Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Work - Deconstructed Books

A few years ago when we lived in Ashfield, Mass. (one of the hilltowns of Franklin County in western Massachusetts), we helped our neighbors in the Spruce Corner area of Ashfield clean up and paint an old one-room schoolhouse. It had been unused as a schoolhouse for many years, but at one time had been a neighborhood meeting room for various functions. We came across a stash of old, dirty, mildewed books published between 1915 and 1945 or so that had been left there in an unused part of the building (the privy). We were about to throw them out when my partner Bonnie insisted that we save them and take them home. (She does this with animals, too.)

The books have been traveling with me from studio to studio, and I look at them every now and then, always meaning to use them in my work since they are so evocative of a different era. They are mostly novels and stories suitable for children or young adults. What attracts me to them is not really their content, but their physical appearance.

"Dancers in Mourning", deconstructed book mounted on panel with encaustic, rubber, tacks, pigment stick, 16"H x 12"W. (The title of the piece is the title of the book.)

I have been thinking about the disappearance of memory and the parallels between books without content and people without memory. What are we without our memories? Both people and books have a resonance from their previous life and a certain beauty that reflects the passage of time. I guess this wearing away by time relates to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi where "an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing." (Juniper, Andrew (2003). Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence. Tuttle Publishing, quoted on Wikipedia).

The Clue of the Eyelash,  deconstructed book mounted on panel with encaustic, rubber, tacks, pigment stick, 16"H x 12"W.

This is not to minimize the really disastrous impact of memory loss on an individual that leads to the dissolution of a person's mind. I'm choosing to focus on the part of a person that is left when memory starts to go. There is a certain peace that arrives with loss of detail and a lessening importance of those things which preoccupy us so much, mostly relating to time and relationships. In wabi-sabi "nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect" (Powell, Richard R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media quoted on Wikipedia).

Boys of Liberty, deconstructed book mounted on panel with encaustic, rubber, tacks, pigment stick, 16"H x 12"W.

So these pieces are made in the spirit of wabi-sabi in recognition of their imperfection, impermanence and changed nature.

As a former English major, I was reminded of my favorite Wordsworth poem, where he describes the sense of serene melancholy and spiritual longing of wabi-sabi.

And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
      With many recognitions dim and faint,
      And somewhat of a sad perplexity,                               
      The picture of the mind revives again:
      While here I stand, not only with the sense
      Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
      That in this moment there is life and food
      For future years. And so I dare to hope,
      Though changed, no doubt, from what I was...
William Wordsworth
Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, 1798


p said...

nancy, i am diggin these. especially the last two.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

Very compelling Nancy. Rich.

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks very much, Paula and Leslie. I appreciate your comments!

layers said...

I love these deconstructed books works with encaustic. I just did a post on wabi-sabi-- impermanence and imperfection and almost included a quote from the same book. what a coincidence.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

I am very attracted to the visuals of this new work and your comments relating to memory and loss of memory really resonate with me. Very powerful

Nancy Natale said...

Donna, wabi-sabi is apparently very much on people's minds. It could be the economic crunch putting us in a more contemplative state or trying to find the worth of what we have.

Terry, thanks so much for your comment!

marty epp-carter said...

Nancy, I'm glad Terry mentioned you to me. It's nice to be reconnected to another up north artist. The deconstructed books are compelling. I find it interesting that we never get to see the inside (the memory) and only the distressed outside. Reminds me of the velveteen rabbit.

lisa said...

Love these

Nancy Natale said...

Hi Marty, It's nice to hear about you from Terry and I enjoyed your comment. Thanks for looking.

Thanks, Lisa. I think you'll get to see them in person.