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.
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.
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: