Short Pieces About Making

Talking About Making: Layers

I think beauty in made things results from layering because layering creates complexity, complexity creates interest and the illusion of depth--literal, metaphysical and metaphorical. Satisfying meals layer flavors, successful relationships layer selves. A good haircut requires layers, at least for me. Seems I've had this thought before, and probably read it, too, though I can't think where just now. Interestingness definitely accrues in the visual art I make as a result of layering. 

I’ve been listening to myself answer questions lately about this work--variations on the question "what are they": how and why and what were you thinking; and "what do they mean." I’m amazed at the range of conversations I'm having as a result.  

With my friends in technology, and with photographers, the conversation tends toward the quality of the scans, the scanner, the printer, the depth and texture in the reproduced images; the illusion of dimension in the prints is so strong, viewers invariably reach out to touch them. Painters and gallerists mention Lichtenstein’s painted half-tone dots. The many writers and designers in my life often cue in on pieces of words, or the paper itself, want to see and play with the typewriters, talk about typeface. A friend’s former husband and I, he a veteran of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, talked about maps; contemporary and ancient maps, Tolkien's maps, those of his own invention. 

Do you make your own maps? Do you think in those terms? That's what poetry is, for me, has always been: shows me where to go, and where I am. These are definitely maps. A series I hope to work on printing soon is called "Strange Maps."

My friend the Tarot reading mystic "read" piece after piece, telling stories until she found her own. Stories are a theme that comes up again and again. What's the story is a common question, and one I'm working to answer in other essays as its own question. I'll say for the moment that they are that, too. Meaning, they are fill-in-the-blank; clouds passing overhead. A therapist at the Atlanta show said they are lovely Rorshach tests.

Not least of all though, these pieces are very simply the sum of my engagement with the materials. They are layer upon layer of paper. Paper foxed, and burned paper, paper stained with cherry juice, and the bodily fluids of bugs; fibers of its definitely-not-lignin-or-acid-free materials; handmade papers from around the world. Typography from gone eras, ghostly handwriting; illustration, ink. Paper removed from context, rearranged, juxtaposed. As a reader, paper and type were my first loves. 

Removed from context, then reassembled and rendered overlarge. An object like a Japanese postage stamp, its Kanji lettering inches high, cannot escape notice. 

What are they? A stage set or plinth for pieces of antique printing that would otherwise go utterly unnoticed.

What are they? Pure product of a curious human interacting with adored materials. Materials made and, more importantly, handled and loved, or not, maybe just used, doodled on, for very different reasons, by other humans.

So, the layering began long before the materials piled here on my table. Before they became, for me, a way to make contact with the present, with the day, with myself and something tactile; a way for a busy person to inhabit silence and solitude. What are they? Letters, prayers, meditations. Guardrails, too. And ransom notes! 

Complexity is a station on the way to mess, and artfulness is partly just in knowing when to stop.

Have I just described life?