Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Combat Paper Project

The Combat Paper Project is visiting UA this week. They are a remarkable group of people pursuing art and engagement through powerful and difficult conversations while deconstructing the military uniform and reforming it into a cathartic piece of artwork. Drew Luan Matott, one of the co-founders of the project, initially started the project intending to send an anti-war message. Soon he discovered that he "could not guide people's voices." The project takes on its own personality and voice with each group of people who work on a project; a new voice, a new message. Sometimes the message is positive, sometimes the message is angry, each time it is infused with the emotions of the individuals who participate. Each member of the group emphasizes that the purpose of the project, beyond creating art, is to engage in a conversation about war, patriotism, service, home, and identity.

We live in a time where some of our children have never seen a day that our nation was not at war with terror. Yet so many of these children aren't even aware that we are at war. As a nation, we are fatigued by war and not just our soldiers. Our relentless 24 hour news media seems to have said what they have to say and public knowledge of the war has all but disappeared. Is it because we have forgotten? Or are we just tired of hearing about it? Soldiers currently deployed are angry that the country seems to have forgotten them. How do we express our support for the individuals when so many are opposed to the cause of their absence? Or not even opposed but merely fatigued?

The focus of this project seems to be revolving around the notion of coming home and raising awareness that we still are at war. CPP has only been here for three days but already it had been a powerful and very emotional experience. They will be here until Friday. I'm excited to see what else develops, art and conversation wise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What do you do again?

R ecently, a dear friend of mine, Noelle, wrote about the transformation she has undergone since starting her graduate schooling and how, against all odds, she finally sees her place in the world. Graduate School has been the greatest thing I have ever done. Sure, I haven't had a good night's rest in over a year, and yeah, the massive amounts of debt resting on my shoulders keep me tethered to a Mr. Burns-like posture... But  similar to Noelle, graduate school has transformed my life.

I have always been a bit of a hippie child, thanks to my Dadu. But at times I have also been complacent with the convenience and consumerism of mainstream American culture. Book Arts works in direct opposition with these trends. The notion of craft is impossible to concretely define, as so many people have differing perceptions of the word and its meaning. But for any person who has labored consciously and deliberately with their hands to produce a piece of work which inspires reverence for the beauty, the precision, the form, and the execution of the piece understands what I mean when I say craft. It is the craftsmanship required in letterpress printing, bookbinding, and papermaking that makes the art form so valuable in our culture of consumption and disposal. When you hold a book in your hands and realize that the papers made from old rags, formed by precise and acute muscle memory of the maker, each letter in each word in each sentence in each paragraph on each page was set individually, one at a time, spaced specifically such that the text is most easily read by the viewer, the form of the book has been pieced together deliberately, each section sewn into the following, the spine covered with various adhesives, papers, and fabrics to allow the most flexibility for function and the most strength for longevity, you soon see the value in the object, the craftsmanship of the maker, and just how much we take for granted. How easily we forget what gratification can be had with working with our hands, how life altering it can be to create something, how grounded one feels when they remember the feeling of touch. How easily we forget this country was built by craftsman, artisans,  and farmers; how easily we forget this country was built with hands. Prominent culture in America places highest value on monetary gains, rather than personal gains.

My graduate experience has reinforced to me the power and importance of individual achievement concerning the expansion of ones knowledge, intellect, craft, and self fulfillment. Like Noelle, I am doing that what I love and can't express how happy I am to be able to do it, how grateful I am for the opportunity to cultivate these skills and values, and just how lucky I am that I found not only something that will make me happy, but something I am meant to do. I will never be rich doing what I do. But I will be happy and fulfilled. How many insurance salesmen can claim that?

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project. 

First Big Conference

Last month I had the privilege to attend the American Printing History Association meeting, hosted by the Chesapeake chapter, held at the Corcoron College of Art + Design in Washington D.C. My professor was one of the main speakers and what better opportunity to attend my first conference.

Before the conference started the participants were offered a variety of tours to places like the the Library of Congress Rare Book room, the Government Printing Office, and the National Museum of American History. I chose the NMAH. First we traveled to the bowels of the building to visit the print shop. Due to possible lead contamination from the type, we all had to wear little hospital booties so we wouldn't track the lead through the rest of the museum. Inside there were a number of presses including a Chandler & Price clamshell platen press, a Vandercook SP25 Power flatbed press, three Civil War era  proof presses that were used on the battlefields, and a couple other presses I've never seen or heard of before and sadly don't remember the names. Then we moved onto the print collection room on a different floor of the museum where I got to see and touch an original Kelmscott Press Edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales!! I was so transfixed, I took about a million pictures of it, but of course nothing can compare to seeing the real thing. After the print room we went to the Dibner Library to look at collections of rare books including an original Galileo printed text about the moon, and a medieval medical text depicting "Wound Man," an illustration of a man who suffers all manner of wounds likely to inflict a medieval man.

After a short walk across the Mall, I enjoyed some refreshments and conversations at the Corcoron before listening to a beautiful talk by Boot Arts scholar Betty Bright. The New York Center for Book Arts had a panel discussing how they manage their facility. The Chesapeake chapter of the APHA had a panel discussing how they became printers, how they acquired equipment, and how they function as a group. Kathleen Walkup discussed the program she runs out of Mills College in Berkley, Ca. Lyll Harris, Kathleen's student, gave a wonderful presentation on one of the projects she has been working on involving using an medieval italian text as inspiration and model for a piece of her own. My professor, Steve Miller, spoke about his history in the Book Arts, how is work is driven by collaborations with authors and artists, and the people who have been most influential to him. His speech was so inspiring and encouraging for an up and comer as he illustrated how open and supportive communities are and the importance of establishing and maintaining them.

We also were able to go to the Corcoron's Georgetown campus and check out their printmaking facilities and listen to many more small sessions from how to use book arts to artfully represent scientific research to the logisctics of running your own shop, either independently or within an institution. It is amazing how inventive people can be in order to do what they love. We were so blessed to be able to have our closing reception in the Georgetown University Library, over looking the Potomac. The whole experience was so wonderful to experience and inspiring to know there are so many other passionate people who are excited and active.

While I was in DC, I was able to spend some time with my brother, Danny, who I don't get to spend much time with. We had a glorious few days of reckless dining, rogue pedestrianism, and irresponsible consumption of cheap doemstic beer which we are both too old to really do anymore. It was lovely. Highlight of the Weekend: Danny holding this puppy like a tuckered out toddler.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuna Deliciousness

Need I say more?