Willa: The State

Willa: The State
Hand-stitched, dyed, and painted papers and fabrics. Acrylic image transfers. Paper made from a book destroyed by a vandal at the San Francisco Public Library. Piece made in under a week for their "Reversing Vandalism" show.

Beginning in 2001, librarians at the San Francisco Public Library began finding vandalized books—slices and diced and mutilated—among their shelves. All of these books either had something to do with homosexuality, or merely had a related keyword in the catalog (even a book on the Enola Gay was vandalized). In an effort to make something of these books, and to build funds to replace them, a call to Artists was sent out in 2003. Artists would be sent a random vandalized book, with the goal of creating a piece for a show at the library's gallery. With just a week before the final deadline, my book arrived—a biography of the writer Willa Cather. As I've long loved Willa's words, I was happy with their random choice, and set about trying to create something worthy of the author.

Salvaging the cover (you can see one of the spots it was sliced in the detail view), and interior imagery, I pulped the actual pages themselves, and turned this mush into paper. I then used an acrylic gesso image transfer method to copy the salvaged images from Willa's life onto these sheets, superimposed over text from one of her short stories (which lent the subtitle to the piece). These were stitched together and tied to a quilt of canvas, and the piece was as done as I could get it in under a week.

The artist statement that appeared alongside the piece read:
"As a queer boy growing up in many different rural areas, my only source of escape were libraries and the books they contained. Countless hours were spent among the shelves, discovering worlds apart from my own. Books became sacred to me, the only constant in a frequently changing world, their words a verification that there was more for me out there. And this reverence continues even to this day, not only through a voracious consumption of the printed word, but in my own creations of hand bound books, papers and the like. So it was with a sense of guilt that, when presented with a vandalized book with which to create something, my first instinct was to shred the pages, making a pulp of them. Text of a Willa Cather short story, imagery from the book, and the spirit of a world in which a person finds it necessary to damage books to make themselves feel complete, or possibly assauge their own guilt, transformed itself into new pages. The written work marred, though never fully healed, becomes a visual story in its own right. Though the words may be assaulted, they can never be fully destroyed."

Willa: The State

Willa Detail

Detail View


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