On January 3, 4, and 5, 2019, the School of Art, College of Fine Art and the University of Arizona hosted the College Book Art Association Biennial Meeting here in Tucson. Karen and I were the official hosts, but we had a terrific planning committee and many wonderful volunteers. The theme was The Photographic Artists' Book as mentioned in a previous post. Andrea Howlett, a graphic design student at the University, designed the conference logo, books made to look like a stylized camera, as well as the printed program.
We started the planning in December of 2017 when we agreed to take over having the meeting site in Tucson. Karen reserved the Tucson University Marriott hotel accommodations and signed the contract, reserved the ENR2 Building on campus for the session and meeting location. The day before the meeting, January 3rd, was the day that the 20+-member Board would have an all-day retreat, and Karen was able to rent a meeting room at the Tucson Botanical Garden –with their catering company taking care of food.
We put together a great group of people, including local arts people involved in photography and the arts like Mary Virginia Swanson, (known to all as Swanee), folks from the Center for Creative Photography like Emily Weirich, Roger Myers from Special Collections at the Main Library, doctoral students like Molly Kalkstein, and a number of other grad and undergrads students, plus local arts people like Maria Lee, all of whom would be indispensable.
The first full meeting of the Planning Committee was in April and after a fair amount of discussion we decided to try to get the very well-known Spanish photographer and artists' book maker, Cristina de Middel to be our keynote speaker. She is constantly traveling around the world for Magnum, the photo agency, so we didn't know if we could afford her travel budget, let alone her speaking fee.
[Photo credit: Bruno Morais]
Cristina was very kind and agreed and said that she would reserve the date and offered to do the keynote speech for a very generous amount, given her national and international reputation.
We started to ask various campus entities about having book shows that would be in addition to the very large one that I was planning for the Joseph Gross Gallery in the School of Art. The Poetry Center volunteered to curate a show for their beautiful building, called Artists' Books: Focus on Photography. Roger Myers in Special Collections put together a really interesting show that is still up until May, called Artists' Books: Photography and Imagination.
[One of the cases in the Poetry Center.]
In early May, when the semester was over, we started to plan out the program, with activities, plus the session subject matter that would tie-in to the conference theme. We also started contacting possible panel leaders to see if they were willing to participate. If you are interested in how the program finally evolved, you can still see it by going here.
I started working on the book show that I curated for the Gross Gallery, 50 Years of The Photographic Artists' Book, in early June. I spent about 4 or 5 months going through about 1000 books that I thought would work for the show. By early September I got final budget numbers and knew that I would have to limit the show to eight large vitrines. With fewer cases I knew that I could use another area of the gallery to place video monitors. This would allow me to show more books as well as show some of the books that were in the cases with the pages being turned. I used a 4x8 piece of plywood (the size of each of the cases) to plan out each of the cases. I took photographs of the books in each numbered case so that I could recreate them during installation. I reduced the number of books in the cases to about 310 or so, plus shot and edited another in 123 videos for the monitor displays. The show was installed (cases built in situ) and books and labels placed, plus vinyl signage put up, from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19. Here is the banner that was out on Speedway Avenue to advertise the book show:
The Fall was a blur: organizing the CBAA event itself, making sure the printed program had no typos; coördinating the way-finding signage and tour group flags. It's too tiresome to list all of the loose ends here. The university closes down from December 23rd until January 2nd, so we really had to make sure all of the computer technology, name tags and lanyards, etc were done or in place by December 23rd. We also had the tote bags screen-printed in early December so that we were able to have them ready to stuff with all of the program, swag stuff, etc that week before Christmas.
The tote bag sported an image from a Dieter Roth book. This book was in the show.
Here is the tote bag stuffing party on December 17th in the Book Art and Letterpress Lab. We also had to corner-round all of the printed programs.
One of the highlights for me was Cristina de Middel's keynote address. She spoke much longer than the 45-50 minutes we had anticipated and we were so happy that she did. She is such a charming and good story teller that she had everyone hanging on her every word. She got a huge round of applause when she finished, and I had several people tell me that she gave one of the best lectures they had ever heard. Sadly, later, I heard that there were a couple of very conservative, commercial photographers who were upset by Cristina's talk. I wish I had been able to talk with them, because I found that extremely hard to believe and wanted to know why. I know the name of one of them, but do not want to publicize them here, mainly not to embarrass him.
We were glad that the event went so well, and happy that we all survived it. One of the most fun things was that we had a whole house-full of old friends staying with us. Most of them stayed several days longer after the CBAA event, and we were able to go hiking and do some other sight-seeing things –as well as share some great meals together.