Hello Alicia Bailey + Ravenpress fans – I’ve moved this blog over to my own server but wasn’t able to move over the subscribers. So if you subscribed here, and would like to continue receiving notice of my (very sporadic) posts about studio goings on head on over to the new blog home and resubscribe.
Two Plus – a series of box works I’ve been working on for several years, on view at Spark Gallery, North Annex, in Denver, Colorado January 30 – February 23 2014.
I work from the premise that an object is anything we can talk or think about (including intangibles such as emotions, beliefs, fears). More than one of any object creates a minimum of one relationship or connection; the more objects, the more connections. For me, examining the nature of objects involves considering how they are related to both their properties, and their connections with other objects.
I have taken on as my task the creation of connections between objects and the subsequent examination of the relationships between objects.
This task is a time consuming, painstaking process of achieving balance and accord with the disparate palette of colors, shapes and associations a varied object selection creates. The time spent selecting, caressing, arranging and perhaps fixing in place objects is time well spent as, in the words of the French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari,
“A life that makes the greatest number of connections to other things and alters itself in the process is a life lived to its fullest.”
For the Two Plus series, I’ve been working with objects that relate specifically to a characteristic embodied by either a particular individual, or to a time/place in my history that was governed in part by a specific characteristic. Thus the objects selected have either a direct link or strong associative link to these particular characteristics. The series as a whole has developed into an examination personalities both real and imagined.
This year I have been able to exhibit this multi-faceted body of work in two stellar locations. In June/July 2014 the Lovely and Amazing books were displayed at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Oregon and this fall the boxes and 3-D collages in the series will be exhibited at Niza Knoll gallery in Denver.
Lovely and Amazing, begun in 2006, is a tribute to Ruth Wheeler, beloved biology teacher, naturalist, youth advocate and feminist who lived and worked in north Denver for 70 years. Ruth found the natural world a place of endless delight. She left behind a collection of biological specimens, notes and photographs which I have incorporated into a series of three-dimensional collages, boxes and book works.
Ruth was my great-aunt, and, because she raised my father, her role in our family life was much as a grandmother’s might be. She was educated, reverent, passionate and endlessly curious. Unlike anyone else I have ever known, Ruth was an important figure in my childhood. Visits to her house might include walking her ferret around the block on a leash, trying to coax the giant snapping turtles to do more than lie around in the big wash tub in the back yard or agitating the miniature alligators that lived in the basement utility sink.
My favorite visits were those that included feeding the snakes from the stock of white mice that Ruth raised for that purpose. There was a kinkajou living in the basement. He had a peculiar odor but I nonetheless loved creeping down to the basement at night to watch his nocturnal pacing, his protruding eyes luminous in the dark.
Born in 1899, Ruth lived, lucid, independent and strong, well into her 99th year. Although other family members moved in and out of that house over the years, it was always Ruth’s house in my mind. This rotating roster of inhabitants seemed always to perch around the edges of the real inhabitants of the house, Ruth’s collections of creatures. Not pets, these birds, mammals, reptiles were collected, cared for and eventually preserved.
During her final decade, I stayed with her on my visits to Denver. I spent afternoons recording her as she told and re-told tales of her life. Concerned about what would happen to her collections, Ruth started gifting me with a variety of biological specimens. As I boxed up her various collections (things such as insect specimens, snakeskin’s in old jelly jars, stuffed birds on sticks, owl pellets, taxidermied small rodents, fossils and preserved plants) she told me stories. She told me about the ornithologist who taught her a down and dirty method of preserving birds and other small creatures and about the day she was called home from school when one of her king bull snakes escaped its cage and was coiled in the bathtub, my great-grandmother trying to retrieve it with a spatula.
Later, when readying her house for sale, I retrieved and stored many of the letters, photographs, family heirlooms she, along with other family members, had left behind. Seven years passed before I began incorporating these objects into my own studio work. I relish the days I spend in the studio working on this project, thinking of Ruth with a smile.
Testudines is the order of reptile more commonly known as turtles, tortoises and terrapins. In addition to it being a great word (I have a fondness for multi-syllabic words with hard consonants in the middle), it is representative of a creature I was fascinated by as a child . I love this picture of me watching a snapping turtle in my aunt’s back yard.
Turtles appear in my dreams often; I rejoice when they do as I then wake refreshed and excited to face the day.
Testudines are some of the most ancient reptiles alive. The ones my aunt kept in the back yard for a time were most likely snapping turtles, big, slow and a little big scary because of the hissing sound they made. They seemed to spend more time napping then snapping and feeding them was not nearly as exciting as feeding the snakes was.
I’ve been working on an assemblage with specimens from Ruth’s archives – Testudines Box. This box assemblage is the 3rd I’ve made using hardwood boxes that measure 12x6x7, two of the four corners curved rather than square.The two previous are Lepideptura Box and Bird Box.
To combat what I call ‘analysis paralysis’ when working with such a wealth of materials, I tend to develop a set of parameters for each series. For these boxes the parameters are:
1) specimen(s) from Ruth’s collection
2) photograph(s) of the lovely and amazing young women Ruth photographed
3) magnifying lens(es)
4) reproduction(s) of Ruth’s handwriting from her journals or teaching lessons
5) reproduction(s) of published materials used in her teaching
Testudines Box includes the shell of a Red Slider turtle along with the skull and jawbone of another Red Slider (this placed in a wooden box and magnified).
These artifacts are arranged in front of a color scan reproduction of the same turtle shell overlaid with mica.
The interior box walls are lined with a repetition of an Emily Dickinson poem written out by Ruth in her journal, the exterior walls with instructions for digging out a laying of turtle eggs from one of Ruth’s many nature education books, an encyclopedia entry and images of turtle anatomy from various published nature studies.
Today I learn that the song of the Creeper is weak, colorless and sibilant. That it consists of 4-8 notes, generally beginning with a long high-pitched note, followed by two short lower-pitched ones. The remaining notes vary somewhat, but are often a repitition of the first notes.
A common call note is a long, high-pitched “shreeeeee” with a rolling r-sound throughout. The bird also calls a rather faint ‘tsit’ over and over. These latter notes maya be heard at any season.
I also learn that the bird is easily identified by its habit have creeping continually up the rough bark of a tree in a spiral, then flying to the base of another tree to begin again.
I read nesting notes written by a W. C. Bradbury in 1918 (thanks to the folks at internetarchive.org) describing a foray in Gilpin County while on a White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-Capped Rosy Finch nest seeking mission. Their trip had the happy result of taking the first set of eggs of the Rocky Mountain Creeper taken in Colorado.
Armed with the vision of a small brown bird diving at the base of tree trunks, I begin to build an environment for the Creeper on a stick I have in my collection. I decide on a small shadow box.
I can’t decide which side of my creeper I want all to see, a mirror box helps resolve that questions.
I am charmed by Bradbury’s 1918 anecdote so decide to include it in the box.
Conveying the feeling of lightness that birds so well express, is one thing I strive for.
Here we go – all assembled, but hard to photograph with so many layers of reflective surfaces.
I finished this book in 2011 as part of that year’s Book A Week project. I’m posting about it now because it is currently on view in the Bound and Unbound II exhibit at the University of South Dakota. My book is in great company in this exhibit – so many much admired book artists also have work in the show.
It is one of but a handful of altered books I’ve worked on, this one starting with Indian Floral Patterns, from Series I of the Victoria and Albert Colour Books.
I’ve also altered a second in the V&A Series – Tile Paintings from Series II.
For Indian Floral Patterns I cut 3 round holes through the front cover and all of the pages. In the recesses formed by the holes rest four bone beads hand-carved in India. The beads are protected when the book is closed with mica laminated in between the first end page and first few pages of the text block. Circular paper cut outs in a range of sizes, picturing the same floral patterns depicted in the book, have been collaged onto the individual pages, obliterating the text.
The book is housed in a custom clamshell box and is available for purchase here.
Each year the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, sponsors a fundraising event called the Snail Mail Paper Trail. Artists are sent two sheets of handmade paper, made at the Morgan, and asked to create an artwork from one or both of the sheets. The artworks are then auctioned at the October Gala. I’ve been participating since 2009 (see Snail) and Yearning for Morgan.
My two sheets of paper (one sheet each of white and dark gray cotton abaca blend) arrived at the studio on the same day I opened a set of Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum’s Ideation Deck
(if you don’t know about this wonderful tool for book related projects, you should . . . click here). I dealt the following cards, eliminating the paper category:
layout: in the form of a diagram, chart, or map
technique: high-tech (letterpress, offset, printmaking, etc
text: collaborate with writer or poet
structure: innovative (tunnel book, magic wallet, carousel, flag book, etc.
dissonant, traditional or historical, sculptural, impressionistic, poetic
The result is Bliss – an accordion fold book using a quote from Portia Masterson’s Bicycling Bliss.
Bliss is an enduring form of contentment derived from being fully present and practicing simplicity, moderation, self-nurture, reflection & conscious breathing.
Granted the structure isn’t particularly innovative; I had originally thought this would be a tunnel book but had to redesign because the cut paper pages were too delicate.
After designing the pages in Adobe Illustrator,
the pages were lasercut
and mounted between two translucent sheets of Japanese kozo paper, folded up as an accordion and cased in to a hard cover. Only one edge is attached, so the accordion will unfold to display the entire quote.
The book will be auctioned off at this years’ Annual Benefit and Silent Auction: Opposites Attract on October 5. There will be nearly 200 works from local, national and international artists; its worth a trip to Cleveland!
I’ve been slow to blog about this piece, which was conceived several years ago, with the edition completed in 2010 under the Ravenpress imprint. It seems to me that the only way to manage saying all there is to say about Theia Mania is to write first about the project concept and origins. I’ll write about the design and fabrication of the components in another post.
Theia Mania is a multi-layered project, fed by inspiration and experiences rooted in my childhood. The working title of the early stages was Magnetic Attraction. It began with the intention to create a book with text, imagery, sound and smell. I wanted to generate content from a broader point of view than my own, so used contributions from friends and strangers alike, along with what drives much of my studio work; a longing to become familiar with experiences outside my own.
Theia Mania was a term used by ancient Greeks to describe the cauldron of emotions rooted in eros, romantic love, a passionate longing and desire. The phrase translates to divine madness or madness of the Gods. This project was inspired by and presents stories of contemporary connections in both audio and written form, including the story of my parents’ meeting, marrying and raising a family.
Unsure of what the final form would be, my longtime collaborative partner, Heidi Zednik, and I invited those who had felt the prick of one of these darts or arrows to tell their story. The request was very broad; we asked those who had ever been dumbstruck by the gaze or attention of another to participate. Whether or not the connection was mutual, whether it lasted merely moments or evolved into a long-term connection, we were interested in that first current of connection and the awareness that something momentous was taking place.
Of the dozens who expressed interest, only 12 individuals completed the process. Their stories were collected as audio files and are the basis for both the text and audio portions of this piece. Some called my home phone and told their story to a machine (which lent some interesting pops and beeps to the recording), others met either Heidi or I in person and we recorded their story on a digital recorder, some created their own digital recording and transmitted it to me electronically, and one anonymous individual sent an email with the request that I read it if it were chosen for selection. Although outside the original parameters for the project, I did include this story.
The stories were transcribed and edited by Heidi. The edited text versions are presented as poems, each coupled with photographs selected for this project. The audio tracks were used as the basis for a musical composition, written and performed by sound producer Scott Waknin with guest saxophonist Bill Janssen. Also on the CD are two full-length narratives; the story of my parents (mentioned above) and the story of Emily and Brit, whose story I heard when Emily visited my gallery to buy gifts for Brit. In neither case was it possible to record their versions so I wrote the narratives and had each read and recorded (Wayne Gilbert and Mare Travathan performed the readings).
The piece includes a woven binding structure based on a Claire van Vliet design, a small recipe book made with a piano hinge, a sachet of herbs with a love potion recipe, an accordion book in a round aluminum tin and an audio compact disk & wrapper. All are contained in a rectangular aluminum hinged tin that is held closed with a handprinted sleeve. Page imaging includes laser etching, color laser prints, color inkjet prints, black and white laser prints, paste papers, laser printed metal foil and relief printing. The main text is woven with tinted tyvek.
There are 35 signed and numbered copies of the entire set. An additional set of compact discs was created and gifted to each contributor. Those who contributed stories were also given an unbound copy of their story page.
You can watch a video about the piece on you tube.
I have had such a wonderful time working on this book. The project uses materials that are visually and texturally so rich they were a joy to work with.
There are 18 copies in the edition, plus one A/P. It measures 5 x 3 x 2 3/4 inches (closed) and weighs 24 ounces. It is priced at $540.
It takes the text and imagery from my 2009 artists’ book of the same title. I wrote the original text; the original illustrations were oil-paintings, re-created as line illustrations for this project.
The book pages are transparent, and thus allow sections of several pages to be viewed at once. The pages are rigid and thick, designed to display well both flat or upright. When displayed upright, lighting can be adjusted for increased interplay between the line illustrations and the shadows they cast.
text selection from the book:
there is one who touches me so it burns
my hands open
at their feeling of
the length of me
Peltogyne (Purpleheart) is a tree native to Central and South America, growing in the tropical rainforests, This beautiful wood is a light brown when freshly cut that then shifts towards a deep reddish-violet as it is exposed more to UV rays. As a hardwood, it sands down to a smooth hard surface and once waxed feels wonderful to touch. Purpleheart is an exotic lumber, this batch acquired from a US company that insists its suppliers follow Responsible Forestry Practices.
Copper is one of my favorite metals and this book uses both copper leaf and thin copper tape of the sort used in stained glass. When the book is closed, it is possible to see down through several layers. A reality of working with transparent materials and text is that portions of the text will inevitably be reversed. This I find distracting so my solution for this book was to block the bottom inch or so of each page with an opaque (in this case copper leaf) material. I also needed something to help hold the pages together. I had first tried drilling holes in all 4 corners of each page and using copper wire as rivets but the task was fussy, time consuming with the end result visually dissatisfying.
The solution I settled on was creating shapes of copper leaf with PMA mounted on each side. The PMA faces the acrylic pages and holds them in place until the copper tape can be wrapped around the outer perimeter of each page.
How we did it:
The rigid pages that make up the text block are constructed of several layers, a sandwich (from the bottom up) of etched cast acrylic, copper leaf with PMA on both sides facing outward and a second piece of etched acrylic. This creates pages that are 3/16 inch thick, their edges are sealed with copper tape.
The covers were planed to 3/8 inch thick, the cover image laser etched in, the title area chiseled out, then sanded and waxed.
The recessed title label is laser printed copper leaf mounted on museum board. The book is coptic sewn across the spine with dyed and waxed 4 ply linen thread, using yet another variation from Keith Smith’s well worn Sewing Single Sheets (Non-Adhesive Binding Volume IV).
My thanks go to Shannon Perry, who created the illustrator files from a series of oil paintings I produced in 2007 and my studio assistants Stefanie Cornish and Jonathan Wiley. Without their help this project might still be in the idea stage
Copies of this book are available for purchase from Abecedarian Gallery.
This book re-purposes pages from a collaborative project I worked on when I was actively involved (as visitor/volunteer) with a now defunct therapeutic community (Cenikor).
Therapeutic communities are drug-free environments in which people with addictive (and other) problems live together in an organized and structured way in order to promote change and make possible a drug-free life in the outside society. The therapeutic community forms a miniature society in which residents, and staff in the role of facilitators, fulfill distinctive roles and adhere to clear rules, all designed to promote the transitional process of the residents.
The original project was a game board made of sixteen 8 inch square paintings, each painting referencing an aspect of the TC system of privileges and disciplines. Dissatisfied with some of the paintings, I dissembled the game board years ago and this week am turning it into an accordion style book, using some of the phrases that used to be so familiar to me but now have lost their resonance.
The text was imaged via laser etching directly onto the canvas paintings, the pages hinged with acrylic tinted tyvek. The case cover is paste-cloth, the end pages paste paper.
The Colorado based Cenikor was closed in 2004; its demise due to internal abuses of residents and staff of the sort the program was designed to help clients recover from. With three facilities still operating, Cenikor’s 24-36 month program is one of the toughest TC’s to graduate from. A clear majority of the residents are there by court order, few are able to successfully transition into drug and crime free lives.
My awareness of this particular TC began when my older brother was given an opportunity to go through the Cenikor program as an alternative to prison. Cenikor hosted a weekly open house, when approved family members and friends were allowed to come visit for two hours every Saturday evening. I remember many a Saturday driving over, listening to the local jazz station’s Saturday night blues hour en route.
It was tough watching the slow, agonizing and too often unsuccessful process of addicts struggling against odds so clearly stacked against them; working to re-build their lives on crumbling foundations, so much already lost to them. It was tough watching the visiting families, my own included, holding on to shreds of hope that their loved one would be one of the few to ‘make it’.
My volunteerism was limited to helping some of the residents apply for, and happily be granted, amnesty from outstanding IRS debts, thus helping to eliminate one of the many anxieties living responsibly entails.
This is taken from the frontspiece of the book:
In 1967, a group of inmates in a Colorado state penitentiary, who were committed to breaking the cycle of substance abuse and the criminal behavior that supports their addictions, established Cenikor, a residential therapeutic community.
Therapeutic communities typically employ a system of phases, privileges and disciplines for their residents (clients) in order to promote change and make possible a drug-free life in the outside society. The therapeutic community forms a miniature society in which residents, and staff in the role of facilitators, fulfill distinctive roles and adhere to clear rules, all designed to promote the transitional process of the residents.
In 2004 the Colorado facility, the original Cenikor, shut down operations following the suspension of the nonprofit group’s license by the Colorado Department of Human Services because of alleged improprieties.
Complaints included the manufacture of methamphetamines on site, prostitution, intimate involvement of staffers with female clients and welfare fraud.
Three other Cenikor facilities, in Texas and Louisiana, still operate.