Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Collage 16

In Volume I, Part I, Chapter VI, the narrator says, "In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations, flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning." A more elegant way of saying, "flattery gets you everywhere". -- Lola

Lynn Waskelis
page 39-40 of original text
made 3/12/10
collage, ink and acrylic paint on paper

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Collage 15

More from Prince Andrei: "egoism, vanity, dull-wittedness, triviality in everything -- that's women, when they show themselves as they are." Excuse me? -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 37-38 of original text
made 3/12/10
collage, ink and acrylic paint on paper

Monday, March 29, 2010

Collage 14

In Volume I, Part I, Chapter VI, Prince Andrei says to Pierre, "Never, never marry, my friend... marry when you're old and good for nothing... otherwise all that's good and lofty in you will be lost". Strong words there! Prince Andrei prefers to go into the army, rather than remain with his pregnant wife.

I saw the film "The Last Station" a few weeks ago which is about the last year of Tolstoy's life. He and his wife are depicted as having an extremely conflictual relationship. He had founded a sort of commune which promoted celibacy and vegetarianism. She was also worried that his "advisors" would leave her penniless. He planned to leave the royalties from his books to the Russian people. She thought that the money should go to her. He died in a train station after literally running away from home.

In any case, it got me thinking about how some people think that having a "creative" life is at odds with a committed relationship. I have a friend from college, a songwriter and recording artist. He always felt that he did his best work when he was single, and feared getting involved, that it would hamper his creative output.

Lynn and I were talking sometime back about the "ideal" of a creative partnership. She gave a few examples, including Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard. I pointed out that Virginia drowned herself. So much for that idea.

Why would that character be so adamantly anti-marriage? -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 35-36 of original text
made 3/12/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Collage 13

On Friday we began to use the German text that another artist gave to me. The book I had received in the mail a few days ago. I had torn out a page and glued it down, when Lynn took a closer look at the book. On the title page was the date 1784. It is obviously really, really old -- but could it be that old? Lynn began to question whether it could be an antique? Worth money? Something that should be left intact? I felt so guilty. When I do collage with kids, they feel a mixture of guilt and pleasure as they tear up books. I felt sheer guilt. The artist who gave it to me told me that he got it -- actually a whole series of 7 books -- from a used book dealer friend of his. I wonder if we should have someone else look at, to determine what it really is? Neither of us read classical German so I don't even know the title.

I was a Russian studies major in college. Yesterday for the first time in almost 30 years, I pulled my first year textbooks off the shelf. I am inspired to refresh my memory, to be able to read even a bit. We are working with such a rich text. Reading Russian would be yet another way to more deeply connect with this project. --Lola

Lynn Waskelis
page 33-34 of original text
made 3/12/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Collage 12

Team Tolstoy consisted of just Lynn and I yesterday. Lulu had a family emergency and Lucy was traveling. We have now completed 50 collages. At the beginning the project seemed daunting, to make 800. Now it almost seems as if it's going too fast. I so enjoy the whole thing. Every aspect of it.

This is one of Lynn's.

My studio mate Melissa will be making a collage, #35, I think. She was at a flea market and found a wonderful piece of Russian paper currency from 1905. She will use the image transfer technique which will leave the original intact. I hope that she gives a mini-workshop and teaches us how to do it. She teaches art classes all over the city.

Another contributor will be Emma, a friend of Lynn's, who will be making collage #51. She generously offered Lynn some wonderful ephemera including "old" library index cards from Boston Public Library. That seems so antiquated, doesn't it?

Melissa told us that some of her work was at risk of being ruined by the artists in the studio above us. Apparently they work on huge paintings and hurl water and paint and who knows what at the canvas. So much liquid that it seeped through their floor and our ceiling. So we sealed up our 50 collages in a plastic bag for safe-keeping. We are already very attached to this endeavor and would find it devastating to have it ruined. -- Lola

Lynn Waskelis
page 31-32 of original text
made 3/12/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Friday, March 26, 2010

Collage 11

In Part I, Chapter V, Prince Andrei says, "If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war". That got me thinking -- is that really true? The US first invaded Afghanistan in 2002, then Iraq in 2003. It was called "Operation Freedom", right? Allegedly we invaded as the whole world was under high threat of their "weapons of mass destruction". Which turned out to be no threat at all. All on flimsy evidence. How many people have died to date? I can only speculate at the motivation of each soldier, but did they sign up for their own convictions?

I once heard -- but can't verify -- that for every year of peace, there are twenty years of war. Over the course of history. That's mind-boggling. Why is that? --Lola

Lola Baltzell
from page 29-30 of original text
made 3-12-10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Collage 10

How many people live in a neighborhood that boasts a Russian bookstore? I happen to. I went there tonight to pick up a copy of War and Peace in Russian for Lulu. She is going to take on the completely mind-blowing project of reading the English and Russian books side by side. I can barely read a sentence. That rocks!

I described the project to the shopkeeper and initially she was appalled by the idea of destroying a copy of the Master's. I then showed her this site, and she got quite enthusiastic. She even donated another book in Russian for the cause.

Tomorrow is Friday, studio day. Can't wait! -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 27-28 of original text
made 3/5/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Collage 9

A few weeks ago Lynn and I got really into yellow. So a number of them are in that color family. It is interesting to see how the series progresses in terms of color and the ephemera that we choose.

There is a line I like a lot in the very first chapter. Anna Pavlovna says, "How can one be well... when one suffers morally? Is it possible to remain at ease in our time, if one has any feeling?". This is a question that one can explore through spiritual practice. I have been meditating for a few years now, and when you really get intimate with how your mind works, you see so much suffering. Of all kinds. There is mental suffering -- always wanting things to be different. Clinging. Pushing away. Confusion. There is also so much external suffering in the world on all levels. I haven't read this book in decades, but I think it's a question that Tolstoy explores -- how can one find inner peace? How can one find happiness?-- Lola

Lynn Waskelis
page 25-26 of original text
made 3/5/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Collage 8

This one is definitely Lynn's. I love the angel!

A friend, Tim, wrote me an email to say how much he likes this project. He says, "I absolutely love the collage series; they are beautiful and interesting - and based on one of my favorite books. We would really like to someday display some of these in our home, so if/when Team Tolstoy starts to think about this, please let me know."

Thanks Tim!
Team Tolstoy -- I like that!

I went to a gallery reception last Thursday in East Boston where I currently have a show. I chatted for quite a while with one of our guests. We hadn't met before. He liked one of my collage series, and offered to mail me some classical German texts to use in future projects. The book arrived in the mail the other night. I have no idea what it is, but I was thrilled. I think that we all count the days until Friday when we are back together again in the studio. This will be just another wonderful addition to our ever-growing stock of materials. German will definitely come in handy. I love the old script. What a treasure.

My husband Mark suggests that I get a bigger studio to accommodate all this activity. I like that idea! -- Lola

Lynn Waskelis
page 23-24 of original text
made 3/5/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Monday, March 22, 2010

Collage 7

Good thing that we are labeling the back of each collage with artist, page number and date, because already I can't remember if Lynn or I made this one. It was at this point in the project that Lynn joined. We tease other about who has the more whacky sense of color and design -- all in good fun. We enjoy trying to imitate each other from time to time. That's part of our process, working side by side, to play off of each other.

I have to say that my only previous experience with artistic collaboration turned out to be kind of a disaster. In 2008, The Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai had a year-long project called Intrude 366. Through a juried process, they chose an individual artist or creative team from around the world to respond to the idea of how the West influenced China and how China influenced the West. Every day of 2008, there was a different public presentation. Some of the artists were famous such as Yoko Ono. I was part of a 4-person group chosen to participate. I was unable to go to China due to an acute health situation, but the others were able to present our piece entitled "Eye to Eye" in December 2008.

We had all been pretty good friends, but it all fell apart once we began to work on this project. There was a lot of conflict about our individual roles. Due to my health, I was taking shortcuts to be able to finish my part on time. One of the others in the group thought that we weren't being true to our proposal, others thought that we were following the creative group process and ended up with a different "product" than was initially intended. It was quite a disappointment. So collaboration can go sour, too.

That being said, I enter this collaboration with heart wide open. -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 21-22 of original text
made 3/5/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Collage 6

This is just the latest of quotes about love that have called to me since starting the War and Peace project. I read it last night on my friend's blog.

Imaginary Boundaries

It's him quoting from Metaphors We Live By, by Lakoff and Johnson:

"For instance, what if Love Is a Collaborative Work of Art?

If love is madness, I do not concentrate on what I need to do to maintain it. But if it is work, then it requires activity, and if it is a work of art, it requires a special kind of activity, and if it is collaborative, it is even further restricted and specified.

This new metaphor is rich with implications. How is love as art different from love as need or love as fate, as something written in the stars? Depending upon the concept, your role changes." -- Lynn

Lola Baltzell
page 19-20 of original text
made 1/3/10
collage on paper

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Collage 5

Yesterday Lynn, Lulu and I spent the afternoon in the studio in East Boston. We completed 10 more collages which brings us up to 35 in all. We have decided that it would be interesting to open the process to other artists as well. My studio mate Melissa has become intrigued with our project, and we invited her to make a collage. The only "rule" is to use 1 page of the book -- using at least part of the page -- and the 5" x7" vellum paper we are using. We are curious to see what she comes up with.

Lucy was in New Orleans, but says that she has found some wonderful ephemera in second hand shops down there. What will she return with?

Lynn just received her copy of War and Peace as edited by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, so will start her way through this "large loose and baggy monster".

Lulu and I actually met in Russian class in college, and neither of us has studied the language in well over 25 years. We are both beginning to engage with the text in Russian. I was thrilled that I could read the following sentence yesterday -- "Natasha, he said, you know I love you, but...". Lynn reads and speaks French, and since 2% of the book is in French, that certainly comes in handy as well.

In an appendix, Tolstoy comments, "it is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in he form in which it is expressed. Such a declaration of the author's disregard of the conventional forms of artist prose might seem presumptous, if were premeditated and if it has no previous examples." I could say the same about this project -- what it is not. We are not necessarily responding to the text, we are a loose group, we don't know where this will take us, it is not an installation piece and we don't know how the final form will take place. Just a blog? a book? a show?

We are working, we are playing, we are loving, we are happy to be doing this together. -- Lola


Yes, I was also struck by Tolstoy's comments, and it easily applies to this project - it is and is going to be exactly what it needs to be in the form that it takes; it is and will be what we need to express, and in the form we need to express it. Through this project, Lola's inspiration, we are delving into collage artform (new for me!); re-connecting with language and ideas through which we originally connected in college but perhaps haven't thought too much about since; and reconnecting and deepening a friendship that began nearly 30 (whoa!) years ago. So, perhaps we won't really know what this project is about or where it's going until we get there! As Jane confesses to Marya (about her feelings for Nikolai) "…mais cette douce amitié, ces relations poétiques et si pures ont été un besoin pour mon coeur…" ("...but this sweet friendship, this relationship so poetic and so pure, is the need of my heart...") Perhaps this project, this friendship right now is the need of our hearts. --Lulu

Lola Baltzell
page 17-18 of original text
made 12/30/09
collage, ink and acrylic paint on paper

Friday, March 19, 2010

Collage 4

Henry James famously described "War and Peace" as a "large loose baggy monster". Maybe that's an apt description of this project. Although I don't like the word "monster". Perhaps another word will come to mind as we move forward. -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 15-16 of original text
made 12/30/09
collage, ink and acrylic paint on paper

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Collage 3

One of my big pleasures in life is reading a book in bed. Definitely at night before sleep, but sometimes in the morning, drinking coffee. That is the most delicious time. I started the introduction last night and was swept back in time, to when I was a Russian major in college. One semester we tackled "Anna Karenina" as well as "War and Peace". Maybe a few of his short stories as well. The book is so big that is somewhat clumsy to maneuver. A book to read sitting up, not lying down.

I began to recall the heady feelings I had back in those days, that was inspired by Russian literature. Or matched by. The introduction describes Tolstoy as groping for the truth about life. If you are too direct, you simplify too much. So you go around and around until you get it just right. At that time my vision for life was to have a manual job -- to live economically like a common person, but to be an intellectual. I never had the mind of a pure intellectual and eventually I decided that working as a cook at a country club after college wasn't exactly what I wanted, either.

Friday is studio day. It is the highlight of my week, to spend time making art with my friends, embarking on this creative journey together. - Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 13-14 of original text
made 12/29/09
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Collage 2

I picked up my new copy of "War and Peace" tonight at the local bookstore, the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky which was published in 2007. I chatted with Evan, the young man behind the counter and told him about this project. He is working his way through Tolstoy and hopes to culminate with "War and Peace". He promised to check out this blog and post a comment. Our first reader! Lulu texted today to say that she is on page 54. Lynn is going to read this new translation, as is Lucy.

The first 6 collages don't really work together so well, but Lynn made me promise not to make any changes until we finish.

Lynn has been collecting new materials this week, I have purchased a huge quantity of Mod Podge. We are ready to rock in the studio on Friday!

I will try to post 1 collage each day and write a little about our group process. I am inviting the others to write, too. Maybe they're still a little shy! -Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 11-12 of original text
made 12/28/09
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Collage 1

I made the first 6 collages. This one was made 12/28/09. It is from page 10, the first page of "War and Peace". When I began this project, I wasn't all that committed to it. I was between major projects and kind of noodling around with ideas. On this particular piece I used a map from Morocco, text from a religious pamphlet, dictionary and wallpaper from Mark's house where he grew up. The opening paragraph of "War and Peace" starts in French with a discussion about Napoleon. Lynn read in a review that 2% of the book is written in French. -- Lola

Lola Baltzell
page 9-10 of original text
made 12/28/09
collage and acrylic paint on paper

Monday, March 15, 2010

We Begin

Welcome to the War and Peace Project. This is a collaborative project that is already evolving even though it was just started in late 2009. This project was inspired by many things. I am an artist and have been working in collage on and off for many years now. I have been focusing on collage-making more over the last several years. One of our collaborators, Lucy Arrington, told me about a blog called "One Drawing for Every Page of Moby Dick". That artist makes a collage a day, inspired by a page from the book. He uses found paper but does not use the actual book (as far as I know). I also recently saw a gallery show in East Boston at the Atlantic Works Gallery by Michael St.Germain. He showed 10,000 tiny drawings. It was a great show and I loved the way the gallery looked, completely covered by his drawings which were displayed in old slide sleeves.

Why War and Peace? I have a feeling that we will be writing a lot about this question. I was a Russian studies major in college. I was drawn to learn Russian in part because I love the script. It took some week to learn how to read and write the letters. I loved the complexity of the grammar. All of my collage work involves script in various languages. I also liked the size of War and Peace. The edition we are using is in Russian and is in excess of 800 physical pages.

The idea is to use a page of the book for each and every collage. The collages measure 7 by 5 inches and are on vellum paper. I started the project on my own, completing the first 6 collages. But I felt that somehow a project of this scale would be much more fun to do collectively. So I opened it up joined forces with other good friends.

So now we are working as a group. So far the team consists of Lucy "Lulu" Zahner, Lynn Waskelis and Lucy Arrington. My husband Mark Natale will be our photographer.

We have completed 25 collages so far. Our intention is to complete the 800 collages, and to one day show this as a body of work. We meet on Fridays at my studio in East Boston. Images will be posted as we complete more work each week. The others will also be writing as we go along. Welcome to our atelier. We are happy to be on this creative journey together. -- Laura "Lola" Baltzell