Sunday, January 5, 2014

Week 1: The Gate

   Letters. They don't come in the mail as often as in the correspondence and text messages.. blog posts and twitters (twits?) are flying all around the blogasphere... but good letters (and good letter writers?) are hard to come by. We can read the letters of famous authors like George Orwell, Saul Bello, PG Wodehouse, F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Sylvia Plath, Evelyn Waugh, William Faulkner, Edith Wharton, Virginia bound books. They are an intimidating set of standards for putting pen to paper... Who writes like that? But sometimes a letter comes in the mail from a certain friend... or is penned yourself... and it is a conversational work of art. It is honest, insightful, personal, and spins words together like poetic prayer beads. That is the inspiration of this first book-of-the-week for 2014, The Gate.
The Gate book and its envelope with the letter from P.
   The Gate IS NOT one of those perfect letters with words that roll off the page like poetic prayer beads... but it is inspired by such a letter this writer received from a poetess wordsmith just last week. Like previous letters, the letter came in a reused envelope that was a patchwork of glued-on magazine cut-outs affixed to the back flap like sealing wax... and across the front too. The letter was a hand-sewn stab bound book with covers from a poster of an exhibition titled The Gates by the artist Paul NobleOn the front cover, in addition to the show title, there was a handwritten quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The world is all gates, all opportunities..." Opening the letter/book, this writer was enthralled as she paged through several typed pages of original poems and a narrative of a recent trip... On the border of one piece from the Paul Noble poster was another handwritten quote by Emerson "Every wall is a door."

 Ohh.  How did she know? The past week has been one, big, very blank, bare-like-the-trees, whitish-gray-like-the-winter-sky wall. Most artists have come to that wall. Some more than others. And now a letter comes in the mail and says the wall is really a door. Whew!

   This week's book-of-the-week, The Gate, is the response letter... also created as a book... with pop-outs, recycled artists' exhibition cards, photographs, pastepaper collage, and assorted ephemera. It is actually a thank you card... a thank you for showing this artist the gate.
FAN FAIR pop-out with collage pastepaper fireworks.
Page 2, the letter begins... "Cheri Patrice,"
Exhibition card... What is reality?
(Hyper) Reality folded out...
In addition to text and imagery relating to the definition of reality, another page uses collage images relating to vision, wisdom, and memory... in this case referring to a shared time at a creative mountaintop oasis years ago.
the eye, an owl, and remembering a place of enlightenment...

a photograph of a gate... Penland (School of Crafts)

the poem "Practicing not forgetting" in the original letter and Forget-Me-Not flower seeds in The Gate
a removable paper gate in The Gate; and the original letter with magazine cut-out of a gate by Michael Craig-Martin 
The Gate, covers are a map and marbled paper suggesting an aerial view of earth; with collage attachments: a bandaid, photo of a river,  and 1904 newspaper advertisement for "Daily Bible Readings" 
The Gate is a personal letter. It goes like this:

Cheri Patrice, Your card came today. I know the magazine cut-outs on the envelope - twin photos of the Eiffel- were for me. and the torso, squatting and hugging herself, the back curved like an embryo, arms crossed protectively across her breast - that torso saying take care of yourself, you are beautiful who you are - Those magazine cut-outs the sealing wax on the envelope - also reused- from Gagosian Gallery in New York. Are you saying TRAVEL? I've never been to New York City - not really- only a day trip once with my boyfriend when he was visiting his parents in Hackensack, then again after his father's funeral we drove over and got pizza before driving back to North Carolina... I gingerly pulled out the thick letter. From the binding I see it's a handmade book. A Japanese stab binding with thin white linen thread. The cover is recycled too. It is a broadside, cut up, that's so like you, piecing together life's jewels - of Paul Noble's - The Gates. and you've written in your lovely script "The world is all gates, all opportunities..." Emerson. I know you know all this, but can you see how powerful it is? How it says just what needs to be said and no more? This Gate came just as I'm at a wall stewing for 3 days over this week's book-of-the-week. It starts a new year this week and all the easy stuff's been done for the past two years of books. How to express it without wearing my heart on my sleeve? My amateur cartoons of  trains and silly animals sunbathing or marching up a cartoon birthday cake. But it's what I do. The line has a mind of its own. You take the time in your letter to explain who Paul Noble is -"a contemporary British, English artist who works primarily in pencil, in tones of gray on white." I should Google him - as well as Brueghel and Bosch - your knowledge of art has this itinerant artist humbled. So many gates pop up.
   I loved reading your narrative of your conference in Boston - walking along the old streets powerful in their ghosts and gates - and the contemporary ghosts too. Thank you for reminding me that the year had it's share of sorrow. Sometimes the paths take US, instead of the other way. Probably why I never liked roller coasters... too much like the path in control.
   And then you treated me with your poems. I drank them up. I can see the notecards in "Practicing not forgetting". I know that earnestness- that opening to the information of education... "the faithful copying on lined paper.." and then so many years later trying to remember and trying to forget. So sweet in its honesty.
   Though we haven't seen each other in what? 3  4 years? Your words, your images touch me to my core. And slowly the wall is crumbling to become a gate and I keep drawing cartoons.
Love and Ciao,
a paper train
   Like a toy train chugging down a cartoon track... the cycle of life does go on; and the walls we come to in life really do turn into gates. Sometimes the gate comes in the form of a letter.