Archeology

 

archaeology. c.1600, “ancient history,” from French archéologie (16c.) or directly from Greek arkhaiologia “the study of ancient things;” see archaeo- + -ology

STRATA 1: Studio

I am stuck.

When I said “No’ to exhibiting Welcoming the Stranger in Tucson, I broke my cycle of creation. For 9 months I research, plan, and then ‘deliver’ the art work. I then take 9 months to recover: to earn money, to eat right, to sleep and exercise, and to reconnect to friends.  And then I begin again.

During ‘recovery’ I look for a little-known piece of history that is echoed in current day events.  All my projects have focused on the past: Seeds of Change, Invisible Legacy, Heifer Relief, Palimpsest series, Liber. I then choose the materials that best convey the idea, concept or message.

Eighteen months have passed.

I am stuck.

Writers call it writers block. I call it ‘stuck.’

Sometimes when I am stuck, I clean the studio.

IMG_1114I re-shelve previously exhibited works – already boxed, labeled and stored

I sort through sketches, photos, unused materials, postcards.

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I am still stuck.

Most artists keep sketchbooks and record ideas on various scraps of paper. I keep journals. I document the personal and political, big projects and small, workshops, dreams – day to day anguish and Artist’s Way morning pages. I record my adventures on trips, people I meet along the way, even the cost of gas and food. There are lists of what I hoped to accomplish, places to visit. I even found my “obituary” written at a workshop on death and dying. (Unlike Jefferson who believed he would one day be famous, I do not include copies of my correspondence.)

Sometimes when I am stuck –  I read my journals.

STRATA 2: Journals

Journal entry: Toronto, 1986

The Tate Modern in London houses the national collection of British art from the 1900 to present: the exhibit rooms are arranged by eras. – a kind of archeological foray through the history of art. http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern. It also maintains a large collection of Henry Moore sculptures.

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I have a very clear memory of seeing the work before – but not in England. The Art Gallery of Ontario houses Moore’s plaster and bronze models and the stones that inspired him. According to a journal entry, I visited the gallery in 1986 but recall only a desk from his studio on which small bones and maquettes resided.

I wrote I wanted to create art and have a studio in the country.

Journal entry: Maryland, 1994

My Firehouse Studio is located in the farming community of Carroll County, Maryland. I held a 100 th birthday party for it as part of a House Tour – complete with cake and candles. However, it is more than 100 years YOUNGER than the Dielman Inn of New Windsor – only 4 miles away.

The Town of New Windsor was laid out and surveyed into 28 lots in 1797 …

…One of the most notable structures in town is the 10,000 square foot, 42 room Dielman Inn at High and Main Streets. It was a popular gathering place for vacationers from the 1870s through its closing in 1927. The proprietor was Louis William Dielman, a former professor of music at Calvert College in town. He delighted in sponsoring after-dinner concerts, musicales, lectures, skits and tableaux featuring guests who hailed from as far away as New York

 

 

An archeological “dig” takes place every Saturday at the Dielman Inn and is open to members of the community. The ‘privy’ collection includes pieces of pottery, broken tools, detritus from the 1700’s and later.

In her day job, Lisa Macurak teaches ancient history to middle schoolers but her passion is archeology. She shares her time and knowledge with anyone willing to listen while they uncover a piece of history.

 

IMG_0390I wanted to be an archeologist in my next life.

Journal Entry: Taos, New Mexico, 2000

I always wrote. Poems, stories, scripts, letters to editors. At one time I had a column in a local newspaper.

At the Aztec Ruins National Monument there is an exhibit that depicts the various layers in the geological history of the site and objects revealed during its excavation. There are placards with explanations based on the thinking of the archeologists at that time.

Traditional Puebloan attitudes about ruins are that every place has its life and once it has been abandoned, it is proper and respectful that it be allowed to return to the natural elements of which it was originally created.

What are the elements from which words are created?

STRATA 3: Words

I have decided to shred my journals.  As I tear out the pages and feed them into the shredder, I read each one. It is somewhat freeing – and at the same time – fills me with nostalgia.

Shredding my journals is like being an archeologist of my own life —

The annual New Year’s resolutions, recorded dreams still requiring more analysis than I have time for, and the litany of what I haven’t accomplished in my artist life as well as my personal life, fill the pages. (it also appears I have the same 30 lbs to lose – intermittently – and regain eventually. And ALWAYS need new walking shoes.)

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My studio is now littered with bags of my shredded journals. I am still stuck but now I am also stuck with the detritus of my writing – a lot of it.

I always attend the Biennial Book Arts Fair. https://www.pyramidatlanticbookartsfair.org Artists exhibit their hand-made paper and one of a kind Artist Books – There are calligraphers and letter press printers. There are sculptures made from paper pulp.

When you studied Maine commerce in 4th grade, you learned about potatoes and paper. When I entered Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center doors,  I was thrown back in time to rainy days growing up in Maine when the smell of the SD Warren paper mill reached our noses. The mill was a major employer at that time.

http://wgme.com/news/in-depth/maines-pulp-and-paper-industry-by-the-numbers

Today, I would describe the smell as kombucha made from trees.

Gretchen Schermerhorn is the PAAC artistic director and an artist in her own right. She creates works on paper and sculptures with paper.

http://gretchenschermerhorn.com/section/294491-Sculptural.html .IMG_1016

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I spent several days working with Gretchen. I combined my shredded pages with water in a Hollander beater. As the paper and water mix, a slurry is formed.

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Forty-five minutes later, I have paper pulp – lots of it. Then I fill 5 gallon buckets with the mixture. It is a very physical process.

My journals produced 50 gallons of paper pulp – IMG_1020

its color derived from the blending of all the ink from all the words.IMG_1015

(For a 6 minute quick overview of paper making you can do at home, check out: Pulp and Deckle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE2VWojDb1g )

 

STRATA 4: Museum

The term archaeology, was not used until early in the 17th Century. Prior to this there was no real desire to carefully preserve the history of long forgotten cultures.

….‘However, Europe’s Dark Ages were slowly being illuminated by a revived thirst for education. The newly invented printing press had placed bibles in the hands of those outside of the clergy and there was renewed interest in the biblical sites of antiquity.’Wikipedia

Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie is historical fiction. ‘Johannes Gutenberg was a German blacksmith whose printing press has been widely considered the most important invention of the modern era because it profoundly impacted the transmission of knowledge. ‘ The book traces the development of the printing press in a world of monastic scribes through the eyes of one of those scribes.

Scriptorium (/skrɪpˈtɔːriəm/  literally “a place for writing”, is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the writing, copying and illuminating of manuscripts by monastic scribeshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scriptorium

 Thousands of books of hours made between 1250 and 1700 survive today in libraries and museums,… No two are exactly alike, although they share one group of devotions. That text, a set of prayers in eight sections meant to be said at regular intervals throughout the twenty-four-hour day, is called the Hours of the Virgin, and is the basis for the term book of hours.  https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hour/hd_hour.htm

One of the largest collections of illuminated manuscripts is housed in the Walters Gallery of Art in Baltimore.

Nine hundred illuminated books of hours and manuscripts are preserved in the lower level of #5 Mt. Vernon Sq.IMG_1111

Although they have been digitized and can be viewed on line https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umOc5nXmO_U , I am adamant about seeing the books in situ. They are available for viewing (by appointment only) at the Original Manuscript and Rare Book Library.

Access to the library is via a labyrinthian path for which you need a guide. Nicole Berlin majored in archeologist but spends her days researching and translating manuscripts written in Latin or Greek.

As we make our way to the Library, we stop to examine an exhibit of the history of paper and book making – with examples of the implements, tools, and materials used to illuminate manuscripts.

The library looks like a set from an Agatha Christie mystery. Shelves of ancient tomes line the walls. A globe occupies a corner of the room. Displayed on a large wooden table are 4 books resting in wooden cradles—designed to protect the fragile bindings.

 

The viewing process is frustrating because only the Curators are allowed to turn the pages. (No white gloves.) To view the details, I must rely on Nicole’s descriptions and analysis. We discuss the content of the books, the design of pages, intricate patterns, gilding.

IMG_1102Although we are strangers, there is a kind of intimacy created by the proximity of our heads as we peer at the pages. I am sure that we look as if our heads are bowed in prayer. Or at least a monk peering at his work as he creates an illuminated manuscript.

After years of creating large scale community based art, my friends want me to limit the size of my next artwork to that of a shoe box – .

50 gallons of pulp could be formed into paper –  a lot of it.

I may no longer be stuck.

 

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6 comments on “Archeology

  1. Kathy Erb says:

    I love the old journal entries, especially the ones involving the old home area of Union Bridge and New Windsor. And it’s great to hear you have a new inspiration!

  2. woodscrone says:

    I need to do something about my journals kept for 30 years plus.

  3. susan a says:

    I look forward to whatever springs forth through you!!!
    And I imagine you intentionally used both spelling of the word “archaeology,’ which sent me to the internet for a bit of education!!

  4. Beckie says:

    Jo, fascinating as always. I look forward to see what you will create with all that pulp! Visited several of the linked sites. Gretchen’s work is very interesting.

  5. Margaret says:

    Your writings continue to educate and amuse me! Always enjoyable. Looking forward to your new work – your current path makes perfect sense!

  6. I love your writing and how you weave a journey that is evolving as we read. A bit of history as well. Keep blogging. Glad you might not be stuck! We are here to read when you are ready to write more. XO

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