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    The film we produced to accompany the exhibition, I Can Heal, explores the world of Renée Stout by way of Fatima Mayfield, an urban conjure woman created by the artist as an alter-ego and vector. Whether as equal opposites or as corresponding echoes, the relationship between the two is porous and shifting. A number of motifs throughout the film speak to this, most notably the narration, which is conceived as an audio palimpsest of two voices merging and diverging, recalling each other, and “sliding” over the course of a number of incantations, chants, and parables. The passages themselves are taken from the exhibition’s accompanying glossary of conjure terminology, the Bible’s Parable of the Sower, and a lover’s recipe recounted by Zora Neale Hurston in her book Mules and Men. When watching the video, it is purposely difficult to understand all the words Renée is saying. Since we’ve taken the time to illustrate the glossary, today, we’ll reveal the text for the Parable of the sower and Hurston’s To Make People Love You


    This story is found in the 13th chapter of the Bible’s New Testament book Matthew. 

    1The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

    Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 10.46.50 AM  (Zora Neale Hurston in 1938, from Library of Congress collection) 


    Take nine lumps of starch, nine of sugar, nine teaspoons of steel dust. Wet it all with Jockey Club cologne. Take nine pieces of ribbon, blue, red or yellow. Take a dessertspoonful and put it on a piece of ribbon and tie it in a bag. As each fold is gathered together call his name. As you wrap it with yellow thread call his name till you finish. Make nine bags and place them under a rug, behind an armoire, under a step or over a door. They will love you and give you everything they can get. Distance makes no difference. Your mind is talking to his mind and nothing beats that.


    Typically, when we visit an art museum you expect to encounter works of art, text panels with a curatorial essay, and maybe some snazzy vinyl for the exhibition title. Sometimes there is an audio tour that draws on insights from the curatorial staff or sound bites from an interview with the exhibiting artist. Increasingly, presentation methods are evolving to include visitor feedback, hands-on components, and videos that share more content on the artist. In Tales of the Conjure Woman, we have remarkable visual art work, snazzy vinyl, a beguiling video [ link to: ] that brings up more questions than it answers, and informative text panels.

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    Some distinctive additions to the show are a twist on the traditional audio tour and a wall shelf of perfume bottles. When in her studio, Renée Stout often listens to music, something we learned in her interview with Dr. O for the exhibition catalogue. During her gallery talk, Renée revealed that she has a collection of over 300 different perfumes. Even if she is wearing sweatpants and a paint splattered t-shirt, she will apply the scent that matches her mood.

    Her artwork does an amazing job at visually communicating the extrasensory perception (ESP) ability associated with rootworkers and conjurors; we wanted to help transport the viewer’s other senses as well. As ESP is often called “the sixth sense”, we felt that one cannot adequately understand this phenomenon if one cannot fully grasp the five empirical senses of the work’s creator. Since any good museum go-er knows you can touch the art, the tactile sense is addressed by the rich textures present in the work itself. To thoroughly immerse the visitor’s other senses, we developed an audio tour that connects 10 works with 10 songs and a perfume tray that connects 14 perfumes with 7 works. So, now you are wondering what we’ve done to address the sense of taste. In Renée’s mind, the whole exhibition can be aligned with coffee, chocolate, and pizza! For this, we are relying on assumed cultural norms since these are foods that are very familiar to almost everyone.


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    Music is an important part of Renée Stout’s process. Sometimes, a piece is so influenced by a certain song or album that as she completes a work, she will write that information on the reverse. When the piece is eventually purchased, the owner can get a sense of Renée’s frame of mind while she was working. To help our visitors experience the music, we created a QR code-based audio tour system. The visitor scans the Quick Response code with a smart device (cell phone or iPad, etc.) and the QR code self directs to an audio file. As the song plays, visitors can spend time absorbing the combination of visual and musical language.

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    In addition to the audio tour, we are playing Morton Feldman’s “Rothko Chapel” and “Why Patterns?” in the galleries. The ambient stanzas build to crashing crescendos and lull back to gentle single notes; the movements akin to a plot line. One of the pieces in the exhibition is Renée’s film storyboard for “A Rootworker’s Day”. In addition to staging images of a narrative film centered on Fatima Mayfield’s daily life, Renée even chose a soundtrack song, “Gnossienne No. 1” by Erik Satie as performed by Pascal Rogé.



    In addition to listening to music, Renée wears perfumes and scented oils while she works. As with songs, if the perfume has a particular resonance with the artwork, she will record the scents she wore on the back of the completed piece. When the work is eventually purchased, its owner can interpret the piece with another sense. Olfactory memories are some of the strongest connections our brains are wired to make. I don’t think I will ever disassociate the smell of clean laundry from when I used to help my mother bring in laundry from the clothesline of my early childhood home.

    To experience these scents, visitors can gently remove the tops of the bottles and enjoy. In keeping with the authentically personal nature of Renée’s work, the bottles are actual pieces in her collection.

    Renée wore Douce Amere while making In the Green Suite; Knize 10 with My Ogun (Black Wall #3); Fumerie Turque with The House of Chance & Mischief; Amoureuse with Roots & Readings; and Chanel No. 5 with Pretty Wings, Part II (The White Wall). Onda, Bellodgia, Douce Amere, vintage Bal a Versailles, 31 Rue Cambon, Shalimar, vintage Tabu, and Narcisse Noir are all associated with The Seduction. The brown bottle labeled “Rose” contains the actual red rose petals Renée pulverized with the mortar and pestle in the exhibition’s artist video, I Can Heal.

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    Make sure to keep your eye out for the resources and exhibition displays incorporated by Tales of the Conjure Woman’s next venues, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta and the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York!


    by Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs


    Today is the last installment of our illustrated glossary. These entries are the last more deities that play central roles in Yoruba, Santeria, and Voudo.

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    (left: Priest of “Gu” (Ogun) in Lome, Togo, West Africa, right: an altar for Ogun )


    Orisa of war and metal. Syncretized with St. Anthony or St. George and the planet Mars. Ogum or Ogunn in Santeria.

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    (left: African figure representing Olorun, right: adherents attending the Osun Oshogbo festival of Trinity of Ifa, Yemoja/Osun and Obatala-Olodumare )


    Also known as Oludumare. The supreme God. The best way to convey the story of Olorun is through the Yoruba creation myth. This version has been adapted from Tobe Melora Correal’s book Finding Soul on the Path of Orisha

    “In a time out of time, in the highest heavens, one day, Olorun, the Supreme Being of Yoruba religion, wanted to create all that is. So she went to her water pot, which was a gigantic pot, full to overflowing with divine water, water constantly overspilling the sides and yet always remaining full. Olorun took that pot and tipped it over, and the divine water rushed out into the heavens. Olorun thought that this would begin the creation, get things started, but the first time She did this, the water ended up scorching the universe before anything had a chance to develop. The water from Her pot was simply too full of glory. It was just too hot.

    It happened the first time, and it happened every time, until Olorun despaired of ever creating all that is. But then She remembered something. She remembered the existence of another water pot, slightly smaller, which she had made eons ago in a time out of time, and given to her eldest child, Olodumare. Immediately She sent for Olodumare to visit her, and when Olodumare came, She shared Her plans. ‘Olodumare,’ said the Supreme Being Olorun, ‘when I pour out the water of my glory, stand right here and catch it in your pot. The water in your pot will combine with mine and cool it so that it’s just right for creation.’ And that’s what they did. The combined waters of Olorun and Olodumare flooded the heavens, and because the temperature was just right, stars began to wink into existence, the creation began.

    Now, in the time out of time, Olodumare had given birth to Her own children. So Olorun said to her, ‘Olodumare, I have another task for you. See that spot over there? I want you to create a place called Earth, with people on it, and each person with a special destiny for creating goodness and truth and beauty in their lives. This is what I want. So create this place called Earth. Give it the proper rhythms and cycles it needs to grow and develop. And share this great work with your children, the Orisha. Let them drink from the water which has cooled down in your pot, and then send them to Earth to pour it into everything. Let each one do it in his or her own unique way. Let Obatala pour the creative waters in simplicity. Let Orunmila pour it in harmony and stability. Let Oshun pour it in beauty and sensuality. Let Oya pour it in storms and hurricanes. Let Shango pour it in flamboyance. Let Yemoya pour it in maternal love. Let Eshu pour it in a way that tests and disrupts. Let each Orisha pour our creative waters into all nature and all life, in his or her own special way. So may the creation be rich, and diverse, and ongoing.’ Thus spoke Olorun, and it was done.”

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    (left: the tools of Ochosi that are included in altars built for him, right: a shrine to the Warrior Orishas: Osun, Elegguá, and Ochosi inside of Ogun )



    Orisa of hunting and the forest. Along with Ogun, Ochosi is a part of early initiation process in Santeria system.

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    (left: a shrine for Ochun in Cuba that includes all of her favorite things, beer, sunflowers, cake, chocolates, and candles, middle: a Rumba Morena dancer enacting Ochun in her dance, right: eleke for Ochun )


    The Yoruba goddess of beauty, love, and sexuality. Syncretized with the Virgin of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba. Also equated with the planet Venus, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and Erzulie or Freda in Haiti. Spelled Ochun in Cuba.

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    (left to right: shrine to Oya, Oya’s veve, an eleke for Oya. )


    Orisa of the wind, of cemeteries, of the passage of death. She is also a fierce warrior. Syncretized with Our Lady of Candelaria, St. Catherine, St. Theresa, and the planet Pluto. Ghede in Haiti. Rival in Santeria.

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    (left: Faithful carry a boat out to sea, filled with offerings to Yemoja, during a ceremony in Montevideo, Uruguay, right: a shrine for Yemoja )


    Orisa of fertility and the sea. Syncretized with Our Lady of Regla, and with the moon. Oloku is the male version, or energy. Agwe in Haiti, Yemaya in Santeria.


    Illustrated Glossary Part V | Tue. Nov. 26, 2013

    This week’s glossary terms are some of the deities and spirits associated with Hoodoo, Voodoo, Santeria. Next week, we’ll meet other orisas.

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    (left to right: a Haitian drapo or spirit flag for Dambala, one of the serpent god’s veve, a Vodouisant using a cornmeal and flour mixture to create a veve for Dambada-Wedo)



    Serpent god entwining the earth. Mate of Aida-Wedo.

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    (left: a Haitian drapo or spirit flag for Egun, right: elaborate ceremonial cloaks and masks that represent the Egun worn by adherents in Benin. Egun masks represent the spirits of the deceased and according to the locals; they “are” the deceased.)



    Spirits of the dead ancestors.

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    (left to right: a Haitian drapo or spirit flag for the Elegba, the god’s veve, a Kneeling Figure of Eshu-Elegba from the late 19th or early 20th century)



    Also known as Esu, Eshu. Powerful orisa considered the guardian of the crossroads of the Yoruba spirit world. Syncretized with St. Michael, St. Peter, or St. Martin de Porres, and with the planet Mercury. Baron Samedi or Papa Legba in Haiti. Elequa or Elleggua in Santeria.

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    (left to right: a Haitian drapo or spirit flag for the Ghede by George Valris, the Ghede’s veve, the spirit flag in Renée Stout’s House of the Ghede.)



    Haitian Loa or spirits of the dead, gatekeeper for the ultimate crossroads that everyone must pass through – death. The Ghede have a great sense of humor and like to joke and dance. When they show up at a ceremony by possessing someone, they will laugh at and mock the living with their lewd dancing as they see human beings as being pious and fearful of what is sexual and erotic. Like Legba, they can be tricksters. They love taunting the well-to-do, reminding them that even they will have to come by the Ghede when it’s their time. Even though they are the spirits of death, it is the Ghede you appeal to when you want to help someone very ill, especially if it’s a sick child. Ghede colors are black, white, and purple.

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    (left to right: Ifa priests performing a divination, an Opan-ifa divination board, a map of consciousness as laid out on an Opan-ifa.)



    God of divination. A god who specializes in foretelling the future.

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    (left: one of the many images of Obatala that have been created by adherents, right: an adherent’s altar for Obatala)



    Orisa of the intellect and organization. Syncretized with Jesus Christ and planet Jupiter.



    Vodou | Thu. Nov. 21, 2013

    Vodou practices are deeply rooted in African and Haitian culture, however these Vodou traditions are a far cry from what most people understand the commercialized version of “voodooism” to be. Vodou originated when African religious practices were suppressed and enslaved Africans were forced to convert to Christianity. Under slavery, Africans pooled their religious beliefs and backgrounds in order to become culturally unified. Religious practices of Vodou are closely related to West African Vodun; Vodou also encompasses other African spirits as well as Catholic and Indian belief systems.


    It is of popular belief that Vodou is not only a religion; instead it is a practice that encompasses the mind body and soul. The “tying of soul” is a ritual that is still exercised in many Haitian Vodou practices. Vodouisants believe in one supreme creator of all who is referred to as Bondje, which translates to “good god”. This belief is in accordance with multiple other West African religions.


    The spelling voodoo was once widely accepted, however, now it is generally avoided by Vodou scholars and practitioners. The term voodoo is avoided in order to separate reference to the Haitian Vodou religion from the negative connotations and misconceptions that “voodoo” had acquired in pop culture. It is not the spelling voodoo that is offensive, instead it is the disparaging uses of the word which somewhat denotes the religion and its practices.

    Renée Stout’s works delve into the historical and traditional meaning of Vodou in order to shed light on the roots of African history. Many different Vodou spirits show up in Stout’s works. For example Erzulie, and Ogun are two spirits that she uses in her narrative.


    Renée Stout’s works are important because they explore the deep history in West African and Haitian religions that is often looked down upon in modern day society. Stout’s exhibit shows Vodou and conjuring in a new light. By using these heavy subjects in her artwork, she makes the information friendlier to viewers. People leave her exhibit with a new understanding of what Vodou and conjuring mean.

    By: Emily Payne, Halsey Institute intern

    Illustrated Glossary Part IV | Tue. Nov. 19, 2013

    Today, I’ve put together a selection of glossary terms that are roots commonly used in conjuring and rootwork. I’ve added an extra term, Orris Root. Renée made multiple Orris roots in glass and references it in many works.  So many of her pieces reference these roots, including: Botanica (Coupon), The Root Dispenser, Black Wall, 3 Jars with Roots and a Heart, The Rootworker’s Worktable, and The Return.

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    Also known as bloodwort, red puccoon root, pauson, tetterwort, sweet slumber, snakebite, indian paint, coon root. Bloodroot is a popular protective hex-breaker in Voudou and Rootwork magic. It is also a marriage protector and aids in promoting harmony with extended family members, especially in-laws, and helps prevent people from interfering in your marriage.

    Bloodroots vary in color, with the darker red-to-brownish roots being considered male or King roots and the lighter orange-to-pinkish roots being considered female or Queen roots. Combined in a single sachet of red flannel, these are used to encourage a healthy marital sex life by placing the sachet under the couple’s mattress. A bit of one of each root steeped in liquor, sometimes in combination with other herbs, is said to ensure sexual potency. After the herbs have steeped for several weeks, strain, and drink a shot of the liquor to achieve the desired affect.

    Place a bloodroot over your door to encourage anyone who enters to respect your marriage. If you fear someone is trying to break up your marriage, sew some dried bloodroot into your and your spouse’s pillows.

    Bloodroot may be carried or placed around the home (very high out of the reach of pets and children) as general protection from negative energy or spells, or it can be burned to cleanse an area of negative energy.

    Assuming you’re not expected to eat it or rub it on your body, bloodroot may be used in place of blood in spells. Dried bloodroot can be pounded into powder and added to water to reach the desired consistency.

    Sanguinaria canadensis, Bloodroot, is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant native to eastern North America.

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    Also known as Helping Hand or Salep Root. Used by many people for the purpose of drawing luck at gambling and games of chance. Certain Hoodoos claim that persons who carry a whole Lucky Hand Root and a pinch of Five Finger Grass concealed in a red flannel bag will never be long without money, and that they will always be extremely lucky at cards, Bingo, slot machines, and other games where the hands must be nimble in order to bring in the winnings.

    Lucky Hand Root is the root of plants in the orchid genus Orchis including species Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris.

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    High John The Conqueror Root. A folk term most often associated with conjuring powers and designated by variable names, including “High John de Conker,” “Low John de Conker,” “John the Conqueror root,” and “HighJohn.” This term may refer to a plant, or a plant-derived substance, believed to have conjuring capabilities. It also is said to be a trickster figure in African American culture. According to folk belief, High John as a “root medicine” will protect a subject against evil spirits and control potentially conflicting situations and financial matters. It is most often associated with success, good fortune, and luck. This product may be dug directly from the woods or purchased from conjurers and used in a variety of forms, including a non-processed root, diced, liquid, or powder state.

    High John the Conqueror Root is said to be the root of Ipomoea jalapa, also known as Ipomoea purga, an Ipomoea species related to the morning glory and the sweet potato. The plant is known in some areas as bindweed or jalap root.

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    Also known as Queen Elizabeth Root, it is held in high esteem by many who find pleasure in owning it. This root is used in spells pertaining to good luck in love, romance, marriage, and matters of passion. It is also used in love-drawing fetishes or amulets. Orris Root is widely said to attract and draw men. Women may sprinkle the root powder in their bath before going out with a man they love. They may also use it as a dust and sprinkle it in clothes.

    Orris is the root of flowers in the iris family: Iris germanicaIris florentina, and Iris pallida.

    Even though you are now armed with the uses for and plant names of some of the more pervasive roots in rootworking, our advice is to leave the cultivation and harvesting to your professional conjuror. After all, it takes more than a paintbrush to be an artist.


    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs

    Tales of the Oyotunji Village | Thu. Nov. 14, 2013

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    The Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village is an African village located in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The intentional community was established by Oba (King) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi in 1970. The Oba was born on October 5, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan with the Western name of Walter Eugene King. After a trip to Cuba in his twenties, he was the first American-born African to become fully initiated into the Priesthood of the Yoruba religion.

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    With his new title, vast knowledge, and compelling passion he began to establish Yoruba temples throughout North America, thus spread the Yoruba religion and culture. In fall of 1970, the Oba founded Oyotunji Village as part of a “New World Yoruba” movement. Throughout the 70s the village’s number of inhabitants soared from 5 to approximately 250. Today it covers about 27 miles and fluctuates between 5 and 9 families.

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    While visiting Charleston in February 2013 for research, Renée Stout toured the Village with the Halsey Institute’s director, Mark Sloan, the catalogue essayist Kevin Young, and the cultural consultant for the project Dr. Ade Offuniyin. Renée recalls, “I had heard of Oyotunji, but had never met anyone who had been there that could describe to me what they had seen. So, as a highly visual person, I formed my own picture of what it must look like. I imagined movement, patterned fabrics, and color everywhere. I imagined a festive environment… people walking among interesting structures and wearing traditional West African clothing.”

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    Renée admitted, “On the day we arrived, it was much more quiet than I expected. There weren’t many people milling about everywhere, the way I had pictured it in my head, but the buildings and shrines had all of the color that I had imagined.”

    Dr. Ade Ofunniyin had a special relationship with the Village, which allowed their group a tour by King Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II. “I don’t know about you,” Renée says, “but for me when I hear “king,” I expect someone who takes himself a little too seriously. However, that was not the case; the King was elegant and regal, yet had the most wonderful sense of humor.”

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     Throughout the tour, the King described the energy of Ogun (a powerful deity who presides over iron, hunting, politics, war, etc.) to have a violent tendency if not acknowledged and dealt with properly. “Ogun energy runs in my family.” Renée explains, “Both of my grandfathers worked in the steel mills of Pittsburgh and my father has a construction business. [The King’s description] played a big part in my aesthetic choices as I constructed and painted the piece My Ogun (Black Wall #3).” Renée left Oyotunji Village with even more inspiration and ideas for pieces, “…but there just wasn’t enough time to complete every work or idea that I had for Tales of the Conjure Woman.” We can only expect good things, but will have to wait for their reveal until her next exhibition.

    Oyotunji Village has announced its 2013 objective to re-position itself as the principle venue and training ground for individuals and families interested in living within an African permaculture centered community. They are exploring the practical application of traditional Yoruba customs as well as cultivating Village land to spearhead initiatives that feed the surrounding community.

    renee stout

    Oyotunji African Village offers guided tours of their village. They welcome visitors of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Daily tours are available from Monday through Sunday from 11:00am to dusk. The tours are education based, introducing the visitor to the basic elements and aspects of the Yoruba of West Africa and the Orisa-Vodun spiritual system.

    For more information on The Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village, click here to visit their website.

    By: Alison Massari, Halsey Institute intern

    Illustrated Glossary Part III | Tue. Nov. 12, 2013

    This section of words from the glossary are some of the common supplies and tools one would need to practice Voudou, Hoodoo, or Santeria.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.14.33 PMAMULETS

    Handmade articles conceived and created as portable containers for spiritual entities; believed to possess efficacious powers.

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    A store specializing in herbs used for spiritual cleansing, it also sells a variety of other religious supplies and implements, including those for Voudou and Santeria.


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    Small seashells that were used as monetary units in West Africa. Sixteen shells or four shells are used for divination. Known as caracoles in Santeria and called diloggun.


    Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 11.15.50 PMFLORIDA WATER

    Slightly perfumed liquid, eau de toilette commonly sold in botanicas.

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    Graveyard dirt.


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    Term used in Louisiana and New Orleans for a small bag, usually of red cloth, filled with herbs or secret ingredients, and used as a talisman or charm for good luck.


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    Beaded necklace, in various colors, worn by adherents and initiates.


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    Messenger of Ifa. Instrument used in divination.

    Renée Stout Glass Work | Thu. Nov. 7, 2013

    renee glass 3

    A conjure woman like Fatima Mayfield needs an entire bureau of bottles because she performs many different tasks. She needs little vials of organic powder topped in gold to honor the spirit Erzulie, a big jug for a heaping serving of “bitches brew,” and a very special bottle for use in the seduction of Sterling Rochambeau, plus the multifarious bottles of bewitching perfumes and signature scents that will aid in seducing him. The life of a conjuror is riddled with bottles, and artist Renée Stout gives life to her characters by not only painting their images but also by recreating their physical world. Through found objects and hand-blown glass, Stout shows her audiences the daily necessities of a conjure woman.

    renee glass

    When Stout first adopted Fatima Mayfield as her rambunctious alter ego, she established a room in her home that she stockpiled with candles, masks, occult books, and odd objects so that she could tap into Fatima’s mindset. From that starting point, Stout has created environments for her characters in a gallery setting, like her “Black Wall” series and “White Wall” series. She says, “I work with either found glass or glass that has been blown specifically for me in order to create a believable environment for the ongoing narrative that I am generating as I work. In this case the seer/herbalist would have jars containing herbs and mysterious liquids and I need glass to contain those things.” She also references bottles in her two-dimensional paintings, like “Loving You is Ectasy,” “Oil of Ogun,” and “Brown Jar.” These paintings read like a collage of trompe l’oeil artifacts. This trompe l’oeil idea exists in the playful, confusing nature of her conjuring alter ego. “I still like to make things, whether it’s sculpture or painting, that fools the viewers eye,” Stout says, “A good example is the ‘Root Vending Machine’ where the viewer may think that I recycled an old vending machine when the piece was actually created from constructed, painted and metal-leafed wood.” Stout often embellishes her found objects. She adds intrigue to existing bottles with writing, jewels, or ambiguous organic contents. But when the opportunity arises, Stout plays a role in designing her own blown-glass pieces.

    renee glass 4

    Stout says that she became interested in glass as a work of art when she “met an artist who works in glass named Elizabeth Lyons and she eventually invited me to come to her studio in Rochester, NY to have some things made in glass to use in my work.” Her glasswork grew when, in the summer of 2011, Stout was invited to work as an artist in residence at The Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington. Stout arrived for her residence with plans for the sorts of objects Fatima needed. Stout directed artists skilled in glassmaking as they blew glass and then used tools to mold the molten glass into Stout’s desired shape. There, Stout made “3 Jars with Roots and a Heart,” “Orris Root,” and “High John the Conqueror Root.” Always innovative with materials, she achieved the gritty texture on the roots by drawing on them with an oil stick when she returned home. Stout still calls upon her friend Elizabeth Lyons to embellish her work, like when she asked Lyons to make translucent glass tears for her mixed media piece, “Erzulie’s Mirror.”

    renee glass 2

    Stout’s complex characters require work that is just as complex. Many media and objects are required to encompass their lives, their desires, and the potions they need to achieve their deepest desires. Working with glass is one way that Stout accomplishes this. Few artists create work that makes you ask the question, “Which scent of perfume was she wearing?” but Stout creates a lingering presence, just like perfume.

    By Nikki Scioscia, Halsey Institute Intern


    Illustrated Glossary Part II | Tue. Nov. 5, 2013

    For this installment of our illustrated glossary, we’ll continue with the background information terms associated with many African Diasporic religions.



    Deities of Yoruba people and their descendants in the diaspora.






    Father of the mysteries (awo), highest form of priest in the Ifa system of divination.


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    Father of the spirit (orisa), a male priest below the rank of babalawo. Babalocha in Santeria.


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    Mother (iya) of the spirit (orisa). A female priest.


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    Form of Voudou practiced in Jamaica. Less syncretized than Haitian, Cuban, or Brazilian forms.


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    Yoruba term for a positive sign in a reading.



    Yoruba term for a negative sign during a reading.

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    (Veve for [left to right] Legba, Ogun, Samedi )



    Haitian spirit drawings.

    BEFORE FATIMA THERE WAS … | Sat. Nov. 2, 2013

    As dense, arresting, and beautiful as Renée Stout’s artwork is, the genesis of her passion for Fatima Mayfield’s narrative and rootwork is just as compelling. In the Tales of the Conjure Woman exhibition catalogue, Renée reveals that her earliest memory of being interested in African-derived spiritual beliefs and traditions was when she saw a Nkisi Nkondi figure while taking Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Museum. Through my conversations with her, I’ve learned a bit more about all the ideas and events that brought Fatima to life.


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    At ten years old, the gravity of the moment she spent studying the Nkisi figure didn’t register; it wasn’t until years later that the flash bulb memory of that piece would come into focus. Imagine the curiosity she must have felt surrounding an object that is so obviously rich with meaning, but displayed as merely a fetish object by the dismissive Western curators of the late 1960s.


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    ( left to right: Betye Saar, Joseph Cornell, Betty Davis album cover )


    Being a gifted artist from a young age, Renée pursued visual art in college at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. In university, she made many artistic friends and was introduced to and fascinated by the artwork of Betye Saar and Joseph Cornell and the music of Betty Davis. Renée began to consider some deep questions: What does it mean to be an African American? What are the responsibilities of a contemporary artist?


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    ( National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. )


    Renée soon felt the need to move away from her hometown. After a short stint in Boston, she moved to Washington, D.C. in 1985 and two watershed moments occurred. Here, she was able to explore the vast collections of the Smithsonian Institute and its array of museums, including the National Museum of African Art. To her surprise, the memory and visceral reaction of her first encounter with an African spiritual object came rushing back.


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    It was also in D.C. that Renée first discovered botanicas, namely Clover Horn. This was a spiritual supply and root store. These shops exist all over the country, but most often they are confined to the back room of a locally owned drug store or five and dime. After going inside to explore the shelves and feeling that the African-derived beliefs and traditions she’d been slowly learning about are still being practiced, there was no getting away from the philosophical questions she’d been carrying with her since college: What does it mean to be an African American? What are the responsibilities of a contemporary artist?


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    The sense of validation she received from her curiosity in Clover Horn led to a trip, in 1989, to New Orleans, the first of almost 20 over the next 20 years. In New Orleans, in between the tourist trap trinket shops packed floor to ceiling with misappropriated Voodoo symbols, Renée discovered her deep, far-reaching roots that stretched to Africa and back. These traditional African roots have remained wound around her psyche ever since.


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    ( Renee Stout’s Fetish Number 2 and Fetish Number 3 )


    When she returned home, Renée began a series of sculptures that derived their content and aesthetics from the African carved figures she’d encountered in museums. As with any good museum artifact, she also developed an acquisition story to accompany each piece. Below, we can read the “museum label” for Fetish Number 3, where she fictionalized the piece’s origin, imbuing the tale with the same sense of “otherness” found in many Western identification labels for cultural or early peoples objects.


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    The effect of having the power to create an art object’s backstory has stuck with Renée. Although she possessed all the knowledge and creativity needed to produce a body of work that examines the current state of African-derived spirituality in our modern world, personality got in the way. The other side of Renée’s ever-curious coin is her shyness. Drawing inspiration from actresses and literature’s nom de plume tradition, she created her first alter-ego, Madam Ching.


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    ( Renée Stout’s She Kept Her Conjuring Table Very Neat )


    Madam Ching was an older, fully actualized woman that was in touch with her African roots and openly practiced rootwork and conjure, knowing that this gift is her way of helping her community. As Renée continued to grow spiritually and artistically, she came to realize that there was no need to wait until she was Madam Ching’s age to be open and accepting of her roots. Renée absorbed Madam Ching’s knowledge and developed Lady Fatima Mayfield, a woman who was Renée’s age but more confident and sassy than Renée herself. Fatima is the woman that Renée strives to become, always one step ahead and winking over her shoulder.


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    After a life-changing trip to New Orleans combined with history, spirituality, and confidence, Renée has found her quest: she is the voice in her generation to share the mystery, beauty, and complexity of African-derived spiritual beliefs and traditions.


    By: Lizz Biswell, Halsey Institute curator of education and public programs


    Halsey Institute’s Biblioteca is packed with books that can shed light on Renée Stout’s interplay between Voudou, African cultural traditions, rituals of divination, and contemporary America.  Come explore these books today!

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    African Hairstyles: Styles of Yesterday and Today by Esi Sagay

    African Hairstyles, published in 1983, explores traditional African hair art and is organized by regional hairstyles. It has directions on how to create these amazing hair works and explores methods from cornrowing to hair threading. It follows the art of hairweaving from historical African to contemporary styles.


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    South African Township Barbershops and Salons by Simon Weller

    This book documents the barbershops and salons that serve as the community hubs of South Africa townships. These incredible photographs of signage, patrons, and shop interiors will transport and surprise you. The handwritten signage echoes many styles present in Tales of the Conjure Woman. It’s definitely one of my favorite books in Biblioteca!


    Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 9.45.39 PMArt and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    This book explores figurative divination instruments, diviners’ insignias, and staffs, masks, and jewelry used by diviners in African history. It is a good introduction to the physical objects used in some spiritual practices that are in the Met’s large collection.

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    Voudou: Visions and Voices of Haiti by Phyllis Galembo

    This book explores artist Phyllis Galembo’s photographs of Haitian Voudou practices and echoes themes present in Stout’s work. Galembo showed her incredible photographs from West Africa at the Halsey Institute alongside Nick Cave’s Soundsuits. Click here to check out the exhibition in the Halsey Institute’s archives!


    By: Sarah Bandy, Biblioteca Librarian

    Illustrated Glossary Part I | Tue. Oct. 29, 2013

    In her exhibition Tales of the Conjure Woman, Renée Stout draws from many cultures and traditions to create visually stunning works that exploration of vestigial retentions of African cultural traditions as manifested in contemporary America. Using the narrative centered on Stout’s alter-ego Lady Fatima Mayfield, the viewer learns about Hoodoo, Voudou, and root work.

    As with any good lesson plan, there are some vocabulary words we’ll need to digest to ensure the message can be fully understood. Through the course of the exhibition, we’ll post sections of the exhibition’s glossary that was compiled by Renée Stout and our Charleston-based conjuring consultant, Dr. Ade Offuniyin. Today’s cluster of terms are commonly used background information.

    Check back next Tuesday for another group of words!



    Old Southern term for hexing and spell-casting; sometimes used interchangeably with “voodoo,” from which it probably derives, or from “juju,” a term for African magic/science.


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    The manipulation of supernatural forces, using charms, roots, and inanimate and handmade articles.


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    Also known as haunts. Spirits trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead. They are the kind of spirits you don’t want hanging around or invading your home looking for revenge.



    Originated in the deep American South. This hue covered the ceilings and walls of shacks of enslaved Africans. The Gullah people, descendants of West Africans, believed the angry haunting spirits could not cross water. Their solution to keeping the spirits at bay was to dig a pit in the ground, fill it with lime, milk, and whatever pigments they could find, stir it all together, and paint the mixture around every opening into their homes. The haints, confused by these watery pigments, are tricked into thinking they cannot enter.


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    A legendary New Orleans Voudou priestess. The legend of Marie Laveau is far too extensive to encapsulate in a glossary. Her life story has been written about by several authors, and portrayed in both plays and movies. Laveau is buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 in New Orleans. Her tomb regarded as a shrine to her spirit where practitioners will place offerings.



    A term used in Southern Hoodoo in a variety of ways. Often used to mean negative magic, as power, as a substitute for Gris-Gris. In strictest usage, the bone of a black cat used in hexing.


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    Afro-Cuban religion based on a syncretization of Voudou and elements of Catholicism, especially the santos, or saints. A Santero is one who practices Santeria.

    Joseph Burwell’s Inspiration | Fri. Oct. 4, 2013

    Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 9.39.34 PMWhen looking at Joseph Burwell’s drawings, his educational background in sculpture and architecture definitely shines through. It is very easy to get lost in the maze of lines that all take shape into intricate three-dimensional drawings. It is incredible how Joseph combines all of his skills in order to produce works with great depth and complexity.

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     Joseph says that he reflects on his background and sculpture often especially in the decision making process of his works. “When I’m drawing, sometimes it’s hard to make a decision and I get tired of making only formal decisions or conceptual decisions.  I’ll often defer to my experience about how materials could be joined together to move ahead with a drawing. It can take some of the decision making pressure off and keep things moving forward.”

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    Joseph’s idealized studio that is set up in the gallery shows a window into the artist’s mind. It is clear that his collections of books, nick-knacks, and other musings inspire his works as well. Joseph’s drawings have a few reoccurring features “Glass, crenellated parapet walls, and medieval siege towers to name a few. Those give the drawings a level of cohesiveness across a body of work.”  Studying more about the artist and his background gives a whole new dimension to the works. It is interesting to see how Joseph’s eclectic background comes full circle in each of his masterful works of art.


    By Emily Payne, Halsey Institute Intern


    Herb Parker’s Process | Wed. Oct. 2, 2013

    When the Halsey Institute’s current exhibition ends at 4:00pm on Saturday, October 5th, each bone, body part, found object, or repurposed sculpture will return to Herb Parker’s studio. The collection of curiosities will go back on his shelves, which are similar to the ones that were created for the Halsey’s exhibition. Though Parker’s objects may collect dust, they will still serve a purpose, to inspire new sculptures.


    Parker says that he often starts his sculptures by sketching. Though his work seems spontaneous, his pieces require logistics and list making. First, he must decide on the appropriate materials and Parker says that he uses whatever makes the most sense. For instance, his linear “shrine” sculptures are made mostly of wood, a lightweight but sturdy material. They are weighed with six to eight inches of lead, and they are topped with combinations of found objects and original creations. Mickey Mouse forms, cherubs, military men, and Mother Marys are some of the archetypes found in Parker’s shrines. If one studies his studio shelves, you will find many more examples of these themes, perhaps waiting their turn to be used in a future sculpture. Parker says that these recognizable forms represent “religion, capitalism, and the military, things which control most of our lives.”


    On Parker’s shelves you can find repetitive themes and also prototypes for larger sculptures. One corner of the gallery displays a male and a female head made from concrete and connected by a chain. Daring gallery-goers pull the chain, the heads move forward and back on rockers. You can find a couple of its prototypes on the shelves. Though Parker carefully planned this piece, an ideological symbol was a last-minute decision. He chose to hang a golden circle on the chain that connects the two heads, which prompts some to discuss marriage and the nature of relationships.


    Parker fuels his work with ideology, but his goal is that viewers interpret his work for themselves. Even his materials are ambiguous. He says that he used to work with more metal but now he favors wood and paper. He likes to disguise paper as a heavier material. When Parker makes sculptures for a gallery setting, he can work with whichever materials he chooses. However, he is best known for his nature-based installations. They require adaptability because he uses materials from the existing environment like saplings and stones.

    From Parker’s collections on the Halsey’s shelves to his natural works, the way he transforms found objects into art can become meaningful for anyone!

    By Nikki Scioscia, Halsey Institute Intern


    Creating A World Of His Own | Wed. Oct. 2, 2013

    Behind every artistic creation, there is first a glimmer in the artist’s eye. What causes this inspiration differs from person to person. For Joseph Burwell, his paintings’ complexities do not differ from his mind’s eye. Inspiration for him resonates in a vast array of objects, people, and places, making his works full of not only complexity, but also reference and meaning.


    When viewing Burwell’s work, the eye is initially attracted to the vibrant and playful color palette of each structure. He admits he has always had a strong favoritism for bright colors. He explains, “When I was young, I played a lot of video games. We had an Atari 2600 at home and a lot of colors they were using in the 80s were fluorescent.”

    After a more thorough look at his structures, one begins to notice the immense attention to detail. The wooden beams look are so representational, the structures themselves begin to seem not distant from reality. Burwell went to Savannah College of Art and Design to study architecture, but later changed his major to studio art at the College of Charleston. The technique of precision that is involved in architecture still plays an active role in his creative process. However, although his figures may appear as an architectural blueprint, they are far from it. The structures are not planned; they grow organically. A key part of his process is not knowing what the work will look like when it is complete. “The act of drawing is a way of thinking and being able to react to what is in front of me is what makes it unpredictable,” he explains. “I’ve often wanted to explore building parts of my drawings, but most of them depict unreal spaces with dissolving layers that could not exist in real life.”

    Do these structures have any sort of comparable model? There is no definitive answer, as Burwell’s designs are hybrid combinations of the structures that truly speak to him. Ancient religious structures, buildings with dynamic uses of modernist materials, constructions sites (especially in the early stages), piles of debris, satellites, graph paper, wood grain patterns, medieval paintings, and scaffolding systems are only some of the items that remain in the forefront of his psyche.

    The people whom Burwell is drawn to are just as diverse. Being a history buff, he has not allowed the passing of time to dampen his personal taste in artists and architects alike. Antoni Gaudí, a prominent Spanish architect born in the 1800s, remains a constant stimulus towards his creative process. Gaudi’s innovation can be seen in the Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Church in Barcelona, which is another contributor to Burwell’s motivation. Other influences include Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly, Neo Rauch, Jimmie Durham, and Le Corbusier.

    joseph inspiration

    (left:Neo Rauch, middle: Joseph Beuys, right: Le Corbusier)

    Inspiration can stem from anyone and anything. From the towering arches of a religious institution, to a dirty miscellaneous pile of garbage; beauty can be found anywhere and everywhere. Burwell’s works are detailed, awe-inspiring structures, created from an accumulation of images and perceptive intrigue in those who have come before us. A twinkle in the eye made into reality.


    By Alison Massari, Halsey Institute intern

    Herb Parker’s Nature Based Works | Tue. Sep. 24, 2013

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    As we learned from Bending Sticks, the Halsey Institute’s recent film screening, nature-based, site-specific installations can be very diverse.

    Herb Parker, one of the artists in the Halsey Institute’s current exhibition Studio Practice can tell you all about it. Apart from his smaller-scale sculptures and being a professor, Parker has completed upwards of 60 site-specific nature pieces. The projects are often part of competitions by cities or organizations where Herb must submit drawings of what he envisions for the site.

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    Ideally, he hopes to have several projects lined up; some of which will most likely be in Europe and Asia. These projects often have small budgets. Parker has a few former students who will travel with him, but he often relies on volunteers at the venues for help. These volunteers are needed since his materials often involve heavy steel frames, stonework, thatched roofs, and most recently, bamboo.

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    Parker is inspired by the beauty of his surrounding environment and therefore often uses materials found near his installation sites. Its evanescence, its endless evolution yet constancy is what inspires him about nature and continues his work with it. Parker’s ability to blend his creations with the surrounding environment is why he is considered one of South Carolina’s leading artists in site-specific creations.  

    By Alison Ross-Sprang, Halsey Institute Intern

    Studio Practice: The Specifics | Wed. Sep. 18, 2013

    Ever since he was a child, Herb Parker collected things. This habit manifested and has developed throughout Parker’s life. His collection is not of one item, but rather of a number of varying items that collectively form a narrative of Parker’s life. A majority of items that comprise his collection are organic, aged, rusty, or busted; things with personality. Parker’s fascination centers on these qualities, which he will then decide to manipulate to his liking in order to make a statement or simply for recreational musings.

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    Looking around the collection, the mind can’t help but inquire about a few of the curious artifacts. Where did they come from? What do they reference?

    For many, their eyes are first drawn to the mass pile of diverse animal bones and skulls condensed in the middle of the bottom shelf of the collection. Parker found each of these items in interesting ways For example, the cat carcass was found under his house, the possum skull was collected off the side of the road, and the turkey skeleton was a project that a student brought in after reconstructing the animal from his family’s Thanksgiving feast.

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    To the right of the bone stock, there is a pile of old and dilapidated manikin hands. Parker discovered these when he was living in Albany, NY working for minimum wage as a day laborer. There was a project he was put on to tear down a building that used to be a company that supplied department stores with display items that had long gone out of business. Upon sledge hammering through one of the walls, he came across a rather eerie scene of several 1940’s department store manikins hanging by their necks from ropes. Among the manikins there were decrepit arms and hands dispersed throughout the abandoned and forgotten room. Parker returned to the scene with a pick-up truck, and took what he could before being forced to throw the rest away.

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    Though fascinating to the eye, Parker explains that the bones and manikin hands are probably his least favorite part of the entire collection due to the fact that they’re not manipulated and lack a personal meaning. For example, there is a cast-iron hand that displays an eyeball centered in its palm. This eye is a real fake-eye that Parker’s wife, Yvette, gave him for his birthday. He admits, “It was the coolest birthday present I ever got.”

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    Toward the right end of the collection’s shelving, sits a long stick-like sculpture with glasses perched on top. Parker found these glasses on the street in New Orleans. They had belonged to a man who died and whose family had no use for them. Parker glued religious script to the thick frames, and thus introduced them to his personalized collection. Also scattered throughout the collection, one may notice an underlying military theme represented through soldier figurines. These were collected from Parker’s temporary job as a staff member at a training company for the marine branch of the military. The figurines hold a personal and political relevance.

    These are only a few of the items in his collection, and many hold meanings that will never be fully disclosed by Parker. It is this mystery and intrigue that beckons forth the imagination and challenges its true strength.

    By Alison Massari, Halsey Institute Intern

    Joseph Burwell’s Process, Pencils, and Pens | Fri. Sep. 13, 2013

    You could get lost in Joseph Burwell’s artwork. If shrunk to an ant’s size, you could explore narrow stone hallways and climb his graphite-steel scaffolding. You would walk across great bridges fortified with neon crenellations before discovering that these buildings are labyrinths without exit doors. Burwell’s architecture defies convention and purposely does not have a purpose. Perhaps this is why he does not include people within the space. The building is not just a castle or a museum or a home. It is many things from many influences, past and future.


    Burwell says that he begins an artwork with ideas from architecture, perhaps the remains at an archeological dig in Jerusalem or medieval castle walls. As he draws, he digresses from that inspiration and allows his pen to wander. As his artwork becomes rich with lines and geometry, the buildings he creates are less buildable and more imaginative.


    He draws with a pencil directly on wooden panels that are sometimes primed white with gesso. The pencil, considered by some artists as the preliminary medium, is now integral to the finished work. His geometric shapes and undulating wood grain patterns are made from pencil, but could be made from steel. He leaves faint marks that stray from the final structure. Burwell’s decision-making process remains in the finished piece.


    Simple materials, like pencil and pen, look monumental. In some works, like Isometric Funeral, 2012, Burwell meticulously scrapes away at pigment with an X-Acto knife to make a pattern. He adds black and neon panels with pigment pens or markers. He uses few colors but the colors that he does use are vibrant. These castles are not from the Dark Ages. Tomb Design of the Late Period, 2013, and A Center for Modern Disintegration, 2013 show clusters of colored marks in the margins. Many of these colors are not found elsewhere in the works, as if the artist was testing for the right hue and allowing the viewer to see his thought process.


    Burwell does not draw humans interacting within his architecture but his forms are still ripe with humanity. Through his mark making, Burwell’s hand, and spirit, is ever-present in his work.

    By Nikki Scioscia, Halsey Institute Intern

    Everything is Usable | Tue. Sep. 10, 2013

    “Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity.” (Twyla Tharp)

    Herb Parker’s studio and works of art are a testament to this statement. Parker uses objects that were once trash in another man’s eyes and transforms them into beautiful, thought-provoking works of art.

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    Parker finds inspiration from anything and everything “ranging from the shape of a piece of wood, the color of an object, a child’s toy, or burnt metal.” Parker looks for the attitude of everyday objects to inspire him.

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    The walls of Parker’s studio are adorned with miscellaneous objects that he has collected from flea markets, dumpsters, and trash from the streets. He is always on the look-out for toys and items that have been mutilated from their original state, and therefore they are more interesting and beautiful in his eyes. These found objects serve as inspiration for future sculptures and are often incorporated in his works.

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    Parker’s works of art leave room for translation and contemplation from the viewer. He strives to incorporate a sense of ambiguity so that each person can look at his studio and sculptures and decipher a different meaning in them.

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    Parker’s studio gives viewers a look into the artist’s mind. By looking at all of the objects that surround him while he works, each of his sculptures takes on a whole new meaning. His works show that “one mans trash is another mans treasure.” Parker thoughtfully transforms useable objects and gives them an entire new meaning.

    By Emily Payne, Halsey Institute Intern

    Digging up Joseph’s Future | Wed. Sep. 4, 2013

    Many would argue that visual art is the best way to document how the future will see us as individuals and as a culture. Through its creation and admiration, artworks present individual and societal beliefs, tastes and values.


    The Purity of the Vikings | 2008, Archeological Dig, North Burial Grounds, Providence RI, A fictitious archeological dig site in the mausoleum of The Old North Burial Grounds.

    History, a subject that offers up as much fact as it does fiction (especially depending upon who you talk to,) plays a major role in Joseph Burwell’s installation based work. Developed from a project that started 3 years ago, School of the Viking Spaniard Revisited presents an interpretation of the artist’s studio that is discovered by future historians.

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    School of the Viking Spaniard: Reconstruction of the Garage | 2009, installation of various materials, 30′ x 10′ x 10′, A future archeological exhibit containing a recreation of the studio of a present day artist, based on the artist’s own live/work studio that was in a garage in Brooklyn for 9 years.

    Burwell explains, “I see this as a type of self-portrait, but a self-portrait without me. By using a romanticized selection of artifacts from my studio (mine were the easiest to acquire) I am playing with my own image and creating my own place in history.”


    Using history, Burwell’s work explores the idea of new and old. In his drawings, he renders buildings utilizing both historical and modern elements – creating impossible to build, yet strangely familiar structures. They are a romanticized version of reality.


    Panoramic view of Joseph Burwell’s actual studio in Brooklyn, NY

    Burwell’s actual studio must remain in a mobile state; an unfortunate reality of living in New York City. Most of the artist’s relics are boxed up until needed. When given the opportunity to present them in his generated studio, Burwell finds an idealized place for himself in an unknown future.

    As he sees it, “Artifacts can be used to reconstruct history, but they can also be used to invent it.”


    By Allison Ross-Spang, Halsey Institute Intern


    Herb Parker and the Biblioteca | Tue. Sep. 3, 2013

    The studio of an artist has always been seen as a mysterious place, one filled with late nights and wild ideas. Letting the viewer into the personal world of an artist’s studio has historically been an interesting way to erase the smoke and mirrors and instead see the tools, materials, images, colors, and shapes that inspire the work. The mind of each artist is inspired by very different objects, and Herb Parker is no exception. Once you explore the exhibition, head into the Biblioteca to delve more deeply into his aesthetic and learn more about the concepts behind the show. Here is a short list of some of the many books that will shed light on Herb Parker: Studio Practice.

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    American Junk – Mary Randolph Carter, 1994

    This book explores the passions of a junker, forager, and collector – one who sees magic in the rust and dust. Carter’s amazing photographs of her collections and thorough cataloging share the beauty in discarded items and focus on objects that may never have seen the light of day.

    It is the entrance to a flea market. No charge. Admittance free. Sloppy crowds. Vulpine, lurking. Why enter? What do you expect to see? I’m seeing. I’m checking on what’s in the world. What’s left. What’s discarded. What’s no longer cherished. What had to be sacrificed. What someone thought might interest someone else. But it’s rubbish. If there, here, it’s already been sifted through. But there may be something valuable, there. Not valuable, exactly. But something I would want. Want to rescue. Something that speaks to me. To my longings. Speaks to, speaks of. Ah…

    – Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover



    Curiosa: Celebrity Relics, Historical Fossils, and other Metamorphic Rubbish – Barton Lidice Beneš, 2002

    From the dust jacket:

    Barton Beneš imbues mundane objects with the mystical power of holy relics. He assembles modern-day curiosity cabinets, or reliquaries, out of everyday items that have been touched by fame. From such bizarre celebrity-owned articles as Madonna’s panties, Bill Clinton’s throat lozenge, O.J. Simpson’s glove, Larry Hagman’s gallstone and glass from the car crash in which Princess Diana died, Benes creates art. Whether his creativity is fuelled by discards with the pedigree of fame or infamy, such as a Frank Sinatra finger-nail clipping or the Son of Sam’s hair, or by unusual and strange objects from human and natural history, such as mummy dust, Benes mounts and labels the items and assembles them into mini-museums that are, as this book shows, alternately provocative, disturbing, amusing and compelling.



    Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space – Brian O’Doherty, 1976.

    Transporting the studio space into the white cube of the gallery adds another layer for the viewer – these everyday objects are now even more revered, bathed in the golden glow of the track lights and presented as art itself. This book explores the gallery space and how artists have displayed, subverted, altered, and honored it.

    One of the most well-known and fascinating studios, in my opinion, was Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau, featured in this book. Schwitters, an early 20th century Dada pioneer, described all of his art as the nonsense word merz. The place where he created his collages, Merzbau, became a creation all its own, ever-shifting and changing until it was unfortunately destroyed in 1943 by an Allied Forces bombing. Learn more about Schwitters and his amazing merz here on the MoMA website.

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    Come thumb through these and hundreds of other incredible and rare books in Biblioteca today!


    By Sarah Bandy, Halsey Institute Biblioteca Librarian

    Portrait of the Artist: Under Construction | Thu. Aug. 29, 2013

    As an archeologist digs his way through an excavation, every new layer becomes a complicating revelation: each brush stroke exposes another strata of information, that may confirm or confuse our understanding. Yet, often as the artifacts of the past are examined, juxtaposed, and interpreted, an uneven narrative emerges—a mélange of data and speculation collides with a drive to create a meaningful story of our collective past—leaving us with fictions as foundations.

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    Joseph Burwell’s work plays with the serendipity of misinterpreting histories. His meticulous drawings seamlessly integrate defining architectural features from across cultures, continents, and centuries to form baffling structures that are neither utopic nor dystopic, but bring a leveling hand to the hierarchies of the history we have been presented. Medieval brick crenellations meld with modernist glass panes, wood scaffolding frames, futuristic neon paneling, and steel pipes support parapets in a structure whose function is left to the imagination of the viewer.

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    Though the structures are painstakingly rendered, a closer inspection of each drawing reveals sub-cutaneous strata of marks—a series of revisions, alternate configurations, and concealed truths (such as a sacrificial office plant in The Center for Modern Disintegration, 2013).

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    Burwell has taken on these notions of excavation, interpretation, and presentation in a series of installations of his own studio in various stages of reconstruction. The first such installation, School of the Viking Spaniard: Reconstruction of the Garage (2010), transformed the Miyako Yoshinaga gallery into a seemingly true-to-life reconstruction of the garage Burwell used as his studio. A saw-horse drafting table with carefully laid out tools—a French curve, drafting triangle, series of pencils and pens—stood in the midst of wall-to-wall shelves that sported scraps of inspiration—ancient maps, tchotchkes, photographs—along with examples of the artist’s own drawings. As the viewer examined the installation, they tacitly formed their own narrative of the artist, his process, materials, and methodologies.

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    Yet, true to form, Burwell readily admitted that this, too, was an invented history.  “After nine years periodically working on [my studio] when I found the time, energy, and money, it never became the efficient workplace that I dreamt of before I had to move out. So I am always remodeling and modifying it postmortem,” he explained. The revelation that such a plausible portrait of the artist’s studio is, in fact, a romanticized version of the truth may belie a more subtle connection with the past than any of the artifacts on display.

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    From earliest history, man has been making self-portraits as a way of ensuring his own immortality on his own terms. At once didactic and self-conscious, these self-styled images—from primitive hand paintings to candelabra-coiffed Goya to Warhol in his “fright wig”—provide the viewer not only a point of genesis for a body of work, but a look into the psyche of the individual who created it. Among the most revealing self-portraits are artist’s depictions of their workspaces: a studio portrait allowed the artist to make his process, materials, and tools muses unto themselves; and, as with any muse, there are endlessly flexible shades of truth, anxiety, and artistry in any depiction thereof.

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    Vermeer painted himself in a lavishly appointed studio; Rembrandt rendered himself in a dark, austere chamber. Gustave Courbets’ 1855 painting, The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, poises the artist in his studio as the crux of society, undeterred from his painting as a nude model hovers behind him, Baudelaire fusses with a book a few feet away, and creatures from all walks of life and times in history mill about in his capacious hall. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the creative process turned towards abstraction and became a practice about itself, artists removed themselves from the studio portrait entirely, with only the tools left behind to tell the story: a box of pencils and a wine glass on the table of Matisse’s Red Studio become as much of a revelation about the artist as the rakish angle at which Vermeer painted his own cap.

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    Just as the modernist image of the studio void of the artist asks the viewer to draw conclusions about the artist through the artifacts he has left behind, Burwell’s installations inject the viewer into a studio portrait to inspect, infer, and create a narrative from objects as incongruous as the elements of his drawings. As we examine the range of artifacts he has chosen to present, we see that this portrait is not merely an in situ rendering, but, rather mirrors Courbet’s allegorical portrait: by its mere creation, the installation superficially inserts the artist, his work and methodology, into art history.

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    The second iteration of Burwell’s installation, Reconstruction of the Garage: The Dormant Stage (2013), revealed another layer of the archeology of Burwell’s studio portrait and place in archeological and art history. A carefully crafted “period room,” the installation reconstructed the museum storage facilities that housed the fictitious archeological exhibit of Burwell’s studio seen in School of the Viking Spaniard: Reconstruction of the Garage. “Artifacts” from the original installation were placed on a series of foam-covered, museum storage-style shelves with numbered cataloging tags in an order that did not reflect any of the juxtapositions Burwell created in the initial iteration.

    Removed from their context, each individual object was leveled to the same status as an artifact, allowing the viewer to be as fascinated by the protractor as he was with the drawing it was used to create. Blurring of the original hierarchies created by the artist fundamentally alters how the viewer understands him. The fossilized finality of the original installation is debunked, and an image of a mutable being in transition appears. The self-portrait becomes more abstract, and a new layer of portraiture is revealed as the “museum” itself—with its tools and methodologies—becomes the object of study.

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    For the current exhibition, School of the Viking Spaniard Revisited, Burwell adds another layer of time and reconstruction to the piece. The studio is again on display, but not in a finished state: the gallery space appears to be in transition, with the installation and all its pieces pulled from the fictitious museum’s storage and in the process of being re-constructed for another version of the history of Joseph Burwell’s studio. We are left with a partially obscured portrait of both the artist and the museum, and the transition becomes the focus of our attention.


    As we witness this dance between constructed realities and their de- and re-construction, through the lenses of archeology and self-portraiture, a vision of contemporary anxieties emerges. The modern person’s obsession with their own immortality is expressed through the “artifacts” they create to be left behind. Layers of family albums, quippy blog posts or artsy Instagram pictures carefully strung together create sense of permanence and control—it’s no wonder that so many people today refer to themselves as “curators” of something or other. But, this is a false ballast for the reality that once we cease to exist, our history is out of our hands, and up for interpretation. Burwell himself admits that “Archeology is a morbid science, and in viewing myself through its lens, I feel like I’m planning and attending my own funeral.”

    Yet, his work confronts the fear of being misinterpreted. As we view the relationship between the creator of the object and its interpreter in his School of the Viking Spaniard series, the individual portraits of each—of the artist’s studio, and the museum interpreting and displaying it—intermingle and fade into one another, producing striking, serendipitous hybrids that emerge from the confusion. Burwell’s installations may not be true to life, but they are true to the invented history that created them.

    Essay by Erin Brown

    Erin Brown is a journalist, curator, and art critic. Recent exhibitions include Next In Line: Drawing in the 21st Century at Kunsthalle Galapagos, NYC, white-hot at Thatcher Projects, NYC, and an upcoming exhibition at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in September 2013. She works and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her bicycle and an extensive library of too-heavy art books. 

    I could never create anything as beautiful and perfect as a plant | Tue. Aug. 27, 2013

    While in the conceptualizing and planning stages of Herb Parker and Joseph Burwell’s exhibition, I had some time to talk with Herb about his vision of the exhibition, his creative process, and the impetus behind his bodies of work.

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    Lizz Biswell, Halsey Institute Curator of Education and Public Programs: As a collector myself with many shelves densely packed with curious objects, I’m interested in your connection to the objects you collect. Do you have a mental inventory of the objects on your studio’s shelves?

    Herb Parker: Yeah, I can remember objects I have found and sometimes just the finding of the form, where it was found and what circumstances it was found is the inspiration. I have trouble remembering my telephone number, but I can recall an object from 20 years ago. 

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    LB: Do you feel your object based work is autobiographical at all? If so, how?   

    HP: My object-based work reflects the insecurities, fears and exhilarations of life. These works are fueled by social and political ideas, as well as interpersonal and familial relationships with the expectations and antagonisms inherent in those associations. This work allows me to ruminate on an idea, exploring the ambiguities, which make differing perspectives possible. I use this activity as a means of understanding and working through the complexities of life. This work more accurately reflects the excitement and frustrations of day-to-day existence than my more ethereal interactions in the landscape.

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    LB: Do you ever feel like you fail when producing work? Should artists be afraid of failure? How do you deal with frustrations?

    HP: Sometimes a work does not feel complete or resolved so I put it aside and continue on other things. This can sometimes take many years. One of the works I am hoping to have complete for this show was begun 15 years ago, but never felt quite right. Hopefully I will get it right now.

    Failure sucks, but as they say you do learn more from failure than success and it helps to get your priorities in perspective.

    Frustration is a part of the process. Ultimately, you have to reach conciliation with materials and ideas. I believe perseverance is a necessary attribute for an artist and critical in maintaining a life long career.

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    LB: Do you re-visit old pieces and continue to work on them or are you able to feel a work is fully completed and stamp it with a date? Do you concentrate and complete one project or sculpture at a time, then move on or are multiple pieces in flux at once? 

    HP: I have things that were begun many years ago that are still unresolved. I will break them out every now and then and revisit the idea and eventually they become complete. I am in no rush if it isn’t ready I can wait until I grow into it.

    I am always working on multiple ideas at the same time. With the nature-based work I am designing a number of possibilities for any one project and the ideas perpetuate themselves as future possibilities. As this work is site-specific, the final work is related to that particular environment, but the idea may transcend specifics and lend itself to other landscapes possibilities. With the object based work, I am always working on several works at the same time. I find this approach useful as each work feeds the next and they grow together. You never really know where the next work will lead you.

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    LB: Can you discuss the role of humor and playfulness in your work?   

    HP: I tend to look at life as a series of occasionally absurd, often humorous vignettes strung together in a benign narrative. Often my work is a discourse on social and/or political activity and is a reflection on the strangeness of people and social institutions. I try to present my subject in a playful manner with the hint of a dark undertone.

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    LB: How has your artistic style changed over the years? 

    HP: Your work evolves as you grow and change. The concerns you have when you are 20 are not quite the same at 60. For me, each new work opens up possibilities I had not considered before. Every new work offers opportunities for further exploration. So, essentially, the work is a living thing feeding on ideas and constantly growing and changing.


    LB: The direction you have taken with the nature based works seem to have transitioned into places of respite or rest and contemplation. Do you think you are providing the installation’s visitors with something they may lack in their daily lives? What do you hope viewers get out of your work?

    HP: Yeah, I think we all have way too much noise in our lives. When you are out in the landscape, the sounds, smells, and feel of natural material should be all you need. It is important to reacquaint yourself with the natural world on occasion.

    I like to think that other people have some of the same concerns that occupy my mind. My ideal would be for people to come away from my work with a better understanding of themselves or at least question their values and perspective.

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    LB: Your nature based works and object based pieces are, aesthetically, very different. To you, do they feel connected? Do you feel viewers will think of your nature based work as a statement on environmentalism? 

    HP: They are a very different way of thinking. The nature based work is a component of the landscape and has a reference to some specific aspect of the place or peoples that have interacted in that space. It is often geometric and architectonic. I have to develop a plan and follow through with that plan. However, I like to leave some aspects of the composition to chance and circumstance. Even with a formal design, there are subtle changes that take place as I work and they give the project a sense of completion that I had not envisioned. 

    The objects are spontaneous and free flowing; they can change very quickly and sometimes conclude with an opposite attitude than how it started out. This can be very frustrating but also quite exciting. Not having a deadline helps in the free exchange of ideas that takes place during creation.  

    I like to think the work transcends ideology and has a more nuanced attitude toward nature. I am after a more visceral, primeval and ethereal orientation as opposed to any political or social construct.


    LB: How is the response to your nature based work different with an international audience? 

    HP: Recently, I have been working a lot in Europe and Asia. They seem to have an appreciation for work that is based in nature, a more sincere relationship with the environment without concern for the works monetary value or relationship to contemporary art dialogue. In many other cultures, I get a sense of reverence for nature that I feel is lacking in our culture. I enjoy working for that kind of audience.

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    LB: How important is it that a nature based piece is interactive?

    HP: It is very difficult to compete with nature. Trying to make a construct that is more exciting or beautiful than a tree is hard to imagine. So I try and bring the viewer/participant into a space and reduce the “objectness” of my form. By suggesting the history, culture, materials, and physical interaction, I hope to draw attention to the big picture of time and space and not have to compete with natural objects.


    LB: Do you have a wish list of places you would like to create a nature based work? 

    HP: I like to do a couple of outdoor works a year. I like to work in different environments and with places that offer their audience a unique opportunity. My favorite spaces have been more isolated situations that the audience discovers as they explore the landscape. If the work is discovered and explored by the viewer/participant, then it becomes their space to understand. They create their own narrative or rationalization and that makes it personal for them. I don’t really like to have signage and explanations provided for the public. 


    LB: What is the most challenging part about working with the earth? 

    HP: The natural landscape is perfect. It is difficult to improve on what happens in the wild. So, when I work in the wilderness, I find it the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. Most spaces where I work have been altered and “landscaped” to create some idea of a pleasing garden or park environment. These are a bit easier to deal with as they have already been removed somewhat from the natural landscape. I do not construct an object, but a space that requires the audience to interact, travel through and respond to the materials and structure. I could never create anything as beautiful and perfect as a plant.

    Another difficult aspect of the outdoor works is working in sometimes extreme conditions and adhering to a strict deadline. I have worked in desert landscapes with temperatures in the 100 to 113-degree range for weeks, or in frozen environments that made digging nearly impossible. There are always challenges when working in the landscape and that becomes a component of the final sculpture. Patience and perseverance are the attributes that I find most important in realizing all of my projects.

    Interview with Herb Parker conducted by Lizz Biswell, Halsey Institute curator of education and public programs.

    Doug Beube: From Twister to Tract | Sat. Jul. 6, 2013


    Site-specific installations have risen in popularity and importance in contemporary art. They are both eye-catching and statement making. In Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art, artist Doug Beube presents two installations that are very different from each other, yet both raise questions about the permanence of books. Beube has a lot to say about the cultural implications of the shift away from printed books which were once viewed as absolute, stable, and even eternal. Beube shows the decline of the book as an object as well as the lasting impact printed material has on society.


    The pieces in Beube’s installation, Twister, hang on a striking red wall and immediately draw the visitor deeper into the galley. The unique, amorphous shapes are made from Yellow Pages phone books, and are cut into “W” shapes and then twisted into various forms. The series seems lifelike and organic, despite the manufactured material of which it is composed. Beube describes Twister as resembling a flock of birds caught in a natural disaster, like a hurricane or tornado, spinning out of control. If interpreted conceptually, this series represents the twisting of language, whether in printed materials like phone books or spoken. The objects are made from banal materials, but seem eerie and otherworldly in this installation. Beube takes a dying breed of printed materials and turns them into frightening reminders of the power of storms.


    In stark contrast to the dominant, larger-than-life Twister installation, sits the intricate Tract, three inches off the gallery floor. The piece consists of one-inch pages cut from fifty paperback romance and pulp fiction novels, arranged in a cascading swirl across the brown platform. The overall shape is a fluid, undulating replica of the human gastrointestinal tract. Beube used pulp fiction and trashy romance novels as his material of choice, showing how vapid literature is too easily digested. These fiction works are quickly turning to waste. The remarkable nature of the installation is that no adhesive is used to maintain the shape, only gravity. Rather than solely mourning the loss of books in this technological age, Beube reminds the viewer of the junk and debris that is printed. These inane fiction novels add little or no value to our culture. It is a necessary reminder that not all printed materials are sacred and that in every era, waste is produced.


    These two installations take the books off the shelves and into the world of contemporary art. The juxtaposition between the everyday object and the unique process used in the display is what makes these works so strong.


    By Caitlin Murphy, Halsey Institute Intern

    Inside the Artists’ Studios, Part II | Wed. Jul. 3, 2013

     Today, we’ll visit the studios of Doug Beube, Long-Bin Chen, and Brian Dettmer!


    Doug Beube’s studio space is in his home in Brooklyn. He says:

    There are two aspects to my studio practice, one is in the basement of my brownstone where I use various shop tools such as band saws, belt sanders and drills. When I collage or excavate books using a Xacto blade I go upstairs in the large first floor room to carve out books. Upstairs is cleaner, attempting to be dust free, which isn’t always possible, because the other half of my studio is where I cook, eat and have friends visit.

     Doug Beube studio

    Doug has an insightful approach to describing the way he uses his shop tools:

    In the shop, as I mentioned, I have various power shop and numerous hand tools such as palm sanders and belt sanders. I treat these tools as if they’re writing or drawing implements, which are used to make various marks or grind away paper. This is a reductive practice rather than additive, as an artist would use paint or draw using various wet mediums or charcoal for example.

    The bound book is basically a rectangle. It has content because of the author’s address to it; I build on top of that by selecting specific titles to reduce it to the essence the author’s intent with my editorial collaboration. There are several questions about my practice, one of which is, how can I push the structure of the book, still maintaining its ‘book-ness’ to a form that is unfamiliar. Many artists throughout the globe are now using books as their medium and may replicate what other artists’ practice without pushing their ideas further. By that I mean an artist might use the same technique of cutting, but only change the title of the book instead of fundamentally mixing up the entire process. Inventive artwork may not have a precedent prior to its formation, which is why we celebrate its originality while other work will be applauded for contributing to pushing an idea, its form or process beyond the predecessor’s work. The goal is to keep pushing the medium further than it’s been without mimicking an established body of work, otherwise why bother working at all?

    In 1984, I began working as a carpenter in New York City. Any tool I used on a job site I thought, ‘I can use this to cut, gouge or grind down books.’ In my shop, I use the same shop and power tools to renovate or make repairs in my building. With digital technologies available, I think about pieces that could only be fabricated because of machine precision that I program rather than physically using a hand tool.

    Doug also discussed his inspiration:

    I’m inspired by a walk along a sidewalk, nature trails, museum shows, movies or the use of a power tool I hadn’t thought of altering books with before. Politics, social events, the environment and art historical references are constant inspirations. To relax, I mediate, go for walks, read, watch movies, exercise, visit with friends, pretty boring stuff, but this is how I get pumped up to work. 



    Long-Bin’s studio space is in the Bronx, and he uses many of the same tools that Doug uses, chainsaws, drills, band saws, sanders, and scissors. He collects books from the curb on recycling day and at New York’s recycling centers. Once people find out that he makes amazing sculptures from discarded books, they donate their stacks to him.

    After years of creating artwork from books, Long-Bin has designed a process that allows him to work with books and leave the pages uncoated on most of his pieces. To begin, he must find books that will suit the sculpture he is envisioning. Sometimes this determination is made based on the subject matter of the books in relation to the end result, and sometimes his selections are more about the physical characteristic of the books. Long-Bin says, I try to make sculptures that are appropriate for the content of the books. In my concept, the form and content is united together; the content gives me the idea of the form. Yellow Pages give me one idea; books discarded from libraries inspire a different style.

     Long-Bin Chen studio 

    After the books are sorted, they are nailed together and bamboo rods are inserted to keep the pieces together. This forms a large three-dimensional mass akin to a block of marble. Long-Bin then begins to cut into the books with large saws. As the material begins to take shape, he uses smaller tools, sanders and drills to carve the final details of the figure. The amount of dust this process generates requires Long-Bin to wear protective goggles and jumpsuit while he works.



    Brian, like Francesca and Doug, has his studio in his home just outside of Atlanta. It’s a long room with three large windows on one wall. There are stacks of tape, clamps, straps, and Golden matte medium. Though his studio is in his home, Brian treats his work like a “normal” job. He says:

    For the most part, I get up around 7:30am, take my daughter to daycare, and since I have no commute, I end up right back at home. I’m in the studio from 8:30 or 9:00am until 5:00pm and focus on my work at least eight hours a day. I have an assistant who comes in two to three days a week. I’ll pick up my daughter, eat dinner with the family, my daughter will go to sleep around 8 or 9:00pm, and sometimes I’ll get back into the studio for a few hours again in the evening. Or sometimes I’ll wake up at 5:00am and get a few hours in the studio before anything happens.

    Brian Dettmer seals the edges of his books before he carves into them, essentially discovering the content as he slices through it page by page. Brian says:

    Once they’re sealed, they’re sealed. There’s no temptation — and no possibility even — to flip through and see what’s coming. It’s exciting for me because the piece is emerging while I’m working. The end result is really the artifact of that whole experience. It’s similar to reading because I have no idea what’s coming next or what will be on the next page.   

     Brian Dettmer studio

    The books that Brian chooses to work with must not only be of a particular type of content – mostly reference materials – but also contain a type of paper to which he is attracted. He says:

    When I’m looking for a book to work with, the size, title, subject, content and overall feeling of the book all play a big factor in the work. I will skim through a book to make sure the illustration quality, design, and even paper type will work but other than that I try not to know the book too well before I begin because I want chance to play a large role.

    Brian uses mostly reference materials for his books and in our modern digital age, one might wonder where an artist can find lots of encyclopedias and dictionaries.

    He says his books come from all over the place. I have a favorite vintage bookstore here in Atlanta and they know me well and know what I do. On eBay, I’ll search for books on certain subjects, but half the time I’ll buy something and when I actually get it in my hands, it won’t necessarily work. The type of paper, the size of the book, the quality—all of that matters. I go to estate sales and I often have people contact me to ask to donate books to me.

    When you’re surrounded by this much factual information, one may think Brian gets tired of reading. Au contraire! Brian says:

    I do listen to a lot more books than I actually read because I have a lot more listening time. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. It depends on what type of work I’m doing and how much attention or focus my work takes. I’ll listen to music, NPR, podcasts, or audiobooks. I never listen to music with lyrics while I’m working—music I can zone out to that will help with my flow. 


    Part of the information and the studio photographs Francesca shared with us comes from an article that was written about her for Brian Dettmer’s information comes from an interview with Tina Essmaker for the blog The Great Discontent.



    By Lizz Biswell, Curator of Education + Public Programs


    Inside the Artists’ Studios | Tue. Jul. 2, 2013

    We asked the Rebound artists to pull back the curtain on their studios for us and share the quirks of their process. We got some really wonderful results! The way the artists speak about their spaces and work is as varied as the artworks they produce. Some of the artists use similar tools, but each has given their book works a unique voice. Today, we’ll take a look into the studios of Francesca Pastine and Guy Laramée.



    Francesca’s studio is in her home in the Mission District of San Francisco. She says:

    I generally begin my day by cleaning my studio, which I think of as ‘sweeping the temple.’ That empties my head of extraneous things and allows room for the creative process to begin. I like silence in the studio, but I’m not adverse to listening to music or NPR. 

    My studio practice is varied. I also paint, and I am working on a series of Market Gauge Masks that I make from my subscription to the New York Times. I work out beforehand how I want the final result to look, but the blueprint shifts as I find my way through the work. My tools are simple: a small self-healing matte and an Xacto knife with a #11 blade.

    My studio has great lighting because I am married to an architect and we planned it out. I have natural lighting at both ends, so I get morning sun at the back end and afternoon sun at the front end. The studio is 30′ x 12′ long, so the middle part needs light. I use a daylight fluorescent coupled with a warm SP35 fluorescent which is found in beauty parlors. This gives me a full range of light waves. These are punctuated by halogen spots. The light is well balanced and even. I have a desk light I use to illuminate my cutting area.

     Francesca Pastine studio

    Francesca’s working method sounds very reflective and deliberate while maintaining an element of creativity, play, and chance. She says:

    My process is quite simple. I like to work slowly, investing time in the things that I make. I cut one to three pages at a time and I fall into a meditative state wherein the next cut makes sense to me. If it does not, I put the work down and do something else. In other words, I enter a space where I am intensely focused on making a perfect cut. Although I strive for perfection in the making of objects, the trace of my hand is apparent, allowing the breath of imperfection to exist.

    I can categorize two types of working modes. One is when I know the task at hand and I get into a working mode to do it. The other is the more uncomfortable but, nevertheless, the most exciting moment in my practice. This is when I’m not sure what I am doing or what to do next. This is when I lurch into ideas that may have been percolating for years, but I have not acted on, or just doodle randomly to see what happens. This space usually occurs after I finish one body of work and need to rethink and expand my practice. Failure is an important part of my process, because without accepting defeat, I don’t challenge myself to enter into that excruciating space of the unknown. It takes a certain fearlessness and trust in my process to push into something new.

    Francesca draws inspiration from many places and surprisingly has time for activities outside of her busy studio practice. She says:

    I teach part time and enjoy my relationship with both the students and colleagues. I’ve been teaching on and off for a long time— since 1996, at different places like San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts, Diablo Valley College, and City College of San Francisco Continuing Education. It’s been very rewarding (and at times challenging) to experience various locations and demographics.

    The grit and graffiti in my Mission District neighborhood is a daily inspiration. I like to take photos of the rich textures and accumulations of urban detritus that can be found on my daily wanderings. Ultimately, I react to art work— Asian, Greek, African, European, American, both ancient and contemporary, literature, movies and music – that expresses an authentic response to a moment in time through the confluence of materials, concept and attentiveness.

     I am excited with expanding my scope of materials vis-à-vis the Artforums and will begin to experiment with plaster and larger sculptural forms that will incorporate both cutting into the magazines and carving out of plaster.



    Guy has a more unconventional way of describing his studio, tools and working method. When asked to speak about his studio space, he says:

    It’s a mess, really. I try to make it as clean and orderly as possible, but as soon as the demons of creation overtake me, everything flies away from my hands and chaos takes possession of the place. People often envy artists, they take it that we have an easy life, no boss, lots of free time, etc. But it’s actually the opposite. It’s a mess. You live in the midst of chaos, not knowing what comes next, not knowing what to do, and it is a great source of anguish and despair. 

    Concretely, my studio is schizophrenic: two spaces – separated by a door, one for painting and the other one for sculpture.

    I like the light of inspiration. It is a light that seemingly comes from outside, but in fact it comes from inside. Not ‘inside me’ or that sort of thing. We are all so drugged on the ‘me’ dope that we don’t see any longer that ‘I’ is an illusion. We are not doing things. Things are doing us. Anyway, this light of intuition comes from the inside, that is: the inside of things. Things have an inner light, but it often shines too dimly for us to perceive it. 

    [If you wanted a picture of my studio], then I’d have to show you the inside of my head and that would kill me. Anyway, even if I showed you all the cells of my body, I’d still have to show you all the atoms of the world.

    The world is my studio.

    Guy Laramée Studio

    When asked to describe his tools and working method, Guy says: I had to make myself a very flexible, long and probing mind. That was hard and I have to say it is still quite rigid. It won’t bend when inspiration requires it to do so. But things are getting better, at leastI hope, otherwise, what’s the point?

    You may laugh at me, but that’s the most useful tool ever. If you can see things differently each time, then you end up reproducing what your ancestor did, or worse: you end up doing always the same thing. Not that I fear boredom, quite the contrary. Boredom is a great teacher. But it is the freshness of an open mind that shows you how to endure boredom.

    People would not use anguish, panic attacks, despair, hopelessness as their daily tool, would they? It’s a shame they don’t, because these are the real conditions of a creative life. Unless you stop losing yourself in useless distractions like TV, parties, etc, you won’t find the energy to pursue a creative vocation.

    To me, the three monastic vows apply very well to the artistic practice:

    Vow of poverty: limit yourself to very few materials (book…!)

    Vow of chastity: be devoted to the work you do and don’t sneak in into other peoples marriages – other people’s oeuvre. 

    Vow of obedience: Artist Agnes Martin said ‘Inspiration is a command.’ Don’t rely on decision, rely on obedience to inspiration.

    We asked Guy what sort of activities he does to unwind or de-clutter his mind after a long day in the studio. He said:

    You don’t, it’s impossible. It is not even desirable. You should walk out of the studio seeing new relations between phenomena, colors, shapes, etc. To achieve this, most of the time you should drive yourself nearly to exhaustion, that’s the only way. This is badly said: if you allow the work to take over, fatigue and exhaustion will be the rewards that finally allow you to let go of all social conditioning.

    Zoom In and Out with Francesca Pastine | Fri. Jun. 28, 2013

    24. DSC02780_GOODZoom in past the Plexiglas box and past the images on the covers of the Artforum magazines featured inside. Here, visitors will find precisely cut pages within the magazine. Dripping and melting together, her work slowly spreads further and further across the pages. The finished work becomes an unsolicited collaboration between Francesca Pastine and the magazine’s cover artist. The specific Artforums are selected because the artist featured on the cover is one of Pastine’s favorites, including Frank Stella, Bridget Riley, and Trisha Brown.

    Born in New York City to artist parents, Pastine has always been surrounded by art. Some of her first memories are of the murals her mother painted on the walls and furniture of her nursery. While pursuing a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, she was introduced to and captivated by modern dance. As her interests blossomed, she began taking classes in modern dance, jazz, and ballet. For Pastine, dancing is as much a part of life as visual art. In an interview she explained, “The rigors of dance training instilled in me the importance of discipline and tenacity.” All the control and exactitude she learned in dance reinforces the qualities required to survive in what she refers to as a “thankless environment, where there is little financial support.” While reading an article about the novelist Khaled Hoseini, who was previously a doctor, Pastine found similarities between their experiences. When asked what he took away from his ten years as a practicing medical doctor, he responded, “Discipline. Patience. Perseverance. A willingness to forgo sleep… Unfailing optimism that the end is in site.” 


    Pastine does not consciously combine dancing with her artistic process. It is used subliminally as a guide to broaden her pursuits not only as an artist, but as a human being. After a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see drawings and collages of Picasso’s guitars, she went to see Orbs, a Broadway production by modern dance choreographer Paul Taylor. She described this as “a peak experience,” since both artists were working in different mediums, but essentially conveying the same message: deconstruction of the classical into something more contemporary. 

    “So in the end,” she says, “it’s all art.”

    By Katie Nocella, Halsey Institute Intern

    The Codex | Thu. Jun. 27, 2013

    (photo credit: Wikipedia)

    This is a Greek wooden tablet, with a wax layer into which they carved characters. Archaeological Museum of Mycenae.

    Book artists all over the world use the book as a structural element in their work, exploring this familiar form by cutting, sewing, and carving into the parts that make it up. In order to further understand the meaning behind Doug Beube’s Re-breaking the Codex on view at Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art, it may be useful to explore what the codex has evolved from and what that term means today.

    Codex comes from the Latin word caudex for “trunk of a tree.” The book form we know today was first created in Rome and originally consisted of stacked wooden tablets.  The scroll evolved into the codex so that more information could be accessed faster in a sturdier, more portable format. The codex uses less paper – being able to fold long pieces into signatures enabled the writer to write on both sides (recto and verso), thus making the written word less bulky and less expensive to produce. It was also much easier to access a precise point in the text, communicated through page numbers. The codex is truly one of the most incredible human inventions – it has barely changed since its birth over 1,500 years ago, and most of us use one every day!


    Beube's publication Breaking the Codex

    The original Breaking the Codex

    Beube’s work subverts the codex format by carving into it, removing information instead of adding it. Using this method to change the book from an informational tool to a sculptural object challenges the role of the book itself in the work. This switch is a crucial one in the world of Book Arts – once the information inside the book is no longer the main focus, the codex itself becomes a sculptural playground, ripe with opportunity for alteration and invention. Re-breaking the Codex has an added layer of meaning in that the sculpture is an altered version of Beube’s personal catalogue, thereby employing the imagery of his past works to inform the visual information in this piece.  He highlights the non-linear way we now access information, which is a harkening back to the days before the codex. This non-linear method is demonstrated in the way we receive information from our iPads, our Kindles, our Nooks – a scrolling miasma of electronic information that is accessed the same way the scroll was.


    The altered book work Re-Breaking the Codex

    The altered book work Re-Breaking the Codex

    Beube’s remarks about Re-Breaking the Codex

    The publication of a recent monograph about my thirty-year practice of bookwork, collage and mixed media is irreverently altered by cutting, gouging and collaging the original book. The aggressive modification of my own publication is ironically contemptuous. By surgically cutting into both the front and backside of “Doug Beube: Breaking the Codex,” as if it’s an archeological dig or medical dissection, reveals the different layers of my artwork. Like the red indices of a dictionary, for example, that organizes the letters of the alphabet, the thinly sliced pages of my bookwork reveals a summary of various colorful chapters and illegible texts. Not until viewers turn the pages of the book do they see the interventions between the reproductions, written text, cut and gouged out pages that disrupts an unhindered read. The reader is constantly reminded that the surface of each page is expandable (and expendable) or references another; it’s not solid, it’s a fluid space. As metaphor, each oblong cut becomes a “hyper-link,” a subtext to previous and forthcoming pages.”

    In order to see Beube’s process and investigate each altered page of this work, the Halsey Institute, along with Brian Damage and Nathan Koci, produced a video that is on view next to the work in the gallery and also here:

    – Sarah Bandy, Halsey Institute’s Biblioteca Librarian

    Beyond Books with Guy Laramée | Thu. Jun. 20, 2013

    When visitors come into the Halsey Institute to see the Rebound exhibition, there are a couple of common questions such as: “how does a person think to create art with books?” and “how do they decide what to make out of the books?” While there are many answers to these questions, there are a couple of key points to better understand the creation of Guy Laramée’s pieces.

    Ryoanji guy laramee

    Ryoanji, 2010 (detail). Altered book, 10″ x 4″ x 7″ 

    While working in a metal shop, Guy experimented with putting a book in a sandblaster and hasn’t stopped since. He creates landscapes out of books which may include hillsides, caverns and waves while exploring the concept of knowledge. The common belief and saying “knowledge is power” suggests that the constant accumulation of knowledge is a good thing. Guy re-examines this belief through his work. Books hold information and knowledge in a format that is made for sharing. Guy purposely carves books to diminish the knowledge that the books once held. These pieces represent the possibility that as Guy says, “the ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation.” His work physically shows viewers how something beautiful can be created through a removal process and how we don’t need more things or information, but that un-learning certain things might be more beneficial.


    Great Wave, 2012. Altered book, inks. 7.5″ x 6″ x 9″ 

    While Guy creates all kinds of landscapes, his pieces are not about the nature he depicts but about the feelings that nature triggers within a person. Guy has had these kinds of triggers, epiphanies, happen to him when climbing high mountains. When a person is engulfed by nature, there is a connection made to the surroundings and the person and nature become one. Nature is a reminder of how everything is vibrating with life and how the seemingly ordinary can be just as incredible as anything else. Guy’s work is about “transcending the mundane.” Here, transcendence means simply “beyond, beyond opposites, beyond concepts, concepts of any kind, even the concept of concept.” 

    Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 4.15.13 PM

    Larousse Méthodique, 2011. Altered book, inks 9″ x 7″ x 12″  

    Much of the ideas that Guy’s work explores come from Eastern traditions – shedding of knowledge to achieve transcendence. There are books Guy mentioned in an interview that connect Eastern thought with modern art. A few titles are Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, Smile of The Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today and Negotiating Rapture. Guy’s art is part of the merging between the East and West, beyond just books.

    Video: CBS Interview | March 5, 2012:

    Images and image info from Guy’s website:

    By Crystal King, Halsey Institute Intern


    Continues to amaze! | Tue. Jun. 18, 2013

    By now, you’ve visited the Rebound exhibition .. maybe even a few times. To ensure that these artists continue to blow your mind, we’ve pulled together images of the other types of artworks Brian Dettmer, Doug Beube, Guy Laramée, Francesca Pastine, and Long-Bin Chen create in addition to the poignant book works on view at the Halsey Institute until July 6th.



     Brian Dettmer - Skull

    Skull, 2005, Altered cassette tape cartridges


    Brian Dettmer - Ram Skull

    Ram Skull, 2007, Altered cassette tape cartridges, 9” x 17” x 13”




     Doug Beube - Smoking Gun

    Smoking Gun, 1996, wall board, wood, matches, 40” x 25” x 2”


    Doug Beube - Desire 07

    Desire 07, from the Desire series, 1970 -1984, photograph




     Guy Laramée - Wreck of Hope

    The Wreck of Hope


    Guy Laramee - The Sacrifice series 

    Painting from The Sacrifice series, c. 2010, Oil on canvas




    Francesca Pastine - Mutual Fund Spiderweb #4 

    Mutual Fund Web #4, 2009, Cut newspaper, 22″ x 13.5″


    Francesca Pastine - Small Supermarket Cart #1

    Small Supermarket Cart #1, 2007, Watercolor on handmade paper, 9″ x 13″




    Long-Bin Chen Hanging Man 

    Hanging Man, 2003, Altered books, wire, 220 x 35 x 25 cm


    Long-Bin Chen Bookface

    Book Face, c. 2010, Old furniture, hard cover books, 21″ x 42″ x 80″ 

    Exploration of a New Medium | Fri. Jun. 14, 2013

    With the advent of photography, the role of painting was completely changed and now so has the role of books. Originally, painting was the only way to capture visual reality and when photography became commonplace, it allowed painting to evolve into what we now know as modern art. Today, in the ever-advancing digital age, where we can store mounds of information on a small device, we must ask ourselves if print is still necessary? Brian Dettmer’s artwork not only helps us answer this question, but also introduces this same sort of evolution in today’s use of books.


    Brian Dettmer creates astonishing sculptures by meticulously and methodically carving into books page-by-page. In his artist statement, he says, “by altering physical forms of information and shifting preconceived functions, new and unexpected roles emerge. This is the area I currently operate in.” This is the first apparent evolution, because as he carves page-by-page, he does not know what he will find on the next page and therefore has developed a ‘new way of reading.’

    To better explain his process, Dettmer first searches for the perfect book, or set of books that fit his standards, which include the size of the book, the type of paper and its overall quality. Next, he seals the edges of the book and beginning at the front, begins to carve away with knives, tweezers and surgical tools. Unlike some of the other Rebound artists, Dettmer only removes bits of the books- nothing is ever added or relocated.


    Brian Dettmer, Prehistoric Societies, 2013

    A major point of Dettmer’s work is to examine not only the history of books, but more importantly, their future. With all of our information now being stored digitally, he comments on the fact that this is less stable than print and actually not as environmentally friendly due to its need of a constant source of energy to keep the data alive. His work points out today’s lack of tangibility of information that we once had.

    Beyond this, and back to the point of evolution, Dettmer is not necessarily saying that print needs to be revived, but that print no longer has the responsibility of being the sole source of information. Dettmer explains, “people think that books might die, but in a way, it frees the form of the book up to become something completely different.” In this way, he is the first to show us one of the many new possibilities of this medium.

     By Hannah Shepard, Halsey Institute intern

    Timelapse of Brian Dettmer’s Modern Painters, 1987 from Halsey Institute on Vimeo.

    Make Your Own: The Pamphlet Stitch | Tue. Jun. 11, 2013

    A common thread that ties all the artists in Rebound is their structural alteration of the book form. The works all employ books as their medium, but subvert the classic format to call attention to the varying ways that the printed word is used today. If you want to join the Rebound artists in their play with the book’s structure, one of the best ways to start is experimenting with the simple Pamphlet Stitch. You only need a few tools and can use any sort of paper you can get your hands on! (Thanks to for the diagrams – be sure to visit their site for more great bookbinding tutorials and ways to bring books to the world. )


     1. Fold each piece of paper and cover sheet in half.  Each of these is called a folio. Nest them inside of each other, heavy piece on the outside, to make a signature.

    2. With your safety pin or awl, poke three holes along the spine of your book – one in the center and the other two no less than an inch from the edges of your signature.

    1. 2

      3. Cut piece of embroidery thread that is three times longer than the length of the spine. You don’t need to tie a knot, just make sure one string is longer than the other so you have a tail.









    Open the book and pull your needle through the center hole. Leave a tail on the outside so you can knot it later!

    4. Open the book and pull your needle through the center hole. Leave a tail on the outside so you can knot it later!


    Next, put your string through the top hole.

    5. Next, put your string through the top hole.


    6. Go through the bottom hole, skipping the center hole.

    6. Go through the bottom hole from the outside, skipping the center hole.



    7. Go back out through the center hole. Now your thread meets the tail you left! Tighten up the string throughout the book so it’s snug.

    7. Go back out through the center hole. Now your thread meets the tail you left! Tighten up the string throughout the book so it’s snug.

    8. Tie the knot on the outside of your book (or you can tie a bow, make a complicated knot, or add beads – get creative!).

    8. Tie the knot on the outside of your book (or you can tie a bow, make a complicated knot, or add beads – get creative!).


    Long-Bin Chen’s Peeper: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover | Thu. Jun. 6, 2013


    A stark contrast to some of Long-Bin Chen’s sculptures reminiscent of monumental stonework, the Peeper books’ unassuming and more literal “book presence” provides a glimpse into book art that is outwardly less modified. A closer look into the peepholes reveals tiny universes Chen created from miniatures and toys. Though each space is unique, many portray gallery environments that mimic the very space the viewers themselves occupy. From across the room, the shelf of stacked books recalls the unaltered source of the medium used throughout his oeuvre, though it in fact has been heavily altered inside.


    The Peeper books are not always displayed in stacks on the shelf. Through their travels and residencies in different galleries and museum settings, Peeper has been suspended from the ceiling, arranged in a spiral formation, and even wrapped in wire to create a suspended stack.

    Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 6.51.02 PM

    But here in the Halsey, it takes on its most unassuming display formation. Books on bookshelves in a book art exhibition? Why not! It allows the viewer’s eye a place to rest after being stimulated by the highly detailed and intricate works that make up Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art. Yet, this sense of calm created across the room is again revoked upon peering inside the Peeper books. A whole new level of intricacy is revealed! From the painstakingly tiny scene made inside the book to the connection it sometimes makes with the book’s title or theme, Long-Bin Chen’s ingenuity is astonishing.

    2013-05-23 18.16.22

    The Peeper books broaden the scope of the other works in the Rebound exhibition. Not lacking in detail, the Peeper books reveal their true value slowly. They reward curiosity and remind viewers that they can expect the unexpected in Chen’s work. It is here that the age-old adage seems markedly appropriate: never judge a book by its cover. For Chen, each book holds new possibilities for beauty and the chance to amaze. When it comes to the Peeper books, a closer look is amply rewarded.

    By Jennifer Greenway, Halsey Institute intern

    peeper inside sm

    Inside the Installation | Tue. Jun. 4, 2013

    Rebound artist Long-Bin Chen created this beautiful zen garden, Set in Stone, in the Addlestone Library’s Rotunda.

    IMG_0339 IMG_0344 


    Let’s take a step back and learn about the process from the beginning. We’ll follow the creation, move and installation to the end result – an interactive, site-specific installation made from about 2,000 books donated by the Charleston community! Long-Bin used every minute of his three-week residency at the Halsey Institute to create Set in Stone. The Friends of the Library at the College of Charleston are sponsors of Long-Bin Chen’s residency and installation.


    Gathering books:

     After collecting books for a few weeks, they all needed to be sorted by size and have their dust jackets removed.

    gather 1 gather 2


    Long-Bin, his studio assistants Tommy Fox and Jordan Fowler, and Studio Art professor Michael Morrison during the creation of Set in Stone:

     After the books were sorted, they were nailed together and bamboo rods were inserted to keep the pieces together. Then the forms were shaped into large marble-looking sculptures.

    create 1 create 15create 17 create 4create 18 create 14create 5 create 11create 6 create 8create 12 create 7create 13 create 9create 3 create 16create 2


    Testing out their work:

    Once Long-Bin, Tommy, Jordan and Michael felt they were finished with the individual sculptures, it was time to set them up in a large, open area to feel out the arrangement and spacing. 

    create 10 test 3  test 1 test 2test 5


    Moving the sculptures from the studio to the Addlestone Library:

    It took a team of guys from the College of Charleston’s Physical Plant to help Long-Bin, Michael, Tommy and Jordan move the sculptures to the Addlestone Library. 2,000 books weighs a lot!

    move 11 move 4move 9 move 8move 7 move 10move 6 move 2move 1 move 5move 3



    Installing the final pieces:

    finalize 3 finalize 4finalize 2 finalize 1


    Finished installation:

    After three weeks of work and lots of helping hands, Long-Bin’s Set in Stone installation was complete! The installation will be on view until October 12, 2013.

    IMG_0354 IMG_0353IMG_0351 IMG_0347IMG_0350 IMG_0346IMG_0345 IMG_0343IMG_0341 IMG_0344


    Check out this informative and beautiful video produced by Dave Brown in the College of Charleston’s Office of Media Relations and Video Services!

    YouTube Preview Image

    Another world .. | Mon. Apr. 22, 2013

    Some of our student artists are inspired by their surroundings, some by their childhood, others by the work of practicing artists they admire. The students that we will look at today chose to explore ideas and subjects that can be described as “otherworldly”, “abstract” or “cosmic”.



    IMG_0209 IMG_0211

    Hamilton and The Quickening

    Frequently seen in cultures around the world, there are creatures, spirits, and angels called “psychopomps”, which are responsible for escorting newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Horses, ravens, dogs, sparrows and owls are commonly considered psychopomps. For the monoprints entitled Hamilton and The Quickening, Aidan decided to expound on the idea of certain psychopomps, specifically the raven and the dog.

    With Hamilton, the strangeness of the English bull terrier’s face and body immediately invoke in her mind the otherworldliness that she associates with psychopomps. The odd planes of the dog’s face give it a sort of mystery. She wanted his mischievous expression to contrast with the outlandishness of his face to mirror her own feelings about death. His expression is reassuring, but also unsettling as with The Quickening. Ravens have had a long history of association with death. Ravens are eerie birds and their calls are coarse and disquieting. she wanted to capture a raven in his call, but she also wanted him to appear transient. He is here, but he is also somewhere else, melting into some other place. 



    M104: Sombrero Galaxy

    The properties of light and spatial depth are the focus of Alizey’s astronomical work. She strives to visually depict natural processes beyond ordinary human experience to instill in the viewer a sense of curiosity and wonder regarding the universe around us.



    img_5141_good img_5154_good

    An Over/Ingrown World

    Nicholas says, “This series I’ve been developing for the past couple years serves as a reminder about the union between man, nature, and all the elements. The World is symbolic of life, growth, death, decomposition, rebirth and evolution; incorporating elements of childhood nostalgia, observations, fascinations, obsessions and the subtleties and wonders of being alive this moment. Delve into the World…” 




    Brain Deadly

    Stuart creates work that is inspired by his youth. He spent a great deal of time in Europe, where his parents exposed him to Byzantine and Baroque works, which highly influence his drawings today. He never thought much of what he saw as a child, but retrospectively, can see the subtle influence. 

    His aim is to create an unusual closeness between the audience and his work. The amount of intimacy that a small canvas offers is essential to this goal, so he tends to work small and detail-oriented. Stuart feels that if he can lock eyes with his illustrations and feel slightly unsettled, it has the potential to keep him interested and motivated to create more pieces that offer a similar experience. The zombiesque styling with the Christian symbolism has strong ties to his youth. When he was abroad, most paintings that interested him were quite graphic or had a strong connection with Christ. 



     epps - ghost ship

    Ghost Ship Sunset

    This piece is made up of a marbleized acrylic background with the ship applied in slightly translucent white oil paint. Taylor explored the marble acrylic technique in a previous piece and liked the idea of it representing both the sky and water at sunset. She chose to use the image of a ghostly fishing ship because she liked the idea of an eerie subject only visible in certain lighting. Taylor wants the viewer to wonder about the origins of the vessel and why it might deserve a spiritual entity. She is partial to bright, vivid colors as well as elaborate detail in her work. She forced herself to let go of the latter in this piece in an attempt to explore interpretive representations of objects and space that can come from a more abstract application of paint. 





    Meditation Piece

    Tommy approaches the Buddha figure with both understanding and ignorance. He understands the inherent pleasantness of the form, even without much formal knowledge or religious context. The gathering of many advances the meditative direction and joyful nature of the individual form. The viewer is welcome to enter the plane of the figures, feeling the gravitational pull and sway of the mass. The unexpected use of suspension contradicts this, just as personal reflection and meditation seem to somehow transcend the mundane, if only for a moment. 

    Depends on how you look at it … | Tue. Apr. 16, 2013

    Today, we’d like to dedicate a post to the joy of discovering different vantage points. Some pieces make it almost imperative that the viewer experience multiple angles to fully experience the work. Some pieces, just based on their display methods require the view to crouch, walk around, or interact with them. Even though the show has been up for almost two weeks, we are still noticing  details and aspects of pieces that were unknown until we approached a piece from a different angle.

    Here are a few interesting angles, perspectives and close-ups of pieces to check out for yourself in the exhibition!


    ALYSON BURNSWood Works

    IMG_0226   burns 1

    IMG_0225  IMG_0219  IMG_0224

    IMG_0217  IMG_0218  IMG_0220  



    CHLOE GILSTRAPMind in a Steel Trap

    IMG_0227    IMG_0230 

     IMG_0228   IMG_0232   IMG_0229 



    JOSHUA BRELANDEvolution of Decay

    IMG_0248 IMG_0233

    IMG_0234 IMG_0246 IMG_0242 

    IMG_0243  IMG_0244  IMG_0245



    IMG_0249   IMG_0250 IMG_0251  IMG_0254  IMG_0253




    IMG_0255    IMG_0257 

    IMG_0261   IMG_0256   IMG_0260

    IMG_0258     IMG_0262


    LUCI BARRIOFeb. 14, 1999 and Feb. 25, 2000

    IMG_0265    IMG_0266  

    IMG_0268 IMG_0267  IMG_0269

    IMG_0271    IMG_0272

    I see what you did there … | Thu. Apr. 11, 2013

    Let’s check out some of the influences that visitors can spot in the Young Contemporaries‘ artists!


    CHRISTINA RODINO compared with 19th Century Russian painter VLADIMIR BOROVIKOVSKY 

    Ïîðòðåò Åëåíû Àëåêñàíäðîâíû Íàðûøêèíîé      rodino - lady of rose

    Borovikovsky’s Portrait of Elena Alexandrovna Naryshkina from 1799 and Rodino’s Lady of the Rose


     Borovikovsky’s Portrait of Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna from 1796 and Rodino’s Morgana


    SOPHIE TREPPENDAHL compared with German artist GERHARD RICHTER

     richter photo 

    trppendahl - boy    treppendahl - VA

    Top: Richter’s Familie am Meer (Family at the Sea) from 1964

    Bottom: Treppendahl’s Boy and Oine, VA


    EMILY MERCREDY compared with Japanese painter and printmaker from the Edo period, HOKUSAI and American photographer JILL GREENBERG

    great-wave-off-kanagawa   jill-greenberg-crying-photoshopped-babies-end-times-18  mecredy - wave

     Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa from circa 1830, an image of Greenberg’s from the series The End Times and Mercredy’s The Wave


    KELLEY WILLS compared with British painter, printmaker and photographer DAVID HOCKNEY 

    david hockney     wills - jo

    Hockney’s Mother 1 from 1985 and Wills’ Jo 

    A closer look | Mon. Apr. 8, 2013

    The annual juried student exhibition Young Contemporaries is always a great show to spend time appreciating pieces of art for what they are. Here is an activity that was designed for sharing the exhibition with a tour group.


        full image 2

    Grace Musser’s drawing Jungle Rescue is a perfect fit an activity we just designed to lead viewers on a concentrated exploration of figurative artwork. There are two parts to the activity. For the first part, look closely at the drawing for 15 seconds if you are in the gallery, spin around so that your back is to the piece and recall as many details as you can about the work. If you’re seeing the drawing on your computer only, just look away from the screen.

    Many common answers will be: woman, lantern, trees, people, shadows, vines, grass. 


    Delia closer Delia close upother people closer

    When the viewer turns back to face the piece, we’ll continue with a series of questions that require not only close examination of the narrative, but also the injection of a personal interpretations and conjecture. Here are the questions we came up with:

    1. Describe the characters.

    2. Describe the woman’s clothing.

    3. Who is she?

    4. What are the other people doing? How many people do you think there are in the group?

    5. Where are they? How do you know? Why are they there?

    6. Do you see any animals? Are there normally animals in this setting? Where do you think they are?

    7. Describe the plants and trees.

    8. What year do you think it is?

    9. Describe the weather. Why do you think that is the weather?

    10. What is in the background?

    11. Is the artist trying to tell us something about this area? If so, what?

    12. How does this scene compare with forests/jungles that you have personally experienced?

    13. If this was not a black and white pencil drawing, what colors do you think the artists would need to use? Where? Why?


    Even though there are no “right answers” in interpreting the meaning or message for a piece of art, we’d like to share Grace Musser’s artist statement.

    My work explores the history, processes, and concepts related to the dioramas in the Akeley Hall of African Mammals in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Specifically, much of my work incorporates stories and paraphernalia from the lives of Carl Ethan Akeley and Delia J. Akeley, the original preparators and explorers who created the dioramas. I became incredibly interested in the Akeley’s lives over the past two years and have collected a trove of photos and photographic plates, copies of journals, published books, personal notes, letters, personal effects, and have spoken to several remaining family members and museum staff who knew of them through older generations of staff. Both were passionate, courageous, sincere, and multi-faceted American explorers and original preparators who risked their lives to travel to Africa during the early 20th century in order to gather animal specimens, foliage, and field studies. The dioramas themselves are childhood images for me as I was born in New York City and practically grew up in the Museum, going into work with my mother and father. They were employed as a researcher and curator (respectively) in the Mammalogy Department. My paintings consider both the dioramas and my experience as an individual in contemporary American society and culture. The diorama itself has always fascinated me as it is paradoxically a completely artificial, idealized world meant to represent reality and is extraordinarily intricate and time consuming in its creation process. It is especially interesting to me that the mounted skins must be poisoned in order to preserve their ideal, beautiful state. The dioramas and my paintings force the viewer to ask what is truly real — to what extent is our reality created by ourselves or the constructs imposed by others? Are our ideals even attainable or worth striving towards, or do we corrode ourselves in the name of upholding them? Additionally, I am particularly interested in this idea of reality and ideals as applied to nostalgia for the promise of the “American dream” that has been undermined by doubt regarding the present and future. My paintings present a kind of sepulcher for this nostalgia to the viewer through using an early 20th century American aesthetic combined with my own notes and constructs that point out the delusion and fallacy of such ideals. 

    Jungle Rescue

    “Jungle Rescue” is a graphite and charcoal drawing that depicts Delia Akeley’s journey through the Congo jungle at 1:00 AM to rescue her husband Carl Akeley. Carl had initially ventured further into the jungle in order to chase the “perfect” elephant bull for his taxidermy group at the American Museum of Natural History (c. 1902). He had been mauled by an elephant and thought dead by his porters, who sent a message to Delia.  She then rallied her frightened and superstitious native African porters (they believed that walking through the forest at night would awaken evil spirits) to walk for miles in the cold, wet, pitch black forest. One of them tried to strangle Delia that night in an attempt to disband the expedition but failed. The morning was long and frightening as vengeful elephants threatened to attack the party throughout their journey and they only had one lantern to light their path, but eventually Delia and her porters found Carl and were able to save his life by providing the necessary medical care.

    While this drawing depicts an actual event, it also focuses on depicting the more general human condition that is evident in both Delia’s journey and our own experiences in the contemporary world.

    Visitors’ Questions, Part I .. | Wed. Feb. 20, 2013

    Lesley Dill’s work does a beautiful job of highlighting her explorations in the grey area of visual art where text can be used as a graphic element. Normally, we associate text with explanations and clear, direct communication of information. However, as any good contemporary art does, the pieces in Poetic Visions raises many questions for our gallery visitors. Here, we’ll address a few of the questions that came up a number of times.


    What other artistic mediums does Lesley Dill use?

    Lesley Dill experiments with a wide range of tactile materials, seeking to transplant poetry into unique compositions. She works in sculpture, performance pieces, opera, photography, printmaking, drawing, artist books, installations and large-scale community projects.

    300_photograph  300_print  300_artist book   300_community project



    Her work incorporates a variety of materials such as wire, horse hair, thread, ribbon, human hair, Tyvek, numerous types of fabric, paper, wood, copper, plaster, newspaper, ink, foil, bronze, aluminum, tea, acrylic, wax, charcoal, and gold leaf.

    LD - materials

    Over the years, Dill’s creative process has evolved. Initially, she would put a few words together to evoke an image – she didn’t use Emily Dickinson’s poetry outright or try to re-create entire poems. Now, images appear and she looks for the correct language to tie them together. Even though the order has changed, the synthesis of form with text continues to be essential. Dickinson’s poetry has remained central, though Dill now incorporates the work of others, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, and Salvador Espriu, who have written about ecstasy, rapture and bliss.


    What was the inspiration for the long cloth banners connected to the white dress in Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan?

    The long, veil-like trains have multiple points of association for Lesley Dill. While she lived in India and traveled to Nepal, Dill developed an affinity for the country’s spiritual traditions. Buddhist prayer flags, colored cloths printed with sacred text and mantras that are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion, partially inspired the banners. In Nepal, metal architectural ribbons hang down from the roofs of Hindu temples to link the human and divine worlds. Visitors to the temple say their prayers to these ribbons and the prayers are carried up to heaven. Dill often cites these ribbons, the “tongue of god”, as another source of inspiration for her work.

    300_prayer flags  300_tongue of god

    A friendship with the activist artist Nancy Spero encouraged Dill’s personal and artistic response to feminism. Spero, recognized for scroll paintings that incorporated text and depictions of the female form, often appropriated as classical goddesses, became a mentor. Dill has a series of sculptures called Word Queens that pays homage to Spero and her pioneering art. 

     300_spero 300_word queen


    Discover Divide Light | Fri. Feb. 8, 2013

    One aspect of the exhibition that visitors ask a lot of questions about is Lesley Dill’s opera, Divide Light.  

    Divide LightThe culmination of her life’s work, Lesley Dill’s 2008 opera Divide Light is based on the complete works of poet Emily Dickinson. Lesley conceived of this opera, was the artistic director and collaborated with composer, Richard Marriott. Divide Light follows a dramatic and emotional contour, exploring a range of emotions from vulnerability and fear to ecstasy, joy and exhilaration.

     Divide Light premiered August 13, 2008 at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California, and featured performances by Del String Quartet; the 45-voices of The Choral Project; Jennifer Goltz, soprano; Kathleen Moss, mezzo soprano; and Andrew Eisenmann, baritone. The performers sing Dickinson’s words and also wear Dill’s ravishing costumes with the words scrawled across them. The set is a continuously moving video installation of poems and Dill’s evocative black-and-white photographs. A film of opera was made by Ed Robbins.

    jenniferkathleen mossAndrew Eisenmann 

     del solDel Sol String Quartet is known for introducing new work from prominent and emerging composers, collaborating with other musicians across cultures and genres, as well as presenting a Bay Area season concert series. The group is a two-time winner of The Chamber Music America/ASCAP Prize for Adventurous Programming and stands out as a group of pure invention. Introduced in 1992, the quartet began in residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts, followed by a residency at San Francisco State University in association with the Alexander String Quartet. Other appointments have included the 2003 Emerging Quartets and Composers Residency with the Muir String Quartet and Joan Tower in Park City, Utah; Hot Springs Music Festival in Arkansas (2004-05); and quartet-in-residence at University of New Mexico.

    choralprojectThe Choral Project has developed an outstanding reputation for performing high-level choral literature and bridging the gap between text and music, singer and spectator. Under the direction of Daniel Hughes, the award-winning ensemble has performed throughout the world in concert performances, receiving rave reviews and standing ovations. The San Jose Mercury News hailed the choir as “a Bay Area jewel”, stating that “there is nothing subtle about why this is one of the best choirs you will ever hear.”

    The Choral Project has received awards in some of the world’s most cherished choral festivals, including first place (Choir’s Choice category), second place (Required Pieces category), and third place (Folk Music category) at the 2007 California International Choral Competition; and second place (Mixed Choir) at the 58th annual International Eisteddfod in Wales, where they were described by the international panel of judges as a “tour de force.” Committed to a vision of healing our world through music and words, The Choral Project’s philosophy of how words and music can transform mankind is a perfect marriage with the artistic mission of Divide Light.





    richard marriottRichard Marriott has been active as a composer, performer, producer and instrument builder for over thirty years. He has composed extensively for film, television, dance, theater, opera, installations and video games, encompassing styles ranging from the avant garde to the commercial mainstream. He is the founder and artistic director of the Club Foot Orchestra, the premiere ensemble for live music performance with silent films. 





    robbins_ed418Ed Robbins is an award-winning producer/director/writer of numerous one-hour television documentaries for outlets like BBC, Bravo, National Geographic, NBC, Discovery, PBS, TLC, and NY Times Television. His 20 years of documentary film production have taken him across America, Asia, and into Africa. Program awards include: Banff 2004 Special Jury Award; several CINE Golden Eagles; several Gracie Awards for co-Directing; Emmy Award; Houston International Film Festival Bronze and Gold Medals; First Place New York International Film Festival; ACE Award Nominee.





     Divide Light was commissioned by Montalvo Arts Center, and supported in part by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation Multi Arts Production Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

    If you don’t have time to sit in the gallery and watch the entire performance, you can click here to watch it :: Divide Light ::


    Poetic Vision’s full calendar! | Wed. Jan. 23, 2013

    Happy 2013 everyone and welcome to the first exhibition of the Halsey Institute’s packed full Spring calendar!


    Lesley Dill’s artist lecture, We Are Animals of Language

    5:00pm — Friday, January 25th

    Room 309, Simons Center for the Arts

    54 St. Philip Street

    FREE – Join us!


    Lesley Dill’s exhibition entitled Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan, “invites audiences to delve into art, literature, spirituality, feminism — even fashion”, says curator Barbara Matilsky, who worked closely with Dill to mount this traveling exhibition.  

    Dill will discuss the role of language in her work, which ranges from sculpture and photography to opera and large-scale community projects. She will screen a clip from 2008 opera Divide Light, present a multi-tiered project, Tongues on Fire: Visions & Ecstasy, in collaboration with the Emmanuel Baptist Church Spiritual Choir in Winston-Salem, NC, and will also show images from her fall 2010 installation in New Orleans, Hell Hell Hell Heaven Heaven Heaven: Sister Gertrude Morgan and Revelation and from her spring 2012 installation at George Adams Gallery in New York City, Faith and the Devil. 

    Opening reception for Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan

    6:00pm to 8:00pm — Friday, January 25th

    Halsey Institute’s galleries

    161 Calhoun Street


    The opening reception  will be open to the public and guests will enjoy complimentary refreshments and light hors d’oeuvres, provided by Whole Foods Market and Icebox. Live music will be by Lee Barbour. Come view the exhibition, chat with Lesley Dill and meet other contemporary art enthusiasts!


    Gallery Talk with Lesley Dill

    2:00pm — Saturday, January 26

    Halsey Institute’s galleries

    161 Calhoun Street



     Lesley Dill will talk informally with visitors about her exhibition.  Experimenting with a wide range of tactile materials, she fuses poetic text and images to create evocative mixed-media artworks and performances. Inspired by her two-year sojourn in India and the illuminating aspects of diverse faith traditions, Dill interprets relationships between the physical and the spiritual. Her expressive artworks, layered with multiple meanings, also reference nature and human identity.

    This exhibition focuses on two bodies of the artist’s work: metallic sculptures such as Shimmer and the drawing-and-textile based installation, Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan, which interprets the life of the New Orleans missionary and folk artist. Unified by layers of words, figures, and symbolic imagery, the artworks underline Dill’s desire to render transcendental experience into form.” 


     Tongues Aflame poetry series 

    Concurrent with the Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions exhibition, the Halsey Institute is hosting four evenings of poetry readings in the gallery. Join us for each! They are free, open to the public and followed by a reception. The Tongues Aflame poetry series is co-sponsored by the Halsey Institute, the Poetry Society of South Carolina, the College of Charleston’s Department of English and Crazyhorse.

    All readings are free and open to the public. They will begin at 7:00pm and take place in the Halsey Institute galleries. A reception will follow each reading.













    Evening one – Thursday, February 7th @ 7:00pm

                              Poetry Society of South Carolina members Richard Garcia, Kit Loney, Susan Finch Stevens,

                              SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, and Katherine Williams.

    Richard Garcia is the author of Rancho Notorious and The Persistence of Objects, both from BOA Editions, and a chapbook of prose poems, Chickenhead. His poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Pushcart Prize XXI, Best American Poetry and in many anthologies. His manuscript, The Other Odyssey, was the 2012 winner of The American Poetry Journal book prize and will be published in the fall of 2013. A collection of prose poems, The Chair, will be published by BOA Editions in 2014.

    Kit Loney is the 2012 winner of the Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship from the South Carolina Academy of Authors. She is on the board of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Society of South Carolina Yearbooks, Emrys Journal, Kakalak, Yemassee, Redheaded Stepchild, Qarrtsiluni, Waccamaw, and are forthcoming in Poetry East. Her background is in visual arts— she has a BFA in sculpture and a MFA in fiber arts. She lives on James Island with her husband, sculptor Joe Walters. Loney teaches art in middle school.

    Susan Finch Stevens’ chapbook Lettered Bones was chosen by Kwame Dawes as a winner in the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared in various publications and in handmade books exhibited in nationally juried and invitational book arts exhibitions. She has a BA in journalism, a M.Ed. in counseling, and is certified in dream work. She serves on the board of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and lives on the Isle of Palms, SC with her husband David and their Weimaraner Layla.

    Marjory Wentworth’s poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize five times. Her books of poetry include Noticing Eden, Despite Gravity, and The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle. She is the co-writer with Juan Mendez of Taking a Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights and she is the author of the prizewinning children’s story Shackles. Wentworth teaches creative writing at the following institutions: The Art Institute of Charleston, Roper St. Francis Cancer Center “Expressions of Healing” program and Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Art’s Poets-in-the schools program at Burke High School in Charleston. Her work is included in the South Carolina Poetry Archives at Furman University. She is the Poet Laureate of South Carolina.

    Former Los Angeleno, College of Charleston graduate in French, and bench-level medical researcher Katherine Williams has authored three chap books, published poems in various journals, and received a Pushcart Prize nomination. She lives on James Island, where she studies with her husband Richard Garcia’s Long Table Poets, helps to run the Poetry Society of South Carolina, and plays at website creation, surfing, textile arts, gardening, and the cello.










    Evening two – Thursday, February 14th @ 7:00pm

                               College of Charleston students Alexandra Daley, AJ Johnson, Avis Norfleet,

                               Anthony Pugliese and Madeline Thieringer.

    Alexandra Daley is a twenty-five-year-old poet and non-fiction writer who recently graduated from College of Charleston with a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Originally from Chicago, she moved to Charleston in 2010 to attend the College and aspires to work as a technical writer. In her spare time, Alexandra is an avid equestrian who has been riding horses for sixteen years.

    AJ Johnson, a 21 year old from Aiken, SC, is a senior Communications major at the College of Charleston. He loves writing, reading, and good conversation. He is an outspoken advocate for social diversity and intends to open a non-profit focused on urban youth. Johnson uses poetry as an outlet and enjoys connecting with an audience through it.

    Avis Norfleet is a junior at the College of Charleston majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration and poetry emphasis and a minor in Communication. Her poems explore the quiet desperation of the grotesque world of American Internet Gothic and she has probably lurked on your Facebook page.

    Anthony Pugliese is an Astrophysics and Creative Writing student at the College of Charleston, as well as a musician in the Charlotte, NC music scene. He fundamentally believes that art and science hold the answer to all of today’s worst problems, and enjoys speaking in glittering generalities.

    Maddie likes morning time. She likes the nighttime, too. As for walking, she favors five o’clock, especially in the months approaching December. She would be outside all the time, if she could. She picks up yellow ginkgo leaves that remind her of her sister. Her sister is very dear to her. Maddie paints houseplants in watercolor, and ices cupcakes for work. She is liking Charleston. She will stay, for the time being. Maddie daydreams of working on a farm with friends and writing in the spaces in between. She’ll see what happens. The future does not worry her.








    Evening three – Tuesday, February 19th @ 7:00pm

                                 An Evening with Ted Pope

    In his own words:

    Woody Guthrie’s flying saucer
    trapped out here in the orbit of Mars
    like a hound dog or an owl.
    The warm-fuzzy wall between the Church and the State






    Evening four – Thursday, February 21st @ 7:00pm

                                Nationally celebrated poets: Samuel Amadon, Emily Rosko and Jillian Weise

    Samuel Amadon is the author of Like a Sea (Iowa 2010) and The Hartford Book (Cleveland 2012). His poems have appeared recently in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, A Public Space, and American Poetry Review. He lives in Columbia, SC where he teaches in the MFA program at the University of South Carolina.

    Emily Rosko is the author of two poetry collections, Prop Rockery, recently awarded the 2011 Akron Poetry Prize, and Raw Goods Inventory, winner of the 2005 Iowa Poetry Prize and the 2007 Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers from Shenandoah. Additionally, she is the editor of A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press, 2011). A former Wallace Stegner Writing Fellow at Stanford University, she also is the past recipient of Poetry magazine’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. She is an assistant professor of English at College of Charleston and poetry editor for Crazyhorse.

    Jillian Weise is the author of The Amputee’s Guide to Sex and The Colony. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times and Tin House. She earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. She has been awarded fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center, The Fulbright Program, and the Sewanee Writers Conference. Weise is an Assistant Professor at Clemson University. Her collection, The Book of Goodbyes, won the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and will be published in the fall of 2013.

    Community Partners 2017