Daily Book Page 3.20.11
©2011 Leah Virsik, Daily Book Page 3.20.11 found paper on paper pages: 5 x 3 3/4 inches

I’m feeling a sense of searching in this work. I’m looking for something. It brings to mind a favorite quote:
“…if your desire is to go to the furthest limits of yourself then the actual form your art takes doesn’t seem important to you. Whether you use words or paint or sounds.”
–John Fowles, from The Collector (p168)

Ideal Art Practice and Other Inspiration

Alissa Neglia "Root to Crown" 2006My photo above is Alissa Neglia’s Root to Crown, 2006 at Dejerrassi.

I was inspired by Andy Warhol’s quote “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it say twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.” This quote is in The Happiness Project I’ve been reading. I try to create every day. And if I don’t… what I do is around creating. I was trying to work on my art for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 when I get home. It does work well for small projects. Discipline can be quite the challenge for me. Do you have a art schedule or certain hours where you work on art?

Anyway, just want to share a bit of what I’ve been up to… Tom and I went on a really great tour of the Dejerassi Resident Artists Program by Dennis O’Leary, Executive Director of the Program. Very inspiring and good exercise! I mentioned I make books and Dennis’ wife, Catie O’Leary (who creates beautiful collages from original engraved illustrations from antique books) mentioned the Bedford Gallery’s show entitled Unbound: A National Exhibition of Book Art Opening July 11 where she’ll have a piece on display. Looking forward to that!

I was at SCRAP on Saturday taking Jody Alexander’s class on Wearable Books. I made “spitballs” from paper. The paper really does make a difference. We soaked paper in water and then rolled it into a ball. When they dry… mine still seem a bit damp, they can be made into beads or whatever. I love Jody Alexander’s work. Very inspiring! She’s teaching at Foothill College over the summer. One of the books she shared that she’ll be teaching is the cross structure binding by Carmencho Arregui. I am super enamored by that binding and very inspired to make it. I will learn it in the near future. In the meantime, maybe I can learn how to make this sweet little “package”.

Now why am I inspired to make that specific book structure and package? That’s part of my next question working though Alyson B. Stanfield’s Relatively Pain Free Artist Statement workbook. I had an emotional response to that book. It was a small criss-crossed leather notebook with embroidered knots, ledger paper and Jody Alexander’s handwriting. It was so precious to me… I asked to see it again. I had never seen that type of binding before. I think I thought Keith Smith was the only book artist making up book structures. I felt a bit obsessed trying to figure out more about the binding. I’m fascinated by construction, structure and three-dimension.

Tonight I went to hear Val Britton and Jeff Hantman (who coincidently did a residency at Djerrasi) give talks about their work at Kala’s Fellowship Talks. I’m went because I’m curious about Val Britton’s work and how she’ll be influenced by her upcoming residency at Recology SF. I didn’t know of Jeff Hantman but I really enjoyed hearing about his process. He started by showing works on paper and then on wood. He then started learning to bend the wood and applies collage and printing to the surface. What seemed the most interesting to me was how important it is for him to create his “surface”. And really it’s not about surface, the whole piece is his art… I felt like I could relate in that I really enjoy the construction of creating a book… the process of learning how to construct, build something. As I’m writing this, I realize my struggle has been wanting to unify the construction of the book and what’s inside the book. Sometimes, after I make the book, I’m not as interested in going back into it with writing, collage, etc. So if the binding is the last thing I do, then it’s more unified. I’ll definitely need to explore this topic more.

Documenting My Artistic Influences

Collaborative Book Project with Roben-Marie
“Believe” acrylic/collage: paper, acrylic, rub-on letters 6″ x 6″ ©2010 Leah Virsik

I found this quote going through some high school memorabilia…

“We are all guilty of crime, the great crime of not living life to the full.  But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What those powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring.” ~Henry  Miller

I’m continuing to work through Alyson B. Stanfield’s The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement e-book. This time I’m working on writing about my artistic influences.

I was recommended a book on encaustic and after looking through the book, I looked up the author online and found out she was teaching at an Artful Journey. Totally engrossed on the Artful Journey site, I temporarily forgot about encaustic and became fully enamored with DJ Pettit.  I was taken by her books and her stitching. After discovering her,  I started doing some “renegade sewing”. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age but what I remember most is jamming up her machine with thread and feeling incredibly guilty for “breaking” her machine. Now when I jam it up, I fix it myself, without guilt.

Artist, Teddy Goldsworthy-hanner referred me to Daniella Woolf who works with encaustic and books. Ahh, heaven!

Tom and I were getting our marriage license at Oakland’s Clerk Recorder’s Office and I was mesmerized by a button portrait by Lisa Kokin of her father. When I read that she taught classes, I knew I wanted to meet her and study under her.  This huge portrait of buttons was something I had never seen before. I was in awe… up close it was a mass of buttons and mixed-media and from a distance it was a portrait of a man. Anyway, as I’ve had the chance to see more of her work, what really stands out for me is her thoughtful process, conceptual approach and her delightful humor. I connect with the layers and depth of meaning in her work.

I really appreciated Robert Rauschenberg‘s concept for his Erased de Kooning at the SFMOMA. I especially loved his piece entitled Hiccups at the SFMOMA as well. Unfortunately, no photo but it was long: 9 in. x 752 in. (22.86 cm x 1910.08 cm) made up of prints, solvent transfer and fabric, with metal zippers on 97 sheets of hand-made paper. Another obsession of mine… long, massive works… it’s intriguing. Creating something bigger than myself in many ways is important to me. I appreciate Rauschenberg’s collage and paintings and the raw, organic feel to his work.

I got to see an incredible retrospective of Mark Rothko’s work at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. I almost wonder why I was so taken by this exhibit. Was it the docent, the exhibit or his work? It was probably the entire experience. I could sit in front of one his piece’s at SFMOMA for quite a long time just being. I’m attracted to his work because it’s massive, dominating in a way, peaceful, abstract, colorful and simple.

The Slanted Door in San Francisco had some Rex Ray pieces on display for awhile. That may have been where I first saw his work. His work has a lot of precision, especially some of his bigger pieces that I’ve seen at Gallery 16. I’m attracted to that precision and obsessiveness. As I’m writing this, it reminds me of the obsessive quality of Lisa Kokin’s work. I’m particularly attracted to repetition as well, as in repetition of elements. Some of Rex Ray’s smaller pieces are covered in resin which I’m quite attracted to… that highly shiny quality. I use resin in some of my own works. I’d like to try it with paper at some point too.

Kiki Smith, Eva Hesse and Helen Frankenthaler are some other artists that come to mind. Kiki Smith does a lot of work with the body and sculpture and ties it in really well with storytelling. When I think of Eva Hesse, I think of strings and large installations, the color white and an ephemeral quality. I remember connecting to Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings and the fact that she’s a woman.

Other influences in my work: I mentioned repetition and I have done some screenprinting and letterpress work. There are multiples that come out of printing. I create advertising for a living and it’s printed in multiples, hundreds of thousands at times. I’ve often wondered about what can be done with the leftovers, other than recycling. I’m influenced by what goes in the garbage. What else can it be used for?

I began my career designing newspaper advertising. At my brother’s graduation from U.C. Berkeley, I remember seeing a newspaper on the ground, it was garbage, but I had created the ad on that paper that no longer had value. It was quite depressing at the time. But now, I see it as a challenge… how can I create value in something that has outlived it’s original purpose?