Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sources of Inspiration 3/5: Found Phrases

This is part of a series on my sources of inspirations. There is an index here. These posts are greatly expanded from my 8 minute talk for the Conceptually Bound show.

Sometimes the text taken from books and titles of articles will spark the idea for a book. I find it pays to keep a collection of these phrases, both as inspiration and possible book titles.

Comet Found, ©1987, 2-3/8 x 3-1/2 x 1-7/8 inches
The title, and the text inside this book came from an article in the science section of the San Jose Mercury News titled "Comet Found to Have Heart of Darkness." I envisioned space as a river of stars, flowing from the mouth of a fish, the source of all life.

Comet Found
This was a very early book. I lightly scratched the text in the border and stars on the formica pages.

Astronomers Say, © 1998, 7 x 4 x 1/2 inches (closed).
This book came from an article in the paper titled "Astronomers Say They Saw Space Mirage."

Astronomers Say
I am fascinated by star charts. All the star names were made up by cutting up text from the article and putting words back together. The ones that sounded appropriate became the star names.

The Distance of the Moon, ©1990, 2 x 3-3/4 x 1-3/4 inches.
This book illustrates a story in my all-time favorite book, Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.

The Distance of the Moon
I used phrases from the book on each pair of pages. This one says "She was the color of the moon." I have read this book 6 or 7 times. The imagery is very spacey, cosmic, and poetic.

My favorite unused quote is from Farok, a character in "Dune Messiah" by Frank Herbert. I'm hugely paraphrasing here: Farok sees the ocean for the first time. He says he went into that water one man, and emerged another one. Then he says "the universe is unfinished, you know." Somehow this quote has been in my head for years, but hasn't become part of anything.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sources of Inspiration 2/5: Childhood Memories

This is part of a series on my sources of inspirations. There is an index here. These posts are greatly expanded from my 8 minute talk for the Conceptually Bound show.

zero to twelve, ©2007 4 x 2.5 x 3.5 inches (closed).
There are so many things I remember fondly from my childhood. Many of them seem to have informed my art-making urges. I have always treasured things I find, on the street or in creek beds. The penny and old bottle cap above have such nice patinas. You can see a cicada through the window above. There were cicada in Ohio, where I was born, and where my grandparents lived. I remember hearing their buzzing sound, and seeing their exoskeletons attached to trees. They seemed very mysterious to me. At times these early memories rise up in my mind with a force that surprises me. The numbers on the plastic protractor and the dial (below) refer to charts, maps, time and distance.

zero to twelve
Of course I was fascinated by dinosaurs. And we frequently played pretend games like cowboys and Indians, or Daniel Boone, depending on what movie we had seen on t.v. To start a project like this, I get out all the things that seem related and spread them out. They can dictate the size of the book, and whether the general tone is funky or jewelry-neat. I usually start with one or two interior pages and work out from there. I like to react to things as I go along when I'm making a book with lots of found objects. This makes a nice change from the meticulous metalwork, which is mostly planned out in advance. It's also a chance to indulge in some nostalgia. I still miss the landscape of the midwest, the rolling hills, deciduous forests and the fireflies and crickets.

Myself as my grandfather, made of crickets, grass and rain about 5 inches high, ©1987
Although we moved a lot, I have always felt Ohio was home. We visited my grandparents there as often as possible. I often think about the line of people who precede me. Not only as genetic ancestors, but as people who have contributed to my view of life, even if it's just to react against them.

Myself as my grandfather, made of crickets, grass and rain
I am fascinated by the old layered medical diagrams. The second layer here is a large gear, which I used to represent the spirit. I'm thinking of myself as a cog in a much greater mechanism. I am connected to my ancestors by gears and we are also connected to many other people. The whole world is a large mechanism that has many interrelating parts.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dreams as Inspiration 1.1/5

I keep thinking of more I should have included in the last post. How did I compress this into 8 minutes for the original talk? Many of my ideas about creativity come from a class I took years ago with Jacqueline Thurston at San Jose State. She's very good at helping artists find their own personal imagery.

The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter ©2005, 8 x 7 x 3 inches.
How do I use the dreams I have recorded? My main goal is to think about them frequently. I hope this will allow me to "see" my ideas in dream imagery. I love the way things change in dreams: a car becomes a bicycle, a baby becomes an adult, night exists in the middle of the day, a wave becomes a dinosaur, which becomes a large hill. I can fly, glide, float and swim through the sky in my dreams.

I watch for recurring symbols, interesting images, and words or phrases that strike a chord. My current list of dream symbols includes: bears, dinosaurs, books, people as trees or books, houses, the stars, cars, boats, a girl made of leaves, a woman with sticks for hair, maps, stars, the moon, other phenomena in the sky, sea creatures including fish, caves, and water in many forms: streams, lakes, the sea.

Occasionally I dream of a completed book or a painting. Sometimes I'm actually making something, but more often I just see it somewhere. This camera-book was a hypnopompic image. Although wikipedia says the hypnopompic state and it's twin, the hypnogogic state, are decidedly different, I find them both great sources of imagery and odd words. I would love to make this book.

I also keep a list of what I have been in my dreams. I'm not sure if this relates to art, except to reflect parts of my mind. I have been a pirate, a troll, a monster, the deposed ruler of a small country, my son, a spy, several nationalities, from outer space, a time traveler, a little boy, a man, a bear, a thief, a fish, a medieval serf, Robin Williams, and a man living around 1800.

I used to have a book by Patricia Garfield called Creative Dreaming. It was very helpful to get me started, but I haven't really kept up with current ideas in this area. I don't pursue lucid dreams, although I have them occasionally. I prefer to have images arise out of my unconscious, and to allow them to have their own meanings. I like the feeling that my mind is a vast unexplored land that I can just wander in. I don't want to chart a path, I might miss something really good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sources of Inspiration 1/5: Dreams

Sometimes people say to me "I'd like to get inside your head for a day, how do you get your ideas?" My 8 minute talk for Conceptually Bound 3 tried to answer that question. I have greatly expanded it into 5 blog posts. Each post deals with one way I find inspiration. Most of the books I use to illustrate these posts were included in the two CB shows I have participated in. The exceptions are Bear With Me, included in this post, Dream Focusing Device and Instruction Manual for the Moon II, included in post number four. All the books are linked to my website, where you can see them in more detail.

My dreams are my main source of inspiration. I try to write them down every morning. I go through periods of not being able to remember them, and periods of remembering 3 or 4 in a fair amount of detail. Every night before I go to sleep, I say to myself "I want to remember my dreams when I wake." and "I want to write down my dreams when I wake." I use an inexpensive Mead 9.5 x 6 notebook and a ball point pen.

In the morning I write my dreams as soon as I wake, using the first words that come into my head. I also make at least one quick sketch. It helps to keep my eyes closed most of the time, to see the images I'm trying to remember. It's important to honor the dream, by reporting it carefully and not judging the content. I have had a few alarming dreams, where I commit crimes, but I pay more attention to my feelings during the dream than the actions. It's important to keep these dream records private, at least in the beginning. Parts of my dreams are revealed in my artist's books, but there are parts I reserve for me. After a period of having the most mundane dreams you can imagine, a crisis in my life, or a book or movie, will spark dreams that have meaningful content. It's also sometimes possible to remind myself that I want to have interesting dreams, or dreams about a certain subject.

We can see by starlight ©1998, 8 x 8 x 1/2 inches.
This book illustrates an all-time favorite dream. My son and I are riding through the landscape in a car that changes into a bicycle.

Pages 11 and 12 of We can see by starlight.
We see a woman with stick hair, then she turns into a bird. I simplified the image on this page. In the actual dream she was hopping around on a picnic table.

Pages 16 and 17 of We can see by starlight.
In the end of the dream, we ride into the stars, so I used the star background throughout the book. In the case of this dream, I have an idea of what it's about, but have decided not to "reveal all." I feel comfortable showing the world the pictures, but several scenes and the complete meaning of the dream remain private. This helps me to remember more detail in the dreams, and allows the dreams to be a dialog between my waking mind and other parts of me.

The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter ©2005, 8 x 7 x 3 inches.
This one was originally sparked by a big box of old photos I bought on ebay. When I had them spread out on my work table I realized I could line them up along the horizon line and make a kind of narrative. The project really became compelling when I started including dreamy imagery. Only a few actual dream images are included in this book, but I used dream-like imagery throughout.

The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter ©2005, 8 x 7 x 3 inches.
This spread shows the dream that is the heart of the book. People in my family journey in a boat in the sky.

The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter ©2005, 8 x 7 x 3 inches.
I like to balance the seriousness of my thoughts with a touch of humor.

Bear With Me, ©2008, 5.5 x 4.5 x 1.5
To illustrate this one, I used dreams, childhood memories and objects from our house that have powerful memories. They all have a bear in them. I dream about bears occasionally. I know they are important in American Indian thought. And I love the idea that they are powerful spirit figures. But in working on this book, I decided for me they may represent my animus. Of course imagery can simultaneously have many meanings that are equally valid.

Bear With Me
In this dream some friends and I are threatened by a man with a bow and arrows. We become bears and walk down a long white hall. I hope the guy won't shoot us in the back. He doesn't.

Bear With Me
Here I used phrases from a number of my dreams about stars because I wanted to include Ursa Major in the book. Just as I finished this book I dreamed about a huge sleeping bear. I wanted to poke it and make it come after me. I wasn't afraid, and as I woke, I was about to poke it.

April 20: I added more informational titles for the books and a better explanation of the talk.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

CB3 Panel Discussion and Opening

Last night I went to the Mohr Gallery for the panel talk and opening for Conceptually Bound 3. Each artist determined the subject of their talk. We each had 8 minutes. Slides were projected on a screen. There must have been 35 or 40 people in the audience.

Nanette Wylde, the curator, talked a little about the series of CB exhibitions. "The theme, Conceptually Bound, refers to the idea that the content of the book is in part expressed by the form the book takes." She plans to do more shows with this theme, and is hoping to have a retrospective eventually.

Peng Peng Wang told us how her experience as a Taiwanese-American influences her books. She was amazed by the money culture in Silicon Valley, so the first books she made have $100 bills as covers. Practical Chinese Conversation for Beginners contains cell phones that can be flipped open to reveal text messages in Chinese. They open to reveal an English translation. The book reflects her surprise that relationships begin and end with text messages.

One of Kent Manske's earlier books came out of his reaction to the disaster of 9/11. His more recent work has been more spontaneous and experimental. He uses "picture narratives" to explore things that spark his curiosity.

Melissa Kaup-Augustine talked about Uppercase Collective, the projects she does with her students at the Art Institute of California, addressing issues like war and global warming. If you look through this blog you can see she is giving her class assignments in the blog, and part of the project includes leaving information in the comments.

Lark Burkhart gave a moving talk on combining words and imagery to make books that "say" what she thinks about war on many different levels. Her book Peace Will Grow Through is a plea for people to "release the anger, hatred and fear that make war reasonable, desirable and then inevitable."

I spoke about my sources of inspiration. Basically they are: dreams, childhood memories, a phrase from an article, a wish to create tools to help me through life, and death. I plan to post a "beefed-up" version of the talk to this blog. Stay tuned.

Diane Cassidy, one of the artists in the show and Nanette Wylde, the curator/organizer/catalog creator, at the opening for the Conceptually Bound 3 exhibit.

The show is fantastic. There are a huge number of books, some can be handled with white gloves, which are provided in the gallery. It's a real treat to be able to pick these books up and turn the pages.

I loved seeing so many people standing around wearing white gloves. They are, inexpensive, loosely woven cotton. From a distance they remind me of going downtown shopping in Cincinnati when I was a little girl. Thank goodness we don't have to dress like that anymore.

And the required photo of me, in front of The Findings of the Expedition to an Unknown Land by Ludmilla Paulsdotter.

I was so struck by the range and quality of books in this show. So many different materials, techniques, approaches, and ways of thinking about books are presented. Nanette is very good at picking books. I wondered, looking at the catalog, how they could work in a show. But they do. As you walk from book to book and especially when you can turn the pages, there is so much to experience. You can get a little glimpse into so many different worlds which are unified by a love of books.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Open Studios

Ancient Book from the Zymoglyphic Museum collection. "The text of the book is only found in the natural patterns of the creases, folds, and patterns in its pages."

I'm taking a break from my usual Open Studios exhibit this year. However, the Zymoglyphic Museum will be open for two days, Saturday and Sunday, May 3rd and 4th. I will probably be hanging out in the museum forecourt for most of the weekend, or nearby, in my studio. Be sure to tell me "hello" if you come by.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Conceptually Bound 3

Zero to 12, Judith Hoffman, 2007

I will have work in Conceptually Bound 3, in the Mohr Gallery at The Community School of Music and Art in Mountain View, California. The show runs from April 1 to May 25 2008. There will be a reception & panel discussion Friday, April 11, 6 - 8 pm. The panel includes: Lark Burkhart, Kent Manske, Melissa Kaup-Augustine, Peng-Peng Wang, Nanette Wylde, and myself.

Zero to 12, pages 3 and 4, Judith Hoffman, 2007

There is a catalog available for the show. You can view a low quality pdf at the Conceptually Bound web site. There is a link to Lulu where you can order one for your very own.

Here is the press release:

Exhibition of Artists’ Books Explores Connection between Content and Form
at Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA)

Conceptually Bound 3 opens with reception & panel discussion on Friday, April 11, 2008, 6-8 pm.
The Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA) at Finn Center in Mountain View is now showing Conceptually Bound 3, An Exhibition of Artists’ Books. The exhibition, curated by Nanette Wylde, features the work of 30 artists and runs through May 25 in CSMA’s Mohr Gallery. On Friday, April 11, the public is invited to attend a panel discussion (6-7 pm) featuring five of the artists, followed by an opening reception (7-8 pm). CSMA’s Mohr Gallery exhibitions are sponsored by Heritage Bank of Commerce.

Throughout recorded history, books have been containers documenting and transmitting human culture. It is no wonder that contemporary artists have taken their cultural production into book form, and as is the practice of art makers, pushing the concept of what defines a book beyond conventions and mainstream notions.

“The theme of Conceptually Bound refers to the idea that the content of the book is in part expressed by the form the book takes,” says curator Nanette Wylde, a former CSMA faculty member and currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at CA State University, Chico. “The books in the exhibition reference the individual context of what is meaningful in the artists’ lives and many reflect concerns of the broader culture.”

In a vein similar to literary texts, the content of these works traverse the personal, the political, the spiritual, the physical, the sublime, the abject, the poetic, the playful, remembrance, and desire. The works are as diverse as the artists who have created them. For example, Bay Area artist Judith Hoffman has created an icon to her childhood through the media of blue plexiglass, galvanized aluminum and found objects. Her tiny tome (“zero to twelve, 2007”) is only 4.5” x 3.25” x 2”, but it presents a colorful visual history that includes crickets singing, the view from a window at her grandparent’s house, dinosaurs, playing cowboys and Indians, Christmas magic and more.

Another artist, Judith Serebrin, uses ceramic figures to hold her handmade books. “Soul Book; Quiet Man” stands almost a foot tall and houses within its porcelain form a small, mixed-media book that pulls out. The piece was inspired by Serebrin’s partner and represents so many men whose rich emotional lives are turned deep inside.

In “hiphop at 15” artist Deborah Kogan uses pigmented inkjet prints in a flipbook to show her daughter doing hip-hop. The book form was ideal for recreating the accented and jerky movements of the dance while also allowing the artist to freeze and relive over and over again the nostalgia of watching her daughter dance.

Since 2001, Conceptually Bound has presented three different exhibitions, each featuring a distinctive and separate selection of artists’ books. The artists have come from across North America, Europe, and Asia. All three editions combined have exhibited approximately 170 works by more than 90 artists/entities.

The April 11 panel discussion (6-7 pm) will feature Lark Burkhart, Judith Hoffman, Melissa Kaup-Augustine, Kent Manske and Peng-Peng Wang. Artists presenting work in the exhibition in CSMA’s Mohr Gallery are Jody Alexander, Nava Atlas, Ellie Brown, Lark Burkhart, Susan Goethel Campbell, Diane Cassidy, Cheryl Coon, Kristy Deetz, Brooke Fairfield, Judith Hoffman, Andrew Johnson, Sun Young Kang, Deborah Kogan, Dorothy Simpson Krause, Karen Kunc, Cindy Lee, Paula Levine, Jason Lujan, Kent Manske, Adrienne O’Hanlon, Susan O’Malley, Florence Ormezzano, Penny Nii, Judith Serebrin, Rae Trujillo, Peng-Peng Wang, Ellen Sollod, Ginny Hoyle, UPPERCASE collective II, and Beata Wehr.