Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mission Accomplished: The Hand to Hand Project

I was a much younger woman when the Iraq War started. I had a mother, a brother, a job. I didn't like my job so I moved on and on and on again. I bought a new car. My brother died. My mother died. I began walking.  I walked 60 miles. Twice. I developed my art. I wrote a novel. Students I teach now at the Art Institute and in Ashford U's online writing center were children. Now they are veterans. The war continued. The war continues. 

In 2003, Atlanta artist Cecelia Kane began her response to the war in a very deliberate, meditative way. Like the beads she'd grown up counting, she counted days, marking each one with a drawing and an inscription on a white glove. Gloves, she'd learned from a day clearing and packing away her late mother's handbags and gloves, retain the shape of their inhabitant. 

In 2006, with the war showing no signs of ending but reaching a breaking point, Cecelia opened her counting to include other artists. A project, Hand to Hand, began and continued. And continues.
With the removal of combat troops in Iraq, the project is now coming to an end. Mission accomplished? Well, the title was always facetious.

The project, along with two others, is on exhibit in Athens at ATHICA. It is, in the words of one participant, "stunning and humbling."  See here:

Statement for the catalog
June 28-July 4, 2009

I was both flattered and intimidated when Cecilia invited me to participate in this project.  Like most Americans, my early, more emotional reaction to the war in Iraq has been dulled by time and more immediate and personal events. In a way, the news stories published during the week I was assigned to follow, which included Independence Day, had a similar jaded quality. Stories of an Iraqi man’s evolution from poor worker to very wealthy entrepreneur (thanks to US government contracts) and VP Biden’s July 4th visit seemed quite dry. Because I’m a book artist, I stitched the gloves (which I’d imprinted with green vines and then dyed red) together in a kind of Coptic stitch, added a cover and proceeded to embellish with: a rabies vaccination tag from the VietNam era, the key to an American Tourister suitcase and several other bits. I smoothed lace-edged handkerchiefs given to me by my mother around the book’s cover. I simply needed to keep adding. Because I am also a writer, I printed most of each day’s headline on the front of the glove but added an ellipsis and forced the reader to turn the “page” to get the “last word” which I inscribed on the back. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dangerous Book - Episode 45

May 31 Monday continued

It’s been a long day. I’m here to say I spent a good bit of it with the Phoebe and Mrs. Moth. We stood outside Veronica’s hospital room, where she held to her life for a lot longer than the nurses seemed to think she would. Dr. Frobisher is a never-say-die kind of guy, as most physicians are, I suppose. Nurses are more pragmatic and not expected to save lives in the same way doctors are...like a football.  
            “She stuck to her guns, I’ll give her that,” said Phoebe as I escorted her to my car.  Her remark struck me as callous, though absolutely true, but I was too tired to do more than nod and grin in the dark parking lot.  
            “Please don't think me rude, said Mrs. Moth, "But I’m so hungry. And I could use a little something from the bar."
            “I could make us some eggs,” I said.
            “Oh, let’s get Chinese," said Phoebe. "Chang's has a bar.”
            At the restaurant they both ordered saki martinis. Feeling like a fraud, I ordered a pot of hot tea which I fiddled with until Phoebe placed her hand on my arm.
            “I guess Peter’s ok,” I said.  “Will you call him?”
            “I called Eddie. He’ll take care of things.”
            “Eddie? Eddie Dowling?”
            “He’s very close to Veronica. He’s a good man.”
      Veronica, if I hadn’t shared this before, had been a social worker with the state. She had once told me, almost in passing, that crimes are always committed under passion. Some are committed by people who would never think to commit one. “They react to a single situation,” she said. “They react badly and are sorry ever after.”  I remembered this while waving for the waiter: She had been speaking of Eddie Dowling.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Off the Grid - Into Each Life Some Sun Must Shine

Nothing will pull you out of despair than the friendly handshake of a sale! Even better, a one-on-a-kind book I made from a pantoum written long ago when teaching creative writing has been purchased by The University of Denver's Penrose Library.

I'd sent the piece, in its little box, to my favorite book arts gallery, Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, for a show called "Interior Markings." A few days ago, Alicia Bailey, curator and owner, emailed me with the news!

That this news came during a time when I'd been feeling quite jerked around by a potential employer is just icing on the cake. The candles on the cake, I can share now, is the fact that the drawings in the book were done during a three-day series of tedious meetings. As a teacher of artists, I learned never to stop students from doodling in class. It is often their way of listening. To remove the pens from their hands or insist they take down my words was kin to hiding the windows.

Many thanks for John Thigpen for his wonderful photography.