Julie Nauman-Mikulski, “Secrets Inside Shadows”

A spread that includes Ernestina text (green on aqua bands) and a dream narrative.

A spread that includes Ernestina text (green on aqua bands), mixed media drawing.

A spread that includes first person diarist text (hand-written on lined paper), drawings of
Pre-Columbian gold objects, image from a dream.

A spread that includes first person mini-narrative on sticky notes, collage.

Julie Nauman-Mikulski
Homewood, Illinois

Secrets Inside Shadows
Digitally printed, perfect bound
206 pages
9″ x 12″ x 1/2″
9″ x 6″

The book, Secrets Inside Shadows, is a collection of braided narratives both visual and textual. Each of the text-based narratives has its own typographic treatment; the visual narrative is made up of drawing, painting, printmaking (including wood type and linotype), photography and collage. In the background of each spread is a mis-matched circle symbolizing the paradox of time: eternally moving while constantly remaining still in the now.

Upon opening Secrets, the reader enters a private world: a collection of imagery, thoughts, objects, souvenirs, notes stapled in, stories, and dreams. The combination of elements and story lines creates a layered picture of time, place, and the unpredictable surfacing of memories when least expected. Secrets requires the reader’s active participation in unraveling visual clues that link together narratives. It can be read in multiple ways: front to back, Ernestina text, diarist text, dream text or attached mininarratives on napkins and sticky notes. Secrets balances the permeable line between interior (first person) and exterior (third person), private and public, as well as conscious thought and the deep unconscious truths found in daily observations, visual images, the pursuit of spiritual truths, and dreams. To quote Edgar Allen Poe, the book becomes a kind of portrait of life as a “dream within a dream.”
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My artistic practice is one of a perpetual note-taker. I keep diaries and sketchbooks; I write down my dreams; I collect found objects; I take photos. I have an ongoing mixed-media studio practice that includes writing short fiction. In the last decade my work has migrated to collage; in Secrets I have utilized all facets of my work, blending autobiographical and personal with fiction. The book format is deeply ingrained in me. I have loved them as miniature worlds sitting silently on a shelf, waiting. In Secrets I borrow from the medieval concept of books as metaphors for the human body: text and images inscribed on fleshy pages of animal skin like memories inscribed on the human brain. My books have evolved from small zines and hand-crafted pieces to Secrets, a much larger work at 200+ pages.