Art & Soul -- series finale

Yeah, it looks harmless from here, but working on this book is like trying to breathe water sometimes.

The above photo is a close-up in the book I started in "Illuminated Vision: Giving Voice to a Favorite Poem." In the class description, our instructor LK Ludwig said:

"This class hopes to focus on the use of narrative (in this case, a poem) to inspire personal content—we will use a poem as our structure for this project giving you a foundation to then create personally meaningful work around your own musings. The product will be a treasure-filled 5-6 page book, bound into the covers of an old book. "

I haven't really read much poetry since college... the only one I could really remember much of was "If" by Rudyard Kipling, thanks to a fragment quoted in "Harriet the Spy": "If you can keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;" But it wasn't really doing much for me. So I chose to use the lyrics of "Someday" by Sugar Ray.

This was a double-edged sword for me. That song was playing in heavy rotation the summer that my mother died, and I knew I'd never hear it again without thinking of her. When my father died, I added those memories on as well. Which is fine, when the song comes on the car radio and you can lose yourself for a moment, then move on.

But I found myself delaying printing out the pictures I wanted to use. Then I delayed packing up the class materials. By the time the class rolled around that Monday, I'd accepted that I probably wouldn't make it through the class without at least tearing up.

LK's demo of a technique helped push all that to the back of my mind for a while.
She places something patterned (a fern frond, a stencil) onto brass or copper mesh, then sprays it with patina solution. The exposed part corrodes and darkens, while the part covered by the other item remains shiny. One of the other students realized a stamp coated with Versamark ink (a clear embossing ink) will have the same effect, so I used a gate stamp I bought on Alberta Street the day before.
She also showed us how to do water transfers, using cheap photo paper and a Magic Spoon of Power:Then she displayed some of her finished books for us to page through. And that was about it for instruction, which probably would've been enough for me if I weren't on edge that day.

I've never really used eyelets or much metal before. And my emotional vulnerability was dragging me back to habits that I normally have under (better) control: wanting to be led by the hand, wanting to do it 'right,' and all the other stuff that goes along with it. I kept asking my poor seatmate Deryn what we were supposed to be doing, and if I was doing things right. She must've been really close to stapling my mouth shut. ("There is no right way! Just do whatever the hell you want and leave me alone!") But she didn't; she just said things like, "yes, you could do it that way if you like the way it looks..." Good God. Makes me want to smack myself just thinking about it.

And then I finally started to get it when I picked up a piece of ephemera LK had brought to class, the page of a children's book in the first photo here. It was the words in the first definition of "close":

"The lamb is close to its mother."

Finally, the page plans started to unfold as the song played in my mind.I didn't have most of the stuff I wanted to use, but I knew it was waiting at home. Like the golden hand-dyed ribbon on the top, center and bottom of page two. My mother's favorite color was yellow (so of course she painted my room yellow! It took a long time to get over hating sunshine yellow), so I looped a snippet of ribbon next to our picture. LK urged us to 'use the good stuff' some of us -- okay, I -- tend to hoard and then forget we have in our stash.

Here are some of the pages I've finished so far:I was the last person in class to finish up, since I didn't have to pack or catch a plane. When I was mostly ready to go, I stopped by to thank LK... and that's when it all came to a head. I started blubbering about how I probably chose a narrative that was too meaningful for a learning experience like this, which brought my creative flow to a halt, and I'm not usually this much of a mess, and the first time I saw her work I was so stunned by its beauty and fragility and strength... and, and, and...

She was so kind. She just let me get it out, and hugged me about three times.

I suppose I'm not the first to melt down in or after a class, but it meant a great deal to me that she listened. I was so touched, especially considering that she had so much worrisome stuff going on at home while she had to teach 3,000 miles away. I will never forget that.

Just posting this makes me feel kind of raw. Yet and still, I need to express it more than I worry about how it will look or sound.

And th-th-th-that's art, folks. Remind me to post pictures of the book as I go.
Posted on October 16, 2007 and filed under "Art and Soul Portland", "artist books", "dimensional collage".