Welcome to Illustrating Ulysses. In this essay I will briefly introduce you to my idea for this website, its inspiration, and structure. I come to this project as both a practicing artist and a lover of literature and literary criticism. I feel that I am particularly equipped to execute a visual version of James Joyce's Ulysses because I am sensitive to the pluralistic modes of the text. Where previous illustrators have sought to map their own visual practice onto the words and images of Ulysses, I will allow the text to guide me. More, instead of laboring to distill entire chapters into a single image, I will generate responsive visualizations that hinge on a single word, phrase or idea from each page. Every chapter will have its own mode of image-creation which will reflect the novel's themes, compelling critical responses, or my own interpretations of Joyce's experimentations. While many of the visualizations will be impulsive and abstract, each chapter suite will attempt to evoke a similar feeling to that of reading the text.
Critic Karen Lawrence suggests that Joyce is interested, in his experimentations with style, in obfuscating the "paternity" of the text. By taking on different voices, Joyce is thumbing his nose at the convention of novelists to develop a definitive writing style that governs his or her oeuvre. This shifting style is, to my mind, key to illustrating the text. The many artists who have taken on the challenge of responding to this text visually all fall into the trap of sameness. From Matisse to Motherwell, to Hamilton to Weil, each artist shapes Joyce's narrative into their pre-existing visual style. This is no surprise, because elevating the subjective experience of the artist is the foundation of visual art in the 20th century. While abstract expressionists are the most extreme example, this feeling continues up to today. Artists seek to find a signature style that will distinguish them from all others and will allow their work to be recognized by the art market.
I do feel a pull to my own unique style in my sculptural practice, this project allows me to move beyond it and experiment with various techniques that I have worked with in the past or have always wanted to try. I will be borrowing ideas from many artists across the spectrum and adapting them to stage the various moves of Ulysses. The "paternity" of my images for this project will be further complicated because some of the content will be generated through collaborative workshops with the community during my two-month artist residency in Eastport, Maine. Participants in my project will express their own subjective readings of the text through my image-making constraints with unexpected and generative results.
Unlike previous artists, excepting only the team at Ulysses Seen, I am going to scale my project one to one with the text. I have chosen the Gabler Edition as the arbiter of the text's pagination because it is the most widely read and the academic standard for the text. The common approach by previous artists was to consolidate the essence of a chapter or a section in question into a single print or drawing. Even completing 18 such highly detailed images takes time. Indeed, it seems all that much harder because of the pressure for that image to somehow capture the key or most compelling elements in the chapter. This mentality of compression has caused many of these previous illustrators to labor and agonize on a specific drawn element or composition. Indeed, one of the great illustrators of the text, Richard Hamilton, died before he was able to complete even half of the chapters. For my part, that labor will mostly be done before I begin the actual production of any images. Because I am setting up specific modes of image-making for the chapters, it is those selections which I must contemplate and research. Once the means of production have been chosen, my task is one of swift impulsive responses to the text. In making a one-to-one body of illustrations I am allowing each piece to meditate on or respond to only a tiny moment on each page. I would like to propose a new term for this kind of illustration: micro-mimesis. I do not need the pieces to speak to an entire chapter, merely a phrase or perhaps a few sentences. I will limit my canvas to 6in x 9in, roughly the same size as a page in the book. It is my hope that across a suite of images there will be a revelation or crescendo when the chosen style of image production suddenly clicks with the text in the mind of the reader / viewer. I hope that my project will lead people back to Joyce's text, perhaps to see it with new eyes.
Matt Kish and his book Moby Dick In Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, is the precedent I have in my mind for this kind of epic illustration endeavor. In his forward to the book, he in turn cites Zak Smith's illustrations of every page of Thomas Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow as his inspiration. I find currents in both of these efforts that run parallel to my aspirations for this project. I will limit my discussion to Kish's work here as I am more familiar with his illustrations. The main thrust of his project is that these images are direct impulsive responses to the page: "I would take each image as it came and do what I wanted with it, fitting them all into the mosaic narrative of Melville's complex and mighty book" While his book of images maintains the trend of sameness that characterizes most book illustrations, he does experiment with the source of the paper on which he draws. He uses "diagrams, electrical repair charts and maps" in the hopes that "bits of text or strange lines and pictures show through the paint." For him, this strategy mirrored Melville's style of "densely, deeply and at times confusingly layered with narrative and symbolism." Thus Kish draws on source materials specific to sailing, whales, and other nautical themes to deepen the connection to the novel.
I take Kish's attention to source further by matching specific sources to specific chapters in Joyce's text. As outlined previously, these shifts in source will marry with shifts in style so that each chapter will have its own visual mode. I take my direction from Joyce's own schemata that assigns an organ, color, symbol and technic for each chapter of the text. I am also very inspired by critical works on the text, especially those which delve into the stylistic shifts between the chapters. What follows is a brief overview of my chosen techniques for the 18 chapters of Joyce's novel:
Telemachus: In keeping with Joyce's direction of white and gold as the colors and theology as the science of this section, I will illustrate each page with xerox transfers of black and white religious imagery illuminated with gold leaf. For me the transfer process, which uses a solvent to melt the ink from a copy onto a new sheet of paper, is an interpretive process where mistakes can be made, images will become inverted, and like Buck Mulligan I may profane the sacred.
Nestor is a chapter about learning (and not learning) and teaching (and not teaching) which takes place mostly in the school where Stephen works. I have chosen to represent that struggle by using my left-hand (my non-dominant hand) to make gestural drawings of objects mentioned in the chapter. I will make between 3-6 attempts to draw the object on tracing paper and then I will layer them together. These shifting interpretations of the same subject is a way to capture history, and the ever changing sands of subjectivity.
Proteus is a watery chapter by the sea and of the sea; therefore it will be made with watercolor illustrations. While some of my pieces may represent the vivid images in the chapter (the dead dog for example), many will be abstract interpretations of the rich colors of the snotgreen sea.
Calypso: Because of its narrative drive and domestic setting, pages will be represented by simple drypoint etchings. I am also interested in juxtaposing some images with the text of Bloom's stream of consciousness. As seen in Daniel Heyman's etched portraits that include text from an interview with the subject.
Lotus Eaters is a chapter where Bloom shows that he is an ad man. As he walks through the town, he sees advertisements in everything and everyone. In order to pay homage to his impulse, I will use contemporary magazines as the fodder for the pages of this chapter. Inspired by the street artist Vermibus I plan to use a solvent to partially melt and re-paint some of the advertisements thus replicating the dream-like nature of Bloom's world view.
Hades is a chapter about death, and for me, the most fascinating depiction of death come from historical books of woodcuts such as La Danse Macabre. The technique and content of these black and white woodcuts speak to this chapter. I will cut up, re-arrange and re-work these prints with other wood-cut images including some by Albrecht Dürer.
Aeolus is a chapter about words and politics. It is also a chapter about lungs and winds. As an homage to these various inspirations, I will break the words down into letters and make each of these the pixels for my illustrations. In the style of Federico Pietrella, I will create images from the chapter by stamping letters into shapes. I may also, like Carl Andre, use a letterpress to make concrete poems that speak to the politics of the chapter. To me, politics suggest a kind of geometric abstraction, implying an obstinacy to remain "within party lines"; where people's opinions whether round, square or octagonal are contained and sometimes absolute.
Lestrygonians is about food and digestion. Inspired by many contemporary designers including Red Hong Yi, I will play with food in order to create scenes or feelings on a large white plate. The results will be photographed and reproduced in color.
Scylla and Charybdis is a chapter of Shakespeare where Stephen presents his theory of decoding Hamlet. Creating my own code, I will subtract the letters from a page of Hamlet so that the remaining words and letters will make up the first few sentences of each corresponding page of Ulysses. As in the work of my friend Shanti Grumbine, I will break down the sanctity of the paper page and create a mosaic of voids.
Wandering Rocks, especially as Karen Lawrence describes it in her book Odyssey of Style, is seemingly produced by a kind of observant writing machine. It records what it can see of various lives as they are tracked around Dublin, but it is not an omniscient narrator. Inspired by this impersonal recording, I will use screenshots of the current Google Street View of Dublin for my images. As in Hollis Brown Thornton's color image transfers, the manipulation of the image will allow for errors, and a unique impressionistic rendering of the digital file.
Sirens is a chapter about music, and the fodder for this chapter will be sheet music. While abstract, my plan is to take a word or phase from each page and record myself speaking it. I will then recreate the sound-wave using the lines of the sheet music and collage.
Cyclops is a chapter that vacillates between two poles: abstract oppression and nostalgic myth. In order to combine both of those elements I will use collage elements from a historic Irish text Cyclopedia of Ireland filled with maps, images and family crests with solid blocks of color. Inspired by collage artists Viviane Rombaldi Seppey and Shannon Rankin I will manipulate the historic documents of Ireland into metaphors of the body. These will then be combined with geometric linoleum stamps. The color palette will bridge these two forms of art. As with Aeolus, the geometric shapes represent politics and therefore the Citizen's fixed view of the world.
Nausicaa is defined by consumerism, both Gerty's female saccharine view of products and Bloom's voyeuristic view of her. Accordingly, I will use historic ads as the visual foundation for this chapter. In order to imbue these sources with a feminine touch, they will be printed onto fabric and stitched. The embroidered stitch may represent the floral touches in Gerty's language or the geometric lines of the male gaze.
Oxen of the Sun is a chapter about gestation and archeology. While the central technique Joyce uses is a parody of various styles, I would like the history and growth to be present in the final image for each page. Accordingly, I am using encaustic paint embedded with paper ephemera, thread, and ink on wood panel. While the layers of wax will partially obscure the deepest lines of text as if in a fog, it will also suggest a viscous amniotic fluid in which images of the chapter can float.
Circeis a grimy fantasy chapter written in the style of a play. I chose to use silk screen monoprints to capture the nightmareish or halucinatory quality of each page because they are fast, raw and unpredictable. I was totally out of my confort zone during the creation of these images, and I think that was an essential— although difficult— element to the process. Using markers, crayons and chalk pastels I was able to echo the threadbare environment and constantly changing textures of costume and language in the chapter.
Eumaeus Eumaeus is a chapter about clichés. Historically, a cliché was a staged photograph. I will build on that to premise to illustrate this chapter by creating collages inside of a diorama. The depth of the space will create shadows which will reflect the late hour of the chapter.
Ithacais a chronicle of the day, a scientific interrogation of images, objects and feelings. The overwhelming number of objects in this chapter primes it perfectly for layers of paper collage using found ephemera. I will also employ stitching as a kind of counterpoint to the question-response structure of the chapter. Inspired by Jessica Wohl, Maria Aparicio Puentes and Maurizio Anzeri, I will use thread in its unnatural environment of paper to add textures and create diagrams of meaning.
Penelope is full of memory, objects, and flesh. The bodily nature of a text barely divided by punctuation breaks or breath is almost overwhelming. Unlike Bloom who catalogues his thoughts in a linear fashion, Molly curates her recollections as a jumbled collection of places, pieces and feelings. Inspired by Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence, I want to find real world counterparts for those places, objects and feelings during my residency in Eastport, Maine. I will create the photographs using Polaroid cameras and expired 669 film.
Clocks: Separate from these chapter styles, anytime there is a direct mention of the time, the page will be illustrated with a different clock showing that time. These will be generated using a photo- lithographic printing process.