Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tearing Up Books

"For their current exhibition, the ArtsTribe
artists engaged in the ultimate in bad-kid behavior: tearing pages out of books...." is the beginning of Lindsay Christians' review of our show in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal.

It's of course a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to begin her article on our work but the show did create a bit of a buzz about the destruction of books. The first comment in our comment book, the first day was a critique on our destruction of books in order to make art. Later commentators in the book actually responded to that comment in our defense. It also came up in our artist talk as a question...

I had a hint of things to come when sharing with the artsTribe group early on, that I intended to take some pages out of the Bible and reassemble them with wax. Now, I was just thinking about the concept of our show which is "books" and the theme of the Wisconsin Book Fest that we opened in which was "beliefs." For me, since I have a relationship to the Bible as I sort out my own personal seemed appropriate to me. My concern was more on how to say something personal and honest around this bigger-than-life book of the ages.

The rest of the tribe looked at me and kind of gasped..."are you kidding? You can't tear up the Bible." It was not, I'm sure, the holy wrath of God anyone was concerned about as much as the reality of the now-iconic controversy of Serrano's "Piss Christ" coming to haunt us. And the fact that there was a guy in Florida who was currently threatening to burn the Koran and raising national ire added to the mix. Our simple little book show all the sudden was getting risky.

Of course that was before Tom decided to burn his favorite books and put them in jars and Jayne was only beginning to think of shredding a book and dunking it in water. Yes, definitely bad-child behaviour. We then proceeded to cut up dictionaries and just about any other book we could the end, no one took much aim at my seven little Bible pages outside of seeing it as an interesting sculptural book-thing.

My piece was first titled "Through a Glass Dimly" and was going off the scripture in 1st Corinthians, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully..." I thought that embraced the mystery I find as I come to the Bible in as honest a way as I could think. For me its an awesome and terrible revelation of God and humanity while at the same time it is a deep and profoundly beautiful mystery.

So the wax, with its translucent film, hiding and revealing at the same time, became a metaphor of my own journey with this book. Some images and marks come out but only as nuances and hints, feelings and guttural experiences.

I later changed the name of the piece to "Faint Glimpses" because I did another book made of glass in the same show and it seemed confusing to call the decidedly not-glass piece, glass, when it was sitting right next to an actual glass piece.

The glass book called "Fleeting Memories" actually ended up relating to "Faint Glimpses," although I didn't make the connection until they were both done and in the gallery. "Fleeting Memories" is a book made up of seven thin sheets of glass that I dipped in wax. So they also have this translucent feel to them. I then wrote a journal entry on each waxed glass plate with a stylus–my private, stupid, profound rants on different days as I was making the book. I pushed paint into the etched words so, at one point, the words were quite legible. I then attacked each page with a heat gun. The color and the wax began to flow–the words coming apart, re-forming, dripping down and fading. To me, the vulnerability of the words was key. Where once they seemed so clear and organized, they reveal themselves finally in this fused state of ambiguity. It seemed like an appropriate way to describe the fragility of my own life-story. Not in a negative, falling-apart way but in this poetic dance-through-time sort of way that reveals the things you think are so understandable and solid one day can be so fluid and fleeting the next.

So as the book of my life, written in my own words, moves in and out of focus, so too, the ancient "book of life" has its own mysterious translucency to me. I realized, as I looked at these two pieces, that I'm vague in my understanding about alot things these days. And its funny, but that has brought a new type of clarity to my thinking.


  1. I'm curious to know, what became of your relationship with the Bible?

  2. Hi Jacie, not sure if you are still following this comment, but am still thinking about the question. My relationship with the Bible is an evolving dance. I am also doing a series of paintings related to the Psalms. And the recent exhibition of St. John's hand-written and illuminated Bible was a beautiful inspiration ( I believe in the God of the Bible and read it in search of the one who I've come to believe can't be limited or defined or dismissed