touring the Art Gallery, you might be interested to know
that currently there are seven exhibits in the Shivvetee Art Gallery:
1. The “Elegies
en Nance” exhibit
displays an illuminated manuscript that
is lettered on burnished Persian paper, that was
estimated to be 150 years old when I purchased it in 1979. The
title is raised
gold leaf. Each of the poems is decorated with hand-ground pigments
made of semi-precious stones, including cinnabar, lapis lazuli,
azurite, turquoise, malachite, and jasper, as well as gold
leaf. The manuscript
is sewn on linen ribbons, but remains unbound.
2. The images in the “Lost Prophet” exhibit are reproduced
from my first illuminated book. The poem itself was written in 1976,
and as such, is the earliest example of my writing on this website.
The paper for this small manuscript was purchased in Istanbul in 1977,
and was estimated by Sam Kleinman to be 100 to 150 years old (back
in 1977). Mr. Kleinman (I *never* called him “Sam”),
was a much honored and vastly knowledgeable antiquarian book dealer
his memory be a blessing). He also speculated that it might be
of Persian provenance. The paper is still in wonderful condition.
the book using India ink, and illustrated it with acrylic colors
and bronze ink. The binding is made of laminated cedar veneer,
polyurethane, and the title on it is done in gold leaf.
3. When my family and I moved to Victoria,
BC in 1989, my first friendship was with a writer and printer, Robie
Liscomb. Robie and I decided
to make a little chapbook of a poem I wrote in Jerusalem in 1983,
entitled Poem Excavated from the Old City of Jerusalem.
The poem itself was a one-off technical experiment. (I don’t know why I never played
with this idea again.) First of all you’ll notice there are 2
alternate title pages. One is a woodcut I made; you'll recognize it
as the opening gateway to Shivvetee. The other is a woodcut of a map
of Jerusalem that Robie found in a very old book, and modified for
this project. Then there's a dedication page, followed by 2 side by
side pages of poetry. The side by side format is critical. On the left
side of the double page is the "excavation" in totally broken
English. On the opposing side is the "modern reconstruction." The
idea is to emulate the architectural history of Jerusalem while describing
scenes that I hope can be seen as either modern or ancient. You’ll
see what I’m talking about when you visit the exhibit. Don’t
pass up the last page, which is the “Printer’s Note.” It
tells some essentials about the printing process and materials. What
it doesn’t mention is that Robie was an absolute wizard in
both his art and craft.
4. Calligraphy, ornaments, and border designs:
This exhibit is a diverse collection of images and calligraphic experiments
extracted from my
notebooks. Some of the drawings were made while I was exploring museums
or old books. Others are drawn from nature. In either case I often
stylize them to make them appropriate for border designs.
Of this collection of sketches, a few were used to make woodcuts
to emboss leather for decorated book bindings. All have been
extracted from my notebooks.
6. In the Amulets exhibit,
you can find two sets of images. The first set of five images documents
the creation of an amulet named Spektrel
Fiyer. The second set of four images documents the creation of an
amulet named Yahava.
Spektrel Fiyer is a small Shiviti, produced in honor of a Bar Mitzvah.
The actual Shiviti is about 3 inches (7.5 cm) square. The image
was produced using highly burnished gold leaf and acrylics, on
parchment. The image portrays a visualization of the atom. It can
also be seen as a complex mobius strip. On one side of the strip
is a Jewish
prayer/mantra in Hebrew. Its translation is on the other side: "The
God of Hosts is with us; a stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah!" Traditionally,
a Shiviti will be crowned with the name of God written twice, one
within the other. In this Shiviti, within the large Yud Hay Vuv
Hay, it appears
twice in English and twice in Hebrew.
The Yahava amulet is a small, non-traditional Shiviti, produced
for a Bat Mitzvah. The actual Shiviti is about 3 inches (7.5 cm)
The Shiviti was produced using the same methods and materials as
Spektrel Fiyer. The image portrays emerging emanations of Adoniy
above and Yisroyel
below, into Yahava, the Bat Mitzvah, taking her place among her
people. Traditionally, a Shiviti ("Shivvetee" in Stevespell) is an
inscription that includes the text "I will set Adoniy before me
always," or in Hebrew, "shiviti Adoniy l'negdi tamid." It
stands as a reminder of the constant presence of the Divine. For
many people, a Shiviti may also act as a talisman and/or a focus
7. In the “Pilgrimmage” exhibit you’ll find my pencil
sketches for an edition of the story, A Pilgrimmage to Mecca. You can
read that story in the Reading Room in a version in which I have integrated
some of these sketches. Here’s the whole set of them, 6 in all,
directly out of my notebooks. I drew them as triptychs (groups of 3),
and that’s how Steven Toleikis, my web guru, has hung them
in the Gallery.