Long before Altered Books became vogue I was using cast-off codexes to create art works. Some of my alterations/modifications added to the books' interior landscapes. I would paint over the text and then write a poem or paint a portrait, do a collage or draw a still-life, etc. On other books I would create pieces that were more sculptural. These books would either not open at all or would only open to one interior offering the viewer a new perspective into how books can inform us.
One of the most personally successful alterations was a book on community. In this work I gessoed out all the page text, leaving just small bits of it poking through. Then I took the book around to neighbors, teachers and principals at the neigborhood middle-school, family members living close-by and asked them to write something about their lives. How did they come to this neighborhood? What favorite memory would they like to share within this context of community? How did they see their role within the neighborhood?
Then I would take photographs and do life sketches of them while they talked with me or while they were recording their stories. It was wonderful because it gave me a chance to visit with neighbors I had grown up with and find out interesting tidbits about their lives that I never knew before because I had never asked.
This altered-book remains one of my most cherished possessions. I never thought when I was creating this altered book that it would become so important. Several of my neighbors, who wrote down very dear and personal stories, have now passed on, including my mother.
I have other books and entries that I will share in the coming days and weeks. For now I offer you my self-portait from the "Community" book. I still live in the same neighborhood I grew up in. When I was young I always thought I would leave this town for a better...well anything, but life's circumstances kept me here and now I realize, just as Dorothy did, there is no place like home. We are so fortunate to live in such a temperate climate, with those beautiful mountains. I have been fortunate enough to travel all across our great nation and I have seen some amazing vistas and beautiful cities, but none compare to seeing those misty mountains that are so comforting and protective. And we have such a rich heritage from our ancestors who settled here. Why would we want to live anywhere else?
And speaking of ancestors, I have two fairly famous painters in the family. Their works grace the archives of the Smithsonian, as well as other famous collections. A few of their paintings have even made it to poster prints and can be found on Allposters.com. More about them and their works later.
Investigate your community. Record your life there. Take a few moments to talk with those elderly neighbors and others. Get to know what they feel is important. Their answers will surprise you. Make your own community books. You'll be glad you did.