang pop-up, but book artists are adept at pushing further and rounding out the book with more context…a bigger story.” And though the books are genuinely delightful in this show, the content that reveals something about the world of each individual artist is what Oola and I found most fascinating.
There are fourty-some books in the show, and not all the creating artists were present at the opening because these books came from both near and far away. But — a few books to give a taste. You can click on any picture to see a close-up.
Amy Lund‘s book is named Hygge (to the untrained ear it is pronounced a little like the sound of a klaxon horn — UUGA-UUGA). But the meaning is full and deep. Amy explained that in her Scandinavian culture it means something like creating a coziness for the family with simple gestures. In her family it is important to make the time to gather together by candle light. And, indeed, when you see her book in low light, the windows and door glow with a light from within the house. So, since I couldn’t show that in gallery light, I include one of her pictures from the catalog.
The walls of the house are constructed of the paper which she makes from old family clothing. Everything about this book is warm and inviting, the palette, the texture of the paper, the Rosemåling or traditional folk drawing on the containing box/stand. One of the works on her website shows stones over which she knitted cozies! An image after my own heart!
When I found Susan she was looking at my work and she remarked that our books have much in common. In addition to being an architect she has been making artist books for about 20 years. Hers is a unique altered book.
I watched Susan demonstrate her book with pleasure and nostalgia for the rainy days when I could let my imagination romp in a doll home inside my home. If you like playing with the house construct, you should check out her website www.susancollard.com and see both her other book constructions, and the before and after pictures of her work as an architect.
Having tried and mostly failed to register a front and back image on the same piece of paper using ink jet technology I was filled with curiosity (and a bit more) to know how Bettina got the front and back of her characters to line up so perfectly. Her book consists of linoleum prints and drawings burned onto polymer plates and run on a Vandercook press at the San Francisco Center for the Book. So there’s that, and I guess I will just have to be grateful for what I have, and muddle through the best I can. It’s a look, and tight registration is a four letter word.
Bettina grew up in Germany with Grimm’s Fairy Tales. For this book she settled on the form of the box theater which was popular in the turn of the 19th to 20th century in Europe. Her book comes in an edition of 100. I asked her about all the cutting. She uses die cutting.
It looks so simple. But beyond the technical aspects of Bettina’s book lies — as with the other artists — the intimacy and enchantment of the experience, and the childhood pleasure in the imagination. To see more of her work, visit bettina-pauly.com
Elsi Vassdal Ellis is a monster artist book maker. She has created masterworks which bear witness to war and genocide. In this book, however, she researches with humor the innovations that were supposed to lead to more leisure time for women, but only lead to more work. What “modern homemaker” does not recognize this one?
Elsi Vassdal Ellis
Judy Sgantas and her husband have traveled to Rwanda where he is part of a team to do surgery for young people with rheumatic heart disease. Her job is to work with the youngsters through the arts, including making books. I did not meet her, but I was deeply impressed with the empathy she shows in her work and in her statement about the mothers of these children, their beauty, their dignity, their love.
Now, some of you may have been counting and you’ve noticed that all the artists I have discussed are women. This might seem unusual in a realm where women are usually under-represented as artists. In the catalog of 49 books I count 8 books by 7 artists who names lead me to believe they are men. I think that this is not from any prejudice of the jurors. My observation of shows, classes and lectures about the book arts is that male artists are distinctly in the minority in this field.
“Why is this?”, I ask Oola. “I don’t know”, says Oola, “but maybe it has something to do with how small the monetary rewards are for work that takes sooooooo much time.”
Of course, there are other rewards. There is the satisfaction of putting something together, something that is hard (or even mundane) to express in ordinary words. There is the gratification of seeing your instincts and feelings come alive through the narrative. There is the pleasure of finding your thoughts solidifying and clarifying through the process of making the art.
And then there is the joy of coming to understand more about someone else through their stories and interests. There is the delight in discovering a commonality between you and that other artist book maker.
In the past many weeks we have been bombarded with media that ultimately shows a country (maybe a world) of people unwilling to talk to or listen to people who don’t agree with them. People resistant to coming out from behind their barricades of “Crooked her” and “Evil him”. This behavior is neither sane nor sustainable. It is madness. And truth-teller Oola knows that I am not immune.
But what the book arts tell me, through people like Judy Sgantas, is that there are non-confrontational ways to come out of our fox holes. Not everybody wants to make a book, But we can and must find ways to start sharing our stories.
This exhibition will be available through Dec. 17, 2016.
PS — I am learning that some of you don’t know who this Oola character is. Actually she is a doll who has become my alter-ego. She travels with me and sometimes says the things I am too “well trained” to say. You can find out more about her and her shenanigans at www.jandove.com
Oola and I will be on the Amtrak to Portland, OR this weekend to attend the opening reception for the show Pop-Up Now at the 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, OR. 23 Sandy is THE artist book gallery in the NorthWest.
(You can click on this image to see the text more clearly!)
May I renew my thanks to my friends at BCC who worked on the video which had a lot to do with getting “The Book of Bon-Bons” in the show. (I regretted having to shorten the video to 1 minute to get it into competition guidelines, but it still does its job!)
Oola and I traveled East from Seattle to the town of Sammamish which was holding an art fair. We joined up with Mark Hoppmann and Pat Chupa of the Puget Sound Book Artists at the town library where we hosted a meet-and-greet table to gently educate the public about Artist Books.
I borrow this photo from Mark’s page on Vamp and Tramp booksellers. Each extraordinary page is meticulously drawn and printed. Each volume is individually sewn and boxed so that no two are exactly the same.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crows
Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crows
Pat Chupa showed her Wonderkammer, a cabinet of curiosities. I borrowed this image from her website because it explains her book so much better than any of my photographic attempts.
Pat Chupa with some of her books
I showed my Book of Bon Bons, but it was hard to get most people to play with it.
The most popular aspect of our presentation was the take-away table where people could make a small accordion book to take home or to donate to the worlds longest accordion book being put together by PSBA.
This table moved out into the aisle and got messier and deliciously messier as the afternoon progressed. Sunny was one of our champion collager/stampers.
The table next to us was a little quieter (not that we were noisy in the library!)
Anne Shannon makes paper the old way. At her take-away table she invited the children (and Oola) to make collages with her handmade paper. We shared our amazement at the intensity of concentration at both tables, and a quality of inevitability in their collages.
One work was left on the table, and a cloud came over Anne when she explained to me that the boy who made it said he would “donate” it. When Anne pressed him to take it home he explained that his father would only make fun of him for making art.
I think this is one of the saddest things I have seen in a long time; call it Portrait of a Spirit Being Crushed.
Tod gave a mini writer’s workshop which probably could have been advertised better. I wish that I could have attended, but felt obligated to my spot at the PSBA presentation. Read about his newest book, “Bugle”.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city center there were more artists showing and talking about their work. Two that captured me were:
Linda told me a story which I quote here from her website —
I began creating bead work pieces as a result of a dream. In this dream, a wise old grandmother lizard promised me a necklace as a gift, and to teach me the craft. Upon awakening, I excitedly began to explore this media. A few months after having this dream, I went home to visit my parents. After hearing I was now doing bead embroidery, my mother offered to give me a drawer full of seeds beads she had been saving. In response, to my surprise, she told me about how my great grandmother made bead embroidery handbags. I feel this deep connection with my ancestors through this craft.
When I got to her booth I was immediately thrown way back into a memory of my Father coming home from sea with the present of a porcelain doll in a silk Kimono in a glass case. We got to look at it and we were warned this was no ordinary doll. The beautiful doll from far away land was exhibited high up beyond our reach in her glass case. The red of her kimono and the black of her hair and the gold hinges of the case became lodged somewhere DEEP in my psyche.
Misako’s dolls are made of Japanese paper (wa-shi). She showed us how she wraps the paper around a cylinder and crushes it to give both texture and strength. She called this “shrinking” the paper.
Love the energy of this dancer who is planted in rectangular strength but in whom everything is delicious movement.
In the soft rain Oola and I are getting an early start on our first solo trip to Seattle. The deciduous trees are letting go of the last of the light that they stored during long summer days.
Being very careful to follow directions from Oola’s cousin in the black box we reach the Bainbridge Island ferry just in time to see it leave the dock. No biggie; we gave ourselves plenty of time for the trip. The wind is blowing over here on the Sound of Puget but we are warm and comfy while we wait. It is going to be a good trip.
Images can be enlarged with a click.
I won’t bore you with the details of circling round and round in Seattle to the maddeningly patient tone of Oola’s cousin in the black box. Luckily traffic is so slow we don’t have to worry about making split-second decisions. We finally get to our destination, the parking lot of some sports arena, and Oola takes the obligatory picture of the iconic Space Needle.
A short walk in the rain (Oola left the umbrellas in the car) then we stop, saying
There is a cast of characters out front and they appear graphic novel ready, but, hey, no problem.
When we get inside, it is a wonderful world full of booth after booth after booth of old, delightful, and very expensive books, maps, prints, and probably more.
Oola and I have a free pass because we are volunteers at the Book Arts Guild table so we go there first.
Already in place are artist Mare Blocker (left) and that force-of-nature and cat-herder Selene Fisher (right) who organized our part in this book fair. A few of my books are for sale. More on that later.
Our neighbor is Carl Montford of Seattle with his tiny, functioning letterpress machine. On which he prints his tiny, incredibly precise wood engravings. Exactly the right size for Oola! But wa-a-ay beyond her skill set.
There is time before my shift to do the walk around. And here are only a few of the magical things I saw.
No new journeys yet, but Oola and I are planning to brave the traffic in THE BIG CITY in two weeks to visit and/or volunteer in the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, then on to the Sammamish Library in Sammamish WA for an artist book show-and-tell. Both adventures will be as a member of the Book Arts Guild in Seattle.
In the meantime, I have not been twiddling my thumbs. Having become intimidated by a large project which I embarked on early last year, I have been trying out stuff on a smaller scale and thinking of the work as “studies”. Here are three:
You can enlarge any image by clicking on it.
The finished sizes of these studies are about 18″ x 26″ x 4″. They are developed from my electronically drawn figures, digital photos, and rubbings of street features, all in Photoshop. They are then pigment printed on Habotai silk on an Epson 9900. I sew the borders on to the central image, then attach the small stones using iridescent fly fishing thread. I embroider slashes in the silk with cotton thread and “suture” them with binder’s waxed black linen thread. Other materials include transparent film, silk-wrapped branches, silk-wrapped coil, copper wire, telephone wire, lead fishing weights wrapped in waxed cotton thread.
No physical road trips lately, but here is an offering of an artist book I just finished.
It started from one of those dreams some of us are plagued with, the one where you drive round and around and either never get back to the beginning or pass the beginning/end repeatedly. (And what a road trip that would be!)
It is also about a memory of a specific experience in a place that no longer exists.
It consists of two physical parts. The first is a small accordion book of artist written text. The second is the carousel construction in which the universal dog tries and tries to get through the fences to the memory in the trees.
Some of the vignettes behind the fence might seem oddly familiar. A couple are secrets or very personal. The viewer is invited to get very close to the fence to figure out the stories.
And the text, which does not configure exactly stanza to panel:
To place memories on
a long-lost map.
How quiet the air
all that long night vigil!
At the time
they could not understand
the stillness of the dead.
Hoop of long white skirts
Turn, turn, turn, clap.
Turn, turn, turn, clap.
The accordion, the dance.
Long sighs of
rise from an ordered plot.
another illusion smashed.
It was always the
tries to find the way back
to something long unfinished.
To see and hear a one minute video of this book in action: