Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A first-timer Introduction

Hello! Where do I start? The reason Sara started the BookArtObject experiment,
"I started BookArtObject a couple of years ago because I was feeling a bit disconnected having moved to Australia from the UK in 2006"

is familiar and a disconnect I have been thinking about for a while. Not that I've moved to a different place, but that there is really no art community that I am consciously a part of. Last spring, I seriously entertained the idea of entering the new Master's in Book Arts program at the University of Iowa. After much soul-searching and looking at the logistics involved, I had to conclude that it was not to be. I live about 2 hours away, with a six year old daughter and husband. I have a press, my little shop is getting pretty well-equipped, and I have been teaching myself what I need to know for years. I have the basic background in fine art (Maryland Institute, College of Art), and became interested in artist's books, and especially printing letterpress as an intern after college at Pyramid Atlantic, Center for Book Arts and Papermaking. I've made books of poetry like this one:

Out of the Blue by Aaron James McNally

Letterpress printed

In the last few years I have been moving my thinking and conceptualizing back to artist's books and getting really excited about the possibilities of a medium that I have a strong affinity for. I like writing, words, printing, making multiples, and I'm just a bookworm at heart. Books have really given me a mental life. As a girl growing up with a hearing loss, mainstreamed as they say, into regular schools, I could almost pass for normal with my hearing aids on. That little place, "almost" is a tough place to live. "Almost" understand, "almost" heard, "almost" got the joke....Can you see why books with their complete accessibility were a life saver for me? A door opens....

Anyway, last year I made a little piece that addresses the hearing loss concept a bit. Very few people have seen it; it still has not made it's way out into the world. Here are some images:

Here is my description I of the work:

“She Didn’t Know” is a subtle exploration of the experience of having a hearing loss. Rather than reading a straight-forward text, viewers interact with the fourteen pages or packets, which become progressively larger. Each translucent packet has an illustration painted on the front, with faintly visible backward reading text inside. As the viewer turns it over in puzzlement to read the text, small glass beads swish inside, providing a curious sound and another layer of sense that must be deciphered. Only with effort, by pressing the packet, can each line of the fourteen line sonnet be read. In this way, the viewer gets a sense of how hard a person with a hearing loss must work to understand conversation in a group.
The poem’s content and visual imagery utilize metaphor, and the typography references fairytales, complete with drop cap paragraphs, as the speaker’s (and viewer’s) imagination strains to build a story around snippets of heard


I was really intrigued to find this group of book artists who exchange work and presumably get to know one another while working, who can follow each other's work while it is being created through blog posts. I am taking a leap of faith that I can measure up to the caliber of these artists! I feel ready; I'm excited about this and I can't wait to be a part of this community!

Julie Russell-Steuart


ronnie said...

let me be amongst the first to give a wave of welcome - I loved looking and reading about your work (my fingers are very itchy to touch and play however!) .... I hope you have a lovely time making and interacting with all the BAO peeps - not just those who you will exchange work with.... (ps in your group is an old mate of mine who has just joined BAO - *waves to Helen* )

dinahmow said...

Welcome aboard!
Like Ronnie, I want to squeeze those little packets and rattle those beads.

Not deaf myself, I have lived among people with differing levels of hearing loss so can understand your feeling of isolation or disconnection.I learned a lot!

Angela said...

It is all very exciting! Welcome Julie :-)

Ampersand Duck said...

Welcome! I'd love to know more about your letterpress shop... press-nerd, me!

rObfOs said...

Hi Julie, I love the concept of your "she didn't know" artwork. The message behind the artwork is remarkably clear to me and the artwork itself looks beautiful.
I too am a first timer with the BAO and I too hope my standards are up to scratch. I am looking forward wholeheartedly to learning, growing and connecting with all the remarkable people involved.
Thanks for sharing your artwork with us.

Fiona Dempster said...

Welcome Julie - it's a wonderful world-wide connection to make and I hope you enjoy your time - I had a blast in my first go this/last year. Your piece 'she didn't know' is very special and like others I would love to pick it up and play and feel and hear...

Julie Russell-Steuart said...

Wow! I feel so welcomed. Thanks for the interest in "She Didn't Know." It was an experiment, especially with materials. I may re-make it, or figure out a way to edition it.
Ampersand Duck, I'm sure we will be talking letterpress. Just to satisfy your curiosity, I have a Vandercook Uni III. I know I'm lucky :)

Vicki said...

Welcome Julie, love the look of your book 'She didn't know' thanks for posting images. We are in the same group so I really look forward to getting to know you a little more as time goes on.