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!
There is city park in Port Angeles where HWY 101 (under the guise of Front St.) runs by Wildcard Guitars and Dove Studio. Each evening for the past couple of weeks I have been checking in on Mother Killdeer — much to her consternation I must admit — just to see how she and her 4 eggs are doing. She and her mate have chosen this spot next to the gravel parking lot and next to this water sprinkler for a nest. What an eye they have for protective coloration! She stays so still, you would think the sprinkler would move first. And the eggs are so big. (and every mother out there says, Ouch! that must have hurt.)
But it is time to go to the SF Bay Area to visit family and do a couple of art errands. Oola and I will travel on HWY 101 (mostly). So we say goodby to the Killdeers and head out early on the next adventure.
On the first morning in the Olympic National Park it looks like
the lake is having as much trouble waking up as we are.
The wind picks up, and soon we are on the Pacific Coast. We make a stop at rugged Ruby Beach where abundant wildflowers are whipped about on the bluff.
A few hours later we are in Cape Disappointment State Park. It is located where the Columbia River meets at the Pacific Ocean. And you will remember from your history, this is where Lewis and Clark and company completed their contract. I wanted to camp where they camped. And, if signs can be believed, I did.
It was named Cape Disappointment by an English fur trader/merchant of dubious reputation, John Meares. There is a wicked sandbar at the mouth of the river. It looks like the waves are breaking way out in the ocean. Because of this dangerous feature, Captain Mears could not enter the Columbia River and gave the area this name. A lighthouse was built on the 200ft bluff to warn other seamen of the danger entering the River.
In 1805 Lewis and Clark showed up and wondered how the peaceful Pacific could be so wild. They camped here, but the weather was so miserable they relocated to the south side of the River.
Artist Maya Lin started her Confluence Project here. I stood here
to try to understand the geography of the place and to take photos, not realizing the importance of the art I was standing on.
Of course, people come to Cape Disappointment for many reasons.
This one looked pretty cold and dangerous to me!
Being keen to see family, I decided to cross over to Interstate 5 where we passed this magnificent site:
On into California participating in fun-and-death with impatient 18wheelers. The time saved was much too stressful.
After good family visits it was time to do the errands. BUY ART SUPPLIES! One of the places on my list was
the place to find everything needed to add color to fiber. In my case I needed to pick up a large roll of paper-backed silk for inkjet printing. When the warp and weft are straight it makes wonderful hangings. New project in the works…. printing some of my “discovered figures”, photos, and street rubbings on this luscious fabric. Then doing everything possible to contrast its beauty with violence. Don’t ask why. I don’t know yet.
Up the California coast on 101 this time. Precious stops in Coastal Redwood groves. I don’t know of anything more quieting than just BEING in a grove of these trees, tallest on the planet. Something in their bark just seems to neutralize all the poisons.
My sources tell me that Lewis and Clark and Co. did not like fresh fish, like salmon. Sick of the weather on the north side of the Columbia and sick of being hungry and sick, they took the advice of local Indians who told them that there were elk on the southern shore of the River. When the weather cleared enough for the company to trust their boats to the waters they came upon herds of this.
In Crescent City I had to stop the car for this 40 ton concrete work of sculpture. I had to find out about it. As it turns out, these “dolosse” are used all over the world to to strengthen breakwaters. Who knew? (Mr. Wildcard did.)
Their name means something like “knuckle bones” in Afrikaans. They were developed South Africa in the 1960s to protect jetties by dissipating the energy of incoming water rather than blocking it. Genius. Does Life imitate Art or what?!
Another “arresting” sight on the side of the road!
Getting close to home, where it almost always smells like summer camp.
Finally home, and after a hunny smooch, a trip over to check on Ms. Killdeer. As I suspected might happen, the eggs have hatched. Three nestlings running about catching bugs, but it seems that a crow made a meal of the fourth.
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.
There are as many ways to define Artist Books as there are people (artists, curators, collectors, critics, librarians, lovers of art…) involved in the Artist Book phenomenon. Rules — there are probably a lot fewer rules than there are definitions because frankly, my dear, the artists don’t give a damn. Sandra Kroupa, Book Arts & Rare Book Curator at the University of Washington, said in her lecture — “Breaking Boundaries: the Hand as the Cutting Edge of the Mind” — that she refuses to define “Artist Books”. Smart lady.
The current show at the Whatcom Museum “Unhinged, Book Art on the Cutting Edge” is a curatorial effort to demonstrate the wide variety of approaches to making Artist Books. Now one good thing about this show is that it is in a museum, giving gravitas and credibility to a movement little understood in current culture. A bad thing about this show is that it is in a museum, with most of its items under vitrines. Only one of the offerings was touchable. And as Sandra pointed out, most Artist Books are to be interacted with, touched, manipulated in some way.
To grasp the meaning of Casey’s book, it is essential to turn the crank to activate the waves and the swimming shark. I love Casey’s wry commentary on our current world: “It’s a big ocean out there, and we should all learn how to play nicely with each other.” All this overlaid on books on ship protocol and “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
If you click on the names in the captions, you will be taken to pages that show more of these remarkable works. If you click on the pictures, you will get enlargements.
A good number of the other books in the show were practically jumping off their perches begging “touch me, turn my pages”. (Don’t worry, Oola is well trained and she resisted her inclinations.)
Sandra told of her conviction that the books talk to each other. And that points to one of the beauties of this show: that the works are chosen and arranged so that they can speak in chorus as well as individually. And the group speak is more that the sum of the parts. For example,
Sun Young Kang’s book/installation begins in the personal — the death of her father. In what becomes a ritual floating in timeless light and shadow, she uses incense to burn the Korean text (Until we meet again, I will be trying to find the one way) into 1080 small pieces of Okawara paper.
Islam Aly’s work begins in the public and the political, the uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. Arabic Kufic script (The People Want to Bring down the Regime) is laser cut into each page and it has a burned look. There are many more parallels and telling differences. But take just one metaphor common to both — burning. It speaks to the intensity of the underlying emotions in each case. Additionally, in the conversation of the two books we come to hear the individual in the throng that brought down a tyrant, and we consider the universal loss of a parent. In other words, the two books reinforce each other and lead the viewer to new considerations.
Book artists use a variety of approaches. The most common undertakings are constructing a book and altering or repurposing a book. But some artists like to just redefine bookness.
In “Border Crossing: in the War Room” Doug Beube has taken pages from an atlas and sewn zippers on them. Presumably one can adjust the book to many formations. Further, it is a visual commentary on territorial borders and leads one to thoughts of our current immigration woes.
While Doug is creating his “versatile codex” Susan Porteus is doing something completely else.
Susan has taken spinning as the main metaphor in the life and teachings of Gandhi. Repurposing books about him she has spun their pages into new artist books giving specific form to his work and meditation.
Many book artists use non-traditional materials to construct their ideas. I saw one book, by Ellen Ziegler, made of tar paper pages. (Wonderful, but too difficult to photograph adequately. You can see it at her site-link above.)
Donald Glaister uses a fairly traditional codex form here, but the pages are made of aluminum which gives a special sheen that makes his subject matter sing. It is visual poetry.
(Parenthetically, I read a pundit who made the rule that artist books need words. To this both Oola and I say “poof”. An artist book needs words only if the artist book needs words.)
It is fairly common for book artists to repurpose books into carved and scalpeled forms. One robust example in this show is:
This piece is remarkable for its monumental quality. My first thoughts went to memories of the marble head of Constantine the Great. Or Mount Rushmore. “Liszt” is not that big, but he gives one pause.
Many Artist Book makers use their art to make personal response/public commentary on the state of our world, environmentally, politically, culturally, socially, spiritually. A beautiful, evocative, sad example of this impulse is:
She calls it “an elegy for the mountains”. This book is especially disturbing when you see it lie flat and mimic the ravaged earth. There is not much more of value that one could say.
One of the qualities I enjoy in Artist Books is the delicious geometry that develops, sometimes purposefully, sometimes just as a part of the process:
Lest the show get too ponderous, the curators included Deborah Greenwood’s gentle memory of childhood toys and a call to relax and re-create oneself. To my mind, an Artist Book needs to surprise the viewer.
Indeed, one of the qualities I wanted to see more of in this show is a sense of fun and humor.
Charle’s one page popups are built on 19th century children’s cautionary tales by Heinrich Hoffmann. They are humorous in an Edward Gorey fashion. Something that might frighten adults. (I couldn’t find a website for Charles, but the Facebook page which I am almost certain is his, that page has a great collection of visual and verbal commentary on recent terrorism.)
I was delighted to see a work by Lisa Kokin, masterful observer of ludicrous humanity.
“Fret” is from her self-help books series. It involves book spines sewn into an eye dazzling but comforting quilt. It is sly humor and double meaning, and a stretching of the bookbinding metaphor. Both beautiful and surprising, it is an object to contemplate and enjoy.
Circling back around to the idea of books talking to each other. There is another “quilt” in the show.
Each of the “Coverlet’s” quilt rectangles is made of crumpled pages from Fragments d’un discours amoureaux by Roland Barthes. Claire’s book evoked my childhood memories of making “leather” by distressing brown grocery bags. That is the technique she has used to make the coverlet look and feel like flannel.
What is the conversation about between these two quilts? Maybe it’s for us to lend an ear.
I’m always skeptical of the words “cutting edge”. I feel that if you can see the cutting edge you are viewing it from behind. It has already passed you by. But I like the double meaning of “the hand as the cutting edge of the mind”. In any case, the artist book makers are giving us a new venue for visual thought.
The museum is metaphorically on fire. There is much to mull. It is time to travel home.
There are 70 spectacular pieces in this show by 61 artists, including most Artist Book luminaries, from around the world. There was time and space to mention only a few of them in this post. If you are at all interested in the making of meaning I highly recommend this show.
Last Sunday there was a break in the weather so Oola and I headed out in Mom’s Memorial Prius to a show we had wanted to see in the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham WA — a very important and, as it turns out, memorable show of Artist Books. We also wanted to hear a talk by Sandra Kroupa, Book Arts & Rare Book Curator at the University of Washington (UW).
You can click on any image to see it enlarged.
I say there was finally a break in the weather. But both Oola and I were ecstatic about the snow in the Olympics — which we claim as our back yard.
Warm in the car, we drove to beautiful Port Townsend where we caught the 9:30 ferry.
Oola had never ridden on a ferry before and was fascinated that this one has a helm in the front AND in the rear. It never has to back up.
Here we are, packed in and watching the Cascade mountains in the rear view mirror.
Farther up Hwy 20 is a bridge that connects Whidbey Island with Fidalgo Island. Beautiful and scary, built with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps in a time when cars were both smaller and fewer.
The water is deep; the current can be very strong and very dangerous here. And the whole area swirls with stories.
For example: why the curious name? Oola is so glad you asked because she looked it up. In 1792 George Vancouver, British captain of the Expedition to map the northwest coast, thought that the water swirling out of the pass was a river. Understandable, as this is how it was described by earlier Spanish explorers. After a couple of tries, sailing master Joseph Whidbey discovered that the pass led not to a dead end but to Skagit Bay and the Saratoga Passage. (see map above) This was BIG. And Vancouver was so delighted he named the island, which they had thought to be a peninsula of the mainland, after Whidbey. Vancouver named the deceptive passage Deception Pass. Of course, he could do that because he had just claimed the whole Northwest for the British Crown.
Another legend tells of Scotsman Ben Ure who smuggled drugs and illegal Chinese laborers. The story goes that he and his partner, Pirate Kelly, would tie the men into burlap sacks to make it easier to toss them overboard should they be seen by U. S. Customs. He eventually got caught and admitted to his evil deeds. His island, just inside Deception Pass, still bears his name as does Deadman’s Beach where many of the bodies landed.
In the 1920s, before the bridge was built, if you wanted to get from Whidbey to Fadalgo Island you would hit an old saw with a mallet. All five feet of Berte Olsen would show up, then she would either collect your 50cents and ferry you across, or not, depending on the turbulence of the water.
We bought a “delux press clamp” from Grizzly Industrial for $70. The Wildcard scrounged up the off-fall from a maple butcher block counter top and some scrap walnut which he had stored and moved for the past several years. I found the perfect breadboard of Black Acacia at our local big box store for $20. Some nuts and bolts. Y voila! A press for the book construction process, something I had always wanted but not put high on the list because I thought them too expensive.
He found he had to make a couple of small modifications: 1) sand the oil off the breadboard, and 2) add a cross piece near the center of the breadboard to keep it from spinning.
No more “heavy” art books to weigh down projects. Maybe I can jettison Janson.
Last week, Oola and I mounted a show of my artist books in the Robert Graves Gallery at Wenatchee Valley College in Wenatchee, Washington. Oola has weak arms but an indomitable spirit. We survived the adventure thanks to all the help we got.
I made a new book called “Conversation with Stones” for this exhibition. It grew out of my admiration for the shapes and colors of river stones I have found in abundance in my new place on the planet, and from the thoughts that occurred to me about them.
I made the drawings of the dancers digitally and printed them on transparent film. The “stones” are of handmade paper, shamelessly painted to refer to the mystical qualities I find in them. The words and phrases from the stones are gathered up into a poem which is posted on the back wall of the installation and near the end of this post.
A small fan to the side of the installation gently moves the pages and gives an animated quality to the hand.
Still Life: Ocean With Rock
Riverless, you are both the memory of a brook and a message from the stellar stream. You are the life of mountains, firm, solid air, rigid wind and … you are resistant to authorization.
You are as unquestionable as wild apples, as verifiable as the mocking bird, as indisputable as the moon, and… you are undeniably obscure. You are a history of torrents substantiated by passion, and… 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.
You are the solidified lives of dragonflies, hardened moss, compacted fireflies, a density of stars, compressed stirrings of fury. Unbreakable joy, you are heavily verified and … a painfully proven crusher of ships.
You are 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 are existence-resistance, existence-resistance, existence-resistance. 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, sanded intensity, polished integrity, eroded ego, abraded ambition. You are the crumpler of ecclesiastics and the one who grinds away the fiction of time. You are 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.” You say, I am the survivor stone, the remnant. 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 painfully proven, 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. Cla- -ack Return to the universe.
Some of the other works in the exhibition:
The show will be up through Oct. 30. If you are in the area, you are welcome to visit.
Robert Graves Gallery
Wenatchee Valley College
1300 5th Street (The gallery is more easily reached from the 9th St. entrance to the college.)
Mon – Fri: 11am to 3pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
Or by appointment
509-470-7844 or 509-633-1001
We had made reservations to hear Cynthia Sears talk about the work in a show called
“Artist’s Books Chapter Five: Women, Now and Then” in the Sherry Grover Gallery. When we got there we found to our dismay – then to our enchantment – that the speakers would be artistbookmaking/calligraphy collaborators Carolyn Terry and Annabella Serra.
They are working with painstaking fervor on an alphabet book both dark and delightful.
click on any image to see more detail
Oola immediately fell in love with Carolyn’s earlier books with its drawings, paintings and carvings of insects, other animals, and other surprises.
During all of this we were surrounded by a display of awe inspiring books — technically first-rate, content impressive, pushing the boundaries, and mostly just downright heartrendingly funny.