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.
A full online catalog is available at www.23sandy.com/works/popupnow. You can find the hard copy catalog there too!
23 Sandy Gallery
623 NE 23rd Ave.
Portland OR 97232
Hours: Thurs — Sat, 12 – 6PM and by appointment
503 927 4409
It is a wonder-filled show. Don’t miss it.
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