Story last updated at 5/13/2009 - 11:29 am
"Double Moon: Constructions & Conversations," by Margo Klass and Frank Soos. 2009: Boreal Books. $19.95, 68 pp.
"Double Moon: Constructions & Conversations" is one of the best books I've come across recently, and that it can be placed on the "Alaskan Shelf" makes it all the more valuable. I have lingered over this review because I have been lingering over the book, but the list of people I wanted to pass the book on to is growing too long.
"Double Moon" is a conversation between the constructions of visual artist Margo Klass and those of writer Frank Soos. This is the first collaboration between the Fairbanks couple, and the book's jacket notes indicate that Soos's "short essays in response to Margo Klass's work represent a new and unexpected direction in his work."
This book will take readers into new and unexpected directions as well. Klass's constructions, which have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the country, consist of found objects carefully placed inside boxes or small altarpieces in the Medieval style. Egg-shaped stones make frequent appearances. The book is broken into five sections: Narratives, Maine, Japan, Altarpieces, Alaska. Are the works in response to these themes, or were they grouped after their creation?
Reading "Double Moon" is like having a private gallery between two covers, and it makes me think of experiences I've had at art museums, in which people seem to spend more time reading the placards next to the artworks than looking at the art itself. The more meaningful the work is or is perceived to be, the more this seems to hold true. For us language-bound creatures, it's sometimes hard to accept non-verbal meaning. It's meaningful, we know, but how can we talk about it? So we look to the placards for clues.
And like so many museum-goers, I find it hard to resist looking first at Soos's words before studying Klass's creations. The boxes are mysterious, so it is tempting to look to Soos's essays to help us make sense of the boxes. But his words often only deepen the mystery.
As Soos explains in his preface, "Margo's earliest constructions were conscious of their own narrative possibilities. I could respond directly to her intent. Or I could not. As time went on, abstractions set in, wanderings in both word and image went farther afield...."
"Double Moon" was a hard book for me to finish because my mind started to wander. I imagined things to create and things to respond to in words. I tried my hand at prose poetry.
It's easy to be lulled into Frank Soos' short prose poems and be tempted to adopt the style yourself. It's equally tempting to reflect on different permutations of Klass's objects in her boxes. What would you put in your box, your altarpiece?
The people I want to share "Double Moon" with are both artists and wordsmiths - although in light of the book, I find it hard to believe that someone can be one and not the other. But as much as I feel like lending the book out, it's not a book to be borrowed and passed around. It's one to keep, to pull off the shelf in quiet moments.
I can equally imagine picking this book up for a moment in the morning for a quick jolt of inspiration, and lingering over it during a quiet day of retreat.