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Michael Sharp – Book of Leaves

Michael Sharp Book of Leaves6
Michael Sharp’s Book of Leaves is a work firmly steeped in the past, exploring scientific, photographic, and ecological histories within its pages. Using cyanotype, an old photographic process that results in a rich dark blue, Sharp placed dried leaves collected around the Utah State Arboretum at the Red Butte Gardens and created photograms once the paper was exposed. Leaving behind a ghostly outline, each leaf from specific trees tells a different story and hints at a distinctive personality.

 

Upon opening the small, compact box, the viewer finds what initially appears to be a modest book entitled Utah Diversity, and above this is a symbol that appears to be a beehive or perhaps a pinecone. On the box itself in diminutive type, we learn about the history of cyanotype and its use in scientific documentation of natural objects and also in blueprints. The artist also mentions a critical feature the viewer encounters when unfolding the book: bits of the cyanotype peel or flake off. This crumbling deterioration is analogous to the subjects within the pages, the fragile dried leaves, reinforcing the relationship between the subject and the book itself.

 

Once opened, the viewer is informed that the images following are a “representation of the (tree) populations.” It is here that the charming piece shows its true intentions. Each leaf, as if it were a separate person, appears with its Latin name and common name. No two leave are alike, and they are paired together at times because of shared or discordant characteristics. For instance, the Cully Black Birch and the European White Birch look like siblings, with a similar shape and outline. In other cases, like the Yoshino Cherry and Blacklace Elderberry, we have a very oval leaf with tiny jagged edges (Cherry) opposite a thin-leafed, smooth-textured Elderberry, which is reminiscent of a small flower plant in shape. Some leaves, like the Fairmont Ginkgo, have an almost human-like quality. One can almost see a face in profile on either side of the leaf, or perhaps even a pair of lungs, coming from this particular outline. Much like Rorschach tests, it is hard not to try and see shapes, people, or other fanciful interpretations. The more the viewer pages through the book, the more the march of quirky personalities and mysterious histories play out before them.

 

Book of Leaves is foremost a book of memories. From the precise curation of the trees that Sharp selected to the drying and exposure of each brittle leaf, this documentation reminds the viewer of each step in the process before them. Remembering that even the paper is an artifact of a tree turned into pulp, this piece is haunted by all aspects of ghosts concerning the humble tree.

 

But perhaps the most delightful feature of this work is what it transforms into. Book of Leaves can be stood upright and unfolded like a star-shaped accordion. Suddenly, it has transformed and mimics one of the many leaves found within, creating an organic pattern based on how the audience choose to unfold the pages. Each iteration and choice creates a new work in a way, reinforcing the concept of this book being about memory and adding a unique performative element. As mentioned previously, some of the cyanotype falls away as well, slowly eroding the book as much as the process of decay in nature. Sharp’s work is meant to be gently playful yet a bit fragile, referencing the subjects and the fleeting history that lies within.

Michelle Ray and the Sea – Admeasure

Michelle Ray Admeasure

I have never met Michelle Ray but well remember the first work of hers I saw – The Kashash and the Archivist; it is one I wish I owned. Abecedarian Gallery represents Michelle, giving me a chance to get to know her through the works she creates. My respect for her continuing growth and work deepens with each new project.

Michelle Ray describes herself as a left brained maker; a devotee of organizing, list-making and labels. She also clearly loves language, research, storytelling and vast open spaces. Her level of craft is high, her writing skills well-honed and her evolving conceptual development is sophisticated enough to effectively translate multiple elements into objects so that they live in a state of complex harmony. Yet these works are not cumbersome or crowded; rich though they are, with words, imagery, reference and structure, they remain elegant and almost sparse.

This week I’m focusing on three of Ray’s limited edition book works – those that reference the sea:
Admeasure, Three Ships and God Created the Sea and Painted it Blue so We’d Feel Good On It . . .

Admeasure, the earliest of the three, was published in 2011 while Ray was an MFA candidate in the Book Arts Program at the University of Alabama.

Admeasure is structurally simple (an accordion book with pamphlet stitched pages in two sections housed in a paper wrapper) produced by uncomplicated procedures (letterpress, die cut, folding and stitching). Closed it measures 8 x 3 x .25 inches.
Michelle Ray Admeasure
The soft paper cover is printed in gray ink on a sand colored paper with a line drawing of waves that are turbulent and seem to be crashing off a rocky shore. There is no land in sight, only the horizon line of the endless sea.

Charmingly, the tab/slot mechanism that holds the cover closed is printed with the words

“I had a dream that I built a small boat & set out to sea in it.”

Michelle Ray Admeasure

On opening the book, we learn that Admeasure is a nautical term and refers to the act of measuring the dimensions and capacity of a vessel for official registration. Later in the book, the silhouetted forms of a bird and boat alongside upward and downward pointing arrows, illustrate how a vessel’s height and depth impact the spaces of the sky and sea.

The accordion pages are printed front and back, in the lower third, with more images of the roiling sea; a two sail boat rocked but upright appears on the fourth (of ten) panels. This panel also serves as the first page of a pamphlet, stitched through the accordion fold. A second pamphlet is stitched into the final fold of the accordion and goes through the book cover’s spine. This allows the book to be fixed in place in the cover, but also fully extended for a different viewing experience.
Michelle Ray Admeasure

The accordion panels are printed front and back with black line work and gray blocks of color; the text varying shades of gray. The two pamphlet sections introduce various shades of orange. While startling on first encounter, the bright, warm color gives a whimsical break from the prevailing muted tones, particularly as one of the images printed in orange is that of an albatross.

Michelle Ray Admeasure

The book utilizes quotes from Bas Jan Ader, a traditional pilot’s verse and draw’s from a variety of archetypal journey (including Ray’s own time spent in small boats).

It also gives clear directives: alongside the aforementioned orange albatross the words

“Now. Hold a live Albatross in your hands. Feel how hot it is. Smell its smell (dusty).

Under a cut-out of a woman’s silhouetted profile

“Go into a darkened room. Shine a flashlight through this cutout to project a silhouette on the wall.”

Michelle Ray Admeasure

Admonishments:

“Do not begin reading this book on a Friday, for it will bring you bad luck.”

Michelle Ray Admeasure

And a gentle suggestion:

“You are now being directed to create marginalia related to your journey at sea. Feel free to use all of the empty space on this page.”

Admeasure presents elements later projects have clarified about Ray’s engagement in the world. An interest in presence vs. absence, a love of the vast landscapes of sea and sky, an appreciation for the quirky and whimsical and her work as a book artist to draw connections between traditional lore and our continuing present.

Julie Chen – Family Tree

Julie chen family tree 1

Family Tree is a 2013 publication by California book artist Julie Chen, published in an addition of 50 copies. Production will begin in February; pre-production orders can be placed by contacting Abecedarian Gallery.

The publication is a set of 16 two inch cubes, housed in a drop spine box. Some surfaces are digitally presented and others laser engraved. The set presents six variations on a single image.

Julie Chen Family Tree07

The cubes rest in the box tray with adequate space above the tray edge for removal of individual cubes. Thus the cubes can easily be rearranged and rotated in a variety of configurations, either within or outside of the box tray. Six of the arrangements present variations on a single image, an image of shadows cast by tree branches on a sidewalk.

Julie Chen Family Tree03

The book arrives arranged with a photographically rendered image of the shadows and a brief text, the baseline of the text following the shapes made by the shadowy forms. The same arrangement of cubes flipped over 180° reveals a negative image of the same photograph of tree branch shadows and presents a different text.

Julie Chen Family Tree04

Two of the remaining cube sides are one or two word phrases with simplified tree shapes floating behind the words. The negative space is etched into the wood block, the positive space is raised and inked and looks like an inked wood block ready for printing. One side of each cube is inked in orange, the opposite side in turquoise.

I appreciate the sense this gives of a work in progress, as the piece as a whole, regardless of the state it is in, will always be in a state of progression from one version to the next. As with the histories the work focuses on, we always arrive somewhere in the middle of the narrative, and by re-arranging the blocks, can continuously shift the emphasis of the narrative.

Julie Chen Family Tree05

The remaining two sides are graphic representations of the shadows, printed in a palette of bright colors that are grayed down enough so that they aren’t jarring or garish.

The insides of both the top and bottom trays have visual ‘keys’ so that one can arrange the blocks in the order that presents an uninterrupted image.

Julie Chen Family Tree09

Due to the constraints of the presentation, two of the six arrangements (those with laser engraved text) are strings of four, one word phrases. While it is possible to rearrange the order, the initial arrangement has some real gems such as:

‘identity reinvented through interpretation’
‘connections emerging after dormancy’
and ‘patterns hidden beneath the narrative’

 

Julie Chen Family Tree10

 

These are but a few examples of the multiple arrangements (a set of 16 cubes has a possible trillion combinations).

The book was generated using cards drawn from the Ideation Card Deck (also available for purchase at Abecedarian Gallery) and included in the exhibition Ideation by Chance (click here to see online catalog of the exhibit) curated by Julie Chen.

Modest in Scale award recipient Wendy Kowynia

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Mixed-media artist Wendy Kowynia is one of four recipients of the Modest in Scale exhibition awards. Included in the exhibit are two pieces from her Iterations Series. In this work Wendy explores material, technique, and technology. She is using paper yarns of linen, bamboo, pine and silk, painted and dyed that are knotted, woven, twined and laced on a loom.

Iteration is the essential act of weaving; to do again and again and again, with each completion coming more closely to the desired result. Wendy finds solace in this requirement of her chosen medium: the work evolves out of this simple dedication to repetition.

About her work Wendy says:

As an artist working in textiles, my work has an inherent element of surface; I create the surface, and the surface becomes the art. The Iteration Series is woven in linen, the painter’s traditional canvas.

W.Kowynia_Iter11

Iteration 11 is painted with oil stick on the warp threads, then woven. Iteration 12 is knotted paper yarn.

In 1983 Wendy apprenticed for a year with her mother, an accomplished weaver. When she sat down at the loom, she knew she could

“do this forever and never be finished. 30 years later, this is still true.“

Wendy Kowynia has lived and worked in Steamboat Springs since 1991. Her career in textiles began in 1983. Wendy completed her BS degree from Smith College in 1982, where she majored in studio art, with a focus in painting. I am looking forward to featuring more of her work next year.

Ann Frellsen – bookish jewelry

Ann Frellsen

miniature wearable books

An open view of one of Ann’s pins

Abecedarian now offers book jewelry by PlayHouse Press to the online store. We have pins and earrings that are fully functioning miniature books handcrafted by Ann Frellsen.


Ann Frellsen is a book conservator at Emory University Libraries with a studio arts degree in sculpture. From her home in Atlanta, Georgia, Ann combines these talents and interests in the creation of book arts jewelry.

Each piece is a fully functioning miniature book, hand stitched and cased in to the cover. Ann uses high quality findings, papers, and cloth. She uses both vintage and contemporary marbled and paste papers. These charming accessories, created under her PlayHouse Press imprint, are visually fun and well-crafted.

Although there are others creating similarly wonderful book arts jewelry, Abecedarian carries Ann’s work because of the consistently high quality of both materials and production and the affordable price range. Abecedarian Gallery is the only online market carrying these pieces.

Check out what we have in stock here

Pati Scobey – subscription print series

Pati Scobey Inside the Song

In 2004 Pati Scobey began an on-going project titled “A Chronicle of Images”. Using a letterpress, she has been making a series of prints which combine linoleum cuts, collagraphs and sometimes typographical elements. Rich and varied in color and design, the prints involve multiple runs through the press. Produced in a rural section of Michigan, where Pati has lived for many years, they are inspired by her ongoing observations, connections and readings, stemming from an active commitment to ideas and impressions that are energizing yet quietly felt.

In Pati’s words:

I can feel the first part of my life rub against the last part. Both, however, meld in my work as a visual artist. Being raised in an Air Force family, my early environment continually shifted and allowed me glimpses of other cultures and landscapes. In contrast, for the past 17 years I have been tied to one piece of land in Michigan and have developed a deep connection to place. Approaching my work in printmaking and bookmaking with an attitude of exploration and experimentation, I balance discovery with planning and I work through ideas in a spirit as akin to drawing as to printing. My printing process is comprised of combining plates depicting narratives and patterns in nature with stencils which are a vocabulary of shapes and characters. Through the manipulation of these elements, I produce layers and levels of form and color on the page or in the book which evoke a sense of movement, geography, and journeys. I view the work as an attempt to answer questions I ask myself.

 

The prints are distributed to Pati’s subscribers (those who sign up in advance to receive the years’ prints when they are published for a reduced price).

The idea of subscription prints is not unique to Pati, but most of the subscriptions series I’m aware of involve letterpress printing. Shereen LaPlantz conducted an ambitious series of subscription how to books in the late 1990’s. Long out of print, some of those titles are still available here.

Pati’s subscription prints are printed in edition sizes ranging from 125 − 150 depending on the number of subscribers and are published twice annually. Abecedarian is pleased to offer single prints from the series for those who have missed a print from the series, or want specific prints without subscribing. Click here to see current inventory.