Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Recommendations Guest Post #8: Harley Spiller

"Three new artists' publications I've read have been resonating like crazy.

On Trepanation and Human Nature: Perspectives from Paul Broca to the Present by Melissa Monroe (March, 2014 is a 46-page poem about scraping, boring and hacking holes in human skulls.  Monroe patched together words and phrases drawn primarily from 28 historical, medical, and scientific sourcesto form this eloquent, melodic, and meditative collage on a fascinatingly freakish human practice.  Though I cannot definitively divine whether trepanation helps or harms (or whether this poem is more science or art), I do know this is a beautiful, smart and intricate bit of "Skull Magic."

In 1979, Minnesota-based performance artist Billy X. Curmano got a note from a stranger, Paul Hartal, the Hungarian-Canadian founder of the Lyrical Conceptualist Society. Hartal proposed a collaboration and Curmano, being the open-hearted humanitarian he is, replied with a detailed 16-page plan for a performance. The piece was faithfully executed in Quebec and Montreal the following year, but Billy has still not met any of the Lyrical Conceptualists. While combing through his archives in early 2015, he came across photographs of the performances Hartal had sent and was inspired to whip up the hand-stitched PERFORMANCE For an UNKNOWN SPACE With LEMONS. The first of these two slip-covered booklets reprises Curmano's original illustrated instructions; the second presents documentation of the performances. It's kooky fun with serious underpinning - not at all unexpected from the noodle of an artist who betters our world with challenging work like swimming the length of the Mississippi, fasting for forty days in Death Valley, and performing for cows and dead people.

The Winter 2015 ish of Raconteur presents true stories written and illustrated by cartoonists Isabella Bannerman, Brian Fies, John Klossner, Mike Lynch, and Mark Parisi. ( ) Like mini graphic novels, each tale takes us into the mind of its creator as they parse things that happened to them in the real world.  Bannerman, for example, shares the emotions she felt when her teacher and classmates laughed derisively upon learning she thought God had created Mt. Rushmore. Her "Miracle of Mt. Rushmore" carries me back fifty years to the morning before my first day of Sunday school, when I panicked because I was sure they'd ask me to draw a picture of God and I didn't know what he looked like. Careful readers of the deceptively-potent "Raconteur" may derive similar solace from these aesthetic explorations of the difficult experiences we all hide in our brains.

The mark of great art is that it keeps coming to mind well after the original encounter.  These three inexpensive artists books do just that."

Harley J. Spiller is the Deputy Director of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., and author of KEEP THE CHANGE: A Collector's Tales of Lucky Pennies, Counterfeit C-Notes, and Other Curious Currency

Billy X
Lemon Performance Booklets
Winona, USA: Self-published,
16 pp., 8 pp., 5.5 x 4.25", hand-stitched, hand-coloured slipcase
Edition of 65 signed and numbered copies

Available at (under 'Store').

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