Venus Unbound was published by Granary Books on the New Moon, September 15, 1993, in an edition of 41 books. "Thirty (numbered 1-30) were originally for sale, and eleven (lettered A - K) were originally for Steve and me."
Steve Clay of Granary Books, in Manhattan, New York, publishes artists' books, poetry and trade books. Venus Unbound was created from original assemblages, drawings and paintings, then printed from metal plates, then hand painted with gouache, pen and ink, rubber stamps and collage.
Typography and letterpress printing were done by Philip Gallo at The Hermetic Press. The book was printed on Rives BFK paper, with Coptic style binding designed by Daniel Kelm & executed by the staff at Wide Awake Garage, then boxed in extravagant orchid colored raw silk covered boxes, (sturdy as a piece of furniture) made by Jill Jevne.
The book explores the misogynist history of both Eastern and Western civilizations and reclaims the symbols of female power which have been subverted by priestly cultures worldwide. Powerful images depicting archetypal psycho-sexual drama alternate with accounts of my dreams--some oracular, some light hearted--selected from hundreds recorded over many years.
I am very excited that this book is part of the New York Public Library collection, as well as a number of prominent university library artist book collections, such as the collections at Dartmouth College, Yale, The University of Iowa, Minnesota, Delaware and Wisconsin, as well as the Getty Museum in California. And I'm so grateful to Steve for producing this extravagant work with me.
When I was working on the book, I had the sense that something different was happening to my work and my life. I had reached a place where anger no longer informed my everyday self, where love and partnership could finally emerge, after spending years exorcising grief at the misogynist culture in which I found myself. More importantly, I found that I was on a path to forgiveness for myself and those around me: loved ones, family, and the culture of which I am a part. By the time I had finished the book, I realized that it was time for the new aeon of the Divine Lovers to emerge, that sexual pleasure could be a threshold of the Divine, that anger could be an expression of devotion, the catalyst for forgiveness.
The archetype of the wise woman, connected to nature and nurture, was for me a passageway to a limitless reservoir of strength, and change, and a focus for the calling forth of the intuitive skills that help human beings become the living bridge between Heaven and Earth.
I have always worked in journals, keeping dream diaries, writing down spiritual experiences in notebooks for as long as I can remember. I recall writing a series of poems in the third grade that I illustrated just for my own interest. When I was working on Venus I went through a huge stack of dream journals and diaries from which I took various dream narratives. The dream narratives by themselves, represent a mythic journey, the heroes journey, which connects the reader to the time honored tradition of personal spiritual development common to people of all cultures everywhere. That process alone was revelatory and life altering, offering me a unique perspective into my own spiritual evolution.
I utilized many of the same techniques in creating the pages of this book that I used as a child, that went into the construction of my one-of-a-kind art books: collage, xeroxing of found imagery, scotch tape, staples, rubber stamping, using white oil stick or white gouache to cover over images, rendering them translucent, and painting on several layers creating a palimpsest of images, each layer imbued with meaning.
Then Steve and I took the images created on fine arches paper to a plate maker, who took photographs of the pages.Through a photographic process the photographic images were rendered onto the metal plates.
I still have the metal plates, themselves things of sculptural beauty, with their deeply etched forms, raised bits of metal inscribed with my words and images. Then the plates were sent to Philip Gallo, a master letterpress printer. Letterpress is rarely used anymore as it employs metal plates, metal type and is very time consuming to use. However, it creates prints of fine quality and a tactile sensuality. Then the pages came back to me, to be finished off with gouaches, more rubber stamping and foil covered images. The metallic foil covered images were then inserted at Daniel Kelm's Wide Awake Garage, where Steve and I camped out one night to oversee the beginning of the hot pressing of my foil images and the production of the binding of the books.
All in all, this was a wonderful first experience for me in the world of small press fine art printing, one I hope to experience again, some day. I like to make jokes about how this book is the one book I have made that "lays completely flat" because of Daniel and his magnificent Coptic style binding work.
Venus Unbound utilizes all my favorite symbolism -- the spiral pool, the anthropomorphic bird woman, women in chador, images of footbinding, witchcraft torture, mermaids, winged creatures including the sphinx as Great Mother, honeycomb iconography, the Triple-Fold Goddess as well as a recurrent theme of the violin shape, (the violin itself also figures prominently in some of the dreams recounted in the book), and images of the violinist -- me(!!) -- as a young girl playing my violin.
When I lived in Texas with Curtis, we had the great fortune to watch the Menil Museum being built, designed by the architect Renzo Piano, founded by the intrepid Mrs. Dominique de Menil, (mother to the Menils who founded the Dia Foundation in NYC), to house her beautiful collection of surrealist art, ancient neolithic art and contemporary work. I remember being amazed at the fine sensibility and attention to detail that went into every part of the construction of the museum with its cypress flooring -- trees coming from the swamps in Louisiana, so that the floor itself would 'breathe' with the changeable and frequently humid Houston weather.
The museum housed a magnificent precious collection of Cycladic art, the best known of which I had seen for many years in my copy of the well illustrated "The Great Mother" by Robert Graves -- those gorgeous creamy white violin shapes, held to be the iconic form of the Great Mother. It is one of those rare things, that once seen in person, will take hold of that most ancient, chthonic part of our selves, the part Tom Robbins would call the lizard brain, the limbic part of our brains, that bring us remembered visions, long forgotten scents and the connection to humanity's collective consciousness of the awakened Divine within each of us.
So the violin form is a very special presence in the book, both on the cover and on the inside cover, on the collophon page and all throughout, and can be seen here below in one of the pages from the book. On the page reproduced here is typed the following dream narrative:
"There is going to be a performance. A young woman on a ladder is dressed as a magical creature with feathery twigs coming out of her hair and she is holding a miniature doll that is actually alive. It is a female creature wearing a dress of silvered cloth the color of weathered wood.
Across from the woman is a young man also on a ladder holding another doll slightly larger and more round which is also a live creature and actually a little man".
Once again, nature spirits are always all around us, manifesting in our lives, even if we don't have the everyday eyes & context in which to perceive them.
This image on the left, is really a self portrait of going out on a limb, literally! The pen, ink and gouache drawing is on a page with a dream narrative about trying to lead a group of people out of danger from an approaching tsunami, but the people wouldn't believe me, even though I explained to them that I had seen it in a dream.
Jane Sherry, one of the Founders of Satya Center is a Reiki practitioner/teacher, spiritual counselor, creator of healing art talismans, healing gardens & loves to cook! She has a background in the visual arts before moving into the healing arts and has been a longtime lover of herbs & spices & cooking. She newly resides in the East Bay Area of Northern Calirnia right next door to farm country an hour east of SF, Oakland & Berkeley. She works the Satya Center healing practice with co-founder and husband, Curtis Lang and co-operates the Satya Center Crystal Gallery and web portal. Plans for new gardens are germinating fast here in the California sunshine, well watered by lots of drought breaking winter rains. You will always find crystals in among the herbs, flowers & vegetable gardens!