I started this blog 10 years ago today. What’s more, this my month of Jubilation. I just celebrated my 50th birthday.
I like to tell the story of how my friend Roni Noone advised me investigate using WordPress to enhance this site, which began in 2001. I set up a blog and began sharing art, and some other things that bring Joy. I called the site Joie de Vivre.
It was like adding water to a big box of instant powdered AWESOME LIFE mix. It amplified the great parts of life, and helped me cope with some very challenging, darker things. I am brimming with gratitude.
It seems appropriate to mark the occasion by sharing this photo of the best birthday cake that was ever made, or ever will be made, ever. It was perfect and delicious. Thank you my dear, lovely Maiden China. You are the best.
I moved into my new home last spring, a place that I affectionately refer to as MI6.
The city removed a dead tree that was next to the house shortly after I moved in. We noticed that someone was leaving cryptic notes in the bark of the stump.
They look like this:
The city came and ground the stump into mulch. The notes continued to appear in the mulch.
Then, my daughter and I observed the mysterious note maker.
He carries a well-worn book, which looks something like a bible, and continually looks up into the sky as he writes. I affectionately refer to him as The Weatherman. I am utterly fascinated. He disappeared into the neighborhood before I could interview him, and I haven’t seen him since.
Happy New Year, Weatherman. I hope to see you in the spring!
When Spencer Dormitzer at the Smith Healing Center reached out and asked if I’d be interested in participating in this show (OF COURSE I AM), my mind immediately went to Prince. He had a profound influence on me while I was an undergraduate music student in college. While researching Steve Vai for my senior thesis, I read an interview where Vai said that he’d love to work with Prince. I began to investigate Prince’s music more deeply. I knew the hits, of course, and I’ve watched Under the Cherry Moon more times than I’d like to admit. I was soon influenced by his song writing and his presence in his own music. I loved his ability to flawlessly produce recordings where he played most (all) of the instruments. Sign o’ the Times was my particular favorite. And I love that Prince rejected the music industry as it used to be, and did things his own way.
I do not want to bring Prince into my Art.
I know the work of Bowie from MTV, radio and years as a music buyer. I cannot admit to ever being a big fan, though. Don’t get me wrong, I do not dislike his music. Not at all. But, I’ve also never been particularly drawn to him. I loved the TV Christmas duet he performed with Bing Crosby. And, I remember my college roommate played the catchy Never Let Me Down endlessly.
But as I cast my thoughts back the MTV, I remembered “Ashes to Ashes.” According to Wikipedia, It was the lead single from the 1980 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and became Bowie’s second UK No. 1 single. It is also known for its innovative video, directed by Bowie and David Mallet, which at the time was the most expensive music video ever made.
His portrayal of Pierrot in the video strongly reminds me of a stuffed toy I carried around as a toddler. I think my grandfather gave it to me. It’s one that I’ve drawn several times and that I clearly remember. It made sense to bring that figure in my current work at this time.
I can also say, now, that Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) has made it’s way into rotation in my studio.
So, that’s the story about this show – and here is my piece, Ashes to Ashes.
From the Loyola site: “Paul Johnson is a successful pop-up book artist with work in such collections as the Tate Gallery, London; the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York; and the National Gallery, Washington DC. Dr. Johnson has an international reputation for his pioneering work in developing literacy through the book arts. He has written books on making art books, and he loves to teach children how to make books.”
Paul insists that art has been on the decline since the middle ages, and he draws inspiration from medieval architecture, especially cathedrals. Paul likes to take nursery rhymes and fairy tales and mash them together – stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk meets Goldilocks” or “Mother Hubbard and the Three Pigs.” Or, even, stories from the bible. Then, he makes pop-up books.
All of his books can be disassembled and placed flat to be carried in a suitcase. He does not use glue, nor does he fold the paper. He uses joints to connect the elements:
He started making these books after he turned 40, and is now 72-ish. He leaves Britain to travel the world, teaching his methods and staying with other book artists.
Paul’s books are astonishing – not only for their detail and engineering, but also the cleverness of how he reworks classic stories into new ones.
On Saturday, Leezle and I were lucky enough to attend a 3 hour workshop with Paul. We learned some folding techniques, and we made some pop-ups.
I’m very excited to say that I’ll be part of The Dark Artisans’ Bazaar at this year’s Death Salon, which takes place at the Mütter Museum! I’ll have a table with a lot of art and some new surprises. The Death Salon will take place on October 5 & 6, 2015.
The Mütter is located at:
19 S 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The museum itself is fascinating, as is the history of the founder. I had a private tour of the bone room and wet specimen room, and while it’s not a huge place, I want to go back and study the exhibits. There is a great Vesalius exhibit, the wall of 139 skulls and the Soap Lady. A huge amount to read and study.
I love the talks, the people and the Museum. I am very grateful I had the chance to be a part of this.