Well, how many artists are there?—that’s how many ways they are doing. Undaunted by the vastness of the question and my dubious credentials for answering it, I agreed to go on KUOW’s The Record and give it a go. Last year I had promised myself that I would limit the lecture circuit to stories about art and try to stay away from the real estate stories. Alas, last year’s promises have evaporated along with everything else, so I went on the show. I told her the truth, which is that artists I know are all finding creative ways to survive these crazy and difficult times. On top of that, and more to the point, they pay their rent when no one else does. Hear the entire interview here—I’m at the top of the show, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to just my part.
Last month I had a nice chat with Jeffrey D. Shulman, a professor at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, on his Seattle Growth Podcast. In Season 6, he’s focusing on how people find and build community in a changing city. We mostly talked about ’57 Biscayne in 2011 and the Good Arts Building, and how those interlocking communities were formed and what I learned along the way. Of course, he also asks the inevitable “how has Seattle changed?” I’ve been here almost thirty years, but since I am rather ornery, I talked instead about what’s managed to stay the same. There are two interviews in the episode; the first one is interesting, but if you want to skip to mine, it starts at 33:44.
I also was a guest on the show a few years ago, along with my Good Arts partners Ali Ghambari and Greg Smith. We described how we came together from very different perspectives to create the wonder that is the Good Arts Building. Jeff had interviewed us separately and used the interview with Greg in one episode. He was about to scrap the rest, when the 2016 election happened. He felt like he really, really needed a heart-warming story of people setting aside their differences to work together to do good in the world—that’s us!—so he produced a Very Special Episode out of the outtakes.
I talked with New Day Northwest host Margaret Larson on KING 5 television, about You Are Here Too, the map show I co-curated with Annie Brule at the Good Arts Gallery. In a strange twist of meta-mapitude, the KING 5 studios, where the show is taped, happen to be located on the exact spot where I had a studio in the 1990’s. The Atlantic Street Studios were in a tiny two-story 1920’s building attached to a loading dock that took up the entire block and overlooked the Kingdome. Our building has been long wiped from the landscape, and unlike the Kingdome probably forgotten by most people. Atlantic Street is now known as Edgar Martinez Drive, all of which plays nicely into one of the show’s themes: how ephemeral and slippery are the names, mental constructs, and visual representations of places.
In 2015 Chatwin Books published Fabric of the American Dream, a combination monograph (of my Manet covers) and meditation on some of the recurring themes in my work. Chatwin co-founder Annie Brule, who had been a tenant of my ’57 Biscayne studios from its inception, and I had been wanted to collaborate for a long time, and this seemed like the perfect project. Annie is an illustrator, map-maker, and book designer who specializes in art books. She and Arundel Books owner Phil Bevis founded Chatwin a few years ago; Fabric of the American Dream was the first in their artist series.
On Phil’s advice, we produced the book in two editions: a clothbound limited edition, and an unlimited paperback edition. Both versions have identical content inside. I wanted the books to reflect my psychedelic homespun aesthetic in their form as well as their content. When I hear the word “clothbound”, I’m not picturing some tasteful, plain, dark, smoky, brown number. I’m thinking more along the lines of something I’d use in a painting. The problem with vintage fabric is the difficulty of finding a sufficient supply to do all fifty covers. (Besides, I need it to use in my paintings.) After some searching, I managed to find some brand new fabric that gave off the right mid-century vibe, so I snagged what was left of the bolt.
I consulted with some crotchetty old guys in the midwest who had been binding books for forty years and knew their stuff. They initially tried to scare me away from the idea of using just any old cotton cloth to bind my books, but after I badgered them a bit to tell me what exactly real bookcloth is, they relented and allowed that I could add a stabilizer to the back of the cloth and it would probably work just fine. They were a bit tight-lipped about what that stabilizer would be, so I badgered some crotchetty old ladies here in town who had been in the crafty-fabricky world for just as long, and they, along with some younger artist bookbinders on the internet, recommended an iron-on product called “heat-n-bond”.
Due to some delays and miscommunications at the bindery, we nearly didn’t have any books for our projected opening. The production binder who bound the softcovers and the innards of both editions was unable to add the cloth covers, let alone print titles on them. Some panic ensued, but we found a smaller house to do the binding, and I decided to tackle the titles myself.
I burned a screen in the same typeface that Annie used on the printed softcover. Screen-printing the front cover was easy enough, if a little nerve-wracking. I had exactly 50 of the cloth books to work with; I was committed to having 5o perfect (non inkstained) books when I was done.
To print the title on the spine, I came up with a little contraption on the fly, cutting a book-width slit in a board and adding some book-height legs to it.
Earlier in the process, when cutting out the bookcloths, I had been very, very careful to use every square inch as economically as possible so I’d have some cloth left over. I spent the day of the book release at home in my sewing room, being just as frugal with the remainder of the cloth, and I managed to squeeze out a dress. Because if it is at all possible to match your publication, why on earth wouldn’t you?
The hardcover edition is entirely sold out, but the delightful Brule-designed softcover is available through my brand-new store page.