I am thrilled to announce that my new book, My Suburban Life: A Year in Words and Pictures, is now available for sale at the Blurb online bookstore! The book includes edited text from the entire year of blog posts chronicling my collage-a-week project, including the final Reflections essay, as well as professionally photographed, high quality images of all fifty-two collages. Sketches, drawings, and images of my process are also shared. The book is printed on gorgeous premium paper with a lustre finish that highlights the rich colors and textures of the artwork. It has a hardcover and dust jacket, presented in a large 13″ x 11″ landscape format, perfect for your coffee table!
Many thanks to my father-in-law, Deak Wooten, who designed the beautiful page layouts and took me through the process of converting a blog into a book. Thanks Papa!
This week’s collage is inspired by the joys of reading to my son at bedtime. I wanted to visually capture the experience we share of being swept away by the story, allowing the dim light of the room to blend the real and imagined. We pile into the bed with the cat and the stuffed animals, open the big book and begin our adventure. We have been reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, with its heroic deeds and enchanting illustrations. The tale of Jason and the Argonauts was one of our favorite stories. The great ship Argo, filled with heroes, sets sail on a quest for the Golden Fleece. As the sheets and blankets melt into a vast ocean, we find ourselves heading out to sea, charting a new course.
Detail, Bedtime Story
The sailing ship has been an ongoing motif in my work, a kind of avatar for the Self, forging ahead through rough waters, sailing out to the horizon in search of adventure, or returning home to be anchored in the safe harbor. My red boat has the capacity to explore many different ways of being in the world, navigating between solitude and community, surrender and ambition, safety and risk. In both making art and reading books, we allow for the opportunity to explore the world outside our own experience. The collage I made this week is a strange mix: it seeks to both replicate a very real, intimate experience in my every day life, while folding it into the fantastical unknown. I was intent on capturing the specific details of my son’s favorite toys, grounding the scene in reality, while at the same time juxtaposing these familiar characters with the romance of the book illustrations and the possibility of an imaginary adventure all our own. As a final addition, I collaged a tiny secret doorway in the upper right hand corner. Maybe it is simply the bedroom door, the door back to reality. Or maybe it is a door that leads to yet another imaginary world. I whisper to my son, “Be open to all possibilities.”
While I admit there are some evenings when our 8-year-old son and I fall into an exhausted sleep on the couch in front of the TV, most nights we prepare for our special ritual of Story Time. We “jammy up,” brush our teeth, and climb the ladder up into our boy’s cozy loft bed. Stuffed animals surround us on all sides, and Olivia, our cat, disappears among the audience of fury friends. We turn on the reading lamp, snuggle down into the waves of Pirate sheets or polar bear themed flannel, wrap ourselves up in the warm blankets, and settle in for Story Time. This ritual has been a part of our routine since my son was a baby. We worked our way through board books and picture books, from Elmer to Dr. Seuss. Then we moved on to beginning readers and chapter books, from The Magic Treehouse to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My husband also enthusiastically participates, having unearthed favorites from his own childhood, like the incredible Phantom Tollbooth. I am so grateful to have passed on the love of reading to my son, who now greedily devours a 350 page Percy Jackson book within a week or two. But even though he regularly reads novels silently to himself, there is still a wonderful enjoyment in sharing a story read aloud, preferably one with fantastic pictures.
We are currently making our way through D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I am particularly thrilled that my son has enjoyed this book so much since it was one of my dearest favorites from my own childhood. I didn’t own the book, but would check it out of the public library again and again. I love both the stories and the illustrations, which include detailed maps, dynamic adventure scenes, and family trees of the Greek Gods and Heroes. As we continue through the stories, I am remembering long forgotten favorite episodes, (“Spring comes when Persephone returns from Hades!”) while my son recognizes monsters from the contemporary Percy Jackson books (“I know this one! Percy fought the Calydonian Boar!”) We just finished the dramatic tale of Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. As the Sand Man creeps into the room and sleep overtakes us, I imagine boarding the great ship Argo with its magnificent sail and setting off on our own adventures…
Time folds back on itself. This collage celebrates the memories of my Dad when I was a child, while honoring him now as a father and grandfather in the present. I have explored the symbol of my old treehouse in previous works, and brought it back here. My Dad built this treehouse for me at our weekend home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was here that we spent many hours together on the Choptank River- fishing, crabbing, and watching the birds. The treehouse was a place of reverie, a place I would go by myself. I enjoyed being alone, but never felt lonely. I filled the branches of the tree with a tossed assortment of the things my father and I loved and shared: fresh figs, a ripe peach, sliced tomatoes, fishing, boating, blue crabs, waterfowl, lacrosse, physics, art, and piles of books.
It was great fun to work on this collage while my Dad was here visiting. It is too easy to forget to let the ones we love know how much we appreciate them. I wanted to pour a lifetime of love and gratitude for my father into this 12 ” x 12″ panel, and then share it with him in person. While I was intent on getting enough studio time this weekend to finish the project, I reminded myself to balance that impulse with just spending time with Dad in the present. That is the whole point after all– each of those special memories happened in the present moment, and more are constantly unfolding if we can only pay attention. We spent an afternoon together downtown, had lunch at Orzo and went to see my show at Chroma Projects. We went to my son’s basketball game, and sat outside on an unseasonably warm afternoon to watch him throw the football with his Dad, cheering him on with each spectacular catch. We cooked some great meals and had long conversations around the table. I feel so connected to my Dad, and feel peace in the thought that there are no things left unsaid.