Helen Carlson, “Spiral into Life”

Helen Carlson
Richfield, Minnesota

Spiral into Life
Closed: 2.1 x 7.5 x 12.1″; Open: .25 x 84.4 x 12.2″.
Embedded mini-books vary in size.

Artist Statement

Spiral into Life probes deeply into life through multiple circumlocutions of a painted backdrop around a fulcrum (dowel). The backdrop begins in darkness of the earth as a plant (represented by silhouettes) emerges in late winter, brightens with growth through a season, and ends in the darkness of senescence. myth, and mystery. Silhouettes of the seasons of human life are also included.

Embedded in the circumlocutions are three mini-books—Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Through a Season, Jack-in-the-Pulpit: A Guide to Life’s Transitions, and Jack-in-the Pulpit: Tree of Life. In turn, each of these open further as described below.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Through a Season contains five parts (energizing emergence, infusing impulse, seizing sunlight, netting nutrients, and respecting resources) that open to selected sketches and reflective observations. These further unfold to reveal relevant science and illustrations in the style of a biology- notebook.

Jack in the Pulpit: A Guide to Life’s Transitions encompasses five parts that apply seasonal changes to the human life cycle. Each part reveals watercolor illustrations and accordion books that expand to reveal vignettes and pop-ups to address the space, place, status, lifestyle, and form transitions of human life.

Jack in the Pulpit: Tree of Life contains a three-dimensional paper-engineered graphic with accompanying companion readers that open to reveal the biology, myth, and mystery found in the tree-of-life symbols from nature as well as different cultures.

From the unwinding of the woven band that encircles the closed backdrop to the unfolding of each embedded mini-book, the structure resonates with the content of spiraling deep into life.

The process of creation included multiple revisions for both the overall work and mini-books: mock-ups for the form, thumb-nails of images, and text variations. Each major and mini iterative revision enhanced the content’s connection to the form, a process that was transformative. The transformation is reflected in the final paper- engineered graphic that represents movement outward to universes and inward to the psyche’s depths.