BOOKS: MATTER and MAGIC is a show about books, their making, and the spirit behind them. Genese Grill’s painted work “Almandal Grimoire: The Book as Magical Object” is a large-scale set of written and drawn on wood panels, while Diane Gayer’s “Of Earth and Being” is a book of photographs at the intersection of man and nature and was printed on the Heidelberg Press at Villanti Printers, Milton, VT. While very different in production and finished entity, both books speak to the magical realms of existence.
From Genese Grill:
About six years ago I had the idea that I wanted to make a gigantic book that one could walk into, a portal, perhaps with doors inside doors, opening up to rooms beyond rooms, with passageways that one only discovered when reading one or another passage. It would be inscribed with an essay I had written on the history of books as magical objects and the current discourse about their virtuality and materiality (published in The Georgia Review)—an essay that was the first I would write over the next five years in a collection of others on the tension between spirit and matter (now finished). I thought and thought: how could I build such a thing; perhaps it would be better just to write about it; certainly it would be easier and reading a book is sort of like walking through the kind of portal I imagined anyway. But I felt compelled to make this giant book, to push up against the weight of matter and feel its challenges. I had made many smaller books before, but never had I built anything large enough to have to wonder about whether it might stand up or fall down. At first I tried papier-mâché, but the mice in my studio began to nibble away at it. Then I opted for paper on wooden panels, with cloth and wooden hinges: an accordion book. I dispensed with the doors within doors and hallways and tunnels, and settled for ten boards (eight feet by four feet), cut on their tops like onion domes, inscribed with my essay, illuminated with images inspired by the history of manuscript illumination. It was really unclear how long it would take to write the essay that was printed in The Georgia Review long before the book portal was finished, and to illuminate it all with images. I used tempera pigments, ground into egg yolk, and coated each piece of paper on both sides with hot rabbit-skin glue (an awkward and difficult process involving smoothing wrinkles and wet corners of giant pieces of paper falling down upon me while I smoothed other corners down). I lovingly painted each letter and often went over each one again, painting around them and then having to repaint them again . . . getting lost in the intricacies of my own entanglements, imagining myself a medieval monk, caught in a loop of timelessness. Madness. But the inconvenience, the trouble, the time spent, and the complications were the point. It would be difficult to transport too. Heavy and awkward. Maybe it would take all my life. And it could have. But I chose to finish it this summer for a show in North Hero, Vermont, at the GreenTARA Space. The Almandal Grimoire Book Portal is rife with imperfections—to make it perfect would have taken decades, and there are other things I want to do with my life—and there are parts that are already beginning to show wear and tear, the traces of time. But were it ideal, it would not be real. And that is the beauty and tragedy of matter.