Debra Bolgla, “Gray Matters”

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Book Structure
Exhibited is the physical entry into Gray Matters as the viewer experiences the beveled die cut circle, a symbol of my craniotomy hole and the essence of the emotional void. The black linen book cloth edge continues on to a full wrap over the back cover. Its texture is present to give a subtle tactile feel of reality while holding the book. A partial image of myself appears through this die cut window, markedly degraded, to imply the imperfect wounded world that is to follow in the contents of the story.

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Gray Matters Cover
Fully revealed is the complete image that lies beneath the cover board. Integrated with the many layers of raw, dissonant texture are hints of my brain MRI scan and a metamorphosis of the purple line. This significant mark is a repeating metaphor for the line drawn onto the back of my head to indicate the size needed for the proper hole opening to successfully remove my brain tumor.

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The Circular Void…August 23.2006
The title spread begins with a description of my entry into an unknown journey…not unlike Alice as she descends through the looking glass. Appearing here is what I refer to as my ‘little me’…a captured moment of myself at age five. This knowing gaze has forever entranced me as a potent soul seeking meaningfulness. Behind the ‘little me’ is a hint of the ‘adult me’. The two travel together as the narrative evolves.

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A Need to Understand
Vintage pink tonality pairs innocence to the jarring contrast of the massive tumor revealed in the MRI brain scan. This image encapsulates the entangled seesaw of life where gray areas exist and hover. The typographical nuances that are threaded into the image describe the full array of emotive experiences that I encountered.

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Rude Awakenings…August 28.2006
Shock and vulnerability of the physical self. Photographic self-portrait imagery is integrated to articulate the dichotomous relationship of sharp reality as it coexists in tandem with surreal and illusory space. Both vantage points appear throughout the memoir to delineate and collectively describe the totality.

 


 
Debra Bolgla (Sidney, IL)

Gray Matters
2014
Digital printed, Hand bound
Artist Ed 8. Full Ed TBD
58 pages
7-1/4 x 16-1/4 x 3/8 open
7-1/4 x 8-1/8 x 3/8 closed

Gray Matters creates a visual narrative of my experience when confronted with a brain tumor diagnosis in 2006. The progression from disbelief, shock, and numbness to fear, coping, healing, and reflection are captured within the story as I grasped, in desperation, for ways to make sense of the senseless.

When faced with a barrage of MRI images and CT scans I was stunned by the duality of how beautiful the toxic images of my brain, with invading tumor, were. The very large Meningioma, benign yet potentially deadly, was located in my visual cortex. The impact was upon my visual thinking area, a graphic designer’s nightmare. Thus, this brain mass presented me with an array of imagery both spectacular and absolutely terrifying. Throughout Gray Matters are contrasts of raw realism with imperfect human textures creating layers of illusory space. I began to journal everything I saw, documenting my visual symptoms, such as flickering geometric patterns in my visual field and jumbled sentence structure. It was a constant battle to remove the ‘What ifs?’ from my conscious thought and creative problem solving was the one thing that kept my mind focused in a healthy direction.

Following my surgery the visually powerful images I saw evolved into bursting showers of fireworks and afterimages with photographically negative imprinting. I continued to record these occurrences and photographed self-portrait phases of my healing. What began as a therapeutic mechanism for myself, evolved as a vessel to impart a unique visual perspective of this harrowing experience. Weaving images of my medical scans, personal photos, mark making, and textural elements to evoke the poignancy of such a traumatic happening became a way to communicate my journey.

Collectively the book looks at dualities amidst our daily routine. It reveals the essence of life’s flawed exquisiteness as the parts simultaneously work in tandem to form the whole. The spread entitled “Shattered Illusions” states:
“My tumor and I coexisted in a symbiotic relationship filled with give and take, push and pull, evil verses good.
Both of us focused on growth with different intents, each assuming her own was the right one…vying for control, dominance, survival of the fittest.
HOPE AND DESPAIR ARE SIDE BY SIDE.”

The physical entry into Gray Matters presents a beveled die cut circle, a symbol of my craniotomy hole and the essence of the emotional void. The black linen book cloth edge continues on to a full wrap over the back cover. Its texture is present to give a subtle tactile feel of reality while holding the book. A partial image of myself appears through this die cut window, markedly degraded, to imply the imperfect wounded world that is to follow in the contents of the story.

Recurring is my ‘little me’…a captured moment of myself at age five with a knowing gaze that has forever entranced me as a potent soul seeking meaningfulness. She and my ‘adult me’ travel together as the narrative evolves.

Another repeating symbol is the circular purple line. This significant mark is an ongoing metaphor for the line that was drawn onto the back of my head prior to surgery which indicated the size needed for the precise hole opening to successfully remove the tumor. Important to the narrative was the shock and vulnerability of my physical self. Photographic self-portrait imagery is integrated to articulate the dichotomous relationship of sharp reality as it coexists in tandem with the surreal and translucent, often obfuscated, layering. Both vantage points appear throughout the memoir to delineate and collectively describe the totality.

Gray Matters as a title implies an ambiguous meaning. The obvious interpretation being the brains gray nerve tissue. But further reflection reveals a complex perspective of all things meaningful in life…the area between black and white. It unravels with the pondering of what truly does matter.

Printing: Indigo Digital at Dixon Graphics. Champaign. IL
Paper: Cougar Opaque 80# Text Uncoated Recycled
Binding: Hand bound at Lincoln Bookbindery. Urbana. IL
Spine: black linen book cloth with 3/4 in. on cover + 1/4 in. gutter + wrap around to back cover
Image content: Digitally manipulated images incorporate elements from my own etchings, personal photography, hand mark making, medical imaging, vocalized typography, and found imagery.
Front cover boards: 4 in. die cut circles hand cut out of archival mat board at Ziemer Gallery, Monticello. IL



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