Re-Committing to Writing/Blogging

I haven’t posted since late September, so I am going to post a list of topics and try to get back to regular posting.

-Yoga Practice Book I’m reading and my own thoughts on my Home Yoga Practice

-Mini Double Sided Vision Boards as an Art Therapy activity

-Cut out poems using text threads as an Art Therapy activity

-My Mandala Project in progress and where it is

-My Still Life Revival and Oil Painting

-Paintings and Drawings, Abstraction or “Non-Objective” work and where it is

-Commitment, Focus, Discipline, Persistence with making a body of work, what distractions come up to self redirect

-Burning Bridges and Building Bridges, a DBT skill

-DBT class and what I’m learning so far

-The challenges of focuing on positive energy and reframing “problems” as challenges. The work of turning the mind towards compassion when in the midst of chaos or emotional reaction

-Daily Rituals and Gratitude Practices, Evolution

 

The Fifty Minute Hour, or Thanks for the Clock, Kasa

I just wrote this piece that is mostly not about Kasa’s clock, but maybe all of it kind of is. She brought the clock to my studio when she was seeing some clients there and left it there and forgot to ask for it back.

The 50 Minute hour. That’s what they used to call it. Now most people do 45 minute therapy sessions. When I started private practice, I did hour long sessions; in art therapy often you take time picking out art materials and settling into the rhythm of the session. At some point I switched to 50 minute sessions, where I am now. 45 or 50 minute sessions, time still works like the Twilight Zone, where it gets stretched out like taffy. You can fit a lot of intense stuff into just 15 minutes.

There are many jobs that involve watching the clock. I can speak for mine that it is a strange aspect of the job. On the surface, any therapist will tell you that the built in boundaries of psychotherapy are an important part of the experience, the earthy reality stuff like price, session times and frequency, even the office itself. I had a client years ago who started with specific requests, it has to be every two weeks, and you have to not judge my alternative approach to romantic relationships. I had someone with a strong reaction to the studio space, saying it felt like a garage full of old paintbrushes and if we could meet in a clean space with comfortable chairs, he’d rather work with me there. He had to accept getting his therapy in a dirty garage. This was before the options of Facetime/video sessions were an option.

When I started private practice, I didn’t think too much about the clocks and placement of them until a client told me she needed to see the clock and be the one who announced the end of a session. When you’ve had a traumatic loss as she had, having control of the time is important. I brought in a second clock and placed it where she could see it. It was back when I still used a digital alarm clock with a loud radio alarm to wake me up. When I worked at a day treatment program and was doing an art group, a client pointed out that in all watch ads, the time is set as 10:10. It makes sense. If it was the visual opposite, 8:20, the hands would look like a sad face. Working at that program, I appreciated the stretching of time and the Twilight Zone of serious chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, where time is in quicksand. One of my clients spent the whole day in a chair in the big group room. Another one had no complaints sitting in a dentist waiting room for 3 hours not even reading magazines.

Recently my clients and I noticed in the second room of my studio that the clock was not working. It’s an analog on the wall above shelves, meant to be placed for clients to see. I found a new one at Ikea this weekend, that even has Roman numerals. I also had a cool sun ray clock with actual pointy gold rays radiating from it that also stopped working recently.

I have a very small silver clock with the bells on top that I “inherited” from a friend. When she died in 2013, I realized I had her clock. It was so silly and obvious that time had run out for her and I better be enjoying as many minutes as possible myself. It had a loud ticking that one of my clients requested I put it in a drawer. It eventually stopped working, but I have it out on my desk with my stuffed “studio bunny”, a reminder of the well know rabbit with an anxiety disorder where he keeps looking at his pocket watch and freaking out. A little stuffed animal that I had lying around. Years ago a patient brought in her dachshund and the bunny was a great chew toy distraction for him while the client was working on a huge piece on the floor. He got pastel all over the bunny’s white body, and she then really was broken in as a true art studio bunny. As an art therapist I can get away with having a lot of stuffed animals in my office.

My Dad has been into clocks, watches and their workings since childhood. As a kid, really wanted his dad’s clock and got it, nothing fancy and had it a long time. My grandfather knew how to fix clocks. When I was growing up there were antique clocks all over the house that went off on the hour and my dad would take one of those old clock keys and wind them. They are still there. Last I counted there were at least ten antique clocks in their apartment. One’s entirely covered in gold, and has a cupid figure with a bow standing next to the square of the clock part on a pedestal. He has gold wings and is holding fruit over a bowl of fruit on top of the clock. Another one has marble columns and the pendulum is a gold sun. In the library there is a clock with a rooster on top. My favorite is a clock in the dining room, It’s a harp but symmetrical with a gold sun at the top and the clock part is the body of the guitar shaped harp. A few years ago, my Dad gave me his gold Omega watch and a pocket watch. He was giving his watches to his kids, not waiting for death. He used to wear suits with vests where the pocket watch would go, complete with bowtie and hangkerchief. I took the Omega to the guy below my studio who fixes shoes and watches; it’s a shoe repair, barber and make your own nailpolish shop all in one. It turned out the watch did not need a battery and is the kind you actually wind. Growing up I loved watches and my Dad would bring Seiko watches from Japan. I went through a phase as an adult where I stopped wearing watches and just wore watch rings. I collected a whole bunch of different watch rings and found it easy to look at the time without clients realizing because you see your hands more easily than having to move your wrist to check the time. At some point I went back to watches and started collecting watches again. I have a very large square one with a silver band that was the first fancy one that I got. It has Roman numerals on it.

In my own therapy which is five minutes less than the 50 minutes my clients get, I look at the time often. This is the first time I have a therapist like the white rabbit except he is not anxious about arriving late. When he is late, I set my timer to get my exact 45 minutes. One time I was on the way into the subway and he texted that he had to cancel as he wasn’t going to get to his office on time. As some other therapists, I tend to enjoy hearing about other therapists messing up as it makes me feel better about my own mess ups.

Time is also weird for me as an artist. People ask, how long did it take to make that drawing/painting. I now write the date on the back of my work as soon as I start it or restart it to know what date I did it, and I set 15 minute timers for drawing, but I never know exactly how long anything takes to make.

Projects

I tried wirting a post about my unfinished projects yesterday for 15 minutes but it got too complicated. I’ll try the more organized approach. THis is a list of projects I’ve started in no particular order.

  • Graphic Novel, I(3) (meant to read as “I Cubed”), memoir. Started in 2000. Stopped finally in 2017.
  • Children’s Book: The Flying Poodle, done in late 90’s, abandoned and lost
  • Art Therapist Made Activity Book for People with Airplane Flying Anxiety/Phobias, including: “Facts About Flying”, Word Searches, Coloring pages, Doodle and writing prompts, maybe crossword puzzles. Could be made like a journal format. Got to the idea point.
  • Memoir in form of Picture Book for adults, inspired by “Depression, A Picture Book” and another one. Got to point of using Word Search cutouts to make limbs on characters, did 2 pages, recent idea
  • Books: Using Altered Books in Art Therapy. Plan to edit the book. Got to the point of inviting some other art therapists to author chapters and emailed with Jessica Kingsley Publishers. They reached out to me last August about possibly writing some kind of book.
  • Poetry and art therapy with/as case study: book with a client’s poems written in session and between sessions and my response poetry. Tried to start with categories of poems and with client going through her poems and picking out ones she likes.
  • Possibility of trying to incorporate pages from abandoned graphic novel into some sort of other book with multiple media
  • The Art Box, a book also personal narrative, about my creative process and using pieces about work as an art therapist, artist and personal life to do with creativity. Memoir of Creativity
  • Some kind of compilation of my comic strips from my art therapy Instagram account, comic strip, “The Daily Grind
  • Website for my art, with newest work and prices to sell directly from website
  • Spreesy an app to use to sell art from social media, getting organized and trying to sell through it.
  • making this current website more organized, going through the “Pages” to make it more coherent and look better

It’s interesting that I almost “forgot” about “The Art Box” project, as it is supposed to be something I’m working on now. That was the idea in spring of 2018, to use some time weekly to work on it.

These projects are all in category of “Other”. The main projects are my art projects that I need to finish to sell the work on the website mentioned above. Current art projects:

  • Mandala collage paintings
  • Cityscapes
  • Abstract square drawings, made bigger on wood boards

 

Art Homicide: Is it Common?

We rolled it to the point where it was a 7 foot paper taco and carried it down the street home like that. It was too thick from collage to roll up completely. Once home we put it on top of the wood bed posts on the frame around the posts. Every time I lay on the bed I could see the underside of my masterpiece slowly crumbling from the weight in the middle that wasn’t supported.

Having it there along with another big round mandala piece was not a great idea psychologically. If we had stashed it somewhere it may never have met its gruesome end and the other piece wouldn’t have been collateral damage.

Most people don’t get angry at their apartments to the point of feeling like destroying stuff, but I never was” most people”. One day or week I got so frustrated with the chaotic state of my house, that the feeling kept building more like a fire when it catches on to something and the next minute the whole building burns down. As I couldn’t burn down the building, I decided it was time to destroy the mandala. I’d been eyeing it for weeks wondering how and if I wanted to fix it as it was getting damaged.

Suddenly it was clear how to solve the problem. This huge piece used to hang in my old studio on one wall and took up all the wall space. It was up there so many years I remember looking at it and thinking, “What will I do if someone buys it or if I have to move it? Maybe it will be here until I die.” It felt that permanent. Fast forward to me ripping the whole thing apart and destroying it. I don’t remember it well even though it was probably only 4 years ago. After that, I took on the piece that was my height in diameter, like a lion after a kill who finds an extra dead animal baby and eats it just because it’s there.

Do I regret doing it? Do I miss the piece that I still consider one of the best or at least most ambitious things I have ever made? I don’t know because I had forgotten about it until I recently destroyed something else that I liked. I guess if I could have it back I would and it might be in my studio now or  I would have sold it and been happy it had a place. It did serve a purpose in its short life of being on that studio wall because my clidnts faced that wall when they sat in the chair across from me. I remember one client seeing a person in a wheelchair in the middle of it. It was a completely abstract collage. I can probably find a photo of it to post with this. So when it was alive on the wall, it was serving a purpose and beign seen by lots of people. Back then the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour still existed, so for those few days in April annually, I had crowds of people come through my studio and see it as well as the smaller piece.

I know a lot of big deal artists have destroyed their work, but in a very calculated way, not in a sudden fit and not something they thought was one of their best work. Part of the delight I took in murdering my big mandala was that it was really one of my greatest achievements, so it was a really crazy meaningful kill.

I have destroyed many peices before and since which I will write about in another post…

15 Minutes: 2019 Sketchbook Project

Just as I finished my 2019 Sketchbook and have a Tiny Sketchbook to work on, thinking both were due on Feb. 15, they extended the deadline for 2019 Sketchbook but not the Tiny one.

I am currently working on the Tiny Sketchbook. This is the first time the Digital Arts Library has sent out Tiny Sketchbooks. I love making tiny work; I wanted to find a theme that was visually simple and consistent, and finally figured it out, so I’m almost done. Of course this post is abot the regular size Sketchbook 2019 and finishing it.

I’ve been doing these Sketchbook Projects for years. It’s always a black hole of ADHD. Several years ago I had two sketchbooks to fill and ended up filling one and then completely destroying it.

The 2019 Sketchbook was an arduous process and time consumer. My problem usually is that I love sketchbooks, so I spend too much time on it in relation to my “real” art, and it makes no rational sense but it’s a compulsion.

This time round, I think I already wrote about how I filled the entire sketchbook, about 30 pages if you fill both sides. I had already covered several layers of ideas. Finally I looked at it one day and thought, the whole point of this sketchbook was to use it for drawing and keep it simple. It was at the point where I couldn’t really draw a fresh drawing, so I pulled out all the pages and put in my own pages from a drawing pad that has very thick paper. The Pentalic Nature Sketch 7 x 5 inch 130 lb paper. I highly recommend it as a great surface for drawing. I was able to draw on both sides of the paper without it being see through.

So I started almost from scratch besides the cover, back cover, and inside cover. This sketchbook was finally useful in a bigger way to connect to my current work and drawings outside the sketchbook. I used to have a process where I would carry my journal sketchbook everywhere and draw or make collage in it and then eventually force myself to get the work to be made outside the journal on bigger different surfaces. It was a way to find my “series” and then have a launching pad! This year the Sketchbook did launch me into my latest series of work, entitled, “My Cabinet of Unnatural Curiosities.”

Last year I liked my sketchbook while making it but didn’t love it after it got digitized. This year, I already scanned the sketchbook so I know how it will look digitized and I really like it and feel good about it. I also like how the process, as painful as it was time consuming, spat me out at the other end of the creativity tunnel into  my current bigger work.

I am posting some of the images of the sketchbook.  Once it’s digitized, I will post a link to the sketchbook.

Links to see my 2014-2018 Sketkchbook:

This is the one from 2018: Sketchbook Project 2018

Everything Old is New Again…

15 Minutes: Everything Old is New Again

I’m doing very different drawings from when I started “Drawriting” with 15 minutes of drawing and 15 minutes of writing on the back of the drawing. These pieces below do not have writing on the back; I’m not sure if I will write on the back or not. perhaps this post is the writing part for now.

A client of mine once explored a concept she said was summed up as : “Everything old is new again.” Her words. I’ve been thinking about that idea, as I reflect on 2018, and now, in terms of my personal art making as a visual artist, about 30 years into making drawings and paintings, collage, etc. Even last May as I started a daily drawing practice, I noticed I was reprising my 2006 – ? work and had revisited that stuff in my sketchbook last year, coming from the “Inner Landscapes” series. I have the old sketchbook journal where the images emerged that later became buildings and Inner Landscapes, which I have now embraced as “Cityscapes.” Before, when I did these, I thought of them as buildings, but as expressing some kind of inside landscape of the psyche. Recently I’ve returned to seeing that it is my relationship with New York City and how the city is part of who I am…

More recently in the past few weeks, I have been revisiting my drawings of faces and leaves. It started with my redoing my Sketchbook Project, in December 2018, drawing faces and leaves. These faces started many years ago; I can’t even remember when. Then I reused them in my Scribble Drawings Collage series in 2007 and 2008.

A while back I drew two bees in my sketchbook project. For some reason I’ve been drawn to drawing bees, no pun intended. Yesterday, I started drawing hexagon hive shapes, due to thinking about bees and because it’s a great kind of drawing connector. I’ve got faces, bees, and mushrooms, so now I have the hive shapes in and out. I haven’t gotten far with it as you can see in the pictures of these works in progress.

Drawing on smaller paper is very rewarding because I can really do a drawing in one sitting and feel like it’s done. It’s hard to be patient with doing drawing/painting on wood and canvas because it takes a lot more time and the discipline to revisit the work and continue it.

I took some of the wood drawings I did in November, which were moving towards being city scapes, and tried to sort of add in the new imagery with limited success, still using fountain pens to draw with.

For some reason it is harder to add in this imagery. I will paint over the wood with white paint and start drawing on top, like the painting in the photo below. That painting has endured a lot, like an archeological site. I don’t know what the first concept was, but there was collage I pulled off years ago, and then drawings of buildings and white again. That was March 2018. Then I went into it more. Anyway, today I turned it “upside down” so I woulnd’t see buildings in the marks underneath the white paint.

The above wood drawing with oil paint is the only one I saved. The rest I painted on top of.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2019!

I’ve been foregoing lists of goals, resolutions and intentions for the new year and replaced it with choosing a word for the year that reflects what I want for the year. This year’s word was a search for something that would be fun, like the word I chose for 2018 – AWESOME, and related to aspirations and intentions like 2017’s word, ABUNDANCE. I had decided for my professional aspirations to focus most on selling my art, involving getting more art made, making a good new artist website and using the app Spreezy that I downloaded over a year ago, which is an easy way to sell work already on one’s social media. I also looked into an old Flickr account I haven’t used and decided to post on that too.

First I thought my word would be “Wonder” or “Magic”, to follow up a word like Awesome. So I was thinking of words to express success, achievement, actualization, fruition, and accomplishment, but something more fun and special.

Then I watched the movie “Serendipity” again during my holiday break, when I always watch a few holiday movies, some cheesy and bad, some cheesy and great. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. The main thing I noticed in watching holiday movies was enjoying old New York; “Serendipity” came out in 2001 and was pre 9/11 2000’s NYC, so you see a lot of NYC from that era. On a side note, my favorite Christmas movie of this break was “Three Days of Condor” made in 1975. It’s great as a Christmas movie as it has nothing to do with Christmas but you see NYC during Christmas throughout the movie, and it’s a thriller. The topic is not a romantic holiday type movie. Within the first 20 minutes or so, the main character played by Robert Redford comes back from a lunch break, and all his co-workers at the CIA have been murdered. The movie shows the twin towers often, and there is a scene in the lobby and in an office in the Trade Center. It was great to see the twin towers from so long ago.

After watching “Serendipity” which is an overdose on the idea of synchronicity and the concept of serendipity. When the characters try too hard to refind each other it doesn’t work; eventually the concept of least effort applies, and they bump into each other finally.

So I decided to make my 2019 word “Serendipity”. It is a good confluence of my original words about magic and wonder and my wanting to focus on a specific goal. It has the meaning of happy accidents, fortunate events happening in an unplanned and unexpected and delightful way.

Usually with my art career as with most other things, I find if I put effort into specific things and then balance it with letting go and trusting in serendipity, things will indeed happen in an unexpected and delightful way. Like my most recent sale of a drawing through Facebook. It was unplanned. I just posted images of my drawings and writings from starting my 15 minutes a day in May. One day a friend who lives Berlin Facebook messaged me that she wanted to buy one of the drawings I posted and she did. I sent it to her in Berlin. I’ve had other Facebook inquiries and interest, but this was the first time I sold an art work directly from posting images on my personal Facebook page, and I do have a separate professional Facebook page.

Another serendipitous sale is my favorite story of selling artwork. I was on an airplane to Albuquerque in the spring of 2006. I took out some art supplies and started a drawing on the pull down table of the seat in front. A guy sitting to my left started asking me questions about being an artist and we had a conversation about his interest in art, etc. Then as I was finishing this little drawing, part of my Inner Landscapes series, he asked if he could buy the drawing. He paid 100$ cash while we were in the air. I love airports and airplanes and flying, so I couldn’t have wished for anything cooler than selling art on a plane. Also I was going to New Mexico for the first time, and I had built up a big fantasy about New Mexico for years as this magical place full of replanted artists and a place where fine art, folk art, jewelry and other media are equally valued. The “Land of Enchantment”. I saw it as a harbinger of a special time in a very special place, which it did turn out to be. I ended up spending the 100$ on a hand made doll while I was travelling the Turqouise Trail.

So I am putting my trust in Serendipity for an enchanting and marvelous 2019. Happy New Year! What is your word or intention for 2019?

Online Art Exhibitions: The Sketchbook Project

I am currently involved with a two online art exhibitions. This post is about The Sketchbook Project.

As I have been working on my 2019 Sketchbook Project, “Pictures and Words: Buildings and Birds”, intensely in the last few days and weeks, and during summer break, I have become more intentional about utilizing the “Community Space” aspect of the Sketchbook Project, to get more involved and be part of this “Crowd Funded Sketchbook Museum and Community Space” that continues to expand. You can find what I call “side projects” and events on their website as well as past sketchbooks and an easy way to sign up and partipate. They sell materials as well, something for another blog post. The latest project I signed on for is the “Tiny Sketchbook Project.” I haven’t received my sketchbook yet, but they look like they are a few inches in size! I also love tiny very small and small works… TIny Sketchbook Project Link

This is their website: The Sketchbook Project Website

It’s defined as a “Crowd Funded Sketchbook Museum and Community Space.” You do have to pay to get a sketchbook and pay extra to be included in the digital art library and exhibitions. I am grateful that one of my clients told me about it in 2013, as it is very fun and unique; also, I’m obsessed with sketchbooks and of course, altering books. The one thing all my sketchbooks have in common is the amount of working and overworking involved. It’s never a simple process for me no matter what…

(It’s a perfect project for my ADHD: While avoiding something too stressful, I hyperfocus on the sketchbook, and have added hyperfocusing on promoting and participating more. I will be part of their “Infinite Drawing” series, and have done a canvas for “The Canvas Project.”)

Here is the link to my latest Sketchbook, (2018), “Inner Landscapes”, from The Sketchbook Project:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/19305

I highly recommend participating in the Sketchbook Project! It’s a very democratic inclusive approach to art and exhibiting art. Anybody can participate. Here are the links to other years I’ve made sketchbooks; each year is completely different from the last year.

This one from 2017, entitled “Many Minds” is my favorite of the five completed sketchbooks:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/18294

 

This one is my 2016 Sketchbook, “When Objects Talk”. I mixed together two drawings series, one that involves comic strip art:

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/17880

Here is my 2015 Sketchbook, “Marks on the Edge”, involving mixed media including yarn, fabric, sewing, colored tapes.

https://www.sketchbookproject.com/library/17107

Here is my first Sketchbook, from 2014, “Mosaica for Khakasa”,worked on mostly in the fall of 2013. It’s the most complicated in terms of the process and times spent on it, as well as having things I do in altered books, like extra pages, changing the size of the page, and making windows. I also incorporated Chinese Funeral Paper and dried flower petals.

The Sketchbook Project is on all social media and easy to find. It’s home in Brooklyn is the Digital Art Library. The sketchbooks travel all over the United States and in Canada. I’m predicting they will branch out to other countries soon.

 

Altered Book Project Update

I was going to try to keep up on a daily basis with this new Altered Book, but everything got away with me. The Altered Book has a life of its own. These are photos from Sept. 7 until yesterday; I have photos from today for another post. As the book is on a page full of wet stuff, I can’t take photos of other pages I’ve changed, so I will comment on these photos below spanning about 22 days!

These photos represent the phase after beginning described in the last post. You’re getting deeper into the book and discovering more, but still adding first layers you will probably return to; thus, there is no pressure about having a finished page…

I also think of this as the chaotic jumping off creative period I would associate to the Fool Card in the Tarot; anything goes, and weird unplanned stuff happens; I felt like I was starting all over, as if this book was my first altered book project…

This is a page I had fun using more paint and glitter glue after the two below. The theme is introduced for this phase of  covering pages in the book and putting something on them to start the process of making the book mine.

I use binder clips often to hold together pages. The page on the right is the table of contents. I thought I was going to leave some of the text but most of it is already covered up. I used white out and pen and then a lot of clear glue on top with the black glitter glue. On the left you can see some white marks from trying to cover text with oil pastel.

The next pages are the forward that I covered with white oil pastel and crayon.

Here, above, and in the photo below, you can see how I’m trying to cover several sets of pages with white and black acrylic and use binder clips to keep them from curling up and getting stuck to each other. The most annoying part of the process is having to wait for wet media to dry so I can work on top of it!

Below is some commentary and an attempt to write about my own secret regarding wanting to write and finish my own book, called “The Art Box”. It seemed fitting to write about it in this book, but it may end up getting covered up with something… I considered not posting this page right away, as I felt some kind of weird embarrassment about it.

Using Personal Things from your life, or pieces of them: I recently sold a drawing to a friend in Berlin through her seeing my latest work on Facebook; I got her check from Germany and liked the paper she wrote on, so I put it in the book. This is the point when I started collecting personal items or finding notes and things that I kept around wondering what to do with them, and finally had a proper place for…

I have told clients countless times to bring in personal photos to add to their altered books and to other art work. I have done this before, but not much, and not this way. I found a photo I took recently of street art and printed it out. The colors are vibrant and it might even look like it was painted onto the page. It also ended up being part of a new exploration of faces that came up out of the blue recently… Synchronicity.

The above photo is upside down. I cut up pieces from a restaurant experience. The server gave us paper and crayons. The drawings are my 11 year old’s doodles.

 

This is an example of a page that was ripped off so you can see the next page underneath. More drawings from the restaurant and the drawing under the second page where you can still see the chapter title (How to Use the Secret) are glued and taped on. That drawing is one of mine I found that I never finished… Same with the photo of the page below.

The first “Altered Book” art project I remember seeing was at the Outsider Art Fair around 20 years ago, when it was in the magnificent Puck Building on Houston Street. Back then, the artist was present and you could actually talk to them about their art and being an outsider artist. I remember asking the artist about her books, which had a lot of glue in them and all over them. I don’t remember much else about them.  I guess I first saw an altered book not at a museum but as an art work that got made organically, that had a life of its own the way altered book projects can have.

The Altered Book is not just a piece of art. It’s a living, breathing creature. You start out with a basic body, the book as it was published, that looks just like all the other ones of the same title and author, and the artist puts it through a “Kali” like birthing process that involves a lot of destruction in the service of creating this new living being. Kali is a Hindu Goddess, from the Sanskrit word “Kali”, translated as “time”. She is described as a destroyer of “unreality”, a liberator. I’m no expert on Hindu gods, but I do associate Kali with the process of altering books and how one has to destroy and use up in order to create anything. A pencil that never gets sharpened is not involved in any kind of creation. The book even has a skin, whether it’s the book jacket that covers a hard cover book, or just the outside of the covers and the actual covers, with the pages within as the innards. The process of altering books brings up all kinds of weird processes like alchemy, dissection, and autopsy, but that may just be the beginning stage, cutting open the body. With an altered book, you kidnd of do the opposite of an autopsy; you cut open and expose internal organs for the purpose of repurposing them and making something new, more like the way an organ gets donated and incorporated into the new person’s body. Now that kidney no longer belongs to the donor and the donor is erased, though an integral part of the process, just as the creator of the original book must be killed off for a new peice of art to emerge.

I love paper, making works on paper, drawing, and then even becoming very physically involved in the process with the materials. even just using pens and pencils on paper, I like to see the grooves a pen or pencil can make, how it changes the paper.

Unlike the experience of looking at a published book or even writing/making one, making an altered book happens in a chaotic disordered way. You don’t have to start with the cover and go in time order page by page. You can start anywhere and the pages in the middle of the book might get cut up and put in the front of the book or anywhere else. Each time you come back to work on the book, you are in a different state of mind, and, unlike with writing a book, you don’t have to get back into whatever you’re doing. It doesn’t have to make sense. It changes each time you interact with it. At the same time, it evokes soemthing different from making a painting with many layers. Books are loaded with meaning and the concept of time passing. You may go anywhere in the book to work, but you still end up with a product that looks like a book, unless you are altering the book to the point of making sculpture out of it, but to me, that gets out of the realm of the Altered Book. The Altered Book I think of and make and witness the makign of, is still a book at the end, finished or not. There are traces of what it was, like the original book is the parent and the art piece is the child. There may be resemblances and reminders of the parent, but the altered book has become a totally new being, one that has never existed before.

The idea of the altered book as being a reallly physical process is what I am interested in.  And the process. The process can feel like a fight; very violent and visceral; you get in there at the beginning and attack the book, to subjugate it and get it to really become yours to do what you want with. There has to be that initial struggle, very physical, involving cutting, ripping, tearing, sanding, poking, doing very active things to the very body of the book. Most of the time the spine is very affected by the making of an altered book. You have a choice of letting the book spill open, or cutting open the spine and adding more cardboard to extend it so it can be closed. To do that, you have to cut the book into at least two pieces and add to it. A lot of altered book making in terms of the body of the book and undoing it feels like surgery.

I am reminded of reading about Leonardo Da Vinci and his dream of doing a book of all of human anatomy. He made friends with doctors/medical professors and “borrowed” corpses from them . He would go at night and dissect this human body and scribble in his notebook as fast as he could, drawing what he saw and sometimes more what he felt because there was no formaldehyde to preserve the body, so it was a race against time and probably really smelly too. It was really messy, and not like messing around with paints. I was fascinated with his process, and his hyperfocus and obsession. He didn’t finish his book of anatomy, but you can see his drawings and writings about the internal organs.

I can’t imagine what it would be like sneaking into a place to cut open a dead body and draw the organs late at ngiht or at any time of day, but making an altered book has that kind of feel to it. Once you get into it, this “thing” you are interacting with can take over and there can be a really exciting obsessive quality to it.