Seager Gray Gallery


Last week Oola and I did a road trip and spent some time camping with California’s biggest and hungriest mosquitoes.  Also shared coffee next to some old guys in bicycle spandex.  Happily we arrived in the Bay Area itchy but not with too much psychological damage to visit family and friends.

One highlight of the trip was to visit the Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley to catch the tail end of the 13th annual Art of the Book show. This was always a special treat for us when we lived in the Bay Area.

Ascension, Tor Archer
Ascension, Tor Archer

Ascension is a kind of work I mentally associate with the gallery: mythical, magical, meditative, lyrical, both in and out of time, contemporary and ancient all at once.  And I was not disappointed.

But, as in any Artist Book related show, there were a wide variety of approaches.

You can click on any image to see an enlargement.

From this angle, Brian Dettmer’s World Books reminds Oola of the curiosity and affection of a baby pangolin focusing its gaze on Suzanne Grey at the desk. But when observed closely, the delicacy and intricacy of Brian’s cutting can only be called amazing.  Still, this brings up an issue in the Artist Book world: a book is something that one interacts with physically, intellectually, and emotionally page by page to absorb its content.  Brian’s work, from what I have observed, lives more in the camp of the artist book as pure sculpture, not to be touched, only to be admired from a distance.

Pulp Discourse, Andrew Hayes
Pulp Discourse, Andrew Hayes

Another artist, Andrew Hayes, lives in the same camp. He is not interested in conveying story or the content of the book so much as the play of iron with paper. The gestural action of the two Pulp Discourse pieces is something one feels viscerally. They certainly are beautiful and noteworthy forms, but not to be touched.

Once, while I was working as an artist in California Prisons, I brought some clay to the AIDS ward.  I put lumps out on the table for the guys who gathered around and seemed interested.  Naive as I was, I said “show me the inner man” and they got all poetic with their clay because that is what they thought I wanted.  One fellow, however, was having none of my foolishness.  At the end of the hour he presented me with his “Intestine Man”.

 

Prescious Capsule, Valérie Buess
Prescious Capsule, Valérie Buess
Regulations, Valérie Buess
Regulations, Valérie Buess

Valérie Buess‘s works in this show reminded me of that incident, of the hardshell-covered vulnerability of the men, and their humor even in that musty place.  At least, I want to believe that her work Prescious Capsule is about vulnerability.  Here is a case where the tactile wants to tell truth to the hand.

Valérie’s work Regulations is hilarious. It is spun from books documenting changes in the law.  In the words of the artist, they “hold/hide their meaning very tightly, shut in the words…twirled, spiky and barbed”.

 

Jaz Graf‘s piece, Inheritance, consists of letterpress on porcelain pages spread out on the wall by means of steel hangers.   Each pages says “nous sommes simplement de passage”, or “we are only here for a moment’s time”.  This is a reminder of the intimacy of a book in a public place.  I love the artist’s statement that a book is “the ghost limb of an author, but more importantly it becomes an extension of the reader’s body and experience.”

Traditional books by their definition need words to convey content.  Artist Books, not so much.  Lisa Kokin‘s work in this show uses words that have no semantic content.  Just thread and recycled objects and, like she says, “shpilkes” or nervous energy.

Renée Bott works to paint out the words from narratives about human cruelty.  She paints the beauty of the natural world seeking to discover a future where humans live in harmony with it.

Tamar Stone tells stories of women in their own words as they travel alone in troubled times.  Her use of traditional text in low contrast or on distracting background makes the words seem camouflaged.  The reader has to become intensely involved with unmaking, reading, then remaking the layers of the bed.  These secret stories require effort to enjoy.

In Macy Chadwick‘s Meanwhile words from A Thousand and One Nights swirl through the book like a murmuration of starlings.

While in the gallery I heard another visitor ask “What’s with all the guns?”.  Our society and culture is in the grips of a huge gun struggle and with ever-increasing frequency we convulse under the weight of a new outrage.  It is on everyone’s mind.  I think it necessary for artists to deal with the subject.

This show presents two artists who talk about this obsession in two different ways.  The first is Brian Singer (above) who presents the guns of historical assassinations.  He prints images of the guns of specific events on pages of books about the event.  He cuts the paper into blocks which he turns on their sides.  The images of guns appear as delicate drawings on obscured lines of text (as in the detail image above).  I did not see it, but evidently with each image comes an indexing of the name of the person killed, the type of gun, and the name of the shooter. I have a couple of thoughts on this series.  I think the artist misses the mark here. The “how” outweighs the “what”.  I am not a fan of ambiguity in social/historical art like this. I am disappointed in this series in that it does not address the horror and helplessness we felt when we heard that the President or Martin or Bobby was shot.

Further, having worked (as an artist) in California prisons, I have learned that there is a social ranking among criminals as to who is the baddest outlaw of all.  There are people who do terrible things with the goal of fame in mind.  I have met them, made art in the same room as them.  Other prisoners cluster around them as though they were movie stars from whom some of the fame might rub off.  So I take issue with the parts of this series that names the shooter — thus, inadvertently we hope, glorifying them.  The best (worst) thing that can happen to these individuals is that they, as persons, become utterly forgotten and unnamed in the world.

Shooting Range, Audrey Wilson
Shooting Range, Audrey Wilson

The second artist in the show to speak of shootings is Audrey Wilson.  Shooting Range is about the Columbine slaughter.  She puts her emphasis on the deaths of young people in school where we should be able  to expect that they are as safe as anyone can be on this planet. Shooting Range is as different as it can be from the assassination series.  It is neon, hard edged, political, urgent — and personal.

*****

This show is closed now and I couldn’t write about all the wonderful work.  You can see the show catalog on line.

But, if you are in the area, take heart!

Chris Gwaltney: And Another Thing…

June 1 – July 1, 2018
Reception for the artist:
Saturday, June 9, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

It looks like a show well worth seeing.

SeagerGray Gallery
108 Throckmorton Avenue
Mill Valley, CA
415.384.8288
Tuesday through Saturday,
11am – 5:00pm, Sunday 12 – 5pm

Oola and birds
The drive home was uneventful, but Oola did enjoy meeting a couple from San Bernardino.

 

The Horsemen of the 21st Century

The Horsemen of the 21st Century
The Horsemen of the 21st Century

The drawings have been getting darker over the past year.  In my new artist book The Horsemen of the 21st Century I remember an event from one night of camping in the Sierras.

We are tented on frosted ground near the edge of a night forest.
A pounding of hooves rushes close by.

Deer? we ask. Let’s hope it is not those four horsemen late for a logistics meeting.

Somehow I just can’t get past the feeling that those guys from the Bible and from the Fellowship of the Ring are more active than usual lately.

edition of 15

Ultra chrome pigments printed on Canson Infinity Rag Photographique, backed with Rives BFK and joined with Tyvek

Accordion fold construction with nylon tent material for a cover

The drawings are started in photoshop by drawing figure studies into transparent layers from which some lines are selected and combined in new ways with some of my photographs until a new image emerges.  They are printed archival on an inkjet printer, then bound into a book form.

UNRESTRICTED: an Exploration of Artist Books

Yesterday was the opening day of Unrestricted: an Exploration of Artist Books at the Port Angeles Fine Art Center.  The show will be open through May 13, 2018.

This exhibition is a collaboration with the Cynthia Sears Collection in the Sherry Grover Gallery, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.

For those of you who can’t travel to the Olympic Peninsula, here is a visual synopsis. Clicking on any image will give you an enlarged version and/or the beginning of a slide show.

In addition to the 17 BIMA artists, 30 invitational works came in from artists in the western United States and Canada. in the PAFAC large gallery:

In the second gallery at PAFAC:

 

Curator: Jan Dove

Port Angeles Fine Arts Center
1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.​
Port Angeles, WA 98362

pafac@olypen.com
(360) 457-3532

HOURS OF OPERATION:
Gallery: Reopens February 24 at 5pm
Thursday – Sunday
11am – 5pm

Art Park: Dawn to dusk 7 days a week.

Meditations on a Credit Card

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.

My orbit within your circuit revolves off-center

Vertiginous wheel. Everything now. Everything roulette.

You can eat the whole enchilada at http://www.jandove.com/pages/creditcard.htmlYummm…See you there.

 

Hidden Narrative

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.

This book is an invitation to a DIY poem.

“Built” at 23 Sandy

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.

Trip to Portland Pop-Up

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.

Pop-Up Now II overview
Pop-Up Now II overview, room one

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.

Susan Collard, Laura Russell, and Oola
Susan Collard, Laura Russell, and Oola

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
Amy Lund

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.

Amy Lund
Amy Lund, Hygge

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!

Susan Collard
Susan Collard, Things to Make and Things to Do

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.

Bettina Pauly
Bettina Pauly, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Theater ‘Hansel and Gretel’

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.

Bettina Pauly

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
Elsi Vassdal Ellis, When the Veil becomes the Apron

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

Elsi Vassdal Ellis

 

Judy Sgantas
Judy Sgantas, Uri Mwita Mama

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

www.23sandy.com

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