Unit warm-up. I have two rolls of textured wallpaper that I bought at the restore last year when they had deep discounts on all their wallpaper. I also collected rolled bark from the beaches. I threw most of the bark away because bugs, but I found this piece of rolled bark when I pulled out the wallpaper to use as a stimulus for this project. I’m not sure if I’ll use either the bark or the wallpaper, but here’s the start to the unit. I’ll keep both in the back of my mind while I’m working.
restatement of problem
Based on a concept derived from one of my other projects or from one of the unit 3 labs, create a work that is at least 75% paper or paper product. This work is not otherwise limited and both the ideation and the creation of the work must be documented in Process Book. The work must have a title and be accompanied by an artist statement. If my ideation and planning takes a turn at any point in the process, this is okay, and the turn becomes part of the documentation.
Lab 1 – Edit a Photo Album Page – November 8
My friend Judha provided me with three albums in a lime green bag.
The first one I looked at, the smallest, was a selection of her wedding photos. The second one I looked at comprised photos of her teenage years. The third one was an album that her mother had compiled, and included mostly very tiny photographs of people standing together in groups. I did find one page that interested me.
Here are the individual photographs, taken close up with cell phone camera. The lens on my SLR was not up to the task of the close ups. Or maybe my camera skills were not up to the task. Anyway, its interesting to me to see these photographs reproduced here, larger than the originals in the photograph album, and again, my appreciation of the photographs changes as my focus is drawn into the details of each part of The Den.
Each photograph includes elements of a part of The Den that is contiguous to that photograph, so it is possible to reconstruct the approximate size and shape of the room by studying the photographs.
I feel as if I have finished for today. I’ll let these images marinate until Wednesday, and then see how I feel then about which one I’ll use for the project.
…and because a Process Book is meant to include all manner of thing…
the other things I’ve been working on during this project
Back to Lab #1 – Edit a Photo Album Page – November 10
On November 9, I met with my friend whose albums I had borrowed, and showed her the photographs I had chosen and what I was doing with them. I asked her a number of questions about what I was “seeing” in the photographs, especially about the details and the orientation of the room. She had vague memories of the renos that her father had done in the basement of the first family home she had lived in as a child, but the more we talked, the more she recalled. I have added some annotations under the photos that I took with my cell phone, the enlarged photos, above.
One of the interesting things that she told me was that she was sure that her mother had documented MORE of the renovations that her father had done to the basement of that home in the mid-fifties. I asked her if I could see them because I’m finding this process quite interesting: how it directs my focus to the small details of spaces that I’ve never been in. For instance, I asked my friend if her father had been left-handed, because of the placement of the lamp to the right on the desk. Not exactly Sherlock Holmes, but an example of the sorts of investigations I found myself making.
BUT…as I worked with the photographs, this is what I WANTED to do…isolate one of the tiny photographs instead of one – 10 items from the page. So, I include this here, because I actually love it…other than cheaping out by not cutting another piece of wallpaper (because I “only” have nine yards of the stuff) but by putting a small piece of wallpaper to cover the small lamp hole in the middle of the page. I love this photograph because of what it shows: the top of the door reaches the ceiling, just one part of the simple two seater couch shown, and the floor-to-ceiling curtain to the left of the photograph, which looks as if it is there to hide something (Jude thought it might have been hiding a water-heater).
Reflections on Lab #1
I find myself a bit surprised about how interesting I am finding this project. So, of course, I have to ask myself why that is.
Here are some of my answers.
I liked working with old photographs. I think I would have liked working with my own photographs, too, even ones that I am familiar with.
I liked the process of looking closely at the photographs and isolating elements; I also liked that I chose photographs without people in them. This choice is provocative to me mostly because when I am making things for 3D design, or drawing, or…whatever else I’m “making”, I tend to make figures. But when looking through an album of faces and faces and faces, what pulled me in were these six photographs of the creation of a den. I liked what I surmised about those photographs: in the 50s, it was relatively expensive to get photographs developed, so these photographs indicate the extent of the pride that was taken in the creation of this new room (the other rooms might also have been photographed, my friend Jude tells me, and in other albums. Her mother was diligent in documenting the family history).
I was also drawn to the simplicity and sparseness of this room. The Den was clearly created to be a workspace for Jude’s father, but it included family photographs across the top of the bookcase, and flowered curtains and cushion covers made by her mother. Despite those more personal touches, the room does appear to be largely functional rather than decorative, and of course the low ceiling, seen most clearly in the photograph where the door meets the ceiling, really does create a “pinched” feeling to the room.
Her father made three rooms: a den, a bathroom, and a workshop. She comes from a large family, and I can’t help but feeling that this was a man creating spaces for himself where he could actually escape to. I mean, he might have made more bedrooms, right, for his children? Instead, though, he made these spaces for himself, and if I really overthink it, there’s also a door leading to the outside that he can use any time.
ANYWAY, clearly these photographs appealed to my imagination, got me thinking about someone I’ve never met, had me creating a life story.
As for the mistakes. I did laugh at myself when I realized I had cut the hole in the wrong place and so created this “off” look when I flipped the wallpaper to put the cut hole over the lamp. Well, what’s better than finding ways to entertain yourself? Also, when I look closely at the hole I cut for the complete photograph, I see that the hole is not perfect, and I am reminded AGAIN that I am not drawn by achieving a sense of perfection. So, that leads me to ask myself, what AM I drawn by…or what drives me? Why am I content with creating things that are off-centre, full of cracks, imperfect, easily broken? Or am I content with that? So, I think these are important questions.
(I hadn’t really planned to go to art school after I retired; in fact, I hadn’t really even planned to retire. But I did retire, and I just really wanted to take a sculpture course or two or three, and then found myself actually being a bona fide art student in the art program in the institution where I worked for 25 years…and when I write it like that, I ask, why would I have wanted to go BACK to the place that I was actually pretty relieved to have left? I’m not sure what this paragraph has to do with my reflections, so I’ll put it in parentheses, and perhaps one day I’ll look back at this and reread it and understand the connection between EVERYTHING, that all will be revealed.)
Anyway, yes, those questions about being attracted to off-centre, incomplete, broken…and then being completely okay when the things that I make are also off-centre, incomplete, broken…and one of the answers is pretty simple, actually, and that is—I just am.
Another answer is related to the corollary of seeking out imperfection. That is perfection. Like most people (many people) I am drawn to perfection. But then perfection seems to be related to production, and production related to capitalism, and capitalism related to patriarchy, and patriarchy related to the “perfecting” of women (and men)…okay, so let’s just say the perfecting of humanity (go away Oprah Winfrey), and seriously, I don’t think that humans and humanity really has anything to do with perfection or perfecting. I think that perfecting people has more to do with controlling them, making sure that they are all similar enough so that they can be manipulated. But that’s going down the rabbit hole. I’ll pull back to a concrete example.
I see a beautiful, machine made dress. All the stitches are even, the colourway is consistent, the hem perfectly straight…and I think, WOW, that is so beautiful, so perfect! Wow wow wow.
I see a beautiful, hand made dress. Some of the stitches are a bit wonky. Maybe the pattern slipped a bit, the dressmaker made some adjustments in fabric used…and I think…somebody made this. Somebody used their hands and their time to make this incredible dress that someone else is going to wear, and somewhere in that relationship between dressmaker and dress there may be someone else who gifted the dress, asked for it to be made…and somewhere in there were conversations and transactions between/among the maker and the people around them, and there is a provenance to that dress, that may even include the maker thinking about the person or people who may wear the dress in the future, or the person who commissioned the dress thinking about the person who is going to wear it, or thinking about the thoughts and emotions that the dressmaker is going to put into that dress or at least experience while making that dress (and you can substitute anything for the word “dress”, I think, although I haven’t tested that). And there might even be POCKETS in that dress.
Well, I’ve gone on a bit long about this, and I’m not even sure we needed to do a reflection about this project, but all in a day’s work, right?
Okay, one more thing. When I was a kid, I used to get little diaries, made in China, that could be locked with a tiny key. I had a few of those over the years, now long gone, but I recall that I used to cut open the covers of the diaries, because I wanted to see what made the covers puffy. Mostly I found pieces of newspaper, filled with stories written in Chinese script, little pieces of magic, messages from another world that I couldn’t decode. But also I thought about the hands that must have taken those pieces of newspaper, cut them into the right size to fit into the book cover, stitch or glue the cover together, sometimes with uneven stitches and globs of glue, and I would think about those anonymous people who had made this object, so imperfectly, but they had made it, and there was something really magic to me, as a child, (and yes, even now) about having something that was made by someone else, where the imperfections were seen as evidence of a person, with a personality, a set of emotions, desires, dreams.
Yeah, I think that’s it. That is the source of my attraction to things that are not perfect. They create a sense of connection for me, that I am connected in some way to the maker, who is allowing me to see their imperfections. Or something like that. So, when I make imperfect things, am I hoping that I have somehow put some part of my self in them, some visible part?
Okay, this has been helpful.
Here are a few (imperfect) photographs of my friend Jude, who shared her photo albums with me. I asked her to help me in the photo studio yesterday (November 9), and because what I was trying to do (take photographs on a light table) was frustrating me for a variety of reasons, I ended up taking a few dozen photographs of her while we sat there and talked about her father’s Den. These three are actually my favourite photographs of her, and they do serve to keep her identity mostly anonymous.
And because I mentioned them: here are a few unsuccessful light table images.
END of LAB 1, PART A – edit an album page