So in addition to getting new work ready for my new solo exhibition, opening tonight at the Crary Gallery in Warren, PA, I have also been working on a top secret project.
I live near Chautauqua Institution, and each year they commission a local artist to make a unique art object in response to a book which has been awarded the Chautauqua Prize. This year I was chosen to create something in response to the winning book, The Fact of a Body. If you haven’t read it I think it’s a must read.
I don’t want to give away the whole book, but it involves two stories, a murder and a memoir, which overlap and diverge. Along the way the reader has time to consider their own opinions about some very deep difficult issues, among them, the death penalty. For me though the overwhelming theme is the individual humanity and the unique narrative of each person touched by the story(s).
The structure of the narrative in the book immediately suggested a flag book. The overlapping elements of the narrative in the book seemed ideally suited to the interleaved flags of this book structure. As regular readers of the blog know much of my work involves redacting and altering existing texts, and as a core idea of the narrative is the elusiveness of a single truth, I really hoped the author wasn’t going to e distressed by my hacking her fine book apart and constructing yet another version.
When selecting the passages to include I was drawn to those which left a vivid picture in my mind, passages that evoked in me a lasting retinal impression or a strong emotional connection. My selections were personal and perhaps not indicative of the arc of the authors narrative. The use of translucent vellum to create the flags allows for the text to be experienced in layers and for the various elements of the story to literally overlap visually.
I used sewing as a form of mark making, to emphasize elements of the text, primarily names, and the various physical bodies contained in the original work. I also edited out some elements of text using Boro type stitching, the words are still partially visible beneath the sewing. Boro is a tradition Japanese mending technique. The word itself means rags or scraps of cloth. I chose boro because it seemed that all the characters in the work are patching themselves together, layering new versions of themselves over the old, and also, because the make- do and mend aesthetic seemed appropriate to the tenacity of many people in the narrative.
I hope the finished book reflects the fragility of the stories and bodies in the original text, and that the author forgives me for rummaging about in her ideas this way.
It really was a singular honor to be a part of celebrating this amazing book. I’m glad to say that Alexandria was pleased with the book. Here we are together at the awards dinner.
Congratulations Alexandria on the well deserved honor. And if you are still reading, for yourself a favor and read her book!
Okay back to the studio, I need to find my bench, it’s a mess in there, well the whole house really!