The Jar

This is a piece I did for SPARK: art from writing: writing from art   .  I was assigned by the founder, Amy Souza, to make a painting based on a poem titled, “Freed from the Jar” by Kamika Cooper.  It was a good exercise for me to loosen up and paint faster than usual since there was a deadline.  The wire coil in the tree is from when I worked in the archives and had to remove spines for rehousing documents in folders.  And that is a dead moth I found in my studio – there were no moths mentioned in the poem, but it’s what I imagined.

Here are other works from different artists made during Spark’s 33rd round:

Mnemonic Whale

In the 16th century, Italian philosopher Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) dictated a proposal titled L’Idea del Theatro (The Idea of the Theatre). This proposal outlined his dream for ‘The Theatre of Memory’, a wooden amphitheater that would function as a physical vessel for all the knowledge in the world (or, in other words, a collection of memories). The semicircular auditorium would be divided into seven sections, each section would be decorated with an assigned planet (or star) known during that time, including related Kabbalistic and mythological figures. The seven sections would each hold numerous doored compartments of scrolls and cards, categorized by subject matter. Camillo would never live to see his vision ever manifest. In 1966, British historian Frances Yates chronicled ‘The Theatre of Memory’ in her book on Classical and Renaissance-era mnemonic systems titled The Art of Memory, which helped resurrect Camillo’s concept for the masses.

From the white whale in Moby Dick to the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale in the Old Testament, whales have had a variety of symbolic interpretations in literature – the mother’s womb, the unconscious mind, human fear, purity, and the unattainable. The colossal mass of a whale can also evoke an allegory of a vessel or an abode – a body of flesh holding answers. ‘The Mnemonic Whale’ is a deviation from ‘The Theatre of Memory’ in size, shape and functional design (although the inside of each door has a painted celestial body from Camillo’s proposal). Instead of attempting to hold all the knowledge in the world, the seven divisions are based off of simplified, selected categories from the Library of Congress (LOC) – B (Psychology/Philosophy), M (Music), N (Fine Arts), P (Literature/Fiction), Q (Science), R (Medicine) and Z (Bibliography/Library).

As a miniature lending/exchange library, you are encouraged to both take and contribute books, zines, music, or any objects that you personally believe could fit into either of these seven subject-categories. In the end, we are working to achieve a future archive of a collective memory of the community.


Recommended reading:

Foer, J. (2012). Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything. New York: Penguin Press.

Yates, F. (1966). The Art of Memory. Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Working Library

8836 N. Lombard Street
Portland, OR 97203



Project proposal for the Working Library


This month I’m working on a project that crosses over into the concept of storage and lending with libraries. It will be in the form of a donation to the Working Library in St. Johns during the month of May.  Materials and such are coming out of my pocket, so it doesn’t require applying/hoping for a grant (this is how I throw myself at opportunities/people). Here is my (slightly disjointed) written proposal:

The “Library Whale” (a working title) is one 43.5″ by 13.5″ shelf insert for one of the existing bookshelves in the WL space. The front of the shelf will be a soft wood (such as pine or cedar) with a woodcut of a beached whale stretched from end to end – (the woodcut relief echoes a thread in the theme of printmaking, zines, and DIY publishing). On the front of the shelf would be seven doors, each opening to a (broad) Library of Congress category (fine arts, science, bibliography, etc.) – each section will already have some materials donated by myself.  Visitors will be encouraged (there will be an explanatory document displayed next to the shelf) to borrow or exchange the items with something they want to donate. The shelf would be painted white to match the space. I’ll come into WL and photograph any changes/new items contributed or taken from the shelves for documentation. The explanatory document would also highlight how the symbol of the whale can connect to literary themes and memory.  Before cutting/inserting the doors, I will be making a woodblock print of the relief carving to potentially be displayed with the box.

Time to finish carving and start writing!



Working Library Open House in St. Johns 

Last night I went to North Portland for an open house of a collaborative art project called “Working Library”.  It consists of two parts – the first being a visiting artist program that provides an open manifestation of what a library can be. Folks are encouraged to bring their favorite book into the space to have the front and back covers photocopied for a collective binding.

The second is that it’s an artist residency sponsored by c3:initiative, and it plans to “produce artist projects dealing in themes of publication, archive, and collection through the lens of artists of color” (WL program flyer).

Along with drinks/snacks and views of printing presses, folks could sign up for “membership” (I’m #11) – and hand print  the Working Library stamp onto turquoise miniature pencils.  I enjoyed seeing my former grad school classmate (and London traveling buddy) Anne Keech, along with meeting fellow artist Pippa Possible (and chatting on a very comfy couch to avoid the loud banter of the crowds). 

It was great to witness two of my obvious favorites combined: art and librarianship.