Monday, August 31, 2009

eureka! (senior thesis)

i was desperately waiting for an idea to arrive the way it usually does - in a sudden flash of lightning - and of course, it did. i looked around my room, and the answer became so very obvious: my edward gorey covers, books, herbariums, postcards, letters, little special objects, sketchbooks filled with drawings of things i saw and things i dream of one day seeing, lists that i make, photographs, notebooks filled with favorite quotes and passages from books; these are things i surround myself with, because i am a born collector. i build my world around me with people, memories, ideas, and objects that make me happy. everything i own has meaning. i even wake up with a new "theme" that i think about every day, that i record with writing and drawing in a my new sketchbook that i started one month ago.

so that is what my senior thesis will be: a collection. each week, i will focus on a place that captures my imagination, either a place i have recently been to, a place i dream of seeing, or a place that i visited a long time ago that still haunts my memories. i will compose a collection for each - drawings of urban or natural landscapes, patterns, something from tradition, anecdotes, portraits, whatever. and since it will be so free of predetermined structure, it will not become tedious. i think this might work!

one man's trash...

a couple of blocks behind my house is a place called "the book thing," a nonprofit organization with a mission to give unwanted books a new home. people donate their unwanted books all week, and on saturdays and sundays, the general public is invited to browse the selection and encouraged to take home as many books as they like, for free. i go there every weekend and find all kinds of treasures: handsome old volumes of classic novels, old issues of "national geographic," children's books, history books, geography books with beautiful photographs...

my most prized collection from the book thing consists of the nine paperbacks pictured above. in the 1950s, edward gorey designed covers for doubleday anchor books. his name isn't even credited in some of them. i skim the paperback shelves every week for the familiar illustration style and hand-drawn type on the spine, and when i find one, it's a holiday. last week i acquired "tristan and iseult" and "greek tragedy," (the latter looking so hastily done that i assumed i was mistaken and put the book back, until i saw the cover on somebody's blog. i sprinted back and snatched the book, and sure enough, there is a little "EG" in the corner of the illustration). these covers are very rare. really, the things people give away!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

library of congress



yesterday i took my monthly day trip to washington, d.c. the thought of the day was, "how is it that i have never been to the library of congress?" so i went into the jefferson building, and was completely dumbfounded by the incredible and overwhelming beauty of it. established in 1800, the library of congress is the largest library in the world, containing over 118 million items, which take up more than 500 miles of shelving. the only question is, where are the 118 million items?

i had a dream of settling down in a big armchair, surrounded by the greatest selection of books i have ever seen, but instead had a very eerie experience, running between the jefferson, adams, and madison buildings, and not seeing a single book. the madison building was especially kafkaesque: endless white, sterile hallways filled with numbered doors, like a hospital. a security guard told me that a reader's card will get me into the reading rooms, but i decided to do some research at home and figure out how this bizarre system works, so that next time i can approach this monster of a library with confidence. those books are in there somewhere!

mission for next month: get a reader's card and gain access to the lavish reading room of the thomas jefferson building. also draw the patterns on the mosaic floor.

Friday, August 14, 2009

prague sketchbook: four