Art and Anthology: Issue #79

“Art & Anthology” is a series of posts that examine some of the ways art and literature intersect. M.Y. Gaudlitz never finishes anything. She’s learning, though. She’s a former and current student at Williams College studying in Art History and Comparative Literature, and born and raised on Oahu.   

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Halfway through Issue #79 of Bamboo Ridge Press’s biannual anthology, the reader’s world turns upside down. Turning the page, it’s clear that to continue, the reader must flip the book around and start from the other cover, the end become the beginning.

Anthologies don’t suffer from the dogged linearity of a novel, but nevertheless, I was unwilling to accept the sudden diversion from my route. I began to scour the table of contents for clues as to whether or not I had been reading “the wrong way” the whole time. My deductive efforts faltered; every piece of evidence as to sequence was matched by another. There was no way of knowing, which, if either, had been intended to read first. Chance. It had been chance which side I would start with, and there was no going back. The end, and the beginning, was a matter of perspective, perspective predicated on the same forces that govern a coin flying through the air.

Chance is what brought the two artists whose work make up the center around which all the words are situated, the lava in the cake or the lava in the rock. Though the images associated with their profiles are done by their own hands, the accompanying description is written by the other. They were in the same MFA program, both painters and surfers, and pretty deep thinkers. The profiles that Harada and Hamblin (or Hamblin and Harada) wrote for one another amble around the capital-A-Art, sweet and succinct portraits every bit as effective as a 2’’ by 2’’ color headshot. Their indirect introductions make me sad that writing love notes have gone out of fashion.

Though stylistically distinct from one another, both of their work is saturated with ecstatic movement, even leeched of color through the lens of print. Harada’s work swirls with resolute gesture, reminding its viewer of the excess in and around well-traveled grounds, from a weekend night in front of the television to the road home. Hamlin’s portfolio consists of excerpts from his sketchbook, a wide range of whimsical subject matter. It’s a rarity and a privilege to see sketchbooks, the ideas unobscured by the effort of artistic flourish and finishings, and intimate in the same way that planting a seed is closer to the root than plucking a fruit. I’ve looked up both of their work, and with the benefit of color, both artists create worlds worth sinking into. For me personally, though, Hamlin may have edged out his counterpart on this one.  His sketches, studded with phrases of code, translate very well to print, particularly those depicting one of his recurring motifs, the ungendered humanoid figure.

And oh, to be one of Jon Hamlin’s figures. In his painting, his figures on the cover are saturated with colors, vibrant even among their vibrant worlds. The sketches shown inside the book strip them down to their contours, but it is clear still that they are strolling through what exists in between dream and waking.

As I wound my way through the worlds richly drawn through text by talented author after talented author, I realized I had returned to the center again when I flipped the page and came across those figures, now upside down. I greeted them as friends.

An excerpt from Issue #79:

THE PINEAPPLE FIELDS by Cathy Song

Issue #79 is unique because it has two different covers, by two different featured artists. It can be read from either direction – both sides being simultaneously the beginning and the end. It’s a layout design that had never been done before at Bamboo Ridge, and has not been done since. It’s a one-of-a-kind book in Hawaiʻi literature. Previously not available in our online bookstore, it’s now on sale at 35% off!

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