Helen Hawley [MFA ’14] decided a few years ago to try and make a book she could read in the rain. What the multi-media artist ended up with instead was a piece where the precipitation played a more active role. Hawley created an edition of 40 art books called Come If You Won’t Stay Long, in which each two-page spread is a solid blue painting with rich bristly texture and rounded corners. Set the book outside, open it up to the sky, and raindrops fall on the chemicals that coat each page, reacting with them and drying up again. The way Hawley sees it, the rain ended up writing the book.
Hawley’s solo show The Blues Of The Rain, up through November 3 at the James Watrous Gallery, includes two of the books. They are works in progress, with “blank” blue spreads along with evocatively speckled and smudged ones that capture the results of showers in Madison, London, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Hawley and several friends and fellow artists have been carrying the books around over the past few years.
“I don’t want this to be something that has to be in my possession, Hawley says. “I see it as these objects that are going out that I want other people to use.”
The books include instructions for anyone else who might want to use one as their own rain journal. Tucked into the back over of each is a sort of poncho that one folks around the book to make sure the rain only falls on the intended pages, protecting the rest of it. Hawley created that after a few trial-and-error sessions left her with soggy ruined books. Hawley has also created sturdy metal cases to protect the books on their travels.