Here is a little surprise that came to me out of the Art-O-Mat at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento last summer.* These old vending machines now house art from a variety of artists. Even though you can see them all through the window of the Art-O-Mat, you still may not be quite sure what you are buying. Each piece costs one token ($5). If you send a prototype and become an approved artist, you must then create a minimum of 50 pieces to a specified size (2 1/8" x 3 1/4" x 7/8" or 54mm x 82mm x 21mm), send them in on consignment, and receive $2.50 for every piece that is sold. You can see their guidelines here. This piece was made by photographer Ron Nath. Three pieces of his, in color, may be found here and here and here. This one seemed appropriate to share with you now. Until next year, then…
*Addendum 26 Dec 2013: From their map, I saw only two near me, but no! I wrote to the Art-O-Mat folks inquiring about other NorCal Art-O-Mats and Clark told me of the other venues in San Francisco—American Conservatory Theatre; and RayKo Photo Center; and the Exploratorium.
The San Francisco Center for the Book moved around the corner into their new space almost a year ago. And what a space it is! Betsy Davids and I visited last week. Here's what we saw as Chad Johnson, the studio manager and our friend, gave us a tour.
The letterpresses in the foreground, the gallery in the background.
The new hand press.
The current exhibition is curated by gallery owner Donna Seager
In her book, Strange Big Moon: The Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964, Joanne Kyger revealed her struggles with her own work as she told of her life and process as a poet and as Gary Snyder's wife in two unfamiliar countries. What she discovered is enlightening, particularly to those who write. The introductory material in the book says that the journals were not edited or revised. Left in their raw state they lay bare a four-year process of learning. Because of this, the reader learns with her. While the travelogue/historical document (which includes names of beat poets and artist friends and the hearty embrace of mind-altering substances) is entertaining, it is the dovetailing of her meditation and writing practices that gives the book strength and that teaches. Out of the 280 pages, I can pick out two words that Kyger stressed that have already changed the way I see a poem: turning and suggest. Here is the paragraph with "turning": Confused way of turning sentence until it changes its intention many times from the beginning and turns itself into a kind of maze. The intention bores me from the outset, turning in the hand like a bauble to catch a light; which way will surprise. (212) Kyger speaks to the line breaks, not just the breath, but the content. You can change the content mid-stream. We know what so many things look like already: leaves falling to the ground, rain on a face, the steam of a cup of tea. How do we write about one of those familiar topics and turn the hand, turn a corner, catch a light? Maybe we show what is underneath the leaf, that the face is a statue, that the tea was abandoned on a bench. I first learned of Kyger's poetry in 1984, shortly after her book Going On was published, and if memory serves me, I heard her read, "News bulletin from Keith Lampe" on the radio, and promptly bought the book. Going Onfeatures selected poems from 1958-1980, and "News bulletin" is also in another book,All This Every Day. For some reason, I was tickled to find out that Keith Lampe was an actual person, a friend of Kyger's, something she mentioned inStrange Big Moon. Here is a lovely turn for you in the middle of that poem—two lines—as example: that all drivers of motor vehicles remain firmly seated within their bodies while the vehicle is in motion. The turning seems so easy that you might think it just popped into her head, but no. The difference between "turning" and stream of consciousness is craft. Kyger's poems may seem to have disparate elements, but they are mindfully well-shaped. They are surprising and playful as well. The second word I wanted to highlight, "suggest" also comes around to a surprise, but it does not surprise us blankly: we learn something. We get a delightful combined physical, emotional and intellectual surprise, much deeper than you might expect. Another excerpt from Strange Big Moon:
You can't make a point in a poem [i.e. build up with examples.] The reader is way ahead and gets bored way before you finish. Anticipation is obvious, therefore, need not be stated. Suggest and suggest and keep turning. Slightest hint only to follow the turn. The surprise is innocence & revelation of the mind. (230) Suggest and hint. Give enough information so that the reader stays interested, but don't give it all away. Find alternative angles. Keep on turning. If you are interested in learning, in humor, in expanding your idea of a poem, of letting different kinds of voices into your writing as they come to you, in nature, in the spiritual, try the poetry of Joanne Kyger.
Star 82 Review is the online and print magazine I founded last year. Now, four issues later, it is thriving! Wonderful writers and artists continue to send new work, readers comment, and interested people follow the updates on Facebook. In our fourth issue, we look at what we lose and what we gain. When we make changes in our work, choices in our lives, we often discover something new. Sometimes the act of finding leads to knowledge, sometimes to pain, sometimes to a wild mix of varying emotions. New art this issue: we've got words made from photographs by Ron Nath, whose art may be found in Art-O-Mats around the country, and close-up photos of Celeste Maia's book art. These are only two samples of the talented artists and writers featured throughout. The stories, poems, and artwork in this Winter issue 1.4 deal with lessons, failures, and successes that may only be temporary. It's Winter so we've got snow (well, some of us do: we certainly have weather), we're looking at food, and seeking out warm places to curl up in order to sleep and dream and comfort oneself. Maybe we find home.
Contributors to Star 82 Review 1.4 Amina Aineb Matthew Antonio Claire Aviles Ha Kiet Chau Belinda Chlouber Su Cho Cassandra-Halleh Delaney George Dila Cal Freeman Susan Gundlach Allan M. Jalon Celeste Maia Stephen Mead Ron Nath Stanley M. Noah Raul Palma Charles Rammelkamp Rosemary Royston Luz Marina Ruiz Connolly Ryan Anthony Santulli Miles Stearns Eric Tran Tina Vivian Shelton Walsmith Meeah Williams Please see www.star82review.com to read the online issue.
You see them everywhere: personal challenges to do something every day for a year. In 2002, my friend and longtime book arts colleague Michael Henninger took a picture of his baby's first 365 days called Oscar 365. (He said he wasn't always able to get a picture so there are a few blank spaces.) Search for 365 projects and find websites devoted to a photos, collages, drawings, writing, your success of the day and many, many more (say those last four words in your best announcer's voice.) It's a discipline, and it could be gratifying, but I have never been able to sustain interest in doing one kind of thing every day for a year. And I have tried. I can see that if you drew a turnip every day for a year you would get really good at drawing turnips, know turnips intimately. I mean this. So after twice declining the 2014 datebook that someone offered me and watching two other people reject the book, I paused and reconsidered. Look at the nice blank rectangle for each day! Big enough for a twitter-sized story, a haiku, a tiny collage, a thought, a drawing, a fortune from a cookie. The LED bulb over my head went on: I don't have to do the same thing every day for this challenge, I could experiment, just spend a few minutes thinking and making something that would not be for sale, a gift, or for anything or anyone. Maybe it would be a meditation, a way to center myself. And so I took the book.
But I was still curious what sustains someone to continue and complete a daily project. I remembered that Marc Pandone, an artist in Napa, California, once did a beautiful pastel drawing of the same landscape every day. He continued for one hundred days, echoing Hokusai's famous "One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji." I asked him what he was thinking about when he started "Buzzard Peak Observed."
He told me: "At the beginning of 1998, my Sabbatical started spring term, and I took a full year off. I had no plan, I just had to get up there and start drawing—this was the view out the studio from my deck—I had to see how far it would go—certainly Mt. Fuji was in my head." He prepared about six sheets of paper, got started, and after a few days he decided, "This is what I'm doing." His life became intense as the days revolved around the drawings; he stayed home, only running errands at a time when the light or weather didn't seem right to draw. It was a rainy year. Marc began counting on the varieties of clouds and rain to change the view. What began as a warmup or re-entry into his drawing practice turned into a "study of clouds, sky, fog, cold, some snow on the hills…an observation of a place over time." It took on more meaning than he had expected. And it turned out to be more about sky than about land.
At the time, he was also "doing collaborative teaching with some writing instructors," which inspired him to keep an accompanying journal. It was a fairly spare document, describing things that weren't in the pictures. The words described things he didn't draw or that weren't possible to draw such as: "titles, phrases…juncos, cows, gunshots, temperature, wind."
When I asked if he ever got to a point where he thought he wouldn't continue he said that one hundred days—"the Fuji thing—was the target." He wanted to hang in there and keep at it, but "maybe 23-24 days before the end, a bunch of clear weather happened, a bunch of very clear blue sky." And he felt that he would not be interested in drawing the hill with blue above it, that he would be "losing the sense of the drama, the challenge, if there wasn't a shape in the sky to interact with the land. The clouds were exciting to draw." Some of those drawings are diptychs, comparing two different times of day.
Marc told me he usually isn't good at getting into the studio every day, which is fine with him. But in the end, he learned from the strict schedule. He said, "It taught me a lot about wrestling with it, unwrapping it, making something beautiful, poetic." And he wanted to try "getting in the damn studio after years of not doing that kind of daily regiment and practice."
1/1/98 What is this object, ridge line, crest buckle in the earth?
1/10/98 −9am, .5” rain, light showers continue, mild temperatures. Clouds cascade down the canyon as if a Robert Ryman painting is dissolving into obscure land forms.
1/22/98 -The front of clouds moves in at mid-day and lingers. The jetliners engines obscure the crow’s call and flaps of its wings as both pass, miles apart, in unison.
1/27/98 −8:30am, .6” rain, blue sky, springlike temperatures, songbirds feed in morning fog. Cattle across the canyon were scattered along the road.
While mending the fence, Herb Green, who is 84 years old, reflected on the cow’s ability to push through strands of barbed wire and how calves get separated from their mothers.
4/4/98 −8:30am, .6” rain, heavy showers last evening, grasses tall and soaked, lupin and poppy crowd the slope below the house. Fidgety finches rustle in the branches like Merce Cunningham dancers
4/10/98 −930am, trace rain, cooler temperatures, broken sunshine, wildflowers abundant, cows have eaten much of the hillside grasses.
4/10/98 Last entry:
100 days of drawing, Good Friday. On this 100th day- Wendy, Lisa and I climbed Buzzard Peak. We followed the stream, walking along the old Napa Monticello Road, across the abandoned bridge with the 1930’s cornerstone, through the first cattle fence. At the lake shore we traversed a meadow through a second cattle fence and reached the dirt road which winds its way up the ridge. Thick gray clouds passed quickly as we ultimately reached the top. A shower of rain baptized us with chilled moisture upon our sweaty clothes. Tired, we huddled against volcanic rocks looking down the canyon toward our house and studio. A fitting perspective and moment of reflection.
Just starting something new, anything at all, can lead to other projects that you might not have gotten to or discovered otherwise. My new datebook begins with December 30, 2013 and ends January 5, 2015. There is a little pocket in the back for collecting ephemera, if I like. In this digital age, if someone gives you a paper datebook for the New Year, I hope you'll join me in filling in the days. I still don't know if I can stay interested in it, but I'm curious where it might lead. For inspiration, and perhaps as a companion idea, see Kelly Kilmer's March 2013 post "10 Minute Art Making Challenge."
A little over a year ago I wrote about the Little Free Library that lives on my street. Three more have recently sprouted up in my area. The project, started by Todd Bol in memory of his schoolteacher mom, is now in its third year. I'll reiterate: the goal is to promote the installation of 2,510 libraries, which would be more libraries than Andrew Carnegie endowed. Since I checked in with the website, they have added some new libraries you can buy, including a lovely Book Garden that features a combo planter box and library and a Little Red British Phone Booth. According to Wikipedia, "As of February 2013 there were between 5,000-6,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide." The LFL website estimates that by January of 2014 over 10,000 exist and more will have been built. Here are the new four in Albany, CA.
On Curtis, just north of Solano,
and painted to match the house.
The sign is on the rooftop.
Inside, the note says:
WOW! This is the coolest idea! You just made my day
On Sonoma, near Marin school, around Ordway.
You can see it is made out of,
or at least incorporates, recycled wine crates.
The little porcelain knob has a rose painted on it.
On the sidewalk on Peralta, between Washington and Portland.
Garden gnomes for company!
Inside is a batch of sticky notes with the header,
Feel free to use these to write your own reviews!
This one is also on Peralta Avenue, south of Marin.
I'm told an architect lives here.
It doesn't have the sign on it, so I suspect it is
an independent library.
It has no door to protect the books from the weather.
Yes, you can get some amazing and inspiring books for under $1oo, most under $30. These fifteen are some of my favorites. I've included links to my related blog posts. The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems Reproductions of the envelope fragments and their small poems, beautifully presented. Hardcover. See the last paragraph of this post. Nets by Jen Bervin The Sonnets of William Shakespeare printed in gray, with certain words in black that make new found poems. Small paperback. Sophie Calle: True Stories French photographer pairs each photo with an original one- or two-page short story. Slim hardcover. Jess: O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica Jess's paste-ups (reproductions of his collages) collected between two covers, including his Dick Tracy/Tricky Cad series, complete with a facsimile of O! contained in an envelope pocket. Oversize paperback. My post here. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman Drawings, lettering, paintings, photographs described by Ms. Kalman on the front flap: "This is a year in my life profusely illustrated. Abounding with anguish, confusion, bits of wisdom, musings, meanderings, buckets of joie de vivre and restful sojourns." Hardcover. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Intro by Carlos Fuentes, essays by Sarah M. Lowe) Loose and lively drawings, writings, and paintings from an artist normally known for her tight, methodical technique. Thumbnails of each page and translations into English are included at the back. Hardcover. A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel (Fifth Edition) by Tom Phillips A Human Document has been treated, page-by-page to make this formerly Victorian novel a contemporary altered book. Small-format paperback. See my post here. Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz has been die cut to create a new story by Safran Foer. Paperback. See my post here. In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda A lovely illustrated journal, described on the front flap as, "a potpourri of garden lore." Tiny, exquisite details and gorgeous lettering. Sweet Ribbon bookmark. Hardcover. The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction by Dean Young The creative process he describes applies not only to poetry, but to all creative arts. Many examples from visual art are used. His word choices are luscious and wonderful. The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore This classic holds up well today, particularly in this intermingled image and text format. It reads like book art. Very visual. Small paperback. See my post here. The World Doesn't End by Charles Simic This collection of poetry by the 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner contains fantastic imagery that hovers between surrealistic stories and poems. Softcover. 13 Words by Maira Kalman and Lemony Snicket 1. Bird 2. Despondent 3. Cake 4. Dog 5. Busy 6. Convertible 7. Goat 8. Hat 9. Haberdashery 10. Scarlet 11. Baby 12. Panache 13. Mezzo-Soprano. A collaboration. Children's book format. The Arrival by Shaun Tan Tales From Outer Suburbia One is a fantastic story of an immigrant told completely in pictures, the other is a series of short stories that each stand alone with its own style and imagery. Children's book formats. See my post here. Then, of course… Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms Comprehensive book of book structures. 41 artist's paragraphs about their process. Oversize paperback. Expressive Handmade Books In-depth focus on certain structures and their variations. Suggested themes for working with content. Available in hardcover and softcover. Painted Paper: Techniques & Projects for Handmade Books & Cards Variety of techniques for painting paper with acrylic inks and gesso including sgraffito, paste papers, wet-on-wet, stenciling, masking, and layering, among others. A handful of book structures and other projects included so you can put your newly decorated sheets to use. Available in hardcover and softcover.
These are smaller format, softcover—the magazine I founded and edit: