April 9, 5–7 p.m.
Jody Williams presents drawings, prints, collages and books, as well as her “not-empty boxes”—intimate, Cabinet of Curiosities-like containers that include elements such as collected specimens, photos, maps and her own artwork. The artist will also display illustrated notebooks documenting over 30 years of her travels throughout Minnesota, the United States and Europe. While the subject matter of her works may seem unrelated, by choosing to bring together the work she has made beyond her Minneapolis studio, Williams relays her realization about the influence and importance of place in her art practice. The artist explains: “Turning both inwards and outwards to address my own presence and memories of location and place, I have begun including landscape drawings, maps, and photographs with natural and artificial specimens. Using the additional physical evidence, I am able to more fully conjure up my own presence in those places while I also consider the more melancholy aspects of absence and memory.”
While this exhibition, Not Here, is obviously right here, close to home, it includes a wide range of works that were completed or inspired by other places in Minnesota and beyond.
My current multi-purpose artist's statement articulates recent thoughts about the impact of place and location in my work:
For the past several years, I have found myself thinking backwards and forwards in different ways. Previously, my fascination with natural specimens had mostly focused on the beauty and wonder of the individual objects, and on collecting, organizing, and re-presenting them. More recently I have been thinking more about the origins and ephemeral presences of those specimens, as well as their locations in space and time. Turning both inwards and outwards to address my own presence and memories of location and place, I have begun including landscape drawings, maps, and photographs with natural and artificial specimens. Using the additional physical evidence, I am able to more fully conjure up my own presence in those places while I also consider the more melancholy aspects of absence and memory.
Putting this exhibition together has made me realize that those notions of location, place, presence and memory
are not new.
The largest piece in this show, Some More Specimens, was originally a mock-up for a Cabinet of Curiosities that was completed for the Gould Library at Carleton College in 2004. I cleared out the Carleton specimens after I returned from a trip to Ireland the next year, and I filled it with hundreds of small specimens. That Ireland trip was the longest time I have spent not here, as I was in Ballyvaughan for a semester with a group of students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). The artist's book, Some Specimens, is a reproduction of a sketchbook of drawings of specimens I was able to collect almost daily while I was there. The trip journal Ballyvaughan 2005 is really more of a notebook with a wide range of entries from that semester. Ireland 2011 is from a brief return to Ballyvaughan after attending a Miniature Book Society conclave in Dublin.
The two most recent pieces in the show, Sanibel and Nantucket, both involve my long-time traveling companion, Rose Gonnella, who I met in graduate school, and who lives in New York and Nantucket. Trips So Far was created in my Minneapolis studio in 1994, with both of us drawing small images on an etching plate to celebrate a friendship that continues to deepen while we live in different cities. Several of our trips have included visits to Rose's family home in Pescopagano, Italy; Italy 2003 is an artist's book containing highlights from a trip journal from the same year, with input from her mother, Josie.
The 15 illustrated Trip Journals in the gallery are available for inspection by visitors, embarrassing as some of their entries might be. The earliest one, The Odyssey, was compiled on a road trip to California in 1986, several years before I knew anything about Artist's Books as a discipline. Most of the journals since then began as hand-bound blank books made during teaching demonstrations, and choosing a book from those samples has become part of my routine while packing for trips.
The introduction of the i-Zone miniature polaroid camera in 1999 was a godsend, allowing me to include photographs in the journals alongside daily entries. The most elaborate trip journal, Vienna-Basel, was made while I was on sabbatical in Europe in 2001, soon after acquiring an i-Zone. The most recent journal, Tamarac Trip, was compiled on my last pre-pandemic journey to the Lake of the Woods, along the border of northern Minnesota and Canada, in October 2019. Several trips since then have had to be cancelled or postponed, and I have no idea where or when I will be not here next.
I am honored and thrilled to be presenting Not Here at St. Catherine University, where I have many connections with present and former staff, faculty and students. Thank you to the MCAD Faculty Senate for allowing me to re-allocate funds for this show from a grant I received to exhibit at the Codex Book Fair in Berkeley, which I was unable to do with continuing coronavirus fears. Thanks also to the many people who have supported me, my work, and my travels over many years.
Jody Williams publishes artist’s books under the name Flying Paper Press. She has taught workshops and presented lectures at museums and colleges across the United States and in Europe. Her work is in the collections of the Walker Art Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, University of Minnesota (which also houses her archives), Minnesota Historical Society, and numerous other museums, universities, and libraries. Honors include Jerome Foundation fellowships, grants and awards from the Minnesota Craft Council, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Minnesota State Arts Board in 2013, 2016, 2019 and 2021. In 2008, Jody Williams received the inaugural Minnesota Book Artist Award from the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, which she received again in 2019 for her artist's book For Now. More information: www.flyingpaperpress.com.
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