Nine months of work and anxious procrastination later, and I have finally finished my artist book “Meditations on a Credit Card”. I call this the completion of a Journey of Sorts.
I received a Visa card. This card is dark grey with red edges such that when one looks into the wallet, this card shows up first. Genius marketing, I thought.
I also had stacks of old prints which I had cut up for book markers — which nobody wanted. I imagined them with bloody edges. This book started coming together. Now…I’m only reluctantly an observer of marketing ploys, but I thought about this card, about revolving credit and about the pain it can bring.
This artist book not a tome on our economy. It is a collection of short musings on capitalism, consumerism, and financial plastic.
A picnic table in the rain
One seat is still available.
What does it profit man to gain the whole world and lose his planet?
Once, when speaking about the corrupting effect of the profit motive on the production of art, Ursula Le Guin said “We live in Capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the Divine Right of Kings.”
The root of the word materialism is from the Latin “mater” which means mother.
Our trip to Portland OR on Amtrak was cancelled due to mud slides. So I cannot tell you about the opening, and show you works in the “Build” show. Bummer.
But Busy Hands here has another small book to show you.
Since moving to the Northern Olympic Peninsula I have been captivated by its natural beauty. I find myself fascinated by river rocks, and I see that many of my neighbors have collections of their favorites too. River rocks are reminders to me of the beauty in small common objects. I find visual and verbal poetry there.
My book “Build” which I featured on this blog several weeks ago was accepted into a show called “Built” at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland OR. which opens next week. It is a book about things to build in the time of tyrants.
If you are in the area, drop in and have a look. It promises to be a great show. You can check out the online portfolio here, and you can tell Oola if I am wrong. We’re taking the train down and would be happy to see you at the opening.
If you come to visit Port Angeles, you will be captivated by its beauty. If you stay for a while, you will get a more realistic look. This is a artist book about the Port Angeles that is growing in my heart.
Here’s how it happens.
The clouds sink under the mountains
to the south.
Venus hums above.
A red copter circles the sea
to the north,
and tankers shoot the harbor to light.
A solstice breeze questions
between the trees. The town below
circles like a frost dog
to begin its sleep.
On the bluff above bag-piper sings vespers,
a little ragged
but sad and sweet.
Grey frigid noon.
A gathering of crows
warms the highest branches.
Then they scatter, an episode worthy of Hitchcock.
a creek of newly melted snow
rampages. Its teeth bite the sky.
It shouts escape from its cement captivity,
gallops bridge under bridge under bridge,
barely notices the cable-bound timber
that lines its course.
These water-dense logs
provide a homeless shelter
hidden from vigilantes,
nights of cold rest
imprint the sand.
The crows spy
an orange syringe in the rocks.
The belted kingfisher hovers,
The creek surges into the sea,
mane and tail.
Downtown you will find a great whale.
Its skin — an iridescent bubble —
undulates in the early breeze,
head draped over warehouses,
tail sunk into deep harbor.
One immense bone — a chiseled,
polished, stone vertebra — anchors
our whale to the cropped lawn and regulated roses
in the city park.
One sleepless woman watches
and remembers a time before the whale fed itself
to crabs and smoke-eyed ravens.
Her twisted fingers speak of cold
and the the hunger of small birds.
She watches the morning children
emerge from SUV belts and tumble
into the park.
Untutored by memory
measure their thin edges
to the convex and concave
of the whale’s vertebra.
Affixed to the present, they grin into dad’s camera
through a neural canal.
Scenes and Musings in PA is a book of my observations made in the town of Port Angeles, WA on the northern slopes of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Whale is based on a sculpture by Alex Anderson at the Valley Creek Estuary Park.
The horse draws its inspiration from poems by Pablo Neruda.
The anonymous bag-piper really did play, magically and alone, on the bluff above downtown PA as described.
I made the drawings on a Wacom tablet, directly into Photoshop. We are very lucky to have an active figure drawing group not very far from Port Angeles.
Photos, drawings, writings, design, printing and binding, and paste paper by me. (The binding is a double dos-a-dos construction with a slip cover.) And Oola stole the old map of Port Angeles from the web.
Spring is pumping like a hurdy-gurdy here, and the first salmon berries are poking their pink goodbyes to Winter.
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