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Burning Me Open

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I have had such a wonderful time working on this book. The project uses materials that are visually and texturally so rich they were a joy to work with.

 

There are 18 copies in the edition, plus one A/P. It measures 5 x 3 x 2 3/4 inches (closed) and weighs 24 ounces. It is priced at $540.

 

 

It takes the text and imagery from my 2009 artists’ book of the same title. I wrote the original text; the original illustrations were oil-paintings, re-created as line illustrations for this project.

 

The book pages are transparent, and thus allow sections of several pages to be viewed at once. The pages are rigid and thick, designed to display well both flat or upright. When displayed upright, lighting can be adjusted for increased interplay between the line illustrations and the shadows they cast.

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text selection from the book:


there is one who touches me so it burns

my hands open

at their feeling of

the length of me

 

The materials:

 

Peltogyne (Purpleheart) is a tree native to Central and South America, growing in the tropical rainforests, This beautiful wood is a light brown when freshly cut that then shifts towards a deep reddish-violet as it is exposed more to UV rays. As a hardwood, it sands down to a smooth hard surface and once waxed feels wonderful to touch. Purpleheart is an exotic lumber, this batch acquired from a US company that insists its suppliers follow Responsible Forestry Practices.

 

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Copper is one of my favorite metals and this book uses both copper leaf and thin copper tape of the sort used in stained glass. When the book is closed, it is possible to see down through several layers. A reality of working with transparent materials and text is that portions of the text will inevitably be reversed. This I find distracting so my solution for this book was to block the bottom inch or so of each page with an opaque (in this case copper leaf) material. I also needed something to help hold the pages together. I had first tried drilling holes in all 4 corners of each page and using copper wire as rivets but the task was fussy, time consuming with the end result visually dissatisfying.

 

The solution I settled on was creating shapes of copper leaf with PMA mounted on each side. The PMA faces the acrylic pages and holds them in place until the copper tape can be wrapped around the outer perimeter of each page.

 

How we did it:

 

The rigid pages that make up the text block are constructed of  several layers, a sandwich (from the bottom up) of etched cast acrylic, copper leaf with PMA on both sides facing outward and a second piece of etched acrylic. This creates pages that are 3/16 inch thick, their edges are sealed with copper tape.

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The covers were planed to 3/8 inch thick, the cover image laser etched in, the title area chiseled out, then sanded and waxed.

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The recessed title label is laser printed copper leaf mounted on museum board.  The book is coptic sewn across the spine with dyed and waxed 4 ply linen thread, using yet another variation from Keith Smith’s well worn Sewing Single Sheets (Non-Adhesive Binding Volume IV).


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My thanks go to Shannon Perry, who created the illustrator files from a series of oil paintings I produced in 2007 and my studio assistants Stefanie Cornish and Jonathan Wiley. Without their help this project might still be in the idea stage

 

Copies of this book are available for purchase from Abecedarian Gallery.

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Hair 2001

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A couple weeks ago I got my hair cut at a small salon in Grand County, Colorado.  On impulse i asked the owner if she would save me the hair clippings for a few days, which she did. So I thought I’d make a book called Grand Hair. Instead I made a book called Hair 2001.


Materials: Hair, obviously. Laseretched plexiglass, waxed Cocobolo wood, linen twine, copper foil, mica. Leftover shapes of copper leaf:

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the last edition book, Burning Me Open, uses shapes of copper leaf applied with PMA to plexiglass. I mis-calculated and for every book an extra shape was cut out. I saved those extra shapes – eighteen 3×1 inch shapes of copper leaf all ready to put into a plexiglass page sandwich. Now what . . .

Mia Semingson Memorabilia

I decided to combine these two elements, copper foil & hair. Why? Copper is so beautiful and easy to work with. Hair is so creepy but tantalizing. A couple of years ago I saw a piece by Mia Semingson called Memorabilia” –  a fixed lid of clear plexiglass covers a box stuffed with her own hair; the box then case bound into a cover, the sides of the box covered with suede. This book of mine is quite different, but the thing Mia’s work inspired is the creation of a queasy feeling that comes with handling a box of human hair, even when the actual tactile experience is that of touching a very different feeling material – plexiglass.  So it is the thought of touching all that hair that is disturbing. On a strictly visual level, the hair in Memorobilia, made of countless layers of rich protein strands, is interesting and worthy of lengthy appaisal. In short, I appreciate both the visual effect and the queasy feeling interacting with her books creates.

 

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The method of assembly and binding  I used with the Burning Me Open is a good fit. Using the PMA that is on the copper leaf to hold each of 2 plexiglass pieces together. Pictured right the foil is affixed to one side of the plexiglass. Bits of hair were put onto that surface, the release paper pulled off and the other piece of plexi placed on top. The edges are then taped together with copper foil.

 

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I have had this silly book –  The History of Hair . . . An Illustrated Review of Hair Fashions for Men Throughout the Ages –  for many years. Published in 1960 it includes a chapter called Look Into My Crystal Ball (The Twentieth Century). The text for my book Hair 2001, is taken directly from that chapter.

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Here are some predictions (paraphrased), the authors made for the year 2001:

According to Coiffure Masculine, by 2001 75% of the male population will be wearing wigs.

Not, however, to conceal baldness, but as fashion accessories.

These wigs will not be a camouflage for natural hair.

On the contrary, they will be worn with great personal pride.

Wigs for different occasions will appear on the fashion scene

Wigs for work. Wigs for dancing. Wigs for dress.

It is predicted that by the year 2001, baldness will be obsolete.

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These predictions I’ve prefaced with the questions, also paraphrased from the book:

By the year 2001, will a lunar hippie protest by means of a closely-shaved scalp?

A balding Astro flash a pair of false eyebrows to offset a full magnetic wig?

 

 

 

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The 6 rigid pages consist of laseretch plexiglass, hair, copper foil and copper tape, bound in a variation of an across the spine coptic style first introduced to me by Keith Smith and found in his book Smith’s Sewing Single Sheets. They are sewn with heavyweight linen twine. The covers are of Cocobolo wood that I get from Bell Forest Products. This is a wood that is too oily to glue well, but for sewn on covers it works very well. Those same oily properties means this wood polishes beautifully. The covers of Hair 2001 are waxed – smooth and silky to the touch.

As an aside, Cocobolo wood also has a strong odor, a very pleasant tangy floral order, sort of like my shampoo. The front cover has a window cut out, into which a sandwich of mica, plexiglass and hair is inset.

I am well pleased with this book. The size (The book measures 3 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 1 5/8 closed) and weight of it feel good in the hands. It is visually enticing and well constructed. The content makes me chuckle.

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Someone Like You and Education of Girls

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I’ve been working on these two books simultaneously. They are part of the Lovely and Amazing series of works inspired by and created from an archive I inherited from Ruth Wheeler, who was my great-aunt. Both completed in 2010, they have been exhibited at Bookopolis in Asheville, NC and in at Vivo Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The covers were begun in a workshop held at my studio in 2008, taught by Boston artist Peter Madden. That workshop was held only a few days after my mother died; Peter’s mother had died only weeks before. We both decided to go ahead with the workshop but I confess here that I remember little of the workshop, the creation of these wood panels or what my intention was. I think I was just working to be working. Shelved for a time, I then created some triptych wall pieces that ultimately I deemed unsuccessful when nearly complete. Once again, shelved for a time. I mention all this because it addresses one of my theories about an ingredient in mixed media construction that I believe adds to their richness in an essential albeit non-visual way. The best I can do to explain this is that a construction made from ‘store bought’ materials (i.e. materials without a previous, rich history), even though in composition, arrangement and general selection of objects may exactly mimic, for example, a Joseph Cornell construction, it cannot speak in the same way, isn’t imbued with the richness that history gives to objects.
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These panels, although constructed from newly milled pieces of birch plywood, have a short history but in that time have been altered and handled repeatedly. Many of the objects now embedded in or attached to their surfaces come from an old archive. The process of shelving and continuing work at a later date adds to these final pieces in way impossible to achieve otherwise.

Both books are coptic bound with rigid pages but they were constructed differently from one another.

The first I completed is Someone Like You. This book takes as its title a handwritten poem transcribed in Ruth’s journal:

Someone like you makes the heart seem the lighter Someone like you makes the day’s work worthwhile Someone like you makes the sunshine the brighter Someone like you makes a sigh half a smile

 

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This text appears split in two on the inner front and back covers in a scan of Ruth’s original handwriting and is then repeated on individual pages throughout the book.


The pages are each made of a layering of photographs (scanned and reproduced via inkjet) taken by Ruth on her camping and picnicking outings with her Camp Fire Girl troops over a span of many years. Also included are pages from her teaching notebooks detailing nature games, pages from her biology notebooks with sketches of specimens and plates from her nature books.

Each page is constructed by treating the front and back as separate pages that are hinged with book cloth around a thin metal rod. So, although the pages are rigid, they can be stitched without the cord intruding on the page surface as the metal rod holds the thread in place, as the fold in a signature book would do.

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These pages are rather inelegantly bound with linen cords, the front and back covers have round recessed areas that for a title label (front cover) and image (back cover) with brass pins holding the labels in place. In order to prevent the weight of the book resting on these pins when the book is lying flat, I also added pins and brass beads to each corner. These double as a mechanical means to hold the larger mica pieces on the cover.

The covers were drilled halfway through outside to inside after the mica is in place, those holes met with secondary holes drilled in from the spine edge. This allows the thick cord to wrap around the outside of the cover but not be inside of the cover. The book closes without the additional bulk the cord would create on the inside.
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Education of Girls takes its title from a teaching pamphlet Ruth used. As the junior high biology teacher, Ruth’s job included teaching sex education and this pamphlet was from a multi-piece set of she used.

WIP-Education-of-Girls-10 In addition to scans and print outs from her teaching notebooks, the pages include small bones/feathers/seeds/plants and film positives recessed into the pages and scans of artifacts too bulky to be included in the book (such as taxidermied songbirds).
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The pages of this book were constructed with a museum board core, the text and images built up on each side. The thickness of the rigid pages meant I could embed the objects mentioned above and could use the more intrusive rigid page binding technique as described in Keith Smith’s book Sewing Single Sheets. This technique also doesn’t require each page be of uniform thickness.


So on two of the pages strips of film positive were sewn into the pages in a way that makes the positives visible from both sides. Those pages were then wrapped with handprinted book cloth on the edges to both protect the positives, hold the protective layer and add enough material to the pages to hold the intrusive coptic thread in place.
The text is primarily transcriptions for audio recordings I made of conversations I had with Ruth during her 97th year about some of her teaching accomplishments and adventures. Also included are pages from the original Education of Girls pamphlet, and a photograph of Ruth’s mother and aunt, with whom she travelled to Columbia College in 1928 so Ruth could take a summer course in sex education.

 

Both the front and back covers have mica recessed over paper artifacts. This recessing of the mica meant I could avoid having pins protrude from the covers. Each cover also has a hold drilled entirely through it. These cavities hold artifacts (one shell each front and back) suspended between layers of mica.

I wanted Education of Girls to be more elegant than Someone Like You so I bound it with much thinner cord, 4-ply waxed cord.
In this case I did wrap the cord through to the inside, which makes the cover hold tighter to the text block and not be quite so floppy.

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Wind, Water, Stone

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For this piece I created a series of three books that, although they result in one boxed set,  I worked on for three weeks during the Book a Week projects. The three books are made with  porcelain book covers I made years ago but never found the right content for.  The text use some monoprints printed off plexiglass onto lightweight Japanese paper using an etching press.

Covers:

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Years ago I wanted to work more with clay so I took a class with a Denver area ceramicist, Mary Cay, at the Art Students League of Denver. Mary works with porcelain which really is the only clay body it makes sense to use for bookcovers. Fired to high temps,  porcelain is strong and makes a wonderful sound when it touches itself. I spent most of the workshop on these three small sets of book covers. We used a clay body called Zen, so I imaged with covers markings that seemed zenlike. After multiple firings the covers were put on the shelf. For years . . .

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Content:

Octavo Paz is a favorite poet of mine . . . I have a text based on his poem Wind, River, Stone which, I hasten to point out, is not a real translation but a re-wording of his poem that better suits this project than the more accurate translations that have been done. This one is more casual.

Water hollows stone,

wind scatters water,

stone stops the wind. Water, wind, stone

Wind carves stone,

stone’s a cup of water,

water escapes and is wind.

Stone, wind, water.

Wind sings in its whirling,

water murmurs going by

unmoving stone keeps still.

Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:

crossing and vanishing through their empty names:

water, stone, wind

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I selected portions of the monoprints, cut and folded them to size. I imaged the text via laserprint transfer on the back of the pages. As the pages are lightweight the text shows through as a gray rather than a black.

Each book contains one of the three first stanzas with the final stanza repeating in each book.

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I then made individual boxes for each; the labels on each box are created by laser transfer onto the monoprint scraps; those three boxes are in turn housed in one larger box, the front cover and spine label produced in the same way.

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I am very satisfied with the interplay between the weightiness and density of the porcelain covers and the lightweight, airiness of the text blocks. Both materials are fragile in entirely different ways from the other.

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Owned by University of Denver, Penrose Library, Special Collections.

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Tongue Tied

Tongue Tied_0175This post comes at the request of a special collections librarian, curious about the use of wax (problematic in its stickiness and fragility) on the lid and base of this book’s container. The material use of Tongue Tied is an excellent example of material selection bearing close relationship to project content/concept.

Tongue Tied is based on a poem by Patricia Beers, a disturbing poem describing the almost unbearable results of a lifetime of keeping silent.

The subject matter is a painful one. One reaction to pain is what I think of as ‘fear biting’ – holding others at bay because to allow closeness invites pain. To get physically close to this text isn’t impossible but does require caution as it, and the box it is housed in, have the sharp end of nails sticking out.
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When one is silent, others have to to dig and pry to find out more. Some of the text is hidden beneath images that need to be lifted to be read, other texts have incomplete letter forms (accomplished by using an asian lace paper), making passages difficult, but not impossible to read.

Tongue Tied_0174Another panel lifts to hold part of a broken and smashed thimble. This obvious use of artifact links to the text line ‘whatever silenced me when young has put a thimble on my tongue’. Tongue Tied detailAnother panel lifts to expose the narrow shape I use to depict a scar, this one has stitching implying the wound is held closed, but barely.

A less obvious relationship of material to content is the use of a plasticized Wyndstone paper that reminds me of commercial floor linoleum. Here is the back story behind that selection:Tongue Tied_0177

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite classes was science. The teacher, Miss Koury, was big boned and focused, quite often the butt of jokes I didn’t then understand. She brooked no nonsense. Typically there would be a lecture, a demonstration and then we would line up to gather materials for our assignments. I was a well-behaved child for the most part, and didn’t get in trouble for talking in other classes. But in Miss Koury’s class, wild with enthusiasm, I was frequently reprimanded for talking while waiting in line.

My punishment was to be locked in the storage closet during the best part of the class. The closet had a commercial linoleum much like the Wyndstone paper. I was silenced. My love of learning had to live side by side with a fear of being punished for displaying joy at the process. I spent the rest of my school life avoiding science classes. When I saw this Wyndstone paper at an art supply store, I was stricken by something I couldn’t then identify or articulate. I bought it not knowing why soon after I brought the paper to the studio I found this poem and began designing this book.

Tongue Tied_0173The book is contained in a black mesh box, the mesh walls held in place with galvanized nails, at the same time the mesh wraps around the outside of the nails; additional stitching helps hold everything in place. The use of ‘galvanized’ material is relevant. One definition is to shock or excite someone into taking action, the other to coat iron or steel with a protective layer of zinc. I leave you to reason why I chose these particular nails for the box.

Tongue Tied_0171Both the base and lid to the box are painted black, and then overcoated with a beeswax/damar mix that has been pigmented with dry charcoal. The result it a semi-hard surface that remains sticky, attracting bits of dirt and dust, adding another layer of the fear-biting concept to this work. Emphasizing duality by enticing one to come closer and then imposing risk of harm when one does come closer is a hallmark of some of my more succesful pieces.

Tongue Tied is held in several public and special collections including University of Colorado, Norlin Library, University of Utah Marriot Library, University of Denver Penrose Library, University of Idaho, Savannah College of Art and Design and Oberline University. A few copies remain and can be purchased by contacting any of my dealers: Abecedarian Gallery, 23 Sandy Gallery, Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.
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Cosmeceutical Collection

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This collection was designed in 2006, and the first copies produced that year. It is in the Alan Chasanoff collection, and in Special Collections at the Topeka County Public Library, Emory University, Scripps College, University of Washington, University of Miami and University of Denver. The archives are also held at University of Denver.  It was reviewed as part of Emory University’s Artists Book Showcase; read that review here.

Rather than completing the production all at once, I produced copies in response to orders, and this is one instance where procrastination was of tremendous value. Knowing more now than I did when the boxed set was designed and having access to different tools has benefitted the production process and end quality of the piece.

The set combines three of my miniature books (Belladonna, Compact Beauty and Lashlure), books that use cosmetic cases as containers, in a custom made box.

Production of the miniatures may be the focus of another blog entry – here I am concentrating on the box itself. Here is what the individual books look like:

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The box tray has 3 recessed areas, each of different size, shape and depth, for each of the miniature books.

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I considered using wood and having the recessions routed out, and also considered laminating individually cut pieces of thinner material, such as Davy board to make the base. I eventually settled on a product called Balsa Foam.

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Starting with sheets of 9x12x1 inch Balsa Foam, I cut them each in half using 2 partial cuts with a power miter saw.

 

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I then used a drawing template to mark the surface for the interior cut outs.

 

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These were then cut out with a power scroll saw, after first drilling holes in the cut out areas for insertion of saw blade. Balsa Foam is a handy product but I don’t plan to use it again. The dust generated by manipulating it is no doubt toxic and, even though I used the denser of the two grades it is subject to cracking and breaking.

Each recessed area requires a different depth so platforms for Belladonna and Lashlure are cut from museum board and inserted them into the appropriate area, holding them to the correct height by shimmng them from underneath with built up pieces of foam core. Compact Beauty does not require a platform.

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After the tray is shaped, it is sealed on all sides with acrylic polymer. This helps contain the dust and lessens the absorption rate. Pared down leather is used to line each recess sides and bottom. The top surface gets a second coat of thicker polymer (a gel medium) that shows texture, then is painted with two layered colors of acrylic paint. The top layer is an ‘interference’ pigment so has a subtle sparkle to it, similar to that of many cosmetic products.

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Pink leather (from Harmatan) is laminated to 2 play museum board, then trimmed to strips the length of the box sides by the tray height plus 1/8 inch. After the edges are painted with liquid acrylic ink, they are attached to the tray box sides.

There isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the production of the box’s outer shell. Prior to gluing the tray into the shell, a ribbon is run across the underside of the case between the recesses for Belladonna and Compact Beauty – the ribbon comes up into the tray and makes removing the books from the recesses much easier. Lashlure doesn’t require a ribbon.

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The case has a pink leather spine, the paper coverings are Mohawk Superfine Text laserprinted and then overpainted with a mixture of acrylic (pink again!) and methylcellulose. This is a necessary step to seal the transfer toner, which otherwise will flake off. Prior to this step, laser foil is affixed to the title portion of the text on the container lid.

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Snail – class Gastropoda

IMG_1343To celebrate their upcoming one-year anniversary the Morgan Conservatory, a paper and book arts center in Cleveland, OH sent me two sheets of their handmade paper with the request that I make a piece — the instruction was simply to ‘to as you like incorporating the paper provided.’
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Each sheet of the 12×22 inch paper is gray but of slightly different values. The fundraiser is called the Snail Mail Paper Trail so I made a book called Snail class Gastropoda, and decided on a meander book structure. Meander books are easily made from one sheet of paper, but I opted to create panels and stitch the panels together rather than using a fold.

 

 

 

Using a large punch with a spiral pattern, I cut some spirals out of the lighter toned paper, then hand cut some freeform shapes resembling snail trails keeping the cut outs to use in the box. I then laminated the sheets together, and cut the laminated sheets into 8 square panels, each about six inches square.

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To minimize the problem of thread tearing the pages at the joints, I cut some mica washers in half, glued them to the paper edges and sewed through both the mica and the paper at each sewing station. I used lightly waxed linen thread and opted to leave the tails of each thread dangling. The text, a piece I wrote using found poetry techniques with Wikipedia as the original source, is laser transfer.

 

Snail class Gastropoda

 

found in ditches, deserts, the abyssal depths of the sea.

 

snails with a gill can be found on land

 

snails with a lung found in water

 

 

gliding along on a muscular foot

 

 

covered with epithelial cilia

 

 

waves of contractions

 

 

move down the ventral.

 

 

they walk over razors

 

 

a layer of tissue covers the visceral mass

 

 

snails need calcium

 

 

(the operculum of some has a pleasant scent when burned = incense)

 

 

most bear tentacles on their heads

 

eyes carried on the upper stalks

 

lower set olfactory

 

 

a snail breaks food using radula

 

chitinous structure microscopic hooks cuticulae

 

 

in a quiet setting, a snail can be heard crunching

 

radula tearing, eating.

 

 

the snail grows, so does its shell

 

secreted material added to the edge

 

the center of the shell’s spiral made when the snail was young

 

 

hermaphrodites

 

snails perform a ritual courtship

 

inseminate each other

 

each brood +/- 100

 

 

snails need calcium

 

eat the egg from which they hatched

 

 

cannibalization by babies of other eggs (even unhatched) has been recorded

 

 

 

 

 

The paintings of snails are watercolor/gouache. Each page was coated with conservator’s wax after transferring/imaging.IMG_1334
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As much as possible I like for my work to include artifacts that have a relationship to the piece, in this case snails. I used a wooden frame with recessed plastic glazing for the box walls. I filled the recessed area with sand and snail shells, covered the plastic with a layer of very thin and translucent Japanese paper, laid in the cut shell and snail trail shapes I’d earlier cut out from the handmade paper, then added another layer of the thin Japanese paper.
IMG_1338The inside of the box walls are covered with gray moriki paper, the outside and top edge of the box walls with multiple layers of Thai unryu. The tray was then affixed to fabric and paper covered book board. A ribbon pull makes it easy to pull the book out of the tray without damage. The box label is laser-transfer.

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Albinus

Dr Albinus

For whatever reason I have amassed a collection of anatomy books; IMG_1109one of my prize possessions being an out of print source book called Images of Medicine. Less prized (perhaps because it is a readily available and inexpensive Dover edition) is a copy of Albinus on Anatomy, a Dover book with 80 original Albinus plates, an account of Albinus’ work and a summary of the original preface to the 1747 edition of Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani. His preface described in great detail his work methods, problems he encountered and reasons for adopting the methods that he used.

 

 

Using the same structure as last week’s Picture Book, I created sleeves from a lighter weight translucent mylar. Although the quality of increased transparency was the reason behind the decision to use the lighter weight product, I found it wasn’t rigid enough to hold the inserted images in place with friction.

 

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This is one of many examples of the inability of materials to mimic the vision in my mind. Solving these problems with attentiveness to the original concept can make a book’s content visually richer. On the other hand, it is easy to overcomplicate, to rely on a formulaic bag of tricks that don’t necessarily fit the project but are familiar and efficient. My solution here has elements of both – I hand stitched the tops and bottoms closed. The translucent sleeves hold two cropped reproductions of drawings from Albinus on Anatomy, back to back and printed on a commercial paper called vellum. Thus some of the reproductions on one side are visible through the other side, but only in a few areas and only when one puts pressure on that area of the sleeve.

 

 

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Other than the brief introduction, which is a summary from various sources of information about Albinus All of these images and direct quotes are from Albinus on Anatomy by Robert Beverly Hale & Terence Coyle published from original Albinus plates by Watson-Guptill Publications in 1970 reprinted by Dover Editions in 1988.

 

I selected the text which was laser printed on another commercial paper with a peach toned mottled surface, using a font based on DaVinci’s handwriting. The text pages were laminated back to back to make stiff leaf pages which were inserted into the concertina’s pleats, as were the images in their vellum sleeves. The book has a total of 6 rigid pages and 3 vellum sleeve pages. All was proceeding well other than the inadvertent inclusion of an extra spine pleat (haste makes waste and all that).

 

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This I didn’t notice until the book was cased into the cover (with tabs of spine tyvek inserted in between the museum board cover board and the elephant hide cover paper, split board style), the pastepaper endsheets in place. It wasn’t until I took the book out of the press that it became clear that the back end had an extra pleat. So every time the book is opened and examined, it doesn’t fold up properly. Nothing to be done at this point except finish it up as is. Studio practice for this book, as for most of mine, doesn’t make it easy to disassemble the book but I do plan to re-work the ordering of the text and images in the creation of a very similar book as it works on many levels.

 

 


The book’s cover label is an inkjet print from another of my favorite books, the Encyclopedia Anatomica. A Complete Collection of Anatomical Waxes an astounding survey, magically photographed, of the collection of “wax” figures created (and still on display) at the Imperial Regio Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale in 1775. Every single part of the human anatomy was cast in a somewhat mysterious process and the resulting ‘wax’ bodies, all either life sized or larger, were then arranged in remarkable artistic dioramas, some called “death,” “the triumph of time,” ‘the plague,” “syphilis,” etc. Then each part of the body was also displayed individually so one can see here brains, hearts, testicles, penises, ovaries, eyeballs, veins, skulls, wombs, fetus (in all stages of growth), babies, old people, dead bodies, decaying bodies, etc.

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Euxoa Auxiliaris

Its one of those summer seasons when the Miller moths are abundant. It makes me think of the 2002 exhibition “The Miller Family Story” by Sandy Lane (see photo). For her series Lane used the aggravating presence of Miller moths in her home and studio as a catalyst to a body of work that included painstakingly painted and mounted months recessed into cut away areas of her paintings.

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My project was triggered by a moth who landed on the wide expanse of PVA in an open gluepot and become mired but not submerged. I removed it and slid it onto a circle of mica. The combination of moth/mica/circle became the dominant element in the book Euxoa Auxiliaris.

To begin, I collected death moths from around my studio, some with wings folded, others with wings more outspread. I stuck them with insect pins to a piece of foam core and coated them liberally with Rhoplex (which is similar to an acrylic gloss medium). I scanned and printed an antique sheet of various types of moths onto a lightweight textweight paper and found some two inch clear circular boxes. After determining a page size, I cut 4 pieces of poplar wood to the final page dimension and drilled a 2 inch hole in each. IMG_1089

Each wooden page is covered with some scrap from Cave Paper. On one side of each page the circle cut out is left exposed, on the other side it is covered with a lightweight board to which the inkjet moth images are laminated. Before mounting onto the wooden page, the inkjet print is protected with a sheet of mica. Using wet adhesives with mica doesn’t work well because it isn’t porous; contact adhesives aren’t transparent enough. So I use a PMA two-sided film to laminate the mica to the inkjet prints.

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The moths are arranged and glued with PVA to the mica, the clear box placed over them and glued into place. A paste made of ebony sawdust and Rhoplex is used to fill the gap between the wood and plastic. The text block is held together with a variation of what I call the Mongolian Binding, a rigid page binding technique that works well with thick pages. I saw a variation of this used on a book by Jana Sim at Abecedarian Gallery called My Doors (see picture). my_doors_1.jpg

The tapes for Jana’s book are leather; I used laminated bookcloth instead as I wanted less bulky tapes.

WIP Euxoa Auxiliaris 9WIP Euxoa Auxiliaris 10 The covers are book board covered with lightweight Nepalese paper on which on image of a swarm of Miller moths is printed. The circular title label is recessed into the front cover board, printed on paper and protected with a sheet of mica. The text is laserprint transferred to each page. On the outside pages, black and white laser printed images are transferred to the top, bottom and fore-edge pages of the text block.

Above details the structure and handling of materials. Now here is a bit about how the text and other content of the book was developed. I started reading about the moths that I’ve always referred to as Miller moths. Using the information I found about these predictably fascinating pests I wrote a snippet less scientific than the sources I used, along with a second snippet consisting only of a string of words, the two writings kept separate by use of different typefaces and placement. The text for the book follows:

Like the dusty flour covering a miller’s garb, wings covered with fine scales easily displaced, eyes, pale colored, reflect light, appear to glow.

In army-like groups they crawl across fields or highways, migrating towards the mountains.

Sleeping by day, they awake at dusk. Thinking all light is the moonlight they use to guide their nocturnal journeys westward, artificial lights confuse their insect response.

During this moist year, they have lingered here, flapping about in my cold coffee, or taking a fatal dip in an open glue pot.

Spiraling to the source a moth to flame

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The book measures 3.5×2.5×2.25 inches and was finished on July 5, 2009

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That Milksnake Story

Alicia Bailey -That Milksnake Story
Alicia Baliey-That Milksnake Story

I have some beautiful papers from Cave Paper that they call “skins” – it is translucent and crackly, a good fit for the inclusion of snakeskins, which I also have a supply of and a fondness for. There is a single sheet structure that I have seen referred to as a maze or a meander book but the reference I like most (and that I can’t find now that I’m looking) is a snake book (I think Scott McCarney calls it this). An obvious structure choice for this book. –

Another trigger was a book I had in the studio Reptile Medicine and Surgery by Douglas R. Mader with beautiful reproductions of reptile anatomy.

Alicia Bailey - That Milksnake Story 3

After folding and cutting the paper, I painted with gouache on both front and backsides. I have lately been using a writing technique similar to those used for found poetry. My texts do not necessarily conform to poetic form but the guidelines are similar. Text on the frontside was created from an article published in the July 3, 1930 Walnut Grove Tribune – a bit of folklore (what might today be called an urban myth) about the milksnake.

 

That Milk Snake Story In the pine barrens I caught a large snake black-and-white serpent immune to the bite of any The sight started a line of snake stories. A cow that suddenly went dry watched, she would go to the far pasture low invitingly A snake would creep out of the grass milk her. When the snake was killed quarts of milk gushed out. The cow pined away and died. A sad story; true as most.

On the backside is a text written from various encyclopedia entries, again, using found poetry methods. I digitally formated my writings to fit this book then laser transferred it to the bookpages.

The oviparous milksnake whose clutches average ten starts with three, or four or even twenty more in humus or under rot eight weeks later the precocial young need precious little more (brightly born they dull with maturity) even the largest of milk snakes could no more milk a cow than could a bird

For the cover I sandwiched some snakeskin bits in between 2 circles of mica and, because the mica is transparent, it is possible to see through the mica to the image painted on the first page of the book.

 

The book when closed measures 7x6x3/4 inches, and extends open to 7×22 inches.

This final images shows the page orientation etc. of the book, and that it remains really, a one sheet structure.

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