In Other Words

I’m sort of impressed with what I’ve gotten done this week, until I look at what’s still on my overloaded plate.  My sweetest breaks have been to read: reviewing Aimee Lee’s outstanding manuscript, and also an unprecedented number of papers that were written about my work during the just-ended semester (something which still finds me astounded).

Two thoughtful, articulate grad students have kindly given me permission to publish excerpts from theirs; they are Ceci Cole McInturff, at George Mason University, and Barbara Landes, at the University of Iowa, Center for the Book (who interviewed five artists in total, including Aimee). When I compiled these quotes, I quickly perceived a distinct dialogue between the two, who will meet this summer in my first class at Women’s Studio Workshop. I am looking forward to that, very much.

Detail: That’s Life

“…in the late 1990s Craig decided to deprive her work of what she increasingly could not hear: words. The resulting bodies of text-free work are more narrative than her early word-involved and altered book works. They achieve a heightened level of aesthetic beauty. And they reveal more inner core in terms of belief in the cyclical power of nature and its lessons to us, while communicating vestiges of loss/ frustration/ anger/ resilience. They emphasize the intuitive.” – McInturff

“Previously, she created objects that communicated witty and intellectual ideas. Her work has become more direct and expressive, and can be “read” through the use of materials, scale, color and, in the case of (S)Edition, repetition”. – Landes

“Not only is this art of hand-created paper evocative, it may be importantly timed. New generations using…books digitally…are tempted to view art objects and installations as separate from “book,” (art being seen as relational, experiential, in the context of social change, or in contexts of museum, gallery, collection or decorative quality). Melissa Jay Craig’s narrative sculpture blurs such categorical lines. She plays out a love-hate relationship with language on one level, but on another, recalls Carrion* in that her work can be interpreted to still imply words by subconsciously evoking the mental images words convey.” – McInturff

“Another strong work from the Davenport show is “That’s Life,” an open book which sits on a table about waist high and rises above and to either side of the viewer. Its openness appears to leave it vulnerable. It seems to vibrate as if it is emitting sounds, a visual depiction of paper’s rattle. The different textures of this work are a feast for the eyes. They replace words with a more urgent communication. The inner pages are rippled, crisp and translucent, edges tinged with red. They are operatic, deeper sounds echoing in smaller denser ripples against the inner kozo cover….This is a book that will not close, it has something it needs to say.”. – Landes

“A survey of her work progressively and increasingly epitomizes what Joanna Drucker characterizes as an auratic quality. That is, books which ‘generate a mystique, a sense of charged presence, seem to bear meaning in just their being, their appearance, and their form through their iconography and materials.’” – McInturff

The scale of her work in the show struck me in a powerful way. I was surrounded by open, flittering books, some of which were as large as myself. Her works have a presence that one does not get from her website. They are made to be at a human scale and are often the wingspan or height of a viewer; they demand attention. – Landes

“…she argues for hearing, seeing and communicating on deeper and non-overt levels, and requires things reflective and perceptive of her viewers – something needed and rare in an over-stimulated contemporary culture.” – McInturff

“So much artwork today is viewed on a flat computer screen that the physical response to a work is lost…. Of course it is fantastic to see so much work so easily, but the experience of seeing artwork in person, where all one’s senses are called upon, is so much greater. In researching these artists, I did not have the luxury of seeing their work in person, except for Craig, so I had to rely on the computer. In writing about the work, I could feel that difference.” – Landes


“(Says) Craig: “Being deaf permeates every area of my life.” But ironically, so do words: she is an energetic blogger, and skilled writer and speaker who is highly exposed on the web in interviews, book reviews and critiques, a.k.a. a wordie.” – McInturff

Busted. But I’m also definitely a reader-wordie. Thank you, Ceci and Barbara, for providing these well-considered words. Not only do I wholly appreciate what they say about my own work (how could I not?), I am encouraged by the refreshing views put forth in terms of the overall realms of books, paper, and experiencing artwork in general. Excellent work!

* Ulises Carrion, ‘The New Art of Making Books’

5 thoughts on “In Other Words

  1. I learn more and more about you and your work all the time. I’d never thought of your work in the context of your deafness and communication. Maybe I’m a little dense. Them are some beautiful things they had to say, and well deserved.

  2. Thanks, folks. I do like what they had to say about my work, particularly that they both thought (as I do) that it became more ‘narrative’ and ‘direct’ when I abandoned words. But what I am truly impressed with are their similar views on the continued relevance of a sensory, communicative presence, which can apply to so much more than my own work.
    (Steph, it’s always been rooted in my deafness, though often expressed in an oblique way, i.e., less specifically about deafness than about the ways we communicate with all our available senses – which of course is brought to the forefront when one of the senses is curtailed).

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