Wednesday, October 7, 2015

October shows featuring Catholics

Catholics is included in two artist's book exhibitions this month: the Sheffield International Artist's Book Exhibition in the UK and words|matter in Chicago. words|matter, an artist's book library, is hosted by Arts on Elston through October 29 and is dedicated to facilitating hands on interactions with books by over 70 artists. And the Sheffield International Artist's Book Exhibition takes place at Bank Street Arts through October 30 and features over 200 books. To find out more about Catholics, a limited-edition memoir told through text + image, click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Drift Plain Collective at St. Louis Small Press Expo

I'm excited to have work included among the fantastic roster of artists represented by the Drift Plain Collective! The DPC will be tabling this Saturday, September 26th at the St. Louis Small Press Expo, taking place at the public library's Central Branch. From the DPC's website:
The Drift Plain Collective cooperatively distributes hand-crafted artist's books, chapbooks, zines, broadsides, and prints. Our offerings emphasize collaboration and innovative modes of storytelling that take form and materials as a crucial component.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Relationships as Collage

Anna Mebel wrote a new review of The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales for PANK. About the two main characters in the titular story, Mebel says, ‘Runkle finds the tragedy and beauty in such mismatches—he treats relationships as collage.’ She also writes, ‘Runkle mixes fairy tales, love stories, satire, dystopia, prose poems, and careful observations of the ordinary.... The stories in the collection are driven by unfulfilled desire and the weight of unexplained, mysterious pasts.’ You can find the book over at Small Press Distribution.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fragmentation is the rule

For an artist's book, Catholics is unusually prose heavy. While I’m fascinated by the endless possibilities created by the interaction of text and image, I find unbroken blocks of prose equally compelling. Prose builds the meditative and transportive experience a reader undergoes when surrendering to story. A trance happens, one dependent on content more than form (as long as the typography has the grace to let you past). At the same time, despite its pathological tendency to wander into dense blocks of prose, I also think of Catholics as a graphic novel. The book’s images fill roles equal to its prose: drawingscollage, and images built from typographic ornaments serve as thematic counterpoints to the text.

But still, they remain separate, text on one page, image on another. There is a power, though, in turning that page and seeing the other side of the coin. Haptic agency connects two divergent ways of receiving information. My zine-making background causes me to privilege the chimerical results of collage: no matter how certain it seems that two scraps belong together, tactile cues identify them as separate entities. The places in between (between pages, between scraps) are where things get really exciting, where you can peer into the gaps between artifact and story. Fragmentation is the rule—a dictate that’s not so radical, really: the separation of text and image characterizes what is often dismissed as that most conventional genre, the livre d’artiste.

The eight prose sections included in Catholics are both anecdotal and informational. Their design is a nod to twentieth-century trade publications—books, but also periodicals. In these sections, magazines and newspapers recur as central objects, and the tell-all nature of the book’s subject matter often feels worthy of the scandal sheets. Because of this, I’ve drawn inspiration from the designers, compositors, and printers who once worked to produce mass-market ephemera. The prose sections are letterpress printed from The Times New Roman type, cast and set by M & H Type. Their titles and folios are printed from handset Spartan Heavy type selected from the University of Iowa Center for the Book’s Type Lab collection.

The book's prose sections are the origin points for exploring a range of subjects including Catholic-Masonic tensions, the fervency of converts, the legacy of the Legion of Decency, and the spiritual significance of revelatory shrouds. They relate my religious upbringing as they join with the book’s images to braid several themes: Church history, pre-Christian mythology, and the places where such spiritualities resonate with twentieth-century pop culture. In Catholics, text and image, the sacred and profane, the humorous and tragic, the zine and literary fine-press all end up as strange bedfellows in desperate need of confession.

You can learn more about Catholics here!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Writing the Visual | Story Box | Speculative Studio Archeology

I've posted three new workshop proposals on my website. They all engage with visual narrative, sequence, and collage as they incorporate elements of both creative writing and the book arts. They are adapted from classes I've taught at Mills College, the University of Iowa Center for the Book, and Iowa City Poetry's monthly Free Generative Writing Workshop. Click HERE to learn more!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

State of the Art

I finally got around to updating my artist statement! The new version talks more about my efforts in the past few years to synthesize several different modes of working: letterpress typography, comics, zines, collage, and illustration. I copied it below—or you can click here to read it on my website.
Although I work in several different media, I see them all as modes of writing. And when I say writing, I mean the building of narratives through assemblage of fragments. And when I say fragments, I mean the physical, the detritus that combines to form a collage. But I also mean the conceptual, the attempted capture of a thought on a scrap of paper to be put in a drawer for later. When coming across that scrap again, how has its function evolved? It is a contextual challenge. What kind of story does this thought want to build? Or rather what kind of story will welcome it? Or rather what kind of story will, through sheer juxtapositional force, accept this thought against better judgment and, as result of such counter-intuitiveness, flourish? 
Because this process involves layering, tactility is important. Also, depth, or rather the illusion of depth, or rather the spaces that confuse dimensions. The book form, then, is ideal: the second dimension gives way to the third with each turn of the page, and the reader’s experience from start to finish takes place in the temporal fourth. And because my process relies on the scraps of narratives past (as is inherent in the process of collaging, of constructing memoir, of altering books), a tension forms between the transitory and the permanent. 
Things begin to feel cluttered, though, don’t they? Thus the containment and constraint of prose. There are endless possibilities offered by the interaction of text and image, yet still those typographic fields created by unbroken word-flow keep calling me.  And while bearing in mind the sculptural and temporal effects of a book’s structure, I want to remember a parallel power it holds: the meditative and transportive experience a reader undergoes when surrendering to story. A power dependent on content more than form (as long as the typography has the grace to let you past), it’s one I’m intent on investigating further, while also exploring the many kinds of conversations a text block can have with an image, both within a book’s pages and beyond. I was instrumental in the commercial book design of The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014), while also creating companion images for many of the collection’s stories. Taking the form of collages and letterpress-printed broadsides, these visual pieces partner with the written word, breaking their trance (or perhaps re-casting it) to build extra-textual narratives. And now things grow cluttered again.
I’m digging through drawers of scraps, though—it’s unavoidable. And as I dig, I pull from multiple mediums and genres: comics, zines, literary fine press printing, collage, memoir, fiction, illustration. The places in between these are where things get really exciting, where we see the infinite possibilities of what can happen in the gaps between artifact and story. Synthesis is an ongoing challenge. What formula of mortar will make things cohere (even if just barely)? I’m currently researching historical, commercially motivated, collaborative modes of text + image book production, such as medieval scriptoria and twentieth-century mainstream American comics publishers. As I work to integrate a wide variety of techniques and traditions, I draw inspiration from circumstances where a number of artists (copyists, illuminators, rubricators, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists) have allied to do the same. 
Catholics is an artist’s book, a limited-edition memoir that makes use of illustration, collage, and letterpress-printed typography to explore the psychic cathedral built by my Catholic traditionalist upbringing. The Hitch: An Agamist Manifesto is an ongoing wedding-themed project that will eventually consist of ten chapbooks of various literary genres creating a variety of visual, tactile, and intertextual patterns. I think of both, by default, as graphic novels, despite their tendencies to wander into dense blocks of prose. They are evolutionary extensions of my autobiographical comic, RUNX TALES, which creates depth and texture through layering, engages with the space between the linguistic and the visual, and experiments with style and layout according to content. As in all my work, I hope the reader feels her way around like I do, that her experience is like my writing process: dimensional, textured, with clues pointing forward, yet shaped by a fragmentary past.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Quincunx Recap

My new artist's book, Catholics, is a memoir that's haunted by three saints, all portrayed by either Joan Crawford or Tallulah Bankhead. The saints—Joan of Arc, Saint Veronica, and Thérèse of Lisieux—are each referenced in the book's anecdotal prose pieces, and the layout of the illustrations is patterned after their prose companions' typographic design. Their layout is also inspired by the quincunx, a sacred formation where one central image is surrounded by four smaller objects at each corner. In Renaissance art, these four objects often represent aspects of the fourfold world: humors, elements, seasons, gospels, or some other system of correspondences. Robert M. Place writes in The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination:
... the symbolic structure of the physical world is used to define the sacred center and frame the image of the divine presence. Buddhists place Buddha in the center of their four-sided diagrams called mandalas and Christians place Christ in the center of the cross or a mystical diagram called a quincunx (165). 
The World card is a Tarot image that often uses the quincunx formation; the iconic Rider-Smith-Waite version of The World depicts a dancing woman encircled by a wreath and the symbols for the four Evangelists. I also reference Pamela Colman Smith's depiction of The Tower in one of these saint illustrations and mimic the theatrical background horizon line she uses in many of her images. Place points out that Smith's experience as a theater designer influenced the performative nature of her compositions, where flat background lines often invoke stage backdrops. I wanted a similar feeling of pageantry for these saints and am grateful for Smith's inspiration.

Catholics is a project that is animist. During its creation I’ve tried to tap into the energetic potential of material objects, whether magazine scraps or metal ornaments collecting dust in inherited type cases. The tension between sacredness and profanity that plays out in the book's themes is a reflection of my process as I sought transcendence in tangible bits of detritus. Catholicism is ornately melodramatic, but it didn’t build that baroque on its own: the pagan cultures suppressed by the Church were mined for their sacred objects and images, which were then repurposed to maintain the Roman hierarchy’s power. Each of Catholics' illustrated saints was once a goddess who is now being refracted through my twentieth-century pop cultural lens.

Joan of Arc fends off childlike grotesqueries—are they specters or saints? A little bit of both, actually. As a teenager, I got a glimpse inside my local Masonic Temple when I found work dressing up as Mr. Peanut and a Campbell's Soup Kid at a Christmas party hosted there. And my childhood movie-watching habits were restricted by the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures, who seemed to dislike campy anti-consumerist morality tales featuring bloodthirsty monsters like Gremlins and Little Shop of Horrors.

Saint Veronica contemplates icons more crass than the one she clutches: John Stamos and Brooke Shields posing for the cover of a teen Catholic propaganda magazine, and Traci Lords and Pope John Paul II as depicted on some shredded T-shirts my boyfriend referred to as shrouds.

Thérèse of Lisieux, her quincunx rotating into the back- and foregrounds, smiles an epiphanic smile. The ladybug and magpie are animals important to both Thérèse's childhood and mine. The tower in the background is in imitation of Pamela Colman Smith. The crucifix Thérèse holds recalls another saint, Brigit, who evolved out of a Celtic goddess associated with both the nocturnal owl and the solar cross. In the book's final prose section, Brigit, Thérèse, and the memory of my mother all converge to intimate a threefold deity.

More information about Catholics can be found here.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Impromptu Nancy sez ...

Meeah Williams at sparrowmuffin recently reviewed The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014). She really captures the collection's spirit with a Joe Brainard-inspired drawing of 'Impromptu Nancy,' who sez: 'Different enough to be worth reading.' You can buy the book from Small Press Distribution!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Catch Your Breath

The baroqueness of my new artist's book, Catholics, is at times overwhelming. It uses letterpress-printed typography to build images; references Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, and Carl Jung in its theatrical illustrations; and draws inspiration from sixth-century souvenirs in its collaged eulogiae.

In order to allow the reader some relief from the denser sections of prose and imagery, I also included interludes. There are two types: chthonic and eremitic.

The chthonic invokes sacred traditions associated with the underworld.

And the eremitic conjures the Christian custom of engaging with the desert as a site of spiritual seeking.

The interludes' backgrounds are letterpress printed from photopolymer plate halftones—the chthonic from a scan of crumpled flax paper made by Cave, the eremitic from stone-textured spray paint. Their text is printed from varyingly letterspaced Centaur metal type.

Catholics is influenced by twentieth-century cinema, both in theme and content. I wanted the interludes to act like the long-abandoned practice of offering an intermission in the middle of a movie, a chance to reflect and review what you've seen so far. Click here to learn more about the book.