Thursday, February 14, 2013
For a few years I have been circling gingerly around a book project suggested by Priscilla Juvelis, the astute owner of Priscilla Juvelis Rare Books in Kennebunkport. She thought that the writings of Margaret Fuller -- author, editor, journalist, literary critic, educator, Transcendentalist, and women’s rights advocate -- would resonate with me and with the themes I bring to my book object work. Priscilla was right, and I am intrigued by this Margaret Fuller -- trail-blazing, intellectual, and highly, deeply sensitive.
Her book Summer on the Lakes in 1843 is packed with observations about the journey she made from the cultured atmosphere of Cambridge and Concord to the wilds of Buffalo, Chicago, and Milwaukee. It is, however, her nearly fevered experience of Niagara Falls that asked to be transcribed, translated, and re-imagined in my studio.
I have had my own love affair with Niagara Falls, and Margaret Fuller's response is entirely understandable to me. The phenomenon of the place nearly undoes her sensibilities:
"My nerves, too much braced up by such an atmosphere, do not well bear the continual stress of sight and sound. For here there is no escape from the weight of a perpetual creation; all other forms and motions come and go, the tide rises and recedes, the wind, at its mightiest,moves in gales and gusts, but here is really an incessant, an indefatigable motion. Awake or asleep, there is no escape, still this rushing round you and through you. It is in this way I have most felt the grandeur---somewhat eternal, if not infinite."
So now I have gathered my own easily excited nerves and have embarked on a book of only one chapter -- Niagara, June 10, 1843. Her words are illustrated and, I hope, illuminated by my digital composites of rocks and water. The book will be dense with paper, thread, transparency, and rhythm. The structure that will house it is still in my mind --- sparkling, fluid, heavy, blue, and vivid.