Monday, December 29, 2014

Fishbone Fold and Fibonacci

After posting about the Fishbone Fold here and here, I got a comment from reader Susan J, who mentioned a book about Fibonacci numbers "and, among other items, their relationship to botany." I asked the members of my household if they had heard of Fibonacci numbers. Both had. "Any elementary school kid interested in math and science knows about the Fibonacci numbers." Well, okay. That hadn't been me.

Fibonacci numbers are a sequence, published in a book for Western European audiences by Fibonacci (Leonardo of Pisa) in 1202, although a version had appeared earlier, in Sanskrit (200 BC). Apparently, you can see the pattern in ferns, pineapples, and pine cones. 

The next number in the sequence is created from the two preceding numbers.
1  1(+1)  2(+1)  3(+2)  5(+3)  8(+5)  13(+8)  21(+13)  34(+21) 55 89 144 233 377

I began with the image of a nautilus shell and with the inspiration of John Zurier's work fresh in mind as I painted 37" wide paper. If the nautilus shell doesn't actually contain the sequence, it appears to.

This one has the sequence used on the pages, with 1/2" backbones.
1/2   1/2  1  1/2  2  1/2  3  1/2  5  1/2   1/2

This one, about 21 inches wide when closed, 
has the sequence used on the connecting backbones, with 3" pages. 
1  3  1  3  2  3  3  3  5  3  8  3  1

I liked the long one as a paper sculpture, but decided it needed covers for storage. Hard covers would have made the outside appear heavy and would detract from the delicate colors and lightweight paper inside. If I'd wrapped boards in painted paper there would be no point to the inner painted paper; it would give away any delight or surprise too soon. I settled on soft folded covers to echo the folds of the inner structure and that could be arranged like waves as well. White seemed the right background. I cut window slits in the same sequence for the front cover, so I knew which way was up. Leftover pieces of the painted paper were glued to the inner cover layer to show through the slits. Gluing them there allowed for more dimension: the shadows could fall through the slits as well.

Wishing you a serene and creative new year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

For the Love of Painting, Texture, Light, and Place: John Zurier

At a memorial gathering for a colleague, I met another colleague: a charismatic painting professor who said he was on leave this year and wasn't teaching.
"Sabbatical?" He said no. But when I pressed him further, he said, "I have my first museum show going on, and a book coming out."
"Oh! Where?"
He mentioned a few places, then said, "The Berkeley Art Museum."
"Wait," I said. "What's your name?"
"John Zurier."

A frequent BAM visitor and member, I had been planning to go see the recent exhibitions there anyway. (They were the last ones before the museum closes for nine months to rebuild itself anew in downtown Berkeley.) But I was curious how my meeting the artist would affect my viewing the show. These would be paintings he created while leading a student trip to Iceland.

I met up with a friend, an art history professor, who reported what a mutual friend had said about the paintings, "It's not what you think." We weren't sure what that meant since we had no preconceptions and are open to new work. I said I had looked at Zurier's website and read an interview, and what had onscreen looked like monochromatic paintings, was described as more textured and materials dependent. What I thought was that the screen wasn't going to work for his work. We had to see the paintings in person.

When can you understand the work on screen and when do you have to have it physically in front of you? With Zurier's paintings, you must go forward to see the texture, step back to see the shadows in it. 

Book artist Tim Ely once said that slide images of books aren't books; they are just light. This brings to mind seeing a postcard or this screen image of Jay DeFeo's monumental, 11-inch thick painting, The Rose, which weighs nearly one ton (my post about her here). The tiny image can be a memory jog if you've already seen it, but if you haven't, the work itself might seem baffling. (Actually, if you have walked up close to the physical work, the tiny image seems preposterous.) This is why we have museums. In the museums we can see real art, not flat and unrepresentative reproductions. You can't imagine The Rose. It is enormous, awe-inspiring, almost unreal. 

Zurier's work up close is breathtaking. My friend, who had not met him, was taken with it as well. It is quieter, smaller, meditative. It has breaths in it. It is lightly layered. The substrate in this body of work is mostly linen, sometimes coarse jute. The weave and textures matter. Occasionally, the fold marks of the cloth are purposely included or just allowed to be themselves: all intentional. Each painting is usually titled with the place where it was painted, which alerts us to the relation to landscape. And because they are so minimal, the viewer can enter these places, as far away and unfamiliar as they might be otherwise. 

One I liked, called, Icelandic Painting (12 Drops), was blue and white watercolor on linen; I suspect the linen was once stretched on smaller bars (fold marks show), but here it was laid flat and nailed from the front to a slightly larger panel, all 13 nails visible. The result is that the viewer is asked to pay close attention to the materials and accept them as part of the image: a few blue shapes in a larger expanse of white. 

You are asked to be present. It really is what you think.

The work is subtle, but that doesn't mean the colors always are: one painting appears chrome yellow Héraosdalur 12 (Lighthouse), others are indigo, such as Héraosdalur 16 (Listening to Grieg).

Many of the descriptions list "distemper" as the medium. It is a kind of paint made from chalk and glue (animal glue or casein, which is made from milk) and tinted to whatever color is desired. Shadowy and layered effects can be achieved with it. Thin layers, suggesting translucence.

The museum sensitively placed Zurier's subtly colored work before the exhibition of bright and bold Hans Hofmann paintings, and after the muted American folk paintings and calligraphic samples. The move through the galleries had a nice flow.

While this texture and visceral feeling from the distemper or oil paint and the linen or jute cannot be achieved online, you can get a better idea for his work by zooming in or looking at very large high-quality photographs. Many of Zurier's images can be seen here, and here, and at his website here. There is also an exhibition brochure pdf. Better: go see an exhibit if you can. If you can't get to San Francisco (or Berlin or New York, for examples), a few larger images are presented with the interviews here and here and here. His words help bring the landscapes into focus, gently suggesting how to see them.

And he's a nice guy, too. From our conversation I could tell that we share a similar passion and philosophy about teaching and our students and for making art. I was happy that I could connect with his painted work as well.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Art Lives: Annie Bodelier

At some point in life it feels like we are constantly losing people. Sometimes the loss of someone we don't know affects us more than other losses, sometimes that loss just taps into our accumulated grief. Sometimes it just makes us think.

Random internet searches turn up information we may wish to know or not. Annie Bodelier was a book artist who sent me a card in 2005, a little book and a very warm letter dated 19 December 2010, and who was participating in an online workshop making 100 books from Making Handmade Books. She was serious about book art, and she made those 100 books, completing the task in August of 2013. I'm sure she made many more before and after that project. I only recently learned that she had died on July 8, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. Although she had written to me, I did not know her. I did not know she was ill. Her blog is still online. Her books from the workshop are here

In honor of her memory and the memory of her work, here are pictures of the handmade book she sent me. She put herself into the work; it was personal and meaningful to her. In the letter, she wrote, "The one I send you is filled with images from my visual journals and pictures of some books I've made. I hope you'll enjoy this gift from my heart to yours and I wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the year to come."

"From one of my journals. Title: Conversation Failed"

"Flagbook. Title: Joy"

"Artist Book — Title: Connections. 
By folding over/under you can change the "sequence."

"The maximum number of pages you can look at is 4."

"From journal #16
Title: the Race Is Over Now"

(Connections, image #3)
"I've used: drawing, stamping, collage, rubbing, sewing, transfers."

"My 'junk journal'
Exploring Gwen Diehn's book: The Decorated Journal
Subject: Layers"

"Exploring stenciling in one of my journals
Title: Zonder Woorden=Without Words"

"Found poetry in one of my journals.
Title: The Emperor's Clothes (from the Fairy Tale)"

"Doodle (zentangle)
Accordion Book
March 2009: A Page A Day"

"From journal #17
Exploring eraser carving
Title: Do Hearts Fly?"

I believe that she also made the artist stamp on the left.

Now that fall semester has ended, I've been going through my studio,
trying to figure out what I want.
Fortuitously I found her card. 
Yes, she was very interested in creating artist stamps.

A lively spirit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Star 82 Review December Issue 2.4 is LIVE!

The eighth issue of Star 82 Review, the art and literature magazine I design, edit, and produce is now available online and in print. We are looking at humans in nature, and nature in the city, among other things. Nature sounds romantic, but in fact it has an edge.

Book artists featured in this issue are: Alastair Johnston, with a collage made from found materials in France in the 1980s, and Lisa Kokin, with a new piece made from pieces of zippers that look like text. 

Joining them is someone interested in text and texture: Daniel Levin Becker, author of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature, and regular art contributor Shelton Walsmith, whose photographs and paintings have appeared on book and magazine covers, including Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities from Harvest Books and Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish.

Two ways to read:
(You can also order Star 82 Review 2.4 through Amazon.)
List of links to previous issues.

Contributors to 2.4
José Angel Araguz 
Hugh Behm-Steinberg 
Wendy Taylor Carlisle 
Kevin Casey 
Francine Conley 
Frank De Canio 
David Fullarton 
Howie Good 
Susan Gundlach 
Jim Hair 
A.D. Hurley 
Alastair Johnston
Jean Kim 
Lisa Kokin 
Daniel Levin Becker 
Dan Micklethwaite 
Tendai Rinos Mwanaka 
Tobias Oggenfuss 
Stephen Okawa 
Kasra Omid-Zohoor 
Coco Owen 
Kathryn Paulsen 
Eldon Reishus 
Judith Roney 
Emily Spencer 
David Stallings 
Merrill Sunderland 
Ryan Tahmaseb 
Jonathan Travelstead 
Lynne Viti 
Shelton Walsmith 
Tony Walton 
Luke Warm Water

Friday, December 12, 2014

Echoes of Books in Nature

After playing with the Fishbone Fold from this post, I took a walk and found echoes of the structure in nature. Took some photos and brought the images back to the studio to replay.

I measured and masked, then painted a large piece of Velin Arches,
which looked like this:

For the shaped books, I did not fold the initial horizontal line, but 
I did measure and mark it, made my curvy cuts, then erased the marks.
Scored across the connecting 1/2" bones, then folded up.
Some of the books have slightly different measurements to 
allow for stems or to create the layered fishbone look.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Variation on Hedi Kyle's Fishbone Fold

The Fishbone Fold, whose design is attributed to Hedi Kyle, has been around for several years, it seems, but over here on the left coast I hadn't seen it until just recently. It is an interesting variation on a one-page structure that has a horizontal slit down the center; this one-page structure has several slits, each separated by 1/2" of the fish's spine. The tutorial by Susan Angebranndt at Green Chair Press creates a structure that has overlapping pages when closed and makes a longer, narrower fish. I wondered how it would look if the fore edge was even. It makes the structure more plant shaped, I think. The above photo shows the fishbones on the left, the fishbone variations on the right. These instructions show my variation. It could be made as a tree or flower or pine branch, depending how you paint the paper.

If you use paper that is grained long, the bones (or branches) tend to pop open more; the book is more sculptural. If you use paper that is grained short, the base opens more: you may wish to glue the pages in strategic areas.

You will have 1/2" between the bones (or branches), 1/2" at either end to glue together.

Tools: pencil, metal ruler, bone folder, X-Acto knife and cutting mat, PVA and small piece of board or brush for gluing
Materials: Arches Text Wove (Velin Arches) 10" x 24 1/2"; or Canson Mi-Teintes, Rives Lightweight, or another lightweight or mid-weight paper
Example: 5" x 4" finished size, closed

Arrange paper horizontally.
Measure and mark, top and bottom:
1/2" — 4" — 1/2"— 5"— 1/2"—6—1/2"—7"—1/2"
(=24 1/2")

Align the ruler with the marks, just behind them so there is room for the bone folder.
Connect each set of the marks and score (draw a line) with the bone folder.
(You can see the scores as shiny marks in the photo at left.)

Fold the paper in half horizontally, making the whole page long and narrow.

Open and make marks at all the intersecting folds.

Make marks top and bottom, centered, between each of the wider marks
(leave the 1/2" sections alone).

Connect the sets of marks with the ruler and score these as well.

With the cutting mat underneath the paper,
cut with the X-Acto using the metal ruler as a guide;
make horizontal slits, across the larger segments and across
the new score lines, stopping at each 1/2" segment.
(Exception: You can cut all the way across the 7" segment and the 1/2" piece that follows it.)

Fold up again, in half, long and narrow.

Fold along all score lines.

Start at the shorter end by pushing in toward the remaining folded paper.
Continue pushing in and folding.

Note the 1/2" segments at the ends.
One is in the center of the book,
one is at the front and one is at the back.

Apply glue to one side of the 1/2" segment in the center.
Press together.

Apply glue to one 1/2" segment at the spine.

Press the front and back segments together.
Or put glue on both and wrap them around the spine of the book.

Alternatively, you could glue these segments to 
separate wrapped boards or to a case. 
Add end papers after attaching the segments to any hard cover.

And there it is, a slight variation on the Fishbone Fold.