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Inside Out: Stacks

I tend to generate stacks of things - papers, books, wooden blocks, foam bits.

I like to keep moving, otherwise I can get stuck. Generating a critical mass of something keeps me from making any one thing too important. Developing such a series allows me to focus on what I'm doing rather than what 'thing' I'm making. So the 'thing' is secondary to the activity and my attentiveness to that activity.

'Draw Through It' is an ongoing, lifelong project, begun in about 1998. It's a growing sculptural piece of bundled drawings. They stay bundled. The project persists as I continue to draw.

'Correspondence Project' followed a few years later, and subverts cultural and institutional convention, as well as the use of language, in an exploration of drawing that starts as writing and instead creates a space. I sent and shared these with the USPS for about a year.

'Attendant,' generates stacks of blocks or gathering color markings through others and what they are paying attention to in a place that is known and familiar to them and to those passing through it. Similar to my drawing practice, it's focus is on noticing.

It's critical for me to have some kind of limitation or delineation around whatever I'm doing over and over. It might be a project concept, question, or set of rules. Otherwise I would find such a process too loose and overwhelming. Just going moment to moment, drawing to drawing, or block to block could make a lady go crazy if there wasn't some anchoring principle behind it.

Seeing Again
I'm interested in that instant when perception flips - becomes unfamiliar when you thought you knew what you were approaching, and lose that certainty in your looking. Something that holds a role differently than you understood it to before. I experience this when I work repetitively on something in my studio. The process of refining, selecting and designing the presentation of what's piling up is where I seek to share that experience with others coherently and clearly.

Most recently the series of drawings that became the 'Whatever Works Book Project' took the stack to a new level: a run of perfect bound books with poetic text or prayer integrated with each, now living in the homes of more than 500 friends and strangers.

Two new such projects are in the works with different conceptual themes that are similarly direct and exploratory at the same time, and based in drawing. These projects are beginning with their own stacks growing and being sifted, guiding me as we go.

Two projects I've enjoyed this year that accomplish both the perception flip and the use of a collection or a cross-section are Christien Meindertsma's PIG 05049, and
Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands which I found deeply satisfying to explore, and taught me some new things about this planet and the human race through a look at what happens or might - on remote islands. Meinderstma's PIG 05049 is a gorgeous object. She exhaustively catalogues all uses of the pig from toothpaste to bread leavener, to bullets to lightweight concrete, to rice pudding, one clear photograph of the thing made, and from what part, per page.

Here's a video of a flip through of Meinderstma's book.

It's at the SMFA Library as well as my book, if you'd like to see them in person.

I leave you with this image, a hotel ledger book I encountered exactly one year ago when I checked into a hotel in Marfa TX. There's nothing so soft and reassuring to me as the feel of the edges of a well worn stack of paper or book edge. Like a lamb's ear I say.

About Author

Hannah Burr is our November-December Inside Out artist-in-residence.

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