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Every year Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library holds an Altered Book Contest.  An altered book is a bound book that’s been reworked in some way—torn, painted, sculpted, woven—to create a piece of art.  (Link here for examples.)  My friend Trish Rawlings’ entry, above, is entitled “l’enfant lune.”  Here’s a 3-dimensional view:

 

 

I’m entranced by the little baby lip on her Moon Child.  I just want to kiss it.  But the rest of the face—the old-man eyebrows, the unformed ears, the darkness under the nose–disturbs me.  One thing I love about Trish’s work is that I find it as unsettling as I do beautiful.

 

When Trish sent me these pictures, she included a description of how she created  her altered book.  I’m posting her description, below, because I think such descriptions of the creative process are invaluable and fascinating.  It’s easy to look at a finished piece and assume the work came wholesale to the artist, who merely had to transcribe or record a vision already complete.   But really the creative process is a series of unexpected turns and about-faces and diversions and surprise destinations.  Where you begin is so rarely where you end.

 

I took a book about the Hubble space telescope. As I was working the little face became more and more an alien-type thing.

Then I recalled a friend from undergrad days, a gal from Paris whose parents made the move to separate Sylvie from her boyfriend Jeff by sending her to the University of Maryland. I met her after I joined the International Club and we became fast friends, she calling herself the Sun and I the Moon. Yeah, we were young!  Anyway, she made this booklet story called L’enfant lune and I was thinking of this as my book idea became more and more a little moon child.

I sculpted a face in wax for the lost wax bronze casting course, but when the course was cancelled this fall cause not enough folks signed up, I made a latex rubber mold of it and then put in papier mache. Over this added paperclay, then sanded and painted. Then glued it to the painted/decorated book…. Twas fun to do but also more work than I had thought it would be. Isn’t that life?

 

Here’s a picture of young Trish (lower left) and her French friend Sylvie from 1964.  How young and full of creative spirit they look to me!

 

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The week before Halloween seems the right time to share an image that’s haunted me since I first saw it a few years ago.  “Caroline” is a mixed media photograph created by my old friend Trish Rawlings, an artist and writer living in Baltimore. The photograph is taken from a series called Revenant, meaning “one who returns after death or a long absence.”

Besides, a little beauty on Monday morning helps enormously.

From Trish:

“The mixed-media assemblages shown here are from a series called Revenant, which had its genesis when, some months ago, I uncovered a group of portrait photographs and negatives I’d packed at the bottom of a trunk and forgotten about. While I studied and then began to work with the images, I was struck by how different the faces looked from how I remembered them; I felt I’d never seen them before.
Some bore an air of ghostly wistfulness, as though weakened by the years of confinement,while others appeared bewildered, lost, ironically, in the light.  A few flaunted a defiant expression, as though proud to have survived both darkness and abandonment. You do what you must do, these seemed to say, against invisibility.
Impelled by an irrational guilt–feeling I’d committed an existential crime by consigning them to darkness and obscurity–I tried to return these sea-changed faces to how I remembered them. But no amount of darkroom tweaking had any effect; the haunting images had emerged from their exile as new beings.
When it came time to print, straightforward methods felt wanting. The added layers of time, memory, and longing begged a fresh approach. I hit on the idea of using a shallow shadow box and found materials to set off the faces and suggest complementary moods. While I worked, it felt as though someone–or something–were pressing me to bring about yet another incarnation for these faces from the past.”

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