The Many Lives of Miss Chatelaine
altered books, collage, sculpture, acrylic, ink, thread, paper, zippers
9 1/2 x 60 x 2 in
The title is inspired by a song k.d. lang wrote in 1992 from her Ingénue album, , when she was nominated for Woman of the Year, by the Canadian magazine, Miss Chatelaine. The Many Lives of Miss Chatelaine is a tribute to k.d. lang, and the numerous musical and personal changes she has experienced throughout her career. The complexity of her music interwoven with her life is impossible to capture in a single piece of art. This bookwork is therefore an impression or sketch rather than an exact rendering. By combining my interests in mixed-media, book works, collage and sculpture; into drawings, written text, cut paper, stitching zippers and pages together, I made a composite portrait that both figuratively and literally unfolds.
This bookwork developed from listening endlessly to k.d. lang’s music, watching YouTube interviews, and from books such as k.d. lang: All You Get is Me, by Victoria Starr; k.d. lang, Carrying the Torch, by William Robertson; k.d. lang, by Paula Martinac; and k.d. lang, An Illustrated Biography, by David Bennahum. I paid special attention to different influences in her artistic development, such as her collaboration with Roy Orbison and her appreciation for Patsy Cline. I searched for words in the texts of books that referenced noteworthy events and major influences. k.d.’s affinity for animals, nature, and the earth are intrinsic elements in her life, as are her beliefs in Buddhism, vegetarianism, and the freedom to be in love relationships that are true to one’s soul whether they are gay, lesbian, or straight.
An oval shape is cut into the cover of two copies of Victoria Starr’s k.d. lang: All You Get is Me, making reference to the elliptical shape of a musical whole note. They represent audio speakers that are seen, rather than listened to, as an endless loop. Although no music emanates from the speakers, the ovals represent silence’s potential to become sound or language.
With the flexibility of the zippers, the book can be read as a flat or three-dimensional piece of artwork. The book can lie level on its back showing the full span of the pages when one of the middle pages is unzipped. When the pages are zipped the book can stand upright in a circle and be read from any direction. When viewed on its back with the pages zipped, a concertina or accordion configuration is apparent.
Two pages from Starr’s biography remain attached at the spine but are cut to half their width, with zippers attached to each long edge. Additional zippered pages were severed from other hardcover works that visually resemble one another because of similar text block coloration. The titles of the original books remain at the top of the pages setting them apart from one another. The zippers can accommodate changes and reference the digital malleability of text.. They allow for additional experiences in k.d. lang’s life by making it possible to zip-in addendum pages. The books listed below have been physically incorporated into the work at this time.
• k.d. lang: All You Get is Me by Victoria Starr
• The Dance of 17 Lives by Mick Brown
• An End to Suffering by Pankaj Mishra
• The Truth Is... My Life in Love and Music by Melissa Etheridge with Laura Morton
• The View from Nashville by Ralph Emery
• Merle Haggard’s My House of Memories: For the Record by Merle Haggard with Tom Carter
• Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
• Madonna: Like an Icon by Lucy O’Brien
• The Book of Miracles by Kenneth L. Woodward
• Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton
• Patsy: The Life And Times Of Patsy Cline by Margaret Jones
• Ring Of Fire: The Johnny Cash Reader by Michael Streissguth (editor)
• The Inner Elvis by Peter Whitner
The number ‘fourteen’ recurs throughout the work, representing the fourteen albums k.d. has made, and most-notably expressed in fourteen separate cropped pages that zip onto the books. On four whole pages, each contains fourteen words surrounded by ellipses. These pages (without zippers) are still attached to the spine of the book, and each addresses a particular category of lang’s convictions. Two of these four pages feature environmental influences, flowers and grasses she may have come into contact with in her hometown of Consort, Alberta. Another page contains references to Albertan wildlife. In the other book, there are references to family names, musical influences as well as some of her philosophical beliefs.
Selected words from the text of the zippered pages have ellipses drawn in ink and overtop of the ink, have been outlined with pencil and blended into the paper creating a gradation of tones. The elliptical shape is a metaphor, perhaps musical notes or speech balloons, filled with the possibility of giving birth to sound. The pencil drawings contain shapes inspired by the DNA model. Within these ellipses, squiggly shapes suggest the potential birth of language or lyrics. On every page, ‘islands’ of selected words are connected by dark lines that run like rivers meandering through a forest of text. The meeting of disparate words from various cropped pages of books forms a concrete poem about k.d. lang.