Friday, December 19, 2008

Umbrella: The End of an era















Umbrella was one of the best alternate book publications out there - either on line or off. But the sad news came through the Book-Arts mailing list; the editor has cancer and has gone to a hospice to wait for the end. I'm am stricken by this news; Judith was one of the first to publish my altered books, had the most interesting mail art shows, the best reviews and an editorial eye that seldom made a mistake. The whole archive is now up on line and when you go there, send a prayer of gratitude to Judith for all her hard work in the arts for the last 31 years. Instead of locking down her website, she's offering the archive up as a free resource. May her passing be peaceful and pain-free.

From the Editor

To my subscribers, institutions, collectors, artists, friends:

One would not have imagined a disease chasing me down the end of the road, but it happened in August, diagnosed in September, analyses were done by experts, and I came home on the first of October to hospice at my home. To say that I was in a state of shock would be a euphemism. It all came too fast.

As soon as I walked into the house, my life completely changed. I was no longer a writer, editor, publisher, traveler, choc-o-holic, insomniac; I was a cancer patient. I have acute myeloid leukemia. And in the interim between October 1st and as I write this, I have been organizing my archives, throwing things away I never would have otherwise, and preparing myself for the last journey. This is the most difficult editorial I’ve ever written to you, and it will be my last.

In the past, you have learned about alternative spaces all over the world, itineraries of trips that I have taken that have led me to exotic and creative places. You never bargained about learning about Fluxus, mail art and archives, video art, sound art, performance art, rubber stamps, and so much more that was fecund in those early years.

Frankly, it took a lot of work, a lot of reading, a lot of traveling, but the task was as fruitful for me as it was for you. With the technology we went from Composer I to Composer II, to computer. It was a learning curve for me, but I always wanted Umbrella to “look good.” When you saw that light blue issue in the mail, you knew what it was. The whole field of artist books became my life and I wanted to share it with all of you. Although marginal at the beginning, it has grown into a movement, a new chapter in art history, one which is recognized by art historians, artists, and all of you. It has become almost too much now, with so many conferences, book fairs, and symposia to attend. And as usual, it has spread globally.

Obsessed with umbrellas and parasols, it allowed me to create a huge collection of “umbrelliana” which has overwhelmed both my domestic and storage settings. I learned more about textiles, fashion, kitsch, marketing, performance art, multicultural innovations with the object umbrella, encountering artists who used the image to intrigue me as well as to whet my appetite. It has been an easy image to collect in paper ephemera as well as almost 200 three-dimensional umbrella objects. From a tiny Chinese lace umbrella to a 19th century silk parasol, from 333 antiquarian books to countless artifacts, the collection has grown over the past 30 years.

In the ensuing two months I have been in hospice, I have missed sharing with you all the art news, umbrella news, and mail art news for this issue. With this issue I say goodbye, knowing full well that you can always read back issues, do database research in all the issues from vol.1 no. 1, with Umbrella being a free journal for all to read, from 1978 through 2008. This has been made possible for posterity thanks to Indiana University and Sonja Staum-Kuniej at IUPUI.

It is with heartfelt thanks that I recognize all the contributors, even those who sent just snippets of information that I could use for the next issue. Interviews with intriguing artists have been Googled as number one under the artist’s name. Perhaps that is because I chose obscure artists, but why not? And we went from no covers to spectacularly beautiful color covers as the technology allowed us. The printers took extreme care in making Umbrella a handsome and readable publication. No less gratitude is due webmaster, Jim Hanson, who made the electronic issue of Umbrella clear and well-designed transition to the new technology.

Through the years, from the beginning, I have depended upon all the libraries, colleges and universities, public libraries, private collectors, museums, and galleries that supported me in this 31-year endeavor. But it is also the artists, friends, and colleagues, who have allowed me to produce Umbrella. Without you, it could not have happened.

— jah


1 comment:

tangobaby said...

Oh nancy, I am so sad for you and your friend. I'm glad she was there to support you because I know your books are simply beautiful.

I was in the MOMA bookstore yesterday, browsing and thinking that I wished you were there with me. I would love to have a museum date there with you soon.

xoxo