This afternoon I plunged into art supplies scattered about me, slapping down paint and shapes – not much to my liking. Formerly, I have used pots of acrylic paint with my book arts, but for some reason this has shifted to pastel. I find the colors hard and garish. I acknowledge that this has a fuller existential meaning (this, for another day).
I pause to consider that which lay before me. Ugh. Whatever it is, it is clearly not working. My “head” is intruding and insisting a reliance on the past. Known medium. Familiar brushes. After washing out my brushes, and tenderly placing them on the drying rack, I stop again and pause. Throughout my years creating numerous artists books and two-dimensional commissioned pieces, these same, inexpensive brushes brought at a local hardware store have serve me faithfully, and well. I feel a tenderness toward these instruments which slide effortlessly into the curves of my hands. It is not the brushes, nor is it the paint.
Bundling myself in well-worn scarf – a gift from my youngest son years ago – and slipping into my simple midnight blue coat, and greeting the cold air and a sky the color of turtle doves’ downy feathers, I step into the winter light. I leave, so upon returning I may play.
I am not sure exactly the reason for this mashable detritus stored in my prodigious “art” cupboard, but it lives there. Believe me. Once I went through said cupboard in a ruthless “weeding” of materials accumulated throughout the twenty years as a working artist. Today, at least five years later I open these doors to begin a “small” book arts project, and I am amazed. It is chock full of materials! Not unlike the famous T.V. Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles, paper, pens, ink, paints, and sundry tchotchkes have reproduced.
This is leading somewhere in my hyperlinked brain. The new year. Yes, for the new year I am indulging myself with art. This is a timed, but fragmented plan as I am totally exhausted after a long day of librarianship. Instead of watching the news – which is so depressing – I will come up to my studio while the dear husband readies dinner – and ponder my materials; perhaps, I will even dare to paste something down.
Today I begin assembling materials in a spontaneous manner. Looking at the content, I see that I am drawn to pages from both my piano book, Italian Songs & Arias, and a discarded graphic novel of Tintin. Could this be the result of my overindulgence on too many MHz TV shows of Montalbano (and yes, I have read the books first!) and my immersion in spending ten hours a day, Monday through Friday, with pre-teens, tweens, and teens – all boys?
Regardless of reason, I am excited. Happy New Year, dear readers. I wish you much subdued excitement, too!
The Castafiore Emerald. (1992). In The Castafiore emerald ; Flight 714 ; Tintin and the Picaros. London: Methuen Children’s.
Somewhere, there is a Jungian therapist who has written an academic paper that analyzes the metaphor in the deconstruction of the book with aging.
Last summer, working on a long-distance collaborative art piece, I deconstructed an inexpensive poetry pamphlet. The pages and the words on those pages became elements in a “fresh” work.
Today, as I work toward completion of a small collage, I realize that I am repeating myself – or rather reliving those psychic forces in a concrete fashion. Over twenty years ago, I created and published an artist’s book, Sweet Potato, in an extensively large edition of 350! Needless to say, I never completed the complicated assembly required of all the folios, and do this only upon request.
This morning I have taken one folio and let it “rearrange” itself into something completely new. As I ponder this process my thoughts lead me here: both creative forces – creating something new from that which is “finished” and aging – require the willingness to face fear. Fear that the destruction a work of art is too inviolable to cut apart and re-imagine; fear that an aged life and eventual death are, in fact, the finished piece.
The beautiful circle in all that has occurred this bright, summer morning is that the artwork re-created is a wedding gift for a young couple. Rebirth.
Toward the end of May, the art teacher at our school gave me a small selection of decorative papers, and said to me,
“Here, I know you will do something with these.”
These have been sitting on my drafting table since that day; I finally decided to do something. How could I face her in September without having tried? I will admit to you here, that working as a full-time school librarian leaves me little energy or time to continue to make art.
Summer offers me a bit of time to return to the profession I loved for twenty years.
Used booklet, Peer Gynt, 6” x 3.5” purchased for 25₵ (previously priced at 50 Pfennig)
Wood slats for bookbinding – Ikegami, Kojiro. Japanese Book-Binding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman. New York: John Weatherhill, Inc., 1986.
Watercolor of an English robin, monoprints (by me)
Unique handcut & designed stencils (by me)
Old calligraphy scraps from my previous projects
Selection of bookbinding tools
Deconstructed the book; kept together a core group of pages for folding, and maintained the original height of pages, but modified the length.
Re-imaged the watercolor and monoprints; reproduced these on the book pages and handmade papers
Stenciled images, collaged prints on the book pages, covers, and wooden slats
Adapted and adulterated the traditional 4-hole Japanese bookbinding technique
This dedicated project brought me back in touch with my former lifestle and all its sensibilities.
As a working artist, my hours revolved around visual imagery, pondering materials, reading poetry, and spending hours (where I lost track of time) trying, failing, trying again, and succeeding in making something I liked.
Here is a thank you to my art teacher for giving a bit of my past back to me. This summer.
This post is to honor Ms. Deborah Tharp, Chair of the Art Department, St. Albans School, Washington, D.C.