Category Archives: Photography

Cat-A-Log: A Joint Project With Karen Koshgarian

Since Sunday was National Day of the Cat it seems appropriate that we bookend the day with two cat related blog posts. Last week, Meet the Cats, this week Cat-A-Log.

Several years ago I began a project titled Picturing Dialogue which was a weekly call and response exchange between me and several other photographers, one-on-one. During that project one of the participants, Karen Koshgarian, and I discovered that we enjoyed our weekly email chats and one another’s perspective on the world and we’ve continued with annual weekly photo exchange projects ever since.

This year we’re doing two projects, “Signs of the Times” and “Watch Your Step.” Having a weekly exchange and an art partner is a great way to keep art-making constant and fresh. If you haven’t tried this kind of art exchange, I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for ideas, you might check out The Photographer’s Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas. Although we don’t get our ideas from that book, I do have it in my studio and think it’s a great resource to get you started!

In 2015 one of our projects was titled “Cat-A-Log.” We took turns sending photos of our cats back and forth. Karen’s cat Little Rickey is black with white markings, our kitty, Ellis is white with black markings. It was a fun way to share our love of cats and a much needed break from the more serious political work that I usually do. This is one of the artists books I’m working on in the studio. It will, of course, have one white and one black cover.

Here is a sneak peek of the beginning of the exchange. All photos are copyrighted by the photographers and may not be copied or reproduced without explicit written permission.

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Cat-A-Log Week 1 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 2 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 3 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 4 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 5 by Ginger Burrell

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Cat-A-Log Week 6 by Karen Koshgarian

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Cat-A-Log Week 7 by Ginger Burrell

Have you done a project about your animals? Have you done a project with another artist? Feel free to link to your project in the comments section.

~Ginger

http://www.gingerburrell.com

 

The Saddest Photographs I’ve Ever Taken

sandy hook photos (2 of 2)

I’m finishing up a new artists’ book about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. When the shooting happened I felt compelled to do *something* and I started thinking about how to represent the children and school staff who were killed. I came up with the idea of using teddy bears for the children and apples for the staff and I’ve spent several days taking school portraits. It’s gotten harder and harder as I’ve been working on the book and taking the group photo broke my heart. I’m going to release the book on Friday and I’ll tell you more about it then. In the meantime, here are some samples of the images I’m working with:

sandy hook photos (1 of 3)

sandy hook photos (1 of 2)

sandy hook photos (3 of 3)

sandy hook photos (2 of 3)

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: Or how does one make art and keep up with real life?

It started with a discussion around the campfire in July. My husband, Greg, said, “I’m thinking of moving.” “Really?” I thought. Just when was he going to mention this to me?!

Many discussions later we agreed that this is a good time for us to buy a new house. We love our current house but our yard is small, my studio is small, and we have no downstairs bedrooms to offer our parents if they need it. And so we fell, or jumped, down the rabbit hole.

For two months we spent every weekend looking at houses. New houses, old houses, oh-my-gosh we’d have to tear out everything houses. Our criteria – studio space, a yard with some distance from our neighbors (who are very nice people, but when you can reach out and touch them…), and enough downstairs bedrooms to accommodate both sets of our parents if we ever needed to.

In between talking to realtors, pouring over online listings and wandering through more houses than I can count, I managed to continue to make art. I worked on my quilt book, I worked on editions of books, I found time to think about new art. And then we bought a house.

Our discussions transitioned from how many bedrooms to what kind of cabinets, from how much square footage to whether or not we wanted a glaze on those cabinets, and from what size yard to where I wanted the studio in the yard…

Yup! A studio. A lovely, separate, four-times-as-big as my current bedroom/studio, space to make art. The only problem… no time to make art. No time to think about art and a dozen blog posts in my head that never made it through the keyboard and into the web. For the past month I’ve spent every spare moment planning the new house, planning how to sell our current house, and almost no moments in the studio. (Thankfully I was teaching a class and enjoying the art made by some very creative students!)

So, first, an apology. I ask you to read my blog and then I flake on you. I am deeply sorry. I missed writing and I missed hearing from you.

And a deep sigh of relief. Today I have five minutes to hold still, to think about art and to write to you. Today I am going back to a book arts group that patiently endured my excuses and we’re going to look at artists’ books and talk about art and I’m going to ask for some of their ideas for how to turn a single book that doesn’t quite work, in to an edition that shines.

The challenge for the next three months will be to pack, get our current house ready to sell, and make time for art. I look at my studio and think about packing it up and then close the door. How do I pack up a studio without spending the next day unpacking a box because I put the exact material I needed in said box?

Have you moved your studio? What was your strategy? What worked and what didn’t? What would you do differently if you had to do it again?

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

The Trojan Horse of Art?

 

This post is part of an ongoing series of discussion based on my reading of No Longer Innocent – Book Art in America 1960-1980 by Betty Bright.

In the introduction, Ms. Bright refers to Walter Hamady’s idea that artists’ books are “the Trojan Horse” of art. That books, a familiar, comfortable and trustworthy media, have the opportunity to be approachable, and at the same time controversial, in a way that another media might not.

What do you think? Have you made artists’ books that look pretty on the outside but have shocking content on the inside? Or artists’ books that appear to be about one thing but actually cover a more difficult topic?

I agree with Mr. Hamady’s idea that artists’ books are the trojan horse of art and I often use that convention in my own artists’ books. Sometimes my content is thought-provoking, such as in Virtual/Reality where beautiful landscape photographs are paired with poetry questioning our social trend towards experiencing everything through a screen and, sometimes the content is shocking.

For my BFA show, which was largely about violence against women, I made a set of books where each page of each book has a news story from that day about violence against women. January 1, January 2, etc. I paired them with images on alternating pages and, most importantly, I’ve bound them in a traditional post binding with a beautiful floral cover. (Which ironically a reviewer didn’t get – they said the covers should have been plain.) The first impression is a pretty book. As the viewer begins to read the stories it is shocking, sad and physically draining. But the books underscore the reality that violence is happening against women every single day. And, by making them pretty on the outside, people were more willing to approach (even though the content of the rest of the show hinted at what might be inside). Interestingly enough, I never saw anyone leave a book part way through. Although it was exhausting, the viewers stayed with each book, every page, until the end. Many of them looked at all three books or three months of stories. Did the book format encourage this? Was the trojan horse aspect of pretty cover and difficult content the reason for the success of the books? Did the images I put in after each story give the viewer enough of  a rest to soldier on to the next? Here are some sample pages from one of the books, Paying for what was not her doing (January 2010):

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What format decisions have you made to help a reader handle a difficult topic? Are your books subversive in some way? What do you think of Mr. Hamady’s idea?

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

Learning about What Has Come Before: Book Art in America

When I was at San Jose State University, some of my favorite classes were art history. I know. Snooze. But I had the gift of three amazing professors who love art history and made me  love it, too.

Dr. Max Grossman’s enthusiasm for art history was a defining moment for me. What seemed dry and drudgery became interesting, even compelling. In his Medieval to Renaissance class, Dr. Grossman talked about the art and artists as if he had been there. His knowledge of the backstories of great works of art made them come alive and had a lasting effect. Now at museums I recognize work we talked about, I understand its place in the history of art, and its significance to work that followed. I’ve become a better consumer of art because I’m more educated.

Dr. Dore Bowen‘s class Contemporary Art: The Thing sounds like a good name for a horror flick. Instead it was a thought-provoking journey through the art world from Duchamp’s Fountain to Jeff Koon’s Puppy and far beyond. And, while I didn’t always like the art (or even agree that it is art), I did learn to really think. Not just about the visual impact, but also about the intent of the artist, the social and cultural context when the art was made, and the influence of that art on all that follows. This class also led to two of my artists’ books, Rocks and You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.

Brian Taylor‘s History of Photography changed everything for me. I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl (I have the “heads cut off” photos to prove it) but, until this class, I had no idea about the incredible artistic range of this medium I thought I was good at.  As I learned about Anna Atkins, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham,  Jerry Uelsmann, Alexander Rodchenko and too many others to name here, I realized that I knew nothing about photography and that I need to begin again. This class also led to new work including The Heaven Project and Ode to Anna Atkins.

Why have I spent four paragraphs reminiscing about art history classes? This rather long-winded introduction leads me to my current foray into art history, reading No Longer Innocent: Book Art In America 1960-1980 by Betty Bright. I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite some time but I’d never actually opened it. One day I realized how much I was missing the reading and discussions from school and decided that this book would be a good start. I know a lot now about the histories of painting, sculpture, photography, but what do I really know about the history of my own media, book arts? So here goes, a self-directed art history class about book arts. I suspect, as the above mentioned classes changed how I view and make art, this book will also have an impact. I invite you to read along with me and join the discussion.

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

Tools I Can’t Live Without: Kutrimmer

Hands down the most expensive, and also the most useful, tool in my studio is my Kutrimmer. I first used one of these wonders at the San Francisco Center for the Book and, after cutting Davey Board by hand for a bit, I went right out and found myself one.

(If you’ve ever spent hours cutting Davey Board with a craft knife  or box cutter you know what I’m talking about here. I know, the key is multiple long and shallow cuts. One layer at a time. Patience. Patience. Patience. But there was more than one time that my patience ran out and I ended up with the knife getting stuck into the board or into me. Ouch.)

My first Kutrimmer was used and I found it on eBay. It needed a bit of a tune up, but served me well for several years. You know how people remember their first car? Well my first Kutrimmer was a model 1038. I could cut Davey Board as thick as it comes with one cut. It cut through a stack of Rives BFK like butter.

But, alas, I had to trim everything first. With a cutting length of only 14 3/4″, Davey Board sheets had to be cut in four pieces and Rives BFK had to be cut in half. I dreamed of the day I could put large sheets of paper right through it.

So, after years of service, I said thank you and goodbye to my 1038 and bought my current Kutrimmer, a model 1071. Wow! I can put a 22 x 30  sheet of Rives BFK (or several sheets) right into that 1071 and come out with a stack of paper cut into just the right sizes. I still have to trim the Davey Board sheets once before they fit, but I decided on the 1071 because it can still be lifted by a normal human (or two) and it can sit on a table. The next level of Kutrimmer comes as a table and I just don’t have room in my studio.

I bought my Kutrimmer from MyBinding.com (I have no association with them) because they had free shipping and the best price. Even better, when the finger guard came cracked, they got a brand new part shipped out lickety split. Any company with excellent customer service is a company I’ll recommend again and again.

My new Kutrimmer has a cutting length of 28 1/2″. Ooooh. Really. I spent the other day turning 50 sheets of Rives BFK into 300 sheets for Virtual/Reality and One Second of Time and, afterwards, when I was gazing at that lovely stack of beautiful, deckle edged, paper… Well, let’s just say it was as good as chocolate without the calories.

I certainly use other cutting tools and I’ll share those in other posts, but in the meantime, how do you cut your paper? Your Davey Board?

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com

More Recycled Books: Pressed Bark Wrapped Drum Binding

Today’s experiment with recycled materials: Extra photographs leftover from another project and some beautiful bark I brought home and pressed after the same walk where I took the photos.

Before:

And after:

I used a drum binding so the photographs could be bound without stitching. They are folded such that when you open them the photo lays flat just as it was in the “before” photo. I inked the edges of the photographs to get rid of the bright white using a Staz-On ink pad. I mounted the pressed bark onto a scrap of Rives BFK and let it dry under pressure over night (a lot of pressure, think a BIG stack of books). Lastly I glued the bark cover to the inside pages. Again drying it under pressure overnight. Voila! I really love the bark cover. I’m going to have to play with that on a larger scale.

Have you used pressed bark in your books? How did it work out for you?

~Ginger

www.gingerburrell.com