Altered book – Divine Comedy

3 Feb

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

I’ve been working 2 part time jobs now on top of everything else, so I’m behind on posting but I HAVE managed to get some art done in the last few weeks.

It started with some books from my favorite thrift store – the Goodwill Clearance Center (we call it The Binz). One was an old student copy of the Divine Comedy AKA Dante’s Inferno. It’s marked up with pencil notes and highlighted passages. The paper is yellow with age.

What an amazing book! I had a general idea of this classic but never read it. Since working with it I’ve become enchanted by it’s strange imagery and language.

The other book was a Winnie the Pooh board book. I read on another blog (?) about how board books are great for altering because of their thick sturdy pages. So I thought I’d try one.

I started by tearing up random pages of Dante and covering the whole board book with it (a total of 6 spreads plus a front and back cover).  I didn’t have a plan yet but I knew I had to get rid of Winnie. I read fragments of Dante’s journey as I tore it, and then researched it more online. Here’s a detailed summary if you’re interested.

There are many levels of meaning in the book and all kinds of juicy allegory and symbols. The structure has a magical numeric pattern to it: 9 levels of hell, 7 steps to the top of Mount Purgatory, plus 2 sub levels, and 9 spheres of heaven, plus the last invisble one where god lives. The book is made of 100 cantos, divided into canticles of 33 each, plus an intro canto. Nines, tens and threes all over the place.

I’m using 2 different ideas of the levels, one is like an elevator going up/going down in a steely corporate office building with straight lines and boxes on one side of the page. The other is made of curved torn scraps, spiralling in, a journey of self-discovery.

On the 1st spread I blotted on some gesso and rubbed charcoal into part of it to bring out the layers. Plan to do more of that.

Because Dante is on the ultimate journey, I decided to use an old Thomas Guide map of Los Angeles, my previous home. The City of Angels has often been called a paradise and has been luring people west for centuries. There are decidedly hellish aspects to the place as well. So I got a kick out of cutting up the San Fernando Valley into little cirrus clouds shapes and glueing them on.

I’ll share the rest of the idea as it develops.

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