Tuesday, June 14, 2011


(I also have a note today on Vote Obama 2010. Please check it out.)

A lovely visit yesterday afternoon with our friend, the artist Nancy Turner-Smith, to see the book she has been working on for a good long time now, and has finally completed. It's a beautifully bound album of short texts and digitally-altered images taken from her own drawings and paintings. "Album" is an appropriate term, I think, given that--aside from its larger format--the book seems to give an affectionate nod to those intimately personal collections that were wildly popular in Victorian times, updating their spirit of meticulous observation of the outer world of nature and the inner world of feeling.

Still, this is a bigger enterprise. The book is called "Falling Rockets, Shooting Stars and the Sound of Bees," and it measures 11 x 14 inches. The spine is clean, brown leather and the front and back covers are a deep blue cloth, incised with, on the front two, on the back a single, undulating line, flowing top to bottom in an elegant path. Inside, two kinds of image alternate: tiny, black-on-white drawings that have the feel of finely outlined etchings (see bottom right, below...)

(images courtesy of the artist)

... combining nature with the simple sweep of lines or the turn of angles; and delicately colored plates...

...that tease the eye with the evocation of representational image or hand-written text, but leaves it unanchored, fluid, as though seen underwater--or through the warp and weft of outer space. Successive images play on each other with dissonance or rhymes as we turn the pages, suggesting an inner, emotional and visual narrative that holds the book together.

The text seems to flow through the book in the same kind of way, arresting our progress here and there as it moves in and out of focus, allowing the emotional eddy and flow to establish its direction. Set--as are the images themselves--in the expansively white spaces of the page, it allows for the profound mystery of silence as well as for the latent sounds of language, so that the pages seem to offer us the invitation to pause and breathe as we progress through them.

A lovely work then, and one that bears witness to the unhurried thoughtfulness as well as the love and dedication that went into its making. It reminds us that, in the rush of progress toward the future, we are at risk of losing the book as a tactile, sensual experience that can enrich our lives. Its serenity is a gift, and a reminder, too, that we live in the flow of time and space; and that, if we are wise, we will allow ourselves to join that ceaseless flow.

1 comment:

mandt said...

Peter, there is an excellent article on Manet in the June 20th issue of the Nation: 'An Unfinished Tradition", by Barry Schwabsky.