Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyCuration and Creation

  • Mon, 29 Apr 2013 11:47:54    Permalink


    A lot has happened at 77 Langsford St. since February 2010. 
    On this date one year ago the walls at Flatrocks Gallerywere pink.

    Now theyre off white, a perfect backdrop for talented artists from Bostons North Shore area.

    Owners Anne Marie Crotty and Cynthia Switzer Roth 

    have curated an astonishing five exhibitions in the seven months of the existence of their new gallery. Most recently, theyve assembled an exciting and visually challenging exhibition called Fabrications in which five woman artists transform ordinary materials into objects of whimsy, delicacy, beauty, and strength.
    The pieces in Fabrications operate in three dimensions and, in many cases, depend on the shadows they throw to add an extra and constantly changing visual element. Hanging this show presented a true test of Anne Marie and Cynthias gallery skills,  and their elegant solution represents their greatest success to date. New York, London...
    Lanesville!

    Way to go, girls.
    Of course, for those who cant or wont drop two grand for a painting or a sculpture, there are always books, maps, and prints. Ten Pound Island at Flatrocks Gallery is chugging right along. And what is this little alcove except a carefully selected and arranged group of object that tells a story? Yeah, Im a curator, too.

    While were speaking of curation, here is an example of another sort. 

    Its called IN THEIR OWN WORDS: The Navy Fights the War of1812, and it is a book about the naval history of the War of 1812, composed of letters, broadsides, pamphlets, documents and books using the actual words of the American naval participants. Their writings take us from the ominous days preceding the war (Decaturs letter of July, 1810) to a gorgeous tribute volume published long after the war had ended. Every item comes from the collection of my customer and friend, Vice Admiral George Emery  (a few of them by way of Ten Pound Island, Im happy to say) and every item has been chosen, arranged, and knowledgeably described by him.
    Here's how I described him in my 2001 book DEMON OF THE WATERS
        He was a collector with fire in his belly. He had the lust for acquisition that people in my trade find irresistible. But more, he had a scholars passion for his material, and an understanding of it that could range from deep philosophical insight to pure childlike delight.    Each item in his collection bore an organic and meticulously documented relation to every other item. He did this because he loved doing it, but ultimately his concentration of rare materials, and the work of discovery he performed upon them, would go to an institution where it would be used by scholars and students of history, or it would go back on the market where it would entertain and inform the next generation. In an understated way, collectors like the Admiral conspired to single these artifacts out and assign them value. If they were valued it was more likely that they would be preserved.    He was a genial, unflappable man with baby blue eyes, pink cheeks and a gentle laugh. He had a relaxed way about him that made his military bearing seem the most natural thing in the world. The pressure of the handshake was perfect. The way he stood, one felt, was the way people ought to stand.    In his day job, he drove a submarine named the Ohio. The Ohio was armed with twenty-four ballistic missiles, each tipped with a hydrogen warhead, the two dozen of them representing more explosive power than had been expended in all of World War II. Sufficient mega tonnage to vaporize half the globe. A few years later, by then a Vice Admiral, he became Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, a position which put him in control of all the Trident missiles on however many of those monster subs we had lurking around out there. Id always been nervous about the idea of one man controlling such a devastating force. After getting to know the Admiral, I felt better about the whole situation.
    IN THEIR OWN WORDS is a beautiful piece of work, a succinct outline of the war, as well as a catalog of rarities - Softbound in heavy coated stock, color illustrations throughout, printed in a generous 11 x 9 inch landscape format that allows ample room for the documents to tell their stories. AND its available for $30, postpaid, from Ten Pound Island Book Co.

    But back to my original point. Georges book is as much a curated show as Anne Marie and Cynthias exhibitions are. Intellectually the work of assembling and annotating are similar, and in the end both exhibitions tell a distinct and fascinating story. This is quite a different activity than hanging the work of any artist who wants to pay a fee to be in a co-op gallery, or listing thousands of cheap books for sale on Amazon or eBay.
    And this leads to the punch line.
    If the items in Georges book had prices attached, it would be a booksellers catalog. Indeed, what are the best catalogs but curated exhibitions?
    For example, we might consider Maritime List 216, Strange to Spectacular which has just been posted on the Ten Pound Island website 
    The seventy-seven items in this catalog range from a fortune tellers prediction coming true, to the farthest reaches of the Hermit Islands in 1909 - from the strange to the spectacular. Along the way you will encounter a rare illustrated history of Britains maritime glory, a childrens book about the sinking of the whaleship Essex, a dead sailors shaving kit, the first hand account of New Yorks worst fire, and many other paper wonders.
    Carefully selected, painstakingly annotated, and postpaid!

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