This folio of eight etchings is the culmination of a project that has approached almost three years in the making. It was initiated at the behest of a dealer who suggested that I might want to pursue the theme of an “adult” children’s book. At that time I had just discovered a list of over 200 titles of tales transcribed and collected by the Brothers Grimm. Right from the beginning, I found these to be marvelously evocative and suggestive. Who could resist the imaginative provocations of such titles as “The Singing Bone”, “One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes”, and “The Glass Coffin”, not to mention one of my favorites, “The Straw, the Coal and the Bean”. I saw in all this an opportunity, not to illustrate the Brothers Grimm, but to use their work as a point of departure from which the imagination could spin its own tales.
My solution to the problem of which titles to select was to ask a group of seven friends and couples, comprised of artists, writers, musicians and collectors, to each pick five of their favorite titles from the list of 200. I would then select the first unique title from each of them. The personality and interest that each participant exhibited in their approach to this request became a part of the work itself. The final results were the following titles:
The Glass Coffin
The Peasant and the Devil
The Black Bride and the White One
The Lord’s Animals and the Devil’s
The Bremen Town-Musicians
Later on it became evident that a title page was needed, one that would serve to crystallize a context in which the other seven images could flourish; thus the eighth image.
In reviewing my colleagues’ submissions, I was struck by the frequency with which the themes of death and the devil appeared, quite out of proportion to their presence in the original list of tales, and the reasons for this must remain best known those responsible. However, as I began to ponder the images that would result from these selections, the most prominent theme to emerge was that of opposition—life/death, black/white, good/evil, just to mention a few examples. The allure of this motif, combined with the imaginative character of the material in question, engaged me both consciously and unconsciously in a complex interaction with the nature of opposing concepts, sometimes approached literally, sometimes turned inside out, and sometimes transposed into new, equally unexplainable relationships.
As a result of the mode I chose for selecting ideas, this project ended up moving towards a more collaborative activity, and it was interesting to discover that the original materials that the Bros Grimm utilized in their fairytale transpositions (with, of course, all overt sexual and Oedipal references expurgated) were derived from oral folk traditions created for adults by adults in communal work situations. The adult usage and nature of these tales seems in keeping with my theme of an “adult” children’s book, and their communal origins reflect the asking of my collaborators to “spin a yarn” of titles from which to invoke a work of art.