Non-Acceptance Letters aka “Rejection” Notices

Fatal Shore leaves close up

To use the word “rejection” seems a bit harsh, so we will call them non-acceptance letters. This week I received three. One was from an artist book exhibit here in the states that I could not remember entering and the other two were from major exhibitions in Australia. Like the other several hundred recipients of the same letters, I was sorry to receive a turn down of what seemed perfect entries for that country; especially the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. I only entered one of the three relating Robert Hughes’ book, Fatal Shore, to the effects of global warming on that country. From several pages of the text I cut Eucalyptus leaf shapes, colored them with the watercolors made from the soils of Australia, and then burned them. I filled a dust bin made using museum board and placed it on a pedestal of the same material (both covered with Nepalese hand made paper).

Like most pieces I make using the hand-made watercolors, the memories of place and time return with every brush stroke. There is a good deal of emotional investment in these works because of a deep fondness for the country. Here is a view of the entire piece which stands about 20″ tall and is perhaps 13″ at its widest point. I must say that touching the leaves, running my fingers through them is, simply put, a wonderful experience. I am touching the land and the words that best describe a country and its origins. Here is the full view of the piece.

Fatal Shore Dustbin lo res

Using the same book I made two more pieces. These were entered into the Stanthorpe Regional Art Festival exhibit and neither made the cut. The one below started with shaping a section of the book into the exact shape of a wooden boat that I found at an antique shop. This was done on a band saw. Then it was sanded and the pages manipulated to expose the title page of the book and simulate waves. Finally it was burned all over using a burning tool, a slow tedious process getting the “scorched” look that I was after.

Fatal Shore boat side view


Fatal Shore Boat lo res

And finally the third in the series; and actually the one I made first. Here I removed the dust jacket of the book and glued the cover section to the exact size wooden book cover I made with pine boards. I had to use a torch to get the look I wanted but still not burn it up in the process. I wanted the “book” to be slightly open so that another band saw section could be seen inside manipulated into the shape of a wave.

Fatal Shore full view lo res

Fatal Shore back view lo res

Fatal Shore front detail lo res

Above the wave is an illustration of Norfolk Island taken from Hughes’ book and pasted to the inside back cover. Outside the book are burned wave-like pieces of wood, a rusted padlock (for the convicts, of course), an old pitted piece of metal and a very old rowlock attached to the back of the book. All of this is anchored down with screws and adhesives to a raft-like piece of burned pine. This “raft” is screwed to a wooden wave, also burned, underneath.

Needless to say there is very little of this book left. Mostly it is just the illustrations I removed from the center of the book before sawing into it. And naturally, I can’t seem to just toss them into the bin. Someday I might use them.

But what I have learned is that I need to stop making these pieces about Australia while living in the States. There are no homes for them here and when I do find a place for them in Australia, it is costly to send them over. I am very grateful that so much of this work is in National and State libraries and museums there and now these pieces need a home as well.

Any suggestions are most welcome.