Literary Arts, Visual Arts
Artist StatementI would like to bring my art books, journals and other visual works to galleries that would like to open a window for people to see how they can create art out of the raw materials of their own lives and to capture their stories in ways that go beyond traditional ideas of a book. In 2009, Gallery SPECTRA founder Karen Summerville curated my first 33Bookz solo show of art journals and handcrafted books. To keep that river flowing, I decided in 2015 to create a new book each week for my blog, which focuses on my artmaking process. Most of the art books and journals that now comprise 33 Bookz are autobiographical and chronicle my experiences at different points in time, kind of like short-short memoirs. My vision for the show is to create a space, ideally 8’ x 12’, that is • part gallery—with mixed media works, art books, box books, and accordion books hung and placed on pedestals; • part reading room—with chairs or a couple of love seats and a small book shelf to hold art journals; and • part art studio—a coffee table with an old fashioned Polaroid cameras, baskets of blank accordion fold books, story books. With a few exceptions, most of my art journals are 130+ pages of writing, graphic and mixed media collages. The reading room section of the space allows people to sit and view the journals. People can also sit and create books; they can take selfies with the Polaroid to use as the subject of their books. Almost everyone I know wants to write a book or has a story to tell about someone important in their lives. However, only a few have actually published, or are in process of publishing their stories in either book format or magazines. Of course, writing and publishing anything is a daunting, grueling and complex endeavor that requires certain skills, fortitude and commitment. Even with all the self-publishing channels now available, it can be an intimidating and costly project. Also, given how the publishing industry is designed to keep most folks out of print, it’s a miracle that a few actually achieve the goal. Yet, the desire to tell our stories doesn’t seem to go away. If we are lucky, our precious stories are passed on to family members and close friends, from one generation to the next. That’s how our legacies, triumphs, tragedies, secrets, and wisdom teachings are preserved for all posterity through the power of the oral tradition. But without a family griot or a tangible record of our being, our precious stories are likely to fade with maybe an obituary to mark our journey on earth. Our stories are the essence of the human experience, the fabric of society, and the essence of human culture. They are all well worth preserving. I would like to offer art journal workshops during the run of the show, to teach people how to weave words, images, graphic elements, and all kinds of stuff—from birthday cards to post-its—together in a body of work that can serve as the raw material for a book, as personal memorabilia, etc. Because art journals are s the perfect medium for simultaneously creating visual and literary art, the workshop will appeal to teen and adult artists, writers, and crafts persons, as well as teachers and storytellers.
I love books. Always have. I love how they smell and feel, their different textures and sizes, the way they weigh in my hands and lap, and the foreplay of their pages against my fingertips. I love the personality of their Titles and colorful covers and even their solid-colored covers with no text—that’s so sexy. And how their inner parts get laid, overlaid, blocked, flushed, and
s t r e w n across the territory of pages for readers’ consumption. The more delicious the content, the better.
I love making books, too. It’s a high form of meditation that centers me completely in the present, in that holy state of “no mind” where thoughts yield to pure creative impulses. That’s where all the magic happens. That’s where the art gets made.
“The love is in the details,” as Oprah says. It’s in every piece of paper, every color, word, font, visual, and appliqué I use. It’s in every stitch of the spine, every layer of glue, and each meticulously measured and cut cover board. Being a visual artist, writer, and publication designer, I overstand how every element contributes to the whole. It’s a fine, intricate, communal art form.
I’ve found bookmaking to be the perfect medium for channeling my visualliterary passions simultaneously. I may start out with an idea for one kind of book, but the finished piece is always a surprise. All I have to do is trust my creative process implicitly and not be attached to outcomes. Forget about making perfect art. It’s all about showing up on the page and keeping the exchange between artist and audience real, from the heart. And if the work touches people even a little bit, then that’s cool, too.
All things magical and everything of the African American conjure / hoodoo / root medicine tradition fascinate me. I love exploring themes of cultural identity, spirituality, family traditions, and the intersection of music and history.
My influences include Frida Kahlo, Joyce Scott, Ernest Kromah, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lucille Clifton, Olivia Gatewood, and Nick Bantock. I am eternally grateful to the woman who first taught me the technical aspects of bookmaking, Rebecca Childers, and the woman who taught me how to breathe a book alive— Kendra Kopelke, poet, professor, and Director of the University of Baltimore’s Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program. Her classes really opened my mind to the possibilities of what a book can be: an experience. She also taught me how to “plork” (her made up word for play + work) and helped me to release the nagging need for perfection, to trust the creative process implicitly, and to be unattached to outcomes. That’s what I call creative freedom.
*Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now