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This time Is whatever I want it to be

PBP this time is g

 

During the late nineties and early teens, I collaborated with another artist, Heidi Zednik. We’d met when we were both in residence at Dorland Mountain Art Colony. I had the entire run of a second floor studio – one half was my living quarters, the other my studio. Heidi was in residence as a writer – her cabin was dark, damp and cramped. Dorland is an odd place, where spontaneous socializing with others is discouraged, or so it was at the time. On a parcel of land deeded to the Nature Conservancy, Dorland was mostly off-grid; communications with the off-site world were done via a pay-phone located in a small room directly below my rooms. Each night I heard a woman’s voice, talking on that phone into the night. Her voice was a modulating hum, her words indistinguishable. Often I fell asleep listening to the sound of her voice.

Dorland

Dorland Mountain Art Colony

About a week into our month long residency, there was a violent storm. I opened the door and three of the colony cats scurried in. After fighting to get the door closed again, the cats and I sat hunched on my bed – I had never experienced a storm like this, living as I had in land-locked Colorado. By first light the storm had passed. I went outside and saw evidence of the storm everywhere I looked. A large oak, uprooted by the wind, had blown down in the parking lot, landing on two of the vehicles parked there. As we residents stood around gawping at the damage, the social protocols of Dorland were set aside and  I met Heidi, the woman whose voice I’d heard talking into the night.

Heidi with bird on bamboo 1

Heidi holding one of the treasures from my aunt’s archive

So started my afternoon walks with Heidi. We meandered through nearby orange groves, the air heavy with citrus perfume, our walks often ending with a cup of tea in her dark writers cabin. As our time at Dorland neared its end, we agreed to meet up at other times, in other geographies. We considered various collaborative projects, then tossed them aside.

Heidi was traveling a lot; road trips across the country, a move back to her homeland, Austria, then settling in Asheville, North Carolina, where she purchased and improved a historic family cabin, the builders and owners of the cabin the only prior occupants. Meanwhile I inherited the archive of my great Aunt Ruth – a treasure trove of photographs, paper ephemera and biological specimens dating back several generations. You can read more about the Ruth Wheeler archive here.

Lovely and amazing desk

Selection of objects from my aunt’s archive

In the crawl space of Heidi’s newly purchased but historic cabin were trunks filled with photographs, many of a man seated on a tricycle far too small for him, and bits of paper with lists of words. Heidi learned that this house, which had been in the same family for generations, was home to a differently abled fellow named Stanley. Stanley grew up and stayed in that house into adulthood. He loved wagons, tricycles and making word lists.

Play

Play – one of our collaborative pieces from the Stanley archive

Heidi lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina; I lived in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Having both come into a stockpile of ephemera around the same time, we struggled with wanting to use the ephemera but found it somehow too precious. Sharing the ephemera seemed like a way to begin. So we began mailing letters, photos, handwritten lists, old school notebooks etc. back and forth – each of us making our marks on these paper bits. We called this first collaborative project, which went on for several years, Notes from the Underground.

While we were working on a suite of works on engineering vellum that we called Flight Notes, Heidi mailed me a bit of paper on which she’d written

‘this time is whatever I want it to be’

Flight notes 1 8

 Flight Notes

This phrase continues to resonate. In spring of 2018 I used it as basis for a double pamphlet structure I was experimenting with. This nine word sentence says enough – no need to embellish. So to flesh out the content of the book, I re-wrote the text in binary code. Here it is, page by page. It is now held by Special Collections at Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

PBP this time is fPBP this time is ePBP this time is dPBP this time is cPBP this time is bPBP this time is a

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Tile Paintings

This piece is available. Click here to purchase.

Tile Paintings as an altered book created from a book published by The Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A Museum, established in 1852, is the world’s leading museum of art and design.

The museum’s opening followed the very successful Great Exhibition of 1851. Held in the purpose-built Crystal Palace and organized  by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, it was the first international exhibition of manufactured products. Its founding principle, and one which is followed to this day, was to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers.

To this end, the V&A publishes about 30 books annually, working jointly with Penguin Random House and Thames and Hudson. In addition to promoting research, knowledge and enjoyment of the designed world, the publications generate profit for the museum. Current publications range from a charming children’s story by Jack Townend (A Story about Ducks $8US) to a Vivienne Westwood Opus Manifesto limited edition ($2700US).

The Colour Book series (published from 1985-1989) includes titles such as Decorative End Papers (1985), Patterns for Papers (1987), Japanese Stencils (1988), Novelty Fabrics (1988) and Ikats (1989). I have altered two books from this series, Tile Paintings (from Series 1 of the Colour books), and Indian Floral Patterns (also from Series 1). You can read my post about Indian Floral Patterns here.

The books are a lovely size to work with (8 x 5.5 x .5); each of the pages richly colored and most with little or no text. Tile Paintings piece is a pairing of the published book with four tile shards that were gifted to me years ago by a fellow scavenger.

Four shaped holes (roughly following the shape of the shards) have been cut through the cover and all of the pages; in the recesses rest the shards. The shards are protected when the book is closed with mica laminated in between the first end page and first few pages of the text block.

With a mix of PVA and methyl cellulose, I laminated several pages together, leaving me  with four double-page spreads to work with. Hundreds of paper cut outs in various shapes and sizes (the cut outs based on the recessed shapes using full-color reproductions taken from the book’s pages) are collaged onto the individual pages, obliterating the text.  Areas in between the collaged bits are  hand painted with gouache and acrylic inks. Although the book stays closed on its own, there is an additional magnetic/ribbon closure.

I typically create a utilitarian single tray, drop-spine box for my artists’ books; for Tile Paintings I stepped up from the strictly utilitarian and created a box with the same color-reproductions lining the inside.

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Wildflower Identification

From the Lovely and Amazing series, this limited edition book uses images, artifacts and writings from the archive of my great aunt, Ruth Wheeler. Ruth led a rich and varied life, passionate about both nature and teaching (she was a biologist with a teaching certificate). She had a big impact on how my views of the world were shaped. Creating my own works from that which she left me has brought me moments of joy and a bit of sadness too.

The general parameters of Wildflower Identification were partially set using the Ideation Deck (developed by Julie Chen and Barb Tetenbaum).

Cards I drew from the Ideation Deck were the starting point for this book.
Cards I drew from the Ideation Deck were the starting point for this book.

Based on Hedi Kyle’s Blizzard Book (so called because Hedi developed the folded paper structure when a blizzard in Philadelphia kept her studio bound for a day), Wildflower Identification has 14 envelope pages created from one long sheet of Batik paper (imported from India).

I chose to work with this structure for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is my wish to present material non-linearly, allowing pages be removed and re-arranged. The content of the pages peeks out from that which contains them, reminiscent of plants peeking out, enticing a closer look. More obscurely, I chose this structure because it was developed by Hedi Kyle. I’m convinced that Hedi and Ruth would have enjoyed one another’s company had they ever met. Both have been role models for me. I am inspired by their excitement, curiosity and passion about their worlds, their lifelong willingness to share, educate and support those of us fortunate enough to have spent time with them.

Alicia Bailey and Hedi Kyle
Here I am with Hedi Kyle in Philly, 2013

The contents of the envelopes are cards, photographs or seed specimens adapted from Ruth’s archive. The three photographs are of teenage girls out on a seed and plant gathering adventure (taken on November 13, 1948),  scanned, cropped and re-printed.

Original photo and reprints
Original photo and reprints

The cards duplicate Ruth’s handwriting and are taken from her many teaching files – these specific to teaching ‘her girls’ about plant identification and cultivation.

Tracing from original writings (right), finished cards (left).
Tracing from original writings (right), finished cards (left).

Each book also contains three laminated seed and flower collections

Alicia Bailey Wildflower Identification post 04

and an original page from Chester A. Reed’s Flower Guide published in 1916, also laminated.

Page ready for laminating. Each book has a different original page from the 1916 book.
Page ready for laminating. Each book has a different original page from the 1916 book.

These, along with a title card (colophon on reverse) make up the contents of the book.

Some of the joys of designing and creating this book include time spent going through Ruth’s collections of photographs and writings, teaching my studio assistant Stefanie how to fold the pages (this is now one of her favorite activities and she has her own project in development utilizing the Blizzard Book), working with a rich, purple Nigerian goat (from Harmatan), a luscious and tactilely rewarding material, and making pastepaper for the project while listening to Western Bird Calls.

I used pastepapers inspired by Lucinda Carr for the text cards.
I used pastepapers inspired by Lucinda Carr for the text cards.

Note: several years ago, Lucinda Carr (invited me to her studio for a day of pastepaper production. Lucinda was producing and selling some fabulous paste papers and I was eager to learn her work methods. We set up and when it was time to go to work she said “This is my secret for making great paste papers – I listen to bird call identification recordings while I work”.

As I’ve worked with these materials, I’ve had not unpleasant moments of wistful sadness (sentimental nostalgia?). Some of this is related to missing Ruth but there is something else this material stirs up I me.

I’ve developed quite an attachment, crushes of a sort, to these girls (a few of whom are pictured again and again, on other outdoor, educational adventures, in Ruth’s photo albums), my emotional response based solely on impressions of who they may have been, these girls who so appreciated nature, whose curiosity and willingness to explore was endlessly nurtured by Ruth. I feel envious sometimes that I wasn’t one of “Ruthie’s girls” – many of them remained lifelong friends of Ruth’s and went on to nurture other young women throughout their own lives.

As I ruminate on the adventures Ruth’s archives document I feel a yearning to connect to my younger, more able-bodied, less educated self. I long to experience once again lovely stretches of time when activities such as of going out, alone or with others, to identify wildflowers the only mission aside from eating a picnic lunch in a wooded grove, perhaps near a running stream.

An archive of process materials is housed at University of Denver, Penrose Library, Special Collections.

Process materials for Wildflower Identification
Process materials for Wildflower Identification

 

Wildflower Identification is out of print.

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Lovely and Amazing at University of Denver

I’m once again thrilled that the pieces I’ve created using from the archives of long-time Denver resident Ruth Wheeler will be on view in public spaces . . .

Lovely and Amazing is a series I began 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. Filled with curiosity, 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. Wasp and Praying Mantis pictured below.

Nearly all the book works (and a few of the boxes) from the Lovely and Amazing series are on view at University of Denver’s library January 5 through March 29. The former Penrose Library, renamed Anderson Academic Commons after a complete remodel of the existing building, now houses curated exhibition areas throughout the three level structure. Thanks to the ongoing support of Special Collections librarian Kate Crow and Anderson Academic Commons exhibits curator Rebecca Macey, my work is on display on the main level, strategically located near the main entrance/coffee shop. The library’s generous open hours (24/7 during some weeks of the year) puts this at the top of the the list for Denverites and visitors looking to engage with interesting exhibits at odd hours.

On the top level of the library is the Gottesfeld Room where the bulk of their collection of artists’ books are stored in glass fronted cabinets. The room is open access during library hours but for hands on viewing of the books, visitors need to make an appointment with Special Collections, open from 9-5 Monday – Friday.

gottesfeld

Although I’m not a University of Denver “Pioneer” (i.e. alum), I am pleased beyond measure that Penrose Library Special Collections has taken on the role of designated repository of my work in the book arts field.

Alicia Bailey process materials

What this makes possible in terms of display are exhibits such as the 2013 exhibit in Special Collections in the lower level of the library featuring the process materials of one of my edition works, Burning Me Open, alongside process materials from a series of works by Laura Wait (whose book works are also collected by Penrose Library Special Collections, University of Denver).

The books from this series were also been exhibited at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland in 2013.

Also on view at University of Denver are books of mine created in response to works in Lovely and Amazing, such as Mica (pictured below).

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Two Plus at Spark

Alicia Bailey Two Plus install1

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.

Alicia Bailey Transformationist detail 2

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.

Alicia Bailey Player detail 5

I have taken on as my task the creation of connections between objects and the subsequent examination of the relationships between objects.

Alicia Bailey Lovers detail 1

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.”

Alicia Bailey Golden detail 1

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.

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Lovely and Amazing at Niza Knoll Gallery

Alicia Bailey l a viewers with maglite 1
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.

Alicia Bailey Lovely and Amazing in progress

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.
Scan

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.

Alicia Bailey Frog box in progress

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.

Alicia Bailey Snake Box detail

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.

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Testudines – a Lovely and Amazing box

Alicia Bailey testidunes WIP 003
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 Alicia and turtle. 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.

L&A Lepideptura boxL&A 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).

Alicia Bailey testidunes WIP 001
These artifacts are arranged in front of a color scan reproduction of the same turtle shell overlaid with mica.
Alicia Bailey testidunes WIP 002The 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.

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Rocky Mountain Creeper

rocky-mtn-creeper-front

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.

Creeper 

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.
 

WIP.LandA.Creeper_Box3

 

I can’t decide which side of my creeper I want all to see, a mirror box helps resolve that questions.

WIP.LandA.Creeper_Box1


 

I am charmed by Bradbury’s 1918 anecdote so decide to include it in the box.


WIP.LandA.Creeper_Box5

 

 

Conveying the feeling of lightness that birds so well express, is one thing I strive for.

WIP.LandA.Creeper_Box6

 

 

Here we go – all assembled, but hard to photograph with so many layers of reflective surfaces. 

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Indian Floral Patterns

Indian floral patterns

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.

I haven’t seen the exhibition but the link to the online catalog is here, and the artist listing is here.

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.

Alicia Bailey Indian floral patterns pages

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.

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Bliss

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss5

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.

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss1

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
IMG 0220
(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
image: none
Paper: provided
structure: innovative (tunnel book, magic wallet, carousel, flag book, etc.
color:single color
adjectives:
dissonant, traditional or historical, sculptural, impressionistic, poetic
Morgan 2013

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.

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss4

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,

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss2the pages were lasercut

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss3

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!