Chester Arnold, David Avery, Dick Cole, William Conger, Jessica
Dunne, Art Hazelwood,
Frances McCormack, Jenny Robinson, Jennie Smith
A Tale of Transformation is the
result of The San Francisco Center for the Book’s invitation
to Simon J. Blattner, publisher at Eastside Editions,
to participate in their
annual Roadworks festival.
Each year the invited artists carve a 36” x 36” piece
of linoleum which is printed on the street using
a steamroller. This year’s
theme, as designated by the Center for the Book,
was the exploration of the narrative process. In
decided that nine
artists from Eastside Editions would be invited
to create images. The only bit
of information to be suggested to each artist would
be the title of the project, A Tale of Transformation.
The aim was to create a different
kind of narrative structure by means of chance.
Each of the artists created a 12” square black and
white drawing that was transferred to the linoleum, which
was then carved
by David Avery and Art Hazelwood. The result was
inked and laid out in the street,
covered with paper and blankets, and run over repeatedly
by a steamroller.
In order to further develop the narrative quality of
the print, Simon chose to reconfigure the print as a horizontal
book. Before doing so, an edition of six copies of the
print, in its original configuration, was printed by hand. The
block was then cut
up into smaller sections and printed on our Charles Brand
press at Eastside Editions studio in San Francisco.
In the same spirit of blind collaboration Eastside
Editions sent a series of questions to the artists resulting
the following “interview”.
How did the title “A Tale of
your image, if at all?
I did think about the narrative issue and then I decided
not to think about it because there’s always a narrative
supplied by the viewer.
All my work involves transformation, all artistic practice
does, but my imagery sometimes depicts formal transformation
so I simply felt at home.
I thought of the title as a political statement,
I guess because I am so embroiled in politics and
the chaos of
the world right now. I approached the transformation
as a destructive act.
I guess I
hoping that someone else might bring the transformation
around to a positive outcome. But I left that to
someone else. And for me, tale
of transformation, suggested a fairy tale… no fairy
tale ever got off the ground without some very
bad news in there
What issues came up for you in working blind in regard
to what the other artists were doing?
A bit of extra anxiety, how will this look, will it fit
or jump out? Which would I prefer?
It felt strange to work on a panel of nine in isolation,
but probably a lot less stressful than knowing
what the other artists were doing and trying to come up
image that would
fit with everyone
I tried for an image that was both striking, but ambiguous
enough to hopefully flow from and into the images surrounding
it. I hoped that by offsetting the image, it would help give a
the narrative flow.
Do you normally work within a narrative framework? And
if not how did you approach this challenge?
I think there’s always a narrative but in my case my abstract
shapes tell stories to each other and elicit the viewers’ stories,
too. I try to keep a little distance from the conversations.
deKooning famously referred to "the
slipping glimpse" most
of my work has "a slipping story", just barely
No! I decided , after too many images ended in the bin,
to continue with the themes I generally work on anyway, which
be about urban decay. Adding the cranes was all I had
to do, I felt, to fulfill the premise.
I may not start out with a narrative structure, but I
always end up with one, however open ended it may be.
Do you see it in a narrative context that was not evident
I see it as being the daydreaming child of
some of the other pieces. When shapes aren’t
performing the grown-up roles of representing things,
fool around like kids at
Yes, it did fall into place.
It was strange to see such supposedly disparate styles
and images fall into “place”. From that it was
much easier to imagine any number of possible “tales.”
Was anything transformed?
The sense of decay, destruction and loss seems to give
way to a rebirth into chaos. It does strike me that there is an
dissolution leading to rebirth and a new chaos. If I
were to tell the tale it would be this, the decayed warehouses
of a post-industrial age
displacing nature, and devouring ever more the natural
world, leads inexorably to the police state. But nature reasserts
itself, at first
through dark forces, and unfulfilled desires, but it
germinates and festers and cooks itself into a new chaos, a new
big bang, and a new
Could you write a version of A Tale of Transformation that has become evident upon seeing the work as
Far away an old fat man dreamt about the mill
in the middle of the fairy dream woods that had
been abandoned long ago.
One day he decided to go find it and start it up
again. After looking for a long
time in the misty, dreamy woods he found the mill
wondered what he would make with all the rusted
machinery. He wanted to make
and be happy. After a while, without getting a
good idea about making money and happiness he figured
that he’d build a bulldozer from
his scrap pile and clear away the misty woods hoping that by the time
he was done he’d know what to do. And so he did, and when he drove
his bulldozer hard and fast into the woods, he knocked down all the
trees and killed all the plants and the daydreaming animals ran away.
Then the woodsy mist lifted and drifted off to the city where it rained
for a week before freezing into ice covering all the streets. A huge
crowd of city people gathered and began ice-skating, thinking it would
be fun to play like that but after a short while they became sad because
they really wanted to make money and be happy, not just aimlessly skate
around having fun. Other creatures, like bats and butterflies, never
worried about money and happiness. They enjoyed playing all the time,
just going hither and yon having fun. They had no fear. All the people
they had ever seen seemed to devote their lives looking for money and
happiness but never had any fun. They vanished into that terrible human
ring of fire – desire for this, desire for that. The fun loving,
daydreamy animals felt that people simply enjoy the moment; you know,
eat cookies and do fun stuff. After a very long time the rusty mill
was running again. The old man had got it going but wandered away when
he couldn’t get it to make money and happiness. Now
it just made dreams, the only thing it ever made,
and the fairy
woods was becoming mistier and mistier. Soon all
the animals, including the bats and butterflies,
would be back loafing around amidst dreams of fun.
I am teaching a class next year at SFAI on collaboration.
This seemed like the tiniest bit of collaboration,
maybe a good place for my students to start...
so what has been transformed may be my 2009 "Collaboration:
Influence and Execution" syllabus.
Not me! Im not a writer.
There are many such versions. One might be:
There were birds in the trees. Unfortunately money does
grow on trees, or rather, trees are made out of
money, as the destroyer plainly shows, merrily thinking
best of what is offered. Hold it, not so fast!
The mysteries of life are not so easily come by, are they?
life of plants is plainly
beyond his reach. Meanwhile, airport security has
never been better. I feel so safe….Aaaagh! The Bats! The Bats! But not to worry,
they are but one among many of the angels whose abode is the warehouse
of dreams, watched over by friendly construction machinery, ready to
come to assistance at a moment’s notice. But what is a moment
when time is told by a sunflower? Nature reasserts itself and we dream
within its never-ending cycles of seeding and harvest. Mmmm, cookies!
And then…the façade of objective reality falls
away, revealing the hidden forms that compose the