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.
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
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:
In addition to experimenting with translucencies, photographer Victoria gave an impromptu demonstration of Image Transfer using Purell.
Shari Weatherby cutting the balsa for tiny shoji-like screens, and the same Shari experimenting with her eye catching binding.
Lily contemplates the possibilities of weaving and translucency, exacto at the ready.
Linda and I both ran afoul of Google map directions. But we were not deterred. WashsiArts.com is Linda’s brainchild/project/adventure and the home of beautiful Japanese papers.
My favorite technique was this flexible hinge, a little like a Jacob’s Ladder, which makes it possible to present as an accordion screen or as a container. You just have to keep your wits about you while you do the gluing. It is for sure I will use this on a larger project.
Beautiful variants on the inflatible balloon technique. Oola says I have to get my act together and try this again!
All through the Northwest cold weather I worked on this collection of drawings, photos and assemblages about, to, and for the humble river stone. Like most humans they are abundant and self effacing (with a few notable exceptions!) and their beauty can be quite profound when one takes the energy to really look.
Here are some of my “rock people”. You can click on the small images to inspect them more closely.
photo: Randy Powell
Each of the eleven sub-volumes opens in the manner of a stone rolling downhill and contains a part of my poem “Conversation with Stones” on its last page. Each has a photo of a stone behind a screen of cut paper. Each screen reflects something about the four drawings (prismacolor and graphite on black Arches). Each sub-volume is hand bound in a style which someone may have done somewhere before me, but I suspect I made it up.
photo: Randy Powell
Each cover contains a sheet of Mica to look through. Mica is a rock that separates into thin transparent sheets and breaks into sparkly bits. In the research for this project I read that mass burials of local Native Americans from the period of epidemics–brought on by collision with European cultures–are notable for their lack of Mica powder which was sprinkled over individual bodies of the dead in earlier times.
Printed on Asuka paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and Ultrachrome inks.
The book cloth is an artist-made layering of a loose weave linen on Arches Black (IIYEEEEE! Hair pulling time!)
Special thanks to Randy Powell — artist, neighbor and a fellow graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago — for help with the documentation of this project.
Text of the poem, a slightly condensed version of the poem used in a previous artist book.
you are both the memory of a brook and
a message from the stellar stream.
the life of mountains,
firm, solid air,
you are resistant to authorization.
as unquestionable as wild apples,
as verifiable as the mocking bird,
as indisputable as the moon,
you are undeniably obscure.
You are a history of torrents substantiated by passion,
you are the intent of small nows.
I am heavily seeking your eyes in my dreams.
You are adamantine laughter,
the strong, stony scent of earth
and the unyielding hooves of dreams.
You are a formidable condensation of lizards, grim swallows,
and difficulties of praise.
You are the austerity of stubborn of distance.
the solidified lives of dragonflies,
a density of stars,
compressed stirrings of fury.
you are heavily verified
a painfully proven crusher of ships.
inflexible dust and impenetrable musings.
You are thunder from the sierra,
the clatter of the daily grind and the hiss of gradual loss.
Joy … and pain,
you are the waterfall and the river bed,
and the record of a marriage.
You need not speak of past difficulties. They are written on you.
Your language is long and slow. It takes two rocks and a river to say “clack”.
Your language is communal and patient. It takes many rocks and an ocean to say “clatter…hiss”.
I am an impediment to your sequence.
You have journeyed from the center of the earth.
YOU are between the rock and the hard place.
You are all that is durable of dreams.
You are worn out, rounded energy,
You are the crumpler of ecclesiastics
and the one who grinds away the fiction of time.
the sermon of abrasion,
the exhaustion of permissions,
and the diminishment of uniforms.
You say to me,
“I used to be a boulder but now I am a color singing in the river.”
I am the survivor stone,
You say, “The rock that was rejected by the builder has become the cornerstone.”
You sing how
you once destroyed a monster with a loaf of your bread,
and how you fed a village with a bowl of your soup.
You teach me how to prop open a door.
Music of the commune, you are the cloister stone – river stones and water.
You are a lessening of mountains,
the moments and the ruins of a search.
You cause the loss of rough edges.
“Noli te bastardes carborundorum” say the young. “It has happened” say the rest.
Heavily verified and
you are a labor of lessening and profoundly wild.
You are the history of friction,
a cascade of attrition,
an abrasion of assurities.
You are the dwindling of certitudes,
the decrease of truisms.
You are the geography of erosion.
You grind down the hard nut.
Wear it down.
Wear it away.
You weather the choices.
You are a distillation of lessons
and a tutor to endurance.
You are the bones of the ridge.
There are two old stones in the shallows. Together they watch over the new generation of salmon.
Return to the universe.
Last week Oola and I went to a meeting/show-and-tell at the Book Arts Guild in Seattle. The meeting itself was held in the amazing building — the Suzzallo Library, University of Washington.
We got there after dark so there are not many picts but you can see more of this architecture, including the part sometimes known as the Harry Potter room, at the University of Washington site.
Allow me to say that Book People are the greatest. Several shared their projects at the meeting. I can share only a few of them with you.
Here is Don Myhre holding one of his wonderfully hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind books. This one is made of broken up bits of cell phones. You can see more of his delightful books at Vamp and Tramp.
Lisa Hasegawa is a printer with a warm smile and a self-effacing sense of humor. She runs Ilfant Press in Seattle.
She is part of a postcard exchange with several other letterpress people. Each member of this group produces a postcard a month to exchange with the others. Here is a close-up of her postcard about “Lady” problems.
On Lisa’s wrist is tattooed the word “printer” — upside down and backward, of course! A little joke for those of us who have had the thrill of setting type.
Carl Youngmann and Ellie Matthews run the The North Press in Port Townsend,WA. They brought some exquisite typeset projects.
Here is an image they showed from one of their projects.
Anjani Millet talked about her artist book that jumped right into my heart.
This is the story of Anjani’s mother and a battle with Alzheimer’s. When they moved mother from her beloved home and the black mold that inhabited that house her memory got better and she was un-diagnosed from Alzheimer’s disease.
Photo by Anjani, borrowed from her website. Your eyes and your spirit will be greatly rewarded when you visit www.anjanimillet.com
Michael Sobel showed a book of photographs he took in 1969.
Ed Marquand brought some high powered volumes designed and produced for museums, publishers, artists, and collectors by Lucia/Marquand in Seattle. Check him out to see some top notch work.
Ed is also one of the instigators of “Mighty Tieton”, an arts incubator in the town of Tieton WA.
Claudia Hollander-Lucas, educator, visual artist and writer brought her Vade Mecum rant book. An eye popper filled with time holes and textual atmosphere.
It seems to be very strong. And it looks a lot like too-much-fun. Oola and I will give it a try.
Much more was shared but either my photos were no good, or my memory is faulty, or I am just running out of time.
I want to thank Susan Brown, whose book is her masters thesis, full of fascinating stuff about urban planning, “vital text” in petroglyphs and on gravestones, Queen Victoria of Seattle, the role of the UK in the evolution of the Northwest, and finally my better understanding of why people are so respectful and helpful, at least where I live on the peninsula. I thought it was the influence of the Canadians, and it seems that I am maybe at least partially correct.
I also want to thank Lisa Leong Tsang calligrapher/anaplastologist.
A quote from another one of her works fell into my notes:
To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Book people are good, strong, and surprising people. I am so happy to be meeting this community in my new digs on the planet.