Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brainstorming -- input wanted!

I had a great first meeting with my new prof-to-be, and I'm beginning to brainstorm what shape the further explorations of the Book of Hours will take.

Here are four different nuggets for a possible paper, each of which might lead my creative work and process down a very different path than the one I started on.

Do you have any preferences? Leave a comment and let me know...


Nugget #1. Monkey-business and the Jews: A reflection on the marginalia in the Book of Hours and other medieval illuminated manuscripts.

In Michael Camille's Gothic Art: Glorious Visions and Image on the Edge, we find discussions of the hybrid monsters, scatalogical goings-on, and other babuini (follies) that play in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Given the prevalent anti-semitic tenor of medieval Christian society and the status of Jews as outsider, one might think there would be more mockery made of Jews in the margins of these manuscripts. However, there seems to be proportionately far less "Jew as Other" than there are creatures from the edge of the world, naked maids, and hairy apes in clerical garb.

In this paper, I will explore whether there have been surveys of the various kinds of Other, to determine whether the seeming lack of "Jew as Other" is an accurate observation. If I can determine the observation is correct, I will share hypotheses as to why this might be. I will also reflect on Eamon Duffy's study of Book of Hours marginalia and on Camille's notions of what The Other meant to those who created, saw and used these medieval manuscripts.


Nugget #2. Inside-Out: A look at time in the medieval book of hours and in Sol LeWitt’s work.

For a medieval Christian, time, according to Michael Camille, "...had a beginning and an ending, a purpose and a plan, which were organized by God from outside time." (Gothic Art: Glorious Visions, 71.) He posits that, for these people, " and time were inextricably linked." (Camille 71) In this paper, I will explore connections between the process-focused implicit mysticism of conceptual art by Sol LeWitt and the process-focused exoteric religious imagery of the medieval Book of Hours.


I also like these, but suspect they're not going to offer up as much room for surprises:

Nugget #3. Beating the Bounds: The liminal margin and the relationship between sacred and secular in the English Book of Hours.

Nugget #4. Edgy humor: Reflections on the marginalia in medieval books of hours and the marginal cartoons drawn for Mad Magazine by Sergio Aragones.


I did get a grade higher than normal body temperature (in Fahrenheit, that is) as my final grade for the first MLA course (yippee!!!) -- but haven't gotten the final paper or artwork back yet, and I want to make hi-res images then send the art on a "Tour de Interviewees."

If I could only tie up the loose ends before starting to tangle myself in new projects and processes...


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The last class is wrapped...

...but the project will continue, in some form, next semester. There's too much to explore to leave it alone, so I'll be doing a Directed Study in Art on The Book of Hours...including further development of the creative portion (the pages.)


12/17/2007: A special shout-out to all those folks who've come here courtesy of Rachel Barenblat! Thanks so much for your visit, and for honoring my efforts (most recently the effort of trying to get gold leaf out of my eyebrows) with your kind attention.


If you're visiting from my Liberal Arts Perspectives class, I sure hope you'll leave a comment! Even if you're not a "member" of Blogger, you can leave an anonymous comment and share your contact info, so I can ping back.

My to-do's:
* Finish my transcription of Francis Raffalovich's interview so I can develop his prototype pages.
* Get high-quality image files made of the Shelly Lowenkopf and Rachel Barenblat prototype pages (I'm tired of these dim yellow snapshots.)
* Explore some of the questions that arose while working through the project (you can find the Whole Big Paper, with questions aplenty, here.)
* Determine what to do with the physical prototype pages created to date.
* Post the reference pics and interviews (assuming I have permission.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007


While waiting for the gilding adhesive to dry, thought I'd share some more details.

The book text behind and to the left of Shelly's portrait sketch is a page from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I heard tell was one of Shelly's favorites. The dark material behind and to the right of his head is some cunning calligraphic mass-printed paper I found in the scrap-booking aisle of a chain art supply store.

I drew his sketch on tracing paper with an ink bottle stopper-dropper, and the ink has a shine where it pooled.

On the page where I've written out parts of his interview, the white glue-looking substance on the red square (watercolor) is gilding glue.

As I type these words, I'm waiting for it to dry enough so I can apply more gold leaf. The white streaky line on the black paper to the right is also gilding glue, drying so it can receive more silver leaf.

I'm sketching in Rachel's face with a pale watercolor wash. The collage portion is mostly Japanese paper with various fibers, dyes and metallic threads/powders spangled in. I've also used ribbon, metallic thread, and a variety of metallic and non-metallic pens on both page spreads.

You can see the white leaf adhesive on some of the Rachel layout text page watercolored insets...waiting for them to dry so I can apply more metallic leaf.

My apologies for the totally abysmal lighting on all these snapshots -- I haven't learned yet how to diffuse my camera's flash indoors, so I get harsh shadows when shooting with flash. Most of the photos have a very warm yellow cast. If you can imagine the base paper as being bright white, you can understand how dark the snapshots are.

Making these pages is a very "touch and go" process. I touch the materials, do a few things, then must go away until things have dried or set.

And I must go in search of fresh photos today...I am running low on new things to share on Chatoyance, and it's supposed to rain tomorrow.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Snapshots in time

The things we do for love. And that’s what this project keeps feeling like—a labor of love…or is it love’s labor lost? All I need, to quote the marvelous Marvell, is world enough and time.

But I am running out of both, at least for this specific class project. I’ll post the final draft of my project paper December 11 on Chatoyance, since I figured out how to use Blogger’s “read more” code there but not yet here.

I’m feeling looser and the work is flowing faster on the prototype for Rachel Barenblat’s book spreads, so there is some kinesthetic learning and muscle memory from my arts and crafts past waking up.

The project is a shared, community effort in many ways. Not just because of your support and interest, and those other friends known and unknown who have stopped by this blog.

I also had help from those folks who live close by. My friend Beth came over today (I took a vacation day from work) and spent the day cutting mattes while I worked on pages and the paper. Our working side by metaphoric side was very reflective of the guild craftsmen who worked to fill the demand for books of hours back in the Middle Ages. Many hands, joined to one process.

Speaking of process…the deeper I dug into this project, what had been peripheral (process) became central. I found the unexpected tie between the project’s process and Sol LeWitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art” one of the most interesting things to have surfaced during this work.

To quote Sol: “The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion.” Is that true? I don’t know…but there were times when my will was weak, and the barrel of process I put myself in provided enough momentum to keep going.

Ananda Coomaraswamy
defined art as “imitation, expression and participation.” It’s been (and will continue to be) a delight to participate in this with you, and this is not the last post.

There will be more after my last class, after I see what my professor thought of the work.

And I’m doing a directed study in art next semester focused on the medieval Book of Hours, so I will be able to riff on the theme even further.

(What’s the HTML for “a nicely theatrical bow as the author exits for the moment”?)