Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Existential Tourist Rides Again

The Existential Tourist

About sixteen or so years ago my dear friend Laura, unbeknown to either of us, introduced me to my artistic style. I wasn't even an artist then - or maybe I should say, I wasn't being an artist then. It came in the form of an audio-book (on cassette tape, remember those?!) one Christmas. I thought, "Goody. Something different to listen to on the trip home."

A couple of days later as my ex and I drove home - from Wheeling, WV to Rockville, MD - I popped the tape into the player. So began my introduction to Nick Bantock and his story Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence. I was enthralled the entire trip. Upon arriving home I didn't even wait to unpack the suitcases before I headed off to the book store to buy the book.

It was the most amazing book I'd ever seen. It was not just your average typewritten manuscript. It was full of art and images and doodles and all kinds of fascinating interactive stuff. The correspondence was housed in little envelopes that opened to reveal the letters that flew back and forth between Griffin and Sabine. I was instantly a fan of Nick Bantock's work, and over the years I've bought up every publication of his as soon as it's hit the shelves. The man's art spoke to me, spoke to me in a way that had me thinking, "He gets it! He doesn't even know that I exist and he gets what's in my head!"

Fast forward ten years. I had just become completely addicted to rubber stamps, and the artist in me was just beginning to awaken and stretch her limbs. I was still searching for my style, for that essence that would make my work say, "Barb did this." Right around that time I discovered that there were rubber stamps made by Bantock. I suddenly realized just how close I was to having an outlet for the stuff in my head. It had all come together, and it was all right there in front of me.

Fast forward another five years. I was surfing the web looking for mail art calls. An artist had posted that she was holding a competition for art pieces that reflected Nick Bantock's style. She had met Bantock at a workshop that he hosted, and she wanted to put together a tribute book to give him as a thank you. I read the requirements of the competition, screamed, "I'm in!" and ran for the studio as fast as I could.

The above collage piece, The Existential Tourist, is what I came up with and what I entered. I didn't win top prize, but I'm please to say that I made it into the book, Nick Bantock Tribute (available here). I'm flattered and thrilled and overwhelmed at knowing Nick Bantock will be looking at my work. To me that's like Clapton knocking on the door and asking me to play one of my songs for him.

The thing is.... the thing is... when something sparks passion in us, and when we give that passion room to grow, eventually it comes full circle. If Laura had told me when she gave me those cassettes, "One day you will be making art for this man," I would have straight-jacketed her and led her to the nearest Thorazine factory. I doubt that was on her mind anyway, but I've always said that Laura tends to know me better than I know myself. No doubt she knew she had stumbled upon something that would speak to me in a fairly loud voice.

What speaks to you? What are you rolling your eyes at today, thinking "as if..."? What if that thing is a dream worth pursuing? Because I'm here to tell you... the things that speak loudly in my life, the things that I stubbornly convince myself I'm not capable of? Those things are, in actuality, my passions... and there's just no telling where a passion will take you.

If Clapton knocks on my door, I'll pretend to be surprised.


  1. You have paid it forward, my dear, dear friend and for that I will always be grateful... XO

  2. Thank you Barb, for introducing me to Nick Bantock. I've just ordered 'Griffin & Sabine' from my local bookstore. Congratulations on having your beautiful artwork included in the tribute book which looks wonderful.

  3. Wow, congratulations on making it into the book, though i had no doubts your artwork would get noticed. i still think you should have won...

    i first discovered Bantock when a good friend in high school showed me Griffin and Sabine, and i was transfixed. i have a few of his other books, and all are amazing! i credit him for cementing my love of mail art and all things postage, and someday i'd love to make a set of mail art themed stuff for my own little fabricated land. i don't want to copy him at all, but that idea is just too good not to play with. i'll make it as something just for me to enjoy.

  4. I had no idea Barb, and this story makes me smile with delight. Good on you girl! I just ordered the book so I can say my friend Barb was published in it! (plus I want to drool over the rest of the tribute art too.)
    Haven't used my NB stamps in quite a while...


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