Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Posts in One Week!

Usually the effort of posting takes me at least two weeks to recover from, but this week,  I received a review of an art exhibition that I thought might be interesting to those of you who enjoy artists' books, so here it is.  I wish I had images for all the other artists, but I haven't been to the show as it is in Chattanooga, many miles from Asheville.  I'll write to the show's curator and see if she will send me some of the other images, and if I get them, I'll definitely pass them on to you.

Meanwhile, the image above is from one of my books that is in the show, an accordion-folded book, the pages of which are one very long hand-colored woodcut print called Row, Row.  The article below includes another image of a book from the show, Susie Hall's  Fall Folios," plus the newspaper review, which makes interesting reading as it gives a nice overview of some of the work that's currently being done in this field.  I'll also post my other three books from the show.

(I'll move this posting to the Exhibitions page of this blog for easy access in the future.)
from Felicitous Space by Gwen Diehn
from Imrana by Gwen Diehn
from Ice Fishing in New Hampshire by Gwen Diehn

Monday, August 22, 2011

Join Me at the John C.Campbell Folk School!

As many of you know, although I truly enjoy teaching, twenty years of doing it full-time has made me reluctant to teach much since retiring from teaching two years ago.  But every now and then an invitation comes to me that is just too tempting.  The John C. Campbell Folk School is one of these.  I'm familiar with the place because my good friend Sandy Webster lives across the road from the school, and I've spent many a weekend working in Sandy's studio with her, and Sandy teaches there regularly.

The place itself is unbelievably beautiful, almost a cliche of itself-- the valley with low mountains in the background, the old buildings, the cute little blacksmith shop, the cows grazing in nearby pastures, tiny buildings in the miniature village of Brasstown (which lowers its own New Year's Eve ball, just like Times Square in NYC, only Brasstown lowers its ball from a flagpole outside of a store on the main street).  But the studios are serious and well-equipped, the range of classes taught broad, and the work produced impressive.  So if you're looking for a class to jump-start your practice in the New Year, the Folk School might be just the place for you!

Friday, August 12, 2011

From Journal to Print

One of my excuses for slackness in blogging lately is that I've been working really hard to finish the large woodblock print shown here.  (I've also used this print as the basis for an edition of artists' books that my friend Laura and I have done as a collaboration.)  Here's the story:  about a year ago Laura, whom I had just gotten to know, and I discovered that we had lived in the exact same small neighborhood in New Orleans.  I grew up in the neighborhood and then lived there again in the mid-70s;  Laura moved there in the 70s to study to be a jockey at the horse race track (which was a mysterious and forbidden place in the neighborhood when I was in elementary school and spending many hours a week trying to sneak into it).  As we talked about our adventures in this wonderous place, we were amazed at how similarly we remembered tiny details-- the broken spot of pavement on Leda Street in front of the old Jockey Club;  the sweet olive trees that perfumed the entire two-block area in autumn and spring;  the corner grocery store, still operating today, the odd religio/cultural underpinnings of the place.

So last year Laura and I each made a journal for our neighborhood project, and we began research and image gathering.  We've met nearly every two weeks for the past year to eat dinner at one of our houses and then retreat to  the studio and work for several hours on whatever phase of the project we were on.  Our journals have been repositories of the images and ideas we've incorporated into our prints and now our edition of books.

Below are two of my journal pages that gave rise to images on the print.  One shows my sketches of bats that lived in the palmetto palms in our yard, a fun feature of our lives, as we hunted for the dead baby bats that frequently fell from the tree and conducted elaborate funerals for them. Bats were a feature of the neighborhood as they swooped around every evening scooping up bugs while we played Kick the Can in the street until the street lights came on.
 The page shown below is where Laura and I worked on the idea of the religious syncretism that was very present in the amalgamation of French Catholicism and African Voudou in the neighborhood.  This close connection of two different cultural and religious strains made for an interesting set of rituals and processions and ceremonies.  On the page below, I used a general map of the neighborhood to construct an approximation of a voudou veve, which ended up a rubber stamp cut incorporated into the larger woodcut (lower right area, in brown).  On the same page, Laura reflected on my sketch of a Catholic Virgin Mary statue that was treated ritually much in the same way the Voudou Erzulie Frieda was.  We several times wrote in each other's journals as we developed our thinking.

We have titled our series (the large prints and the edition of books) Faubourg nan Main Bon Dieu, which means Neighborhood in the Hands of the Good God.  In another posting I will show the finished books and Laura's big print.