a bird in the hand…

IMG_1699I’ve made several bird-inspired books over the years. Their shapes are perfect for non-traditional book binding: wings or feathers can act as pages, after all. And when you imagine what the bird has to say beyond its specific song, it’s hard not to want to capture that voice in poetry or bookiness (or both).

When my photographer friend Lynne, who works with Lights Out Baltimore, proposed a show based around the plight of birds that crash into the lighted windows of downtown Baltimore, I knew I had to jump on board. I had been playing around with paper pop-ups late last year, so this seemed like the perfect place to try some new things!

After seeing Lynne’s work, I wondered about what it would take to bring a bird back to life — with paper and poetry. So, I read up on the lives and sounds of several of the birds Lynne photographed, and started playing around with shapes…

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Figuring out pop-up shapes takes a lot of patience, but it is ridiculously fun to try new things. As usual, I wanted to find a meaningful part of the shape to hold the words, so I decided that the poems would be revealed in tiny pamphlet stitch puffed chest pages as the bird books opened, or came to life…

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I wound up making six different bird shapes. When they’re closed, you see a black and white representation of the dead bird; when you open the pop-up, it springs into color and poetry. It was really fun drawing and playing around with watercolors.

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The final books, together entitled “Six Birds: Unsung/Sung,” are on display at Goucher College’s Silber Gallery, now through May 3, as part of Lynne’s show, “Unfriendly Skies: Birds, Buildings, and Collisions,” along with 16 other wonderful area artists. I’m so proud to be a part of such a unique and meaningful collection. Don’t miss the show’s reception, Friday, April 10, from 6-9 p.m., with an artists’ talk at 7:30 p.m.

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words & images x 66…

bmoreekphrasisbannerI am so ridiculously excited to share today’s launch of The Baltimore Ekphrasis Project, a collaboration between LED Baltimore and my journal The Light Ekphrastic. Not only is there a gigantic special issue online, the work of all 66 Baltimore-area writers and artists will appear on the even-more-gigantic LED Baltimore Art Board over the course of the next month. We’ll have a big launch party on March 23, and then…maybe…I’ll rest for a bit. (Just kidding.)

 

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life moves pretty fast…

tumblr_na7r8lf34u1tt9a5eo1_1280Wow, 2014…you went by in a flash! As the great Ferris Bueller once said: “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” We certainly don’t want that.

At a time when we’re thinking back to all that has happened in the world this year, I’m grateful not only for the health and prosperity of my growing family, but for the amazing opportunities for creative collaboration my community provides. Here are just a few highlights from 2014…

Hitting the Road with HoCoPoLitSo
Through the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s writer-in-residence program, I had the honor of sharing my book arts and poetry with students at a dozen Howard County high schools and the Howard County Community College in early 2014. Nothing grounds you quite so much as selling rooms full of teens on poetry, but it’s an experience I’ll treasure forever. Plus, I convinced several students to participate in this special ekphrasis project.

Baltimore: The Land of Opportunity
My city never ceases to amaze me. There’s always a new creative project around the corner. This year, I got to read poetry and make magic books with kids at the Baltimore Book Festival; participate in a show to honor a late, great Bmore poet; make a book portrait of stranger and see it projected 50-feet tall on a Charles Street billboard (and, later, a haiku); and be featured in the wonderful Goucher alumni magazine. Thank you, Baltimore, for keeping us all so busy and inspired!

I <3 the Webby Web Web Web
This year marked the fifth anniversary of The Light Ekphrastic, my online ekphrasis journal. (I’m still processing that.) My friend Erika and I also did a second run of our Trapped in the Skyrt blog, where we dressed up each day in May for an epic battle of the beltways. (There was at least one unicorn involved.) And, thanks to Sole Connection, a wonderful Tumblr that invites photos and stories centered around shoes, I had a chance to share my biggest news of the year in a very special way.

Um…Culture?
This was the year I read The Goldfinch, and finally finished a Pynchon novel (the shortest one, for the record). My book club turned 12…what?? It’s the year I got to meet the famous pop-up artist Paul Johnson at Goucher. And, most importantly/much to my husband’s chagrin, it’s the year I watched the series Twin Peaks in its entirety. Life may never be the same.

The Best People on Earth
I was kidding about Twin Peaks being the most important. Obviously, that distinction belongs to my wonderful family and friends…the people who support, teach and love me.  This year, we have welcomed beautiful babies into the family, and celebrated the marriage of friends. I count myself lucky to have been a part of it…and I look forward to an excellent new year ahead!

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attack of the 50-foot portraits…

And here’s the result of the Baltimore Portrait Project! Our portraits — my book-y one of Paola (top), and her Star Wars-y one of me — are up on the big LED board on Charles Street in Baltimore’s Station North, right across the street from Penn Station and the 50-foot “Male/Female” sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky. Maybe they’ll wink at each other?

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pop-up portrait of paola…

IMG_1543I’ve mentioned before how terrific Baltimore is for artists and writers. It seems like opportunities come fast and furious here, and it’s often just as much about connecting people as it is about the work itself. The last few weeks, I’ve been working on a piece for the Baltimore Portrait Project, which pairs artists so they can create portraits of each other. Ultimately, these will appear on a large LED board outside Baltimore’s Penn Station…how cool is that?

What a challenge to use a book form for portraiture…but also, how apt! A poem aims to shed a certain light on a subject; and its container, its book, can represent the subject in shape, as well. I was paired with a wonderfully imaginative and talented painter named Paola. After meeting up for coffee and a walk, I had enough clues to begin my 3-D portrait, a three-board exposed binding…complete with a portrait-ish poem (“Origin Story: Paola,” inspired by a painting she’s currently working on), nose, hair and a face.

I started by carving the shapes: the full face, a half face that lifts to reveal the book, and the neck, which acts as a stand when pushed backwards.

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Carving the nose was tough! I wound up gluing several pieces of binder board together and then carving the block down. That’s a first…

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To get a sense of Paola’s real hair, which is curly and toned brown on top and blond on the bottom, I dyed a nice wool yarn and then wrapped it tightly around wooden skewers, which I boiled and then baked so it would keep its shape (another first for me!)…

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I did my best to paint a good face. This is not my strong suit, but what better challenge, right? I had hoped to be able to pull off some Mark Ryden-inspired eyes, since Paola loves his work, but I wound up working more from my photo of her, as my Ryden attempts didn’t seem right. And onto the hair…

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In the end, I did away with the earrings and accepted the fact that she looks more like herself from certain angles than others. And I quite like how her form works, as if we can peer inside her mind a bit by reading her poem.

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but all she believes in…

photo 3Sometimes a project comes along that’s too cool to pass up, even when you think you’ll probably have to build a time machine to finish on time. In this case, it was an art show benefit for Baltimore poetry group LitMore honoring the late great Bmore poet Chris Toll. Chris was an early supporter of my literary magazine, the light ekphrastic, submitting both poetry and collages. More importantly, though, he made me feel like what I was doing was worthwhile — to hear it from a member of Bmore poetry royalty meant a lot.

Go to the event, “The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Inventions,” on June 30

Each artist was given a line from the above poem, and mine was “but all she believes in,” an absolute gift to interpret. I knew I wanted to make a book, but I also wanted to be able to display it in a new sort of way…so I started by painting and cutting the paper…

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…and then, I started sewing it together…

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…I broke out the Shrinky Dinks…

photo 2…and wrote a poem about what it’s like trying (and failing, sometimes) to make something new. In the end, I wound up with something dreamy and poemy, but also a little dark. Maybe it’ll float away and Chris will see it in the clouds…

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falling behind, catching up…

IMG_1209I’m a deadline person. I love/need them, especially when art is concerned (second only to that other all-powerful motivator, guilt). Lately, though, I’ve surrendered to the idea that being a little behind is not only an inescapable fact, but an a-okay way to be, at least in certain areas. Even that shark is okay with the idea ——>

So, today’s post is a quickie round up of two winter/spring-ish books. Better to be behind on the blogging, than to not be making art…right? Right.

Here’s a little leather book I made over the winter. It kind of reminds me of a dragon. It was alternately fun and scary working with leather…but mostly fun.

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And here’s a shark book I made for my friend Heather. What a challenge! I like to think she’ll write some very important poetry inside…something that needs to be guarded by some serious chompers. My only regret is that it doesn’t play the theme song from Jaws when you open it…

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