Michelle Ray ~ Florida

Michelle Ray: "I approach creating artists' books in the manner of a Victorian naturalist: by attempting to name the unnamed and gain an understanding of the world through documenting, cataloging, and connecting ideas."
The Cave Protection Act of 2013
By Michelle Ray
Tallahassee, Florida : Michelle Ray, 2013. Edition of 35.

7.5 x 6”; Text created with photopolymer plates, using Gill Sans typeface. Images generated with Rhino 3-D software and laser engraved. Printed on Talas Antique Endleaf paper. Enclosure is Canson Mi-Teintes and .080 board. Written, designed, printed, and bound by Michelle Ray at Small Craft Advisory Press and formLab, Facility for Arts Research, Florida State University. Numbered.

Michelle Ray: "The Cave Protection Act of 2013 explores the meaning we insert into situations where direction in the form of signifiers is missing.

"The idea for the project came from a documentary about Centralia, Pennsylvania. This mining town was destroyed when an underground fire broke out, creating sinkholes and sucking the town into the earth. I reference these events in the text, 'The community of Centralia, Pennsylvania became unified after the emergence of the sinkholes. / It started with a mine fire. The hot ground opened up and swallowed the town. The townspeople vaporized, condensed and came out pure – a distilled version of their former selves. / They began to ask, ‘WHAT IS COMMUNITY?'

"I respond to how Centralia developed a strong identity because of its erasure. This sense of identity from erasure – of absence speaking volumes – struck a nerve since I had been through the 2011 Tuscaloosa, Alabama, tornado and saw how the town was simultaneously put on the map (in terms of media coverage) and wiped off the map (in terms of lost lives and property).

"I worked from the text of
The Federal Cave Protection Act of 1988, an oddly poetic bureaucratic document created to give sanctuary to bits of earth no longer present. Using this document as a point of departure, I created an inquiry into absence, domesticity, and memory. The piece’s aesthetic echoes that of government documents in its tabbed pages, hierarchical information organization, and machine generated illustration."

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A Natural History of Believability
By Michelle Ray
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2012. Edition of 50.

7.125 x 4.5 x .25"; 16 unnumbered pages. Images and text created with photopolymer plates. Case bound sewn binding. Paper-covered boards with embossed and printed images. In the edition of 50, 1 - 31 printed on handmade paper; 32 - 50 printed on machine made paper.

Michelle Ray: "Natural History explores our fascination with facsimiles and the relationship between signs and the things they signify. Illustrated with a vanitas-style [a la memento mori, meant as a reminder of the ephemerality of life and the certainty of death] rabbit image as a recurring motif, this book’s brief essay looks at how things such as taxidermy and ornithological prints shape our relationship to the natural world. The viewer experiences a discord between representation and the real and is confronted with the question of which is more appealing."

$ 160 machine made paper copies
$ 175 handmade paper copies

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Three Ships
By Michelle Ray
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2012. Edition of 35.

5.625 x 4.5 x 1.375" shadowbox with one-sheet print plus errata card. Images and text created with photopolymer plates. Printed on Somerset Book papers and museum board. Contained in cloth covered clamshell box with boat scene in bottom. Paper fold-out enclosure adhered to interior lid with print and card laid in. Print: 3 x 4" closed, opens to 9 x 8"; one sheet folded. Errata card: 4 x 3" printed on one side. Illustrated title label tipped on cover of clamshell box.

Michelle Ray: "Three Ships is an archive and travel shrine assembled in memory of the life boats, Stancomb Wills, Dudley Docker and James Caird; Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic stash of Rare and old Highland malt whiskey; safety and foolishness. It is an exploration in mnemonic devices and the relationship between time, memory and seeing. The title, Three Ships, is taken from An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen (2010), by permission of the author, Sarah Bodman. This edition was created as a part of the BookArtObject Edition Four portfolio."

And: "[Three Ships] was produced as a part of an international portfolio exchange entitled "BookArtObject." For the exchange, each of the participants was given a title from the book, An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen, and was asked to run from there. While the piece itself has nothing to do with An Exercise, I used the chapter title, "Three Ships," to create a theme based on Shackleton's three lifeboats. It helps to have a little historical knowledge of Shackleton's travels to understand the book I suppose, but there's no inside secret afoot in the piece. It's essentially a sentimental memory object created to honor the discovery of Shackleton's whiskey stash in the Antarctic."

Ernest Shackleton, Anglo-Irish polar explorer, left behind 3 crates of Highland malt whiskey (and 2 crates of brandy) after his unsuccessful attempt in 1909 to reach the South Pole. Later, In the Trans Antarctica Expedition (1914-1917), Shackleton's Endurance was trapped in pack ice and had to be abandoned. Shackleton and his party were left with 3 lifeboats that had offloaded. Their ordeal and subsequent rescue is legend.

* Note: Recently Associated Press noted that "Three bottles of rare, 19th-century Scotch found at Antarctic explorer Ernest Shack­elton’s abandoned hut were returned to the polar continent Saturday after a distiller flew them to Scotland to recreate the long-lost recipe. Antarctica’s minus-22 Fahren­heit temperature was not enough to freeze the Mackinlay whisky, bottled in 1898."

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By Michelle Ray
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2011. Edition of 40.

7 x 3.5"; 16 pages. Images and text created with lithography and photopolymer plates on handmade cotton, abaca, and gampi papers. Quarter bound with title printed on cover.

Michelle Ray: "This book was created in response to the April 27, 2011, tornado in Tuscaloosa, AL and the anxieties that ensued. Drawing its aesthetic and organizational inspiration from Victorian naturalist journals, Observations... is an exploration in how technical and scientific language arms the compulsive with tools for unorthodox ritual. The book is an exploration in miniaturization, anxiety and symbol, and the image and text move between the realms of micro- and macrocosm. The superstitious and the rational are interwoven throughout this autobiographical narrative, addressing the tension between those things that we believe and those that we know to be true."

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To Come Upon a Street
By A.B. Gorham
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2011. Edition of 40.

6 x 5 x 1", two books bound in one casing. Accordion book attached to front pastedown opening to the left with 4 pages of poetry on one side and images of "ladies" on the reverse; tunnel book attached to back pastedown. Photopolymer images and text on machine made and handmade papers. Bound in paper wraps with colophon on back. Text written and designed by A.B. Gorham.
Visual design, printing and binding by Michelle Ray.

Michelle Ray: "A collaborative effort between poet, A.B. Gorham, and artist, Michelle Ray. It explores a bawdy street scene as viewed through a voyeuristic lens. The sculptural layers of letterpress 'ladies of the evening' echo the four visually and verbally complex stanzas of Gorham's work, creating a piece that is kitschy yet tender; a celebration of delicate visual smut and witty double entendre."

AB Gorham is the poetry editor for Black Warrior Review. Her poems have been published in Gulf Coast and Front Porch Journal.

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Michelle Ray Out of Print Title:  

By Michelle Ray
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2011. Edition of 35.

8.125 x 3 x .25"; 24 pages. Accordion structure attached to back board. Text and image printed from photopolymer plates and linoleum blocks on handmade and Somerset Book papers. Housed in envelope with tab closure.

Michelle Ray: "The act of naming things creates a sense of relative safety at sea. Like the pilot's verse that guided sailors through dangerous shoals, Admeasure is about gaining a false sense of control through signifiers and ritual that guide one through a world that is largely uncontrollable. This book explores the dialectic tension between the dangerous unknown and measure, rules, and tradition. While at sea, measurements, maritime law, navigation aids and other modes of dominance through organization are easily lost to the forces of nature and the psychology of a journey. The content of Admeasure draws from a variety of archetypal journeys including Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Homer's Odyssey, Bas Jan Ader's In Search of the Miraculous, and my own time spent in small boats."
(SOLD / Out of Print)

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God Created the Sea and Painted it Blue so We'd Feel Good On It

By Michelle Ray
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Michelle Ray, 2013. Edition of 50.

7 x 5.5 x 4.25" enclosure with custom compartments for documents and open fixed tunnel book. Images and text created with photopolymer plates, using Trajan and Optima typefaces on handmade cotton/abaca, French Construction and Neena Environment papers. Enclosure of linen and basswood. 11 pamphlets (7x3.5") plus fold out crew manifest (21 x 14" open) laid in envelope wrapper with slip and slot closure. Written, designed, and printed by Michelle Ray at The Small Craft Advisory Press, Florida State University as an MFA creative project for The University of Alabama's Book Arts Department.

Michelle Ray: "While residing in the Deep South, I undertook a most wondrous adventure wherein I built a boat made entirely of cardboard and set about on an imaginary journey in the linoleum headwaters of my apartment. It started as cathartic play, it became this edition.

"I first learned to use a map while sailing. Finding myself in a space with no landmarks, I had to trust my life to those unwieldy sheets of paper with their complex representations of the ever-changing seascape. In reference to the sea, this edition’s text states, 'There are no markers in this/ monochromatic/ parking lot.' In the absence of these markers, we become painfully aware of their significance.

"This work is about experience, perception, memory and the space in between composed of symbol, sound and object. This is the space of mediation, the space where significant things happen; it is the ocean on which my imaginary crew and I sailed­, the place for which there are no maps."

Michelle Ray, colophon: "The enclosed account is partially true. It is also partially fabricated. But I assure you that all of it has been vigorously documented in a most honest manner.

"The object's title is derived from a Bernard Moitessier quote. Motessier would have been the winner of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first 'round the world solo sailing competition. But as he rounded the final cape (he was in the lead) and headed north to the finish line, he had a change of heart and decided to sail on in the opposite direction. His rationale? In a note tucked in a film canister lobbed onto a passing ship's deck, he stated, '...I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.'"

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Page last update: 03.19.19


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