Books are one of the great loves of my life. There was a time when I would have thought that “altering” a book would be the same as desecrating it. No longer. Creating a new work of art with an abandoned book as its skeleton seems to me to be a loving and creative way to give new life to a book destined for the shredder. I made my first altered book for SparepARTS, a silent auction hosted by the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group to raise money for public art installations in West Dallas. (Picture above is a double-spread in progress). FWADG was my West Dallas community partner for the Parade of Giants earlier this year in March. Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to create the fabulous giant puppet of Bonnie Parker, so I was happy to contribute to their cause. Bonus: I got to make this pretty awesome artwork. Making an altered book is great fun. Do it!
I’ve not posted here for some time because, well, I’ve had my hands full with giant puppetry. Yes, that is correct. In late January, I was selected by La Reunion, a Dallas arts organization, as one of 15 local artists to create massive puppets for The Parade of Giants, one of several signature events to commemorate the opening of the new Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge that spans from downtown Dallas to West Dallas. For the better part of 6 weeks, I’ve been pretty much immersed in building a very big puppet. How big? About 14 ft.
The puppets represented West Dallas notable figures; most were honorable citizens, a couple weren’t. I was happy to have one of the latter: Bonnie Parker, the notorious bandit/poetress from the 1930s, who, with her partner Clyde Barrow, remains infamous to this day.
The event was designed as a community affair to bring awareness to West Dallas history, so each artist was teamed with a West Dallas organization. Mine was The Fort Worth Avenue Development Group and they are a great bunch of people. I couldn’t have built Bonnie without their assistance and enthusiasm. I documented my progress in photos on my facebook art page, The Gretchen Show, so hop over there if you’re interested in seeing how she started as nothing more than a humble piece of cardboard and some bamboo poles. This is a great video clip from the Dallas Morning News of the parade itself. See more of Jeff Baker’s work here.
The weeks of preparation and the parade itself were an inspiring experience for me. To see all of the artists’ and volunteers hard work come together in a visually dazzling procession, displayed against the magnificent backdrop of the Calatrava-designed bridge and the Dallas skyline, was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Thousands of people lined Singleton Avenue and the bridge itself; to parade my artwork down the middle of it all along with the other giant puppets, artists and volunteers and see so many delighted faces was a thrill and an honor.
Many thanks to David Lyles, Catherine Horsey, Nicole Horn, Janet Longstreth, Jan and Richard Doherty, Jennifer Snow, Katherine Homan, Ken Smith, Deborah Carpenter, Savannah Deering, my mom, Annie Byrd Goetz, who crocheted Bonnie’s giant beret, and Ron Veech, the brave man who actually carried Bonnie on his back (under her skirt!) for the better part of two hours; having a real person walk the puppet brought her to life.
Symbolism plays a big part in my life and my art (yes, I’ve got a little of that hippie thing going). Celebrating a new year is in itself a form of symbolism. It represents new beginnings and hope for a better future. Life is constant renewal and we have the opportunity to renew and reinvent ourselves every day. So, in this piece to mark the beginning of 2012, I incorporated some of my favorite icons to express that idea. Butterflies are symbols of metamorphosis, renewal, reincarnation, Psyche and the soul. The moon represents the feminine spirit, resurrection and the cyclical nature of all things. The fish is a masculine symbol and stands for the life-giving properties of water as well creativity. Circles have no beginning or end and therefore symbolize eternity and the infinite. I threw in the alchemical symbol for mercury to represent myself. I won’t elaborate on that. ; ) Prints are available here.
May you have a creative and abundant new year.
Update: Scareletts Read bookmarks are now available in the DMA’s museum store and in my Etsy shop.
Piece created for the upcoming BooksmART festival at the Dallas Museum of Art. It will be reproduced as bookmarks – come visit me at the festival and buy one for yourself! Inspired by “Scareletts”, little plush creatures invented by my niece Scarlett Deering. See more on my Scareletts page.
Read a book and feed your imagination.
My second bookish illustration in as many weeks – I’ve books on the brain, as I often do! This one evolved from a quick sketch I did some time ago. I love iconography, symbols and pictographs so I created some of my own to symbolize the reader’s imagination alight with imagery and ideas she gleaned from books. Some of them do represent actual stories, books, characters or myths and some are just figments of my own over-active imagination!
Watercolor and ink on hot press Arches watercolor paper. Want one for yourself? Prints may be purchased here.
This is how I spend an inordinate amount of my time. I love books – the feel of the paper, the promise of the covers, the stories that unfold inside. I am a bit of a book snob – I require them to be good – but not an elitist. Good comes in many forms. Thick, thin, mysteries, picture books, short story anthologies, contemporary fiction, classic literature: I love them all. Books make me happy. About the art: watercolor and ink on hot press Arches paper.