Paula Marie Gourley, “A Visit to Cross Creek: The Vanishing World of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings”
Paula Marie Gourley (Eugene, OR)
A Visit to Cross Creek: The Vanishing World of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Artist’s book, with letterpress printing, handmade paper, text, pochoir and watercolor illustrations, decorative elements printed from Royal Palm pods, hand bound in three versions. All elements are the creation of the artist.
Edition of 50, plus hors series
Approx. 120 pages
There were no boundaries. The gift of time, space, studio access and creative freedom are a heady mix, and the generosity of Helen Salzberg in conjuring this opportunity at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts was such a windfall. I had been missing the opportunity to MAKE…books, paper, printing, designing, writing, binding, teaching. So when the award notice came, I was over the moon. And so I drove across the country, all the way from the Pacific Northwest, ideas weaving their way through my mind as the miles passed.
My subject was the home and environment – or what remains – of the famed writer, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I had previously visited and absorbed and photographed her place, there in the Florida Cracker Country. The orange groves, palmettos, wild birds, the lake, the dust and off-the- beaten track place where she wrote and eked out a living. This quiet place spoke deeply to me, and continues to resonate over time and space. A place that felt like the essence of “home” for spirit and soul. For creation and achievement and quiet solitude.
Oregon to Florida is a long and fruitful distance for developing ideas, for creative ferment. l wrote the book’s introductory narrative on the road between California and Louisiana. And on arriving at the Jaffe Center, the doors were open, the press at the ready and the paper mill and bindery just waiting for me to begin.
I brought blue jeans with me from Eugene, combined them with new white linen shirts from Florida and made paper. Stencil brushes and vibrant cardinal red gouache brought a touch of pochoir, and Marjorie Rawlings’ beloved “red bird” flew off the edges of pages. Fallen Royal Palm pods supplied material for a creative approach to printing textured accents throughout. I learned to operate a laser printer for my many photographs of the farm and orange grove at Cross Creek. More visits to the farm ensued. Choosing and winnowing images was an adventure in discernment. I worked at setting type and designing pages with pencil and computer. I’ve always done things the Old Fashioned way. Setting brand new Perpetua in lead and generating computer text for polymer plates brought yet another adventure into the mix. John Cutrone let me publish his charming and insightful essay, “Searching for Marjorie” in this overachiever’s project. His words are beautiful.
In the AIR office, there is a painting by Helen Salzberg, the generous donor who made this Artist Residency possible. One day, having arrayed many of my photographs on the work table there, I saw that most of my photographic images were there, in that painting, The Red Bird. The rounded trees The barn. The cloth with a red edging, like the curtains in Marjorie’s kitchen, the simple cotton panels hanging from cotton string. Almost as if this project was meant to be. Predetermined. The frisson continues as I write this, and continue to bind my books, slowly. One by one.
Arthur Jaffe and I talked nearly every day. He watched, posed incisive questions, and commented with
bemusement. We became very close friends, and I am so grateful for that experience. A life changing thing, making this book, returning to all of my creative roots in the arts of the finely handcrafted, handbound book. Because of selfless generosity, I was able to experiment, give and receive a creative experience so full. And as Arthur would say, “Beshert (meant to be).”