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.
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.
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.
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.