Swarthmore College Library is presenting Hyper Local: New Works in the Swarthmore College Libraries Collection. I am honored to be part of this collection and exhibition. Because of the current health situation, this exhibition is available online. Click here to view the 24 books included.
Since I have mainly lived in the same geographic area for most of my life, the cultural encounters I had with food tended to be more influenced by late 19th and early 20th century European immigrants from many countries.
Upon moving to the South, I realized that since the population was historically different, many of the foods I grew up with were not widely available. An example of this is a recent conversation I had with a local life long resident who told me she had never heard of a zucchini until she went to college. Oddly, it was something her father said to me a few years ago that prompted the artist book featured in this post.
The book is titled Assumptions, and it is about what we presume to be the foods that are part of other people’s lives. If you ever saw My Cousin Vinny, you are well aware of the scene in the restaurant where the main characters are confronted with grits for the first time. The question that my local friend posed to me one day was “How do you cook your okra?”. “Huh??” was my response. It was only shortly before I moved that I ever even saw okra at my local vegetable stand up North. My understanding of it was an ingredient you put in gumbo and that was pretty much it.
I have since become quite acquainted with okra, not only as a vegetable prepared different ways but also as a plant because I spent three summers harvesting lots of okra. I can add onto my knowledge of okra these facts and observations: that by the time you get to the end of the row picking it, more has grown at the beginning of the row. You could probably spend several hours a day picking and repicking the same row of okra (assuming you have lots of plants). You should always wear long sleeves when picking okra and gloves or your skin will be very irritated. Okra is part of the hibiscus family so even it you don’t like the fruit, it is a lovely and vigorous plant.
It is no accident that Okra is not included in the graphics of this book as it was something quite absent from my former life. For the curious I will tell you that the vegetables pictured are green beans and the diminished base of a bunch of celery (two vegetables that seem to be part of many cultures) And for the record, zucchini is now plentiful where I currently live. How do you cook your Okra??
Assumptions: Book Front (left), Book Open (right)
A week or two ago I had written about the process of making an artist book using my piece Bedtime Story picture above. The piece is now complete with the exception of a slipcase which I am in no hurry to make at the moment.
As mentioned before, the inspiration for this piece was a documentary I watched on paper folding as well as participating in my grandson’s bedtime routine. What I did not mention in that post was my longtime fascination depicting people of different ethnic and racial groups together. This manifested itself with multicolored circles that represented faces; this was one of those personal symbols that showed up in my work off and on over time. So the various color papers used above are my current way of representing the tradition of bedtime routines throughout the many cultures of the world. It also struck me after this piece was put together that the people also resemble houses, another long time symbol in my work. Hmmmm….
A slide show of the entire piece is shown below.
This piece is dedicated to my grandson ‘Oti’
Bedtime Story, 2020, Artist Book
Several months ago, I watched a wonderful video called Between the Folds which went into great and surprising detail on the art of paper folding, also known as origami. The video covers way beyond what we traditionally think of and even gets into how the art form is also being used by scientists to study complicated problems. So of course after the show was over, I got a piece of paper and started to fold it. The form that I liked the most is pictured below. It reminded me of a mother holding a baby.
I saw this video not long after visiting my grandson. One of the things I enjoy most about my visits is participating in his elaborate and nurturing bedtime routine. I started to think of lots of parents and their children and bedtime routines, remembering the one we had with our daughter. It quickly came to me that this was the making of a “bedtime story”. So I started to experiment with coloring papers and different types of papers thinking of a quilt like form to play with.
After deciding on the colors I would use and folding a number of the squares, I pieced things together as seen below.
While this may look nice, it was clearly not going to work. My overall idea was to have this structure fold up into one square that could be stored in a box, sort of like folding up a quilt and storing it and taking it out when you use it. The other problem was that I wanted to add stitching and it was very difficult to stitch in this form. So after wresting with this for several weeks, putting it away and taking it out to think about it some more, I decided it needed to come apart.
Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the ‘quilt’ idea and not enough on the ‘story’ idea. Perhaps putting equal emphasis on both: the quilt and the story? I found some handmade paper I purchased a few years ago that spoke to me for no reason except that I knew they would be perfect for something someday. That day came today. So here is the current version of the Bedtime Story, though it is still far from finished. The smaller squares are not yet glued down so this is a layout pictured below. I will post the piece when it is finished. I am also documenting this via short (1 minute) videos on my Instagram account.
Postscript note: you can now see the finished project here.
Awhile back I posted digital images I worked over along with some thoughts on over development. Since then, I have decided to expand on the theme and construct an actual physical piece. The Fallen pays tribute to all creatures that are victims of over development but I continued to use the image of the toad. I choose a triple panel structure that is reminiscent of alter pieces and deliberately used a house shape as the panel format. I repeated the use of the red outline of the toads’ bodies as I did with the digital images. If you did not see the original post with the digitally reworked images, you can see that here .
This book was started some time ago but I did not like the way it was progressing so I put it away to work on “in the future”. Well, the future came and here is the finished book. It is a fond memory of my mother. Each panel is shown enlarged so the text and illustrations are easier to see and read.
A Walk Around the World, Mixed Media Artist Book, 9″ x 21.5″
Early in the winter of 2018, I set out to make 60 small houses to fit in a particular box. I did not know what the end product would be like but I set a goal to finish them before April of this year and here they are. Now they are not “complete, complete” yet, it is still a work in progress, meaning, the houses still have to be strung together and I have not yet decided whether that will be a more vertical format or a more horizontal format. And this is a poor photograph to top it all off. (John if you are reading this, I will eventually get that camera!) In any case, I had decided originally that the piece would be called suburban sprawl but the more I worked on it, the more they reminded me of the urban row homes I lived in most of my life so felt that the use of the word suburban seemed wrong. I am still going to make a piece called suburban sprawl but it will be different from this. I plan to complete this piece very soon and will post the final project then. You can read the original post related to this entry here.
Nikki Hansen was born in Elmer, NJ (when dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least before the tiny local hospital splurged on air conditioning). She currently lives in Glassboro, NJ.
For me, “home” isn’t necessarily anchored in a single dwelling but is more the mental embodiment of comfort, beauty, joy, safety, memory, stimulation and entertainment that makes one feel fulfilled and in tune with one’s place in time and space. A personal universe, in a nutshell, that is never left behind or lost because it travels with you in your head and can be accessed at all times and all surroundings.
In another universe there are an infinite number of rooms to contain all the beautiful, wonderful, curious, fascinating objects, creatures and emotional stimuli that I find make life worth living but these few are a start.
When Nikki is not at home, she spends most of her non-working hours cruising the tri-state area (NJ, PA, and Delaware) playing & singing with various music groups including two fantastic bands– Just Roses and Smoke and Mirrors. She spent most of her working career as a props person for live theatre and firmly believe that books, music in particular, the Arts in general and beasties are what makes life worth living.
*A note about Nikki’s house. In error, I sent Nikki three house cut outs and she employed all three. Being a props person for the theater, this made perfect sense to me that she designed a set!
This is a piece I have worked on off and on since last summer. For those of you who do not know me, I work as a vegetable farmer for a small commercial farm. The above work is an artist book consisting of four parts. Each part folds out into a section of three pages. I have not yet made the slip case for this book but will post it when it is complete. This work was printed by hand using black ink on Rives BFK and backed with a cream color Unryu paper. Each section, folded, measures 5 x 7 inches.