Getting the Word Out: Jaggery Journal

Happily though social media I connect with people of like minds all over the world. This resulted in getting to know Satya Gummuluri on Facebook who edits a marvelous “DesiLit Arts and Literature Journal.” She graciously exposed a community of viewers to my work and me to the work of others.
http://jaggerylit.com/celeste/
While coverage is fantastic, the journal is an important forum for writers and artists. Rather than explain what it’s all about please read: http://jaggerylit.com/about/.
Thanks to all the staff and contributors of Jaggery!

If we know not who the other is, we shrink ourselves to a small world of sameness.

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Not Alone

A recent entry into The Price of Freedom book art at Howe Gallery.

A recent entry into The Price of Freedom book art at Howe Gallery.


The responses left in The Price of Freedom book, which encapsulate the body of work as a whole excites and encourages me to continue. This latest entry is especially heartfelt since it reflects the truth about violence against women. You feel completely alone. If my work reaches one person so they know that there are others out there whose life changes immeasurably because of rape or any other abuse, success walks with me.
Write anonymously about rape and sexual assault on http://brokennarratives.tumblr.com/.

Tackling Trauma with Art

Next Saturday, I’ll be speaking at Kean University about the work in my exhibition conceived and connected with the realities of violence against women. I have included my words for anyone interested:

Chines hemp

Chinese hemp paper

prah

Paper made with phragmites, abaca, clay and gelatin.

This body of work began with a fundamental element of civilization. That element is paper. Making paper was pivotal in feeling that there was something to be said with the artwork, the right medium for an ex-journalist/artist to manipulate.

Initially the cook in me responded to fiber such as kozo that requires a strenuous series of acts to prepare it for a machine called a Hollander. It beats it into pulp that is then formed in a mold and deckle. But paper is more than the making of it. It has an almost magical ability to transform itself with the help of a great deal of water and the chemical structure of cellulose.

I am passing around three types of paper made and used in this exhibition composed of Chinese hemp, tamale corn husks, and phragmites from the Meadowlands in Kearny: very individual paper that differs not only because of these separate products but because of different additives, Hollander heights and beating times. All this complication achieved something that presented another aspect of civilization: Violence Against Women – a reality older than paper.

The book called “Invisible” began as a prototype. Since the narrative about my brush with death during a rape (in 1996 when a man stabbed and nearly strangled me to death) was important I felt it needed a treatment to raise the bar of accomplishment.

Firstly, I made many images by covering my fingertips in black ink wash, conjuring up how I felt about the rape, hitting the paper with force. This allowed vehement splashes and imprints suggesting the moment. Later I picked one and made it into a transfer – a Photoshopped image printed with black toner on acetate exposed for the silkscreen process. Consistency makes for a proper edition. Black Chinese silk, a luxurious book cloth, graces the front and back cover.

I worked in three studios: Kean, Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale and the Center for Book Arts, the two latter in New York. The front side of the accordion fold has red ink letterpress text along the bottom of the page giving the gist of what I call the big media the event. Blind embossed text (without ink on the metal type) appears on the back side of the book; understated but not lesser sexual violence that does not make the news. A stiff leaf binding gives the book its structural strength.

Since this was not an easy story to bring to the page, making all these elements work was an improbable undertaking. The title was hot stamped by a professional and now friend at CBA, Biruta Auna. The endeavor involved a widening series of cohorts. If it was not for these connections and the funding and physical space from Kean University, it would never be realized. Instead of a book, this is an arsenal of voices, voices that ebbed and flowed during the book’s progress.

Art has an extraordinary ability to transcend trauma and leave a thing of beauty in place of its terribleness. Book art is where we, the people, have our say. The book is not dead as so many will tell you with electronic medium taking full force. It is a malleable combination of things that work in concert with the times. It was the electronic medium of the Internet that lead me to Aesha Mohammadzai’s story. Her face and that of many other women appeared in Google images when I missed the last word and typed only “violence against.” I came to an unspeakable page; one I could not digest myself since I saw in her eyes my own forgotten look of terror. But come back to it I must, and that is how the two other books evolved; through pain and interest, through wariness and idea.

The idea for bosses as you see in “The Price of Freedom” came from a small education in medieval manuscript covers from my Twitter account. Scholars of the book and time period posted links to digitized collections. You can see the first boss I made yourself to know how these things begin, what they look like in the raw.

boss

Brass boss before polishing

My life as a practicing artist/writer comes to fruition in this work. The notion of metaphor used in GWB (that’s not George Washington Bridge or George W. Bush) but Giant Water Bugs came from reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book of biological intensity that creates images from words unlike any other work I know of. The link was immediate when she describes how the insect dissolves and sucks life from its prey leaving only the skin intact. A woman raped, disfigured or assaulted in any violent way becomes a creature whose body you can see but whose interior life disappears in a vortex. Invisibility persists because no one wants to talk about it. They want you to forget. My family has ever uttered the word “rape.” I have said it many times but there has been no discussion and little acknowledgement. Such is the taboo. A fierce piece of history becomes a part of you. It is generally incomprehensible except, in my case, to law enforcement or veterans of combat. They understand the nature of violence in a decidedly different way but a common ground generates that is not found in polite conversation.

These are some my reasons and methods for creating the work you see in the James Howe Gallery. I hope you will pick up the books and read them. You may even engage with The Price of Freedom book as others did by writing your comments on the pages that fold out. No one may ever see this work again but those who have left their messages will travel with me where ever I go. They will attest to the fact that we lived and met here under the circumstances of life and art.

Once Upon a Time at The Center for Book Arts

Ellen Harvey: Looking Glass Ipad, Kindle and Nook, 2014

Ellen Harvey: Looking Glass Ipad, Kindle and Nook, 2014

On Friday, that’s tomorrow, April 18 from 6 to 8 pm, the incomparable Center for Book Arts, 28 27th St. off of 6th Avenue in Manhattan, has a spring exhibition that is guaranteed to pique the interest for a variety of audiences (when don’t they, you may say). Independent Curator, Rachel Gugelburger organized the main gallery in permutations of book artistry called Once Upon a Time, There Was the End. Two themes are explored by 11 artists. “Stories elicited by modalities of the book in the face of technological transformation, and anxiety about the end of the book as echoed in apocalyptic, dystopian and speculative visions.” Heady stuff but mindbogglingly interesting and thought provoking. One of the best things about being here is seeing exhibitions develop and unfold. It is an intimate but forceful space where the work speaks to the viewer without seeping into one and other. You must come to see for yourself what I am talking about. It is the entrance with the red standpipe. Go to the elevator to the third floor to the sequestered world of the senses and the mind.
Diane Stemper; Sample Close at Hand, 2014

Diane Stemper; Sample Close at Hand, 2014

Also on view in the front foyer is remarkable work of Diane Stemper called Sample Close at Hand. Stemper investigates the “metaphor for the cultural context of science” integrating the relationship of nature and scientific discoveries. Her confident hand at prints, book art and book built into Petri dishes. Other featured artists include 2013 Workspace Artists-in Residence. This is where those new to book arts are encouraged to rework their oeuvre to include another dimension of discourse.
These exhibitions present the viewer with an engaging panoply of bookish stimuli and stretches the boundaries of what generates the possibilities of book making.

New morning

It can be done in a pinch

It can be done in a pinch

Continuing work on violence against women: a metaphorical excursion

Continuing work on violence against women: a metaphorical excursion

The birds are chirping happily outside and it is blissfully quiet, unlike the constant hubbub of home turf. The jingling of last night’s bizarre dreams let me know the consequences of the active mind. I was bitten by a large snake, looking for a doctor amid lovely apartments I was viewing. Very tactile, very sensual. I’m 15 minutes away from the day’s destination: The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I came from Northern New Jersey to rest in southern NJ in order to be fresh for the bone tool workshop. I especially like Shanna Leino’s metal tools so we’ll see if she brought some of those. They are unique and beautiful. I made my own sculpture tools a long time ago and they were spirited away (yes, that’s another story too). I do enjoy making things. I quit my job as a journalist in 2009 and have been learning and making, and making and learning ever since. This is my delight and my journey.

BTW above is a quick fix for a sewing station that resulted in the book with the snake pattern cover (strange brew, yes?). I had a wood carton hanging on the wall to hold up DVDs. Off it came. Using sewing tapes & safety pins with heavy metal type for weights, I carried on successfully. Anything is possible in a quick and tumble world.

Rivers of time and making

Detail of Metalsmithing from 2014 Kean University exhibition.

Detail of Metalsmithing from 2014 Kean University exhibition.

I followed a blog concerning the forms, functions and physical properties of paper called The Fiber Wire and don’t you know the writer followed this blog, which I started last summer, dumped and then forgot about. An audience of one is enough to cheer one on to writing for the public again. I stopped in 2009. Sometimes the audience can turn on you and throw a kink in the reserves of good nature about the human race. There were other, more ethical reasons, why I stopped but that is for another time. I’m sitting in a hotel outside of Philadelphia for a night of rest after a recent test of physical endurance. Periodically I put myself through such things especially when on a mission.

The mission, this time, was to learn everything I could about making books in order to apply it to a Studio Arts MA program I was in, from said last summer until my exhibition at Kean University last Sunday. I don’t think I took a night or day off for the last nine months. Besides working in the campus print studio and the metals studio, I went on excursions to the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and the Center for Book Arts in Manhattan where I now volunteer once a week in return for time at the Vandercooks and much needed classes.

You could say this book art endeavor and that of the rest of my life that has included making things to wear (vestiaria), growing things (agricultura), working as an architect {I did build a wall} (architectura), I have not been in combat but I have hunted (venatoria), who hasn’t traded or commerced? (mercatura), cooking is a specialty (coquinaria), and I am quite handy with metals (mettalaria). These are the seven mechanical arts indicated in the title of this blog. They are those pronounced in medieval times (9c) by Johannes Scotus Eriugena, an Irishman born in 815 and dying 62 years later. He was a philosopher and Greek scholar. For my purpose today, he serves as the instigator and patron saint looking over the things I have done and still do in this life. This life has been a combat of sorts and the weight of that fact is relieved by the Artes Mechanicae. What better time to revive the blog that the day before I go to the University of the Arts through the Philadelphia Center for the Book. They are orchestrating a session of bone tool making with Shanna Leino for people like me who have this need. I’ve been a fan of her work since I learned about her at Jim Croft’s Old Ways two-week workshop in Idaho last summer. The information and photos I dumped were about my time there. You see, all rivers merge, twist and move along kissing against the shores of time and disappearing in cascades of intent. Memory is conjured by doing. Doing is enhanced by remembering. So I begin again and will keep you posted.