Marlene MacCallum, “Shadow – Canto One: Still Life”

Marlene MacCallum
Ameliasburg, Ontario, Canada

Shadow – Canto One: Still Life
hand bound artist’s book with slipcase, pamphlet binding with gatefold structure, digital pigment print on Digital Aya paper
Closed: 9.3 x 6.8 x .4″; Open: 9.21x 13.4″

Artist Statement

Shadow is an ongoing project, an artist’s book variation on the long poem format. Each piece, or canto, is a discrete and distinct manifestation of “shadow” within the context of domestic and private spaces. Each canto is subtitled to refer to an undervalued art genre, and reflects my personal politic of attending to the overlooked and dismissed aspects of our daily lives.

The first canto, Still Life, began when a cedar waxwing flew into a picture window and died. Avian fatalities are tragically common because of the excessive size of our windows. The emotional experience triggered a memory of the first canto from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…” and the fictitious poet then proceeds to create imagery of the viewer seeing reflections and doublings of the interior and exterior spaces. Building on this literary source, my visual recording of the incident evolved into both an elegy and a musing on the nature of stilled lives. The cover of Still Life is a close-up view of a window screen and distant blurred trees. The title page brings the trees into focus and reveals a reflected window hovering within the branches. The next pair of images turns the viewer inwards to face the projection of the window light and tree shadows playing on the wall. The following pages create pairings of still life images. The waxwing floats above a layered version of Canto One from Pale Fire and is juxtaposed with a fallen weathervane in the form of a heron. On the verso of the final spread, the same weathervane is poised for flight within an interior space and, on the recto, the image of the waxwing has been liberated and replaced with the window view. The poem is written from the bird’s perspective. The sequence of images plays with formal and spatial qualities. The gatefold structure allows the viewer to create their own pairings. The experience of the piece is that of moving through the interior structure of the book while contemplating images of interiority and the nature of the “still life” and the stilled life.