This book (a collection of three volumes) was inspired by the Greek Furies. I’ve always been enamored by mythology, but something about the way they champion the lovelorn and heartbroken stuck with me–especially their tendencies toward the devious and mischievous. Sometimes books come together in unusual ways for me, and this was one of those times. The text is an excerpt from a short story that I’d written a couple of years before (yes, it had to do with heartache…also a fire-eater), and the image of the fox came to me first. It seemed that one image wasn’t enough to tell this particular story, and I knew I wanted to experiment with a larger format. The more I pondered the vixen, the more she reminded me of the infamous Furies, and I began to see this as a series of three.
The crocodile came to me next, by way of the “eater of souls” in Egyptian mythology. (That one always stuck with me, too–this idea of a creature waiting for you in the afterlife, eager to weigh your heart against a feather. As the tale goes, if your heart was lighter than the feather, you passed. If it was not, you were devoured on the spot. Somehow she seemed appropriate for this story.) I’m not quite sure how the rooster came to be. I’ve always had a thing for fur, feathers, and scales–so I suppose a bird had to end up here somewhere. I kept seeing a rooster–it had to have a comb and impressive feathers. I’ll admit, I thought briefly of putting a rooster’s head on a female body, but that seemed too much of a stretch. Also, people may think I didn’t know the difference between a rooster and a hen, which may cause them to revoke my small-town Southern girl badge. At any rate, I took the liberty of throwing in a male. After all, this is an updated tale of the Furies. And in my “Fire Eater” story, the guy gets a little burned, too.
The result was three 18″ x 24″ woodcuts called “Smolder,” “Galvanize,” and “Devour.” I carved 3/4″ plywood, a mistake I won’t make again anytime soon (beware the ‘ply’ in plywood), and letterpress-printed them as three-color reductions. It made sense to do a larger edition, since these are reductions and can’t be reprinted, so I set aside 70 prints to be cut and folded into book form, and left 20 to remain uncut prints. Both versions are still available for sale.
A note about the binding here: this is yet another serendipitous moment. As I was thinking of the best way to engineer these prints to fold down into book form, I remembered a maze-like structure I was shown in graduate school that vaguely resembles a Z shape when opened out. It was called a “boustrophedon,” which no one could remember how to spell. When I looked it up online, I learned it comes from the Greek, meaning “the way the ox plows.” How perfect, that it would all come back to the Greeks.
Each boustrophedon folds down to 6″ x 6″ and has a hard cover, and together they are housed in a cloth-covered clamshell box. It seemed like a no-brainer to use a heart image for the covers, but it also made sense to create a bit of a puzzle. When all three books are arranged with the case, you can see the entire anatomical heart. Years later, this is still my favorite book.
Full sheet prints (19″ x 25″): $85 each. Set of 3 books with case (edition of 70): $325.