Archive for July, 2017

So, I’ve been thinking about reading and rereading books. How is it that the book is totally different than the last time I read it?

I don’t often reread books, at least books that I am not teaching over and over. There are so many I haven’t read once yet, that I tend to move on rather than review. When I do reread with significant time in between readings, it is surprising how the books change when I am not looking. Why is this not making the news?

A number of years ago this happened with To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it when I was in middle school, saw the movie with Gregory Peck, loved the name Scout, and had vivid memories of the trial and the neighbor saying she would die “beholden to nothin’ and nobody.” And that’s how it stayed in my mind. Then, I reread the book in anticipation of using it in a sample teaching lesson for an interview many years ago. I was shocked to find that the trial parts had shrunk so much over the years. And, why did so much other stuff got added? Where did that come from?

Now the same thing has happened again. The stealthy editing gods have struck while I was busy doing something else. This time the victim was The Odyssey. Again, I read it in high school. I taught Ancient Greece to 5th graders, and read Bernard Evslin’s The Adventures of Ulysses with my 5th graders every year. Now, I am rereading the non-junior version of The Odyssey (Fagels’ translation) and again shocked to find that someone has been messing with the story. The “adventures” have been shrunk and Telemachus has taken over the beginning. Evslin’s retelling highlighted the wily Odysseus’ heroic qualities, making it clear why he was the leader at every turn, while not sugarcoating his responsibility for the loss of his men. The monsters and immortals were a diverse team of challengers who tried every trick in the book to keep him from Ithaca. When he finally got home, the suitors were in trouble. No changes there, although Evslin certainly got to the point more quickly.

Although these particular examples occurred years apart, they highlight just how unreliable memory, or at least my memory, is. I’ve been reading up on the brain and learning and memory recently. So, I know, in my brain, that the more times we recall a memory the stronger it gets, AND every time we recall a memory we also may change it. It’s such a double whammy. If you don’t keep recalling the memory you lose it, but by recalling it becomes less and less like the original memory.

I have some questions for myself:

  • What about the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird made me come back to it again and again in a way that other parts of the book did not?
  • Why did the line “I want to die beholden to nothin’ and nobody” make such an impression, if, in fact, that is even the correct line?
  • Do other people enjoy all that Telemachus bit at the beginning or are they waiting for the adventures too?
  • Did Odysseus always do so much weeping? Why didn’t I remember that?

Anyone else have a book that has changed on them?

 

So, I’ve been thinking about book art and printing. One of the things I have been doing for a while now if trying to make sets of 5 images/works/whatnot, my taxonomy project works.

Working in multiples has been a great option for me. When I do have make time to sit down and work on something, I know it’s not a one and done. This makes the individual item less precious, and therefore I don’t feel like I have to get it just the way I want the first time. I can, and have to, try out a number of different strategies and combinations. Super helpful. Not only do I create more, I also have an easy way to keep at a project without having to come up with an entirely new idea. Also helpful.

Since I am not really an artist, I tend to do a lot of putting things together, altering, mashup type stuff. Less pressure on the technical art skills. My latest set of images combines art and tech.

I started with an old book that had great paper, font, and feel to it. Do other people buy old books just for the paper and type, or is it just me? I’ve done a lot of different blackout poetry type things, so I wanted to do something different. I also happened to be cooking beets. The color is just too wonderful. I took the top where I sliced off the greens and stamped it on some pages of the book, like beet polka dots. Those images sat around my kitchen for a while. They were clearly not finished.

Next, as I wrote the other day, I have been experimenting with Adobe Capture. I am really intrigued by the pattern option where you can turn an image into a black and white block print looking image and slide the scale on the dark/light balance. I made a few patterns of chairs with the app. I cut the images with the school lasercutter and printed them (not only is my office pretty much in our beautiful new library, but I have a key to the makerspace, and it’s summer so no one else is in there).

I first printed the images on plain paper. But I got to thinking–several of the chairs were in the library at school. Library, books, book images, we sit in chairs and read, words are all around, AHA! I decided to print my chairs on my beet polka dot book pages.

I like the images in general. The beet color has faded quickly and now looks more like rings from a wine glass in some places. I’m ok with things I enjoy being used and showing signs of being well-loved. I use my grandmother’s tablecloth; it’s got some spots from her parties and some from mine. So, the red rings kind of remind me of that sort of familiar use (tablecloth, book, chair) that is part of the living of life and permanently marks objects in the process.

I have a few other sets in mind: one with chairs that mixes it up with the upholstered part of the chair, one with cabinets or containers and what they hold.

Any other ideas for sets and combinations?

So, I’ve been thinking about art and technology. In my fantasy life, I am an artist. In my real life, I an educator with access to a lot of technology and art supplies.

Recently I have been using Adobe Capture (the free app version) to create black and white images that I then cut into wood on the lasercutter and print. First, use the ‘shapes’ feature in Adobe Capture. I can use the sliding scale to determine how much black I want in the image. Below you can see the image I was using and how Adobe Capture transformed it.

Next I put the image into Adobe Illustrator, did the image trace, expanded it and deleted a few stray bits. Then I raster engraved that image onto wood using the lasercutter. I reversed the black and white so that the lasercutter cut away all the areas of white, leaving the raised portions the equivalent of the dark areas in the image. From there, I could ink the wood and print it on paper.

 

The question I have is, although the print is quite nice, I am wondering if it is art. I mean how much did I really do here? I found the chair sitting as is in my house. I did move some junk and maybe a cat off of it. I used the app to take a picture, cropped out what I didn’t want, used the slider to decide the black/white balance, which the app implemented. This is the hard part, in my opinion. I made minimal changes to the image. The lasercutter cut the wood. I inked the block and put the paper on.

I don’t know. I didn’t draw or cut the print image. I made minimal decisions about color and paper. I chose the amount of black and white, altered lighting a bit to get the pattern I wanted.

This makes me think of the picture book Seen Art by Joe Scieszka and Lane Smith. (Our main character ends up in the MoMA in New York and keeps asking if anyone has “seen Art?” Various people talk to him about the works in the museum including the helicopter that hangs from the ceiling, which the other museum patron recognizes for its engineering but admits some wonder if it is Art. Finally, our hero finds what he has been looking for–his friend Art.) As I think about this, I wonder if I can come to terms with this idea be taking into account the lower case or capital a in art. Maybe these prints (I have many more) are not capital A Art (said with deep, serious voice), but maybe they are small a art, which is probably about right for me.