I am deeply grateful to the Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta for asking me to be the featured exhibitor in the May exhibit, "Zen Garden," alongside gallery members Cathy Norosky (carved and painted gourds) and Betsy Cook (metal work). For one thing, I had to get off my duff and make some paper this spring so I'd have something to work with as I thought about what I wanted to present. The papermaking process itself felt very natural, but putting pieces together sorta filled me with a creatively void feeling in that it's been so long since I actually did something to be viewed by more than just the corgis and me. Second, my eye has been shifting toward assemblage work, especially with natural and primitive elements. I have a wealth of material that could be accurately described with both of those qualifiers in the old barn that sits right outside my porch. It was in the barn that I began to see things with which I could create assemblages to match with the paper. I began to play with the images in my mind. And third, in the spirit of "zen," the materials I chose to use were both impermanent in their natural setting and places of lasting wisdom in their own right.
This piece entitled "Final word: Felicity" is .dedicated to my dear friend and mentor, Brian Dendle. Dendle passed to the spirit world almost two years ago, and one of the last things someone found in the last book he was readingwas the word "felicity" written in his hand. My thousands of memories of Brian are tied in the flat scroll that's wrapped with a dictionary entry of the word's definition placed on top of the memory scroll. I chose to mount it on an a piece of barn wood that fell off the barn about the time Dendle died. The hinge clung to the wood. The entire piece is mounted on paper made from burdock and mullein. I needed some practice in hammering, so I added some nails from the barn, and in doing so, I solidified specific memories of Dendle in the wood. I miss his gruffy ways and off-the-wall, irreverent humor so much.
This journal is headed to a friend of a friend in California. I painted the onion skin-dyed paper while it was still wet and had everything from recycled handmade paper to onion paper in the vat. The internal pages are done in rather plain sheets of abaca fiber so that the recipient can write on it without feeling intimidated by marking on the handmade paper. (Some folks just can't bring themselves around to using the paper to carry messages of the heart.) The purple fiber adornment on the front is made of dyed fibers of possum hair.
Journal #2 is rather plain upon first sight, but as one flips through the pages, he/she can see a fairly extensive combination of handmade paper pages that add personality and pastel surfaces for chronicling whatever the owner cares to share on its pages. The exterior is colored with walnut hull dye, and the interior sheets are ones of mullein, tea, coffee, onion skin, and burdock with a little cotton thrown in for intrest.
This piece, "Rain from the North Shield," came together one afternoon when I sat upstairs and watched the rain pour in from the north, a rare occurrence here on the farm. It's mounted on barn wood, and consists of layers of handmade paper - walnut dyed, onion skin dyed, mullein dyed and cotton that was stained with rusty barbed wire. The rain sticks above the center are a seed pod and rusty nail, as is the earthy element below.
The final piece I share here is another homage to the barn - scrolls and nails mounted on barn wood on paper on tin roofing from the barn. Actually from a distance, the tin could look like paper itself. The middle scroll piece has a beautiful piece of snakeskin that also came from the barn - another treasure from the old structure. I'm going to add two elements to the side of the wooden block once it comes back home - two nails that I found after I had the piece installed.
Scrolls keep popping up in most everything I make. I like the idea of some sort of message captured within the rolled sheets of paper. Most of the time, I write a little snippet inside the ones I roll up - a thought, a quotation, a definition, etc. - so that the piece carries that along to its next residence. This is an early photo of this scroll. It has evolved a bit with other adornments and a change of paper, in part. And I have to say, I like it on my wall. It might have to stay with me.
I would imagine these pieces have many people shaking their heads in terms of wondering what the hell I was thinking as I put them together, but as a result of this first step, I have ideas running around in my head unlike ever before. I'm excited to keep at this process, not for public scrutiny or artistic recognition on any level. I'm just happy to have my hands in the paper vat and subsequently, have the paper in my hands.
Indeed, life's better on the farm when I make paper: my heart's full and my soul's dancing when I slop in the messy pulp and smelly inclusions that produce a rather unique beauty.