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Michelle Ray and the Sea – Part 2

Michelle Ray Three Ships 4Three Ships
published by Michelle Ray in 2012, in an edition of 35.

With Three Ships, Michelle uses a more sculptural, or display book, format than she has with previous editioned works. This sets it apart from her earlier work, and lays the foundation for her subsequent book God Created the Sea and Painted it Blue so We’d Feel Good On It . . .

The piece is housed in a double tray drop-spine box, but rather than housing a book that can be removed and examined outside of the box, the box itself is the book. The right hand tray has all four walls intact and presents an image of the sea, layered front to back with cut out, printed components. The physical layering assures that the uppermost part of the image, which is, in this case, the horizon line, is physically further away from the viewer than the immediate foreground. The image includes bright yellow silhouette forms of boats on which text appears.

Michelle Ray Three Ships

Michelle Ray Three Ships

The left hand tray, with the spine side one, has a four flap wrapper with a tab and slot closure affixed to the back of the box. Opening the envelope reveals both a 6 panel, map-folded page and a small Errata card. The folded page is printed both sides with imagery and text, and includes the colophon.

Michelle Ray Three Ships

Michelle Ray Three Ships

Three Ships exemplifies once again Michelle’s ability to convey an abundance of thought and relationship with few images and words presented on so few surfaces.

This piece was created in response to a specific text as part of the BookArtObject Edition #4. BookArtObject is an informal group of book artists that uses their blog as vehicle discussion and as an arena to make small editions of handmade artists’ books in response to various texts. The text for Edition Four comes from Sarah Bodman’s book An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen, in which 100 short story titles were provided as starting points for the participating artists.

Three Ships is the title Michelle chose to work with, giving he opportunity to explore an ongoing theme – the sea. In a continuation of her choice to present relationships from a broad range of sources, this work draws from the memory of the three life boats from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition: Stancomb Wills, Dudley Docker and James Caird, Shackleton’s stash of rare and old Highland malt whiskey, and the safety and foolishness of that expedition. The book also explores through mnemonic devices this relationship between time, memory and seeing.

My favorite bit is the Errata card:

We suffer terribly from snow blindness. In the end, none of us could remember why we came to this place.

Michelle Ray Three Ships Errata

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.

Don Frank – The Qtip Project

During this years’ MOP (Month of Photography), Abecedarian is exhibiting The QTip series by Portland, Oregon photographer Don Frank.
Don Frank - QTip Project
For the series Don photographed fellow artists, each in front of the same back ground, and each diligently cleaning out their ears with a Qtip. As Don notes,

this is a private task that is advised against by people who know better than us.  But we do it anyway.

In the words of Katherine Head, writer/editor,

Everyone is photographable.  Everyone has a story to tell, and it can be relayed without words.  But sometimes there needs to be a distraction for the person to share the truth.  Hence, the Q-tip.  
Frank chose fellow artists to sit for the Q-tip project, 26 in all.  Despite the near identical setup, the resulting portraits are as different as each artist.  Some are whimsical, some are contemplative, some are mysterious.  But they are all interesting.  A seemingly banal task, a simple part of many people’s every day routine, yielded surprising art.

Don’s work was exhibited in the 2010 Biographic exhibition, curated by Denver’s Master Mind and Action Figure series host, Katie Taft.

Don and Katie will be hosting Musical Chairs, a participatory performance and discussion on photography, at Redline on March 24, 60pm.

Don will be at Abecedarian on Saturday, March 23. So please, come by and meet the artist, from 2-4pm. Light refreshments will be served.

Alice Austin – The Rome Project


Alice-Austin-Rome16
The Rome Project – on view in the ReadingRoom February 17 – April 7.

It is a pleasure to be featuring the work of Alice Austin in The Reading Room this spring. Alice is one of the artists who sent work out for the first show at Abecedarian, and her ongoing support of this project has been steady and is appreciated. For this exhibition, Alice came for the installation and opening night. During the reception she captivated visitors with details her most recent body of work.
alice w: panorama rp

Alice Austin has been traveling to Italy each fall for the past several years. Although she has spent time in Venice, her favorite Italian city is Rome, where she has been a visiting artist at the American Academy. She takes with her only what will fit into her bright red suitcase; once there strolling through the city examining historical documents, public buildings and attractions.

As a library conservator (Alice works at The Library Company of Philadelphia, a rare book library founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin), her appreciation for historical records is well embedded, her comfort with historical documents a fact of her life. By all accounts, Rome is rich with history, and because Alice visits as an artist with a particular project in mind her visits take on quite a different aspect than were she traveling as another sort of visitor. Indeed, the night of her reception for The Rome Project at Abecedarian, a gallery visitor was telling me that her experience of Rome is that it is corrupt, noisy, expensive and difficult to navigate. This is hardly the Rome that Alice presents in her most recent body of work The Rome Project.

alice w map rp

This project began in September 2008 when Austin was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her project was to study the 1748 Giambattista Nolli map of Rome and synthesize the character of the historic map with modern Rome. She set out into the city to record the patterns, geometry and textures of the Nolli map sites through photos, drawings and paintings made at prominent sites from the map. The first result of her work was a limited edition bookwork, Nolli, a map-book exploring the textural layers of Rome produced collaboratively with designer/photographer Jon Snyder.
Alice-Austin-Rome15

This modestly scaled book, presented in a what is sometimes called a meander book format, presents details that are later referenced in the large scale drawing suite and series of artists’ books. The front and the back covers show elements from the originally Nolli map, which was executed in 1748 as twelve copper plate engravings, each about 22 x 30 inches. Nolli had papal permission to enter all buildings in Rome in order to make accurate measurements, a project which took him over ten years. The back page of the book is a photograph of a litho plate of the Forma Urbis, the Roman map which was executed in stone. The red line that continues throughout the book depicts the shape of the city wall, taken from the handmade paper, and is shown on the reverse side of the map in white. The book also includes a detail photograph of the Nolli map, a watercolor of Bramante’s Tempietto, on which the design for St. Peter’s is based, photographs and prints of the Campidoglio pavement designed by Michelangelo, and a rendering of the first century pyramid of Caius Cestius, built when the Romans were interested in all things Egyptian. The back side of the map unfolds to reveal a drawing of historic Rome and Bramante’s architectural plan for St. Peter’s.
Alice-Austin-Rome04 Alice-Austin-Rome06Nolli was offset printed in an edition of 60, in collaboration with the Borowsky Center at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, 2010. Copies are available at this link ($150 each).

Alice-Austin-Rome17

On stunning display in the Reading Room is the installation of Austin’s suite of 9 drawings of Rome, each 22 x 30 inches, arranged in the same manner as Nolli’s Pianta Grande di Roma to make one large drawing measuring 66 x 90 inches.

Alice Austin - installing Rome ProjectLimited in palette, the mixed media drawings include ink, crayon, relief printing and transfer drawings on sheets of linen paper hand made at the Dieu Donne Paper Mill in New York City in 2009 especially for this project. During Alice’s informal gallery talks at the opening I learned that the name Dieu Donne means god given, which, given the scope and references of this project, seems appropriate. The paper incorporates a stencil pulp painting of the Aurelian city wall colored with dry pigments from Rome. Linoleum prints inspired by the Cosmatesque patterns of marble floors of Roman churches were inlaid during the paper making process. Cosmatesque takes it name from the Roman family Cosmati who made the inlaid marble floors in many of Rome’s churches using salvaged columns from the ruins of ancient Roman buildings. The ink drawings on the maps are of the historic center of Rome. The blue transfer drawings are of St. Peter’s basilica, designed in the Greek cross pattern by Bramante in 1506, inspired by the Roman temple, the Pantheon. The plan for the Pantheon is relief printed from a linoleum cut.Alice Austin - installing Rome Project

The final phase of the project to date is the production of several artists’ books in which Alice presents in various book forms several of the repeating elements from both the Nolli book and the drawing suite. A series of three unfolding map books, folded into pamphlet bound paper cases were made using sheets of the Dieu Donne paper. The covers are of handmade flax paper from Cave Paper Mill. They are either printed from linoleum and sewn, printed on vellum and sewn, or pierced to create a pattern.
Alice-Austin-Rome10Alice-Austin-Rome11

Rome is filled with patterns that have delighted Alice for years, such as an interlocking circle pattern. Alice uses this pleasing and well balanced pattern in several instances in The Rome Project, notably on the covers of the map books and on the interior pages of several of the books. The pattern seems to be a universal response to geometric repetitions. It exists all over the world, in Egyptian cloth from 2000 b.c., as well as in the mosaic designs in Rome.
Alice-Austin-Rome19

Also on view, are Austin’s Rome Panorama books, a series of five accordion books with cut floating panels printed and painted on Rives BFK.
Alice-Austin-Rome09The cover of each is inset with a linoleum print on vellum, or paper. These are individually available ($500 each).

Alice-Austin-Rome03Alice-Austin-Rome01Alice has also graciously lent two of her sketchbooks, bound in traditional limp vellum style, for the exhibition. These sketchbooks provide a detailed history of the project generally and her work methods more specifically.

It is an honor and a delight to be hosting this first presentation of The Rome Project at Abecedarian Gallery.

Look Again: Artists’ Books and Prints by Deborah Bryan

nine blocks

An exhibition of recent books and prints by Tennessee artist Deborah Bryan. Bryan is on faculty at Tusculum College, Greeneville, Tennessee. Ms Bryan’s work was first exhibited at Abecedarian during the RE: (rebound, recycled, repurposed, reused) exhibit when she was awarded the gallery director’s exhibition award. Her work for this exhibition involves using plates, whether copper or wood engraving, as covers or pages, and involves presenting prints in an alternative format.

 

On display are both prints and books; the books, although created from a medium usually associated with multiplicity, are not editioned but are one of a kind books, using retired copper plates and woodblocks.

portable art experience

Cercium

 

 

For me, the artist’s book provides an opportunity to present my work in a different      format, hence the title “Look Again.”  As a printmaker, I regularly find myself with a  completed edition and used, but beautiful, copper plates or endgrain maple blocks.  These matrices can become pages or covers.  Proofs can be recycled and  reconfigured as content for books.

 

Detritus series Indian PipesDetritus series Stems & Shreds

Photo Book Works

in the Reading Room October 1 – 30, 2010

Merck’s Manual 2


Photo Book Works is an international exhibition of artists’ books incorporating photography as a primary element. Photo Book Works was juried by Mia Semingson whose exhibition 39+ is on view in the main gallery. For this exhibition, Semingson selected the work of 31 artists from the United States, Great Britian, Switzerland and Australia.
Images of the works in the exhibit can be viewed here

Included in Mia’s statement are the following remarks:

“The artists included in this exhibition bring their images back to the tangible realm and weave visual stories not just with images, but with the materials they have chosen and the structure that houses their work. All of these ingredients deliver the artist’s concept to the viewer.
As technology changes and upgrades, as we reach deep into our pockets to purchase the next version of Photoshop, one thing remains and will remain a constant – the book. And I will defend books to my death – they are a technology that is here to stay, a wonderful constant presence in a rapidly changing world.”

Oneiro 2


Photo Book Works includes work by the following artists:

Adam Milner, Boulder, Colorado;
Aileen Bassis, Jersey City, New Jersey;
Al Rodríguez, San Diego, California;
Anna Mavromatis, Houston, Texas;
Bessie Smith Moulton, Falmouth, Maine;
Charles Hobson, San Francisco, California;
Cristina de Almeida, Bellingham, Washington;
Elizabeth M. Claffey, Denton, Texas;
Elsi Vassdal Ellis, Bellingham, Washington;
Ginger Burrell, San Jose, California;
Jill Timm, Wenatchee, Washington;
John Watson, Springfield. Oregon;
Judith Hoffman, San Mateo, California;
Kelly O’Brien, Alexandria, Virginia;
Laura Russell, Portland, Oregon;
Lauren Henkin, Portland, Oregon;
Lee Steiner, Pearland, Texas;
Louise Levergneux, Salt Lake City, Utah;
Mary Jane Henley, Tucson, Arizona;
Mary L. Taylor, Marshfield, Massachusetts;
Megan Adie, Basel, Switzerland;
Monica Oppen, Sydney, Australia;
Paula Jull, Pocatello, Idaho;
Philip Zimmermann, Tucson, Arizona;
Sabina U. Nies, Ashland, Oregon;
Sally Waterman, London, United Kingdom;
Scott K. Murphy, St. Joseph, Minnesota;
Steve Kostell, Chapaign, Illinois;
Thomas Finke & Jean Buescher Bartlett, Denver, Colorado & Ann Arbor, Michigan;
Victoria Bjorklund, Tacoma, Washington