Please join me for readings from Nostos on Sunday, February 3 from 1 to 2:30 PM at Copperfield’s Books, 850 4th Street, San Rafael, CA. I’ll be speaking about the two pieces I made for this literary journal, which is devoted to the subject of family. The works share three qualities: both are diptychs, or two pictures that are meant to be looked at together; both are monoprints or unique printed images; and both are based on actual objects.
We chronicled the heights of our children on a growth chart. It’s a freestanding column because when we moved, I couldn’t leave it behind so I had it cut from the wall and took it with me. It’s a prized possession. I live in a house with lots of artwork and the growth chart is the single object that attracts the most attention.
It dates from 1993 and is still in use today. As the children grew older, they added their friends to the growth chart. Now my nieces and nephews have children, who are also included. Last Christmas, someone added their dog.
My challenge was how to translate the growth chart into two dimensions. The object is tall and thin and the Nostos pages are essentially square, so I decided to split the image into two parts, younger and older. I wanted to preserve the writing, especially the look and feel of little hands learning to form letters. With the help of a professional photographer friend, I separated the lettering from the column. Next I needed a background for it. Growth is defined as the process of increasing physically in size, so I wanted to convey a sense of motion. I chose the repeated action of rolling an inked brayer. I used a pure violet for the younger years, and a mix of colors to represent the more complex older ones.
The second work I made for Nostos is “Cross Purposes,” which is based on a sculpture I made about parenting. It was inspired by an actual event I still remember vividly. Our five year old son misbehaved in public and I was embarrassed and angry. In response, I made a glass house with etched text that reads: “MOM WAS ANGRY. BEN WAS SORRY. MOM WAS SORRY. BEN WAS SAD.”
Again, my challenge was to translate three-dimensional work to a book page and again I chose to make a diptych using a printmaking process. In this case, I had two letterpress plates made, each mimicking a side of the “Cross Purposes” sculpture. Since these plates raise the design, I was able to transfer the image by running an inked brayer over paper on the plate. As you can see, I needed many passes to accurately portray my parenting experience.
Growth Chart photographs by Mika Sperling.