life under glass

Archive for June 2009

The Dream

 The Dream

The Dream (2008) 39×50 inches, gouache, book pages, collage on paper.

This drawing came about through a wonderful “needle in a haystack” experience at the University of Oregon Knight Library book sale. I spent about 2 hours pawing through hundreds of books, looking for items in Hebrew or Arabic. Instead I found this wonderful pocketbook memoir in Urdu called Society’s Fault (or The Virtuous Wench) by Munsifa Munshadil Lukhnava. It was published by Prem Singh Sajjad & Sons in Amritsar, Punjab (no date). The cover describes that this volume contains the “entire drama” of the author “who is female.”

Society’s Fault  was published in Urdu but it took me a few minutes to figure that out. I can read Arabic letters, but my vocabulary is terrible and it took a few minutes of mouthing sounds and fussing with a dictionary to understand that, in fact, these were not words in Arabic at all. I managed to find a very generous person at The Yamada Language Center on campus to translate the title page for me in exchange for a box of chocolates.

The Dream is comprised of the entire book, with every page laid out in a grid. The cover illustration included a portrait of the author, the wench, in a lovely sleeveless dress delicately dropping off a revealed shoulder which has been cropped in the collage.


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June 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm

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Afghan Ghosts

Some years ago, I read a short story by an Afghan woman in which she described the Taliban as crows. Their black turbans, nasty demeanor, and aggressive, pack behavior reminded her of flocks of  the noisy, menacing birds. 

Soon after,  I saw a photograph in the news of a “flock” of Taliban holding a pistol to the head of an Afghani woman. She was kneeling in the street wearing the typical periwinkle blue chador. It was a terrifying contrast: the black Taliban and the blue woman appeared like a conflict of species.

The Afghan Ghosts series combines calligraphy, iconography, and the Taliban’s brutality toward Afghan women as a way to describe the agony of their terror and women’s survival. I think of the drawings as a kind of prayer.

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June 1, 2009 at 9:59 am

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The Poetry Cure


The Poetry Cure (2008) 38X50 inches. Collage on paper.

This piece reconstructs two different “prescriptive” sources: Robert Haven Schauffler’s’ The Poetry Cure and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. The Poetry Cureis a humorous anthology of poems organized by ailment (“Mental Cocktails & Spiritual Pick-Me-Ups,”  “Stimulants for a Faint Heart” etc.) published by Dodd, Mead and Company (1932).


The compilation includes work by poets whose use three full names, with many of the first names being Harold, William or Marjorie.  Amusingly, the book begins with a chapter called “Directions: Read Well Before Using.”  William Butler Yeats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Robinson Jeffers provide the lion’s share of remedies, but there are many more by the notorious poet, Unknown.  One of my favorite entries is the two-line gem by William Allingham called Solitude, which inspired Braille Drawing I.

The other component of my drawing is the ornamental border provided by the Random House (1947) facsimilie 1859 edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyamedited by Louis Untermeyer. When I discovered this book at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in downtown Eugene, I thought I’d hit gold (i.e. a rare and valuable book). It turns out to be a very available book–I have found two more copies at local second hand bookstores–all under $4. The edition really does look (OK it looked) very impressive, with loads of color illustrations in the Persian miniature style, the original introduction by Edward FitzGerald, and the original imprint page date 1958.

The Rubaiyat is, of course, an early and  notorious example of the prescriptive text, originally written as four line poems (rubayyat) by the 11th Century by Persian mathematician Omar of Khayyam. The key message: live–because nothing else in certain!

For a concise, illustrated history of the Rubaiyat’s English language editions, see the exhibition The Persian Sensation at http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/2009/rubaiyat/

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June 1, 2009 at 8:59 am

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