Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review : Art Made from Books

Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed
by Laura Heyenga (Compiler), Brian Dettmer (Preface), Alyson Kuhn (Introduction)

Books are a work of art in and of themselves. Writers are artists carefully selecting their words, displaying them within pages of paper bound between two covers.  Some artists have taken the book as art to the next level, creating sculptures, jewelry, and even clothes from the physical book itself.  Commonly called “altering books,” the craft is the subject of a new book titled Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed.

Altered books aren’t a new idea.  Preface author Brian Dettmer says, “There has been a long tradition of art about the book, of art representing books, of artists’ books and even altered books; however, in the last five years I have noticed a huge rise in practicing artists and a more interested audience.”  He also talks about how the rise of the Internet has made some books obsolete, and altering books gives them a new purpose and life.  

Filled with color photographs of the artists’ pieces, the book is a beautiful collection showcasing their work. The book also contains an informative introduction by Alyson Kuhn about the various processes of making altered books, the different directions artists take in creating them, and other tidbits about the craft.

One of the artists featured is Jeremy May.  His specialty is making jewelry from pages of books.  The book says, “[May’s] process is methodical: after reading the book, he selects a distinctive quote that inspires the design of the piece; he then removes a selection of pages, laminating with additional recycled colored paper and then polishing them to a high gloss.”  The result is a truly unique and beautiful work of art that celebrates the book itself.  To see more of Jeremy May’s work, visit his website at

Jeremy May is just one of the dozens of wonderful artists highlighted in this book.  To see the rest of the artists and their amazing work, check out Art Made from Books.  You can find it with the call number TT896.3 .H49 2013.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Stories to Pass the Long Winter Nights: A Review of Bar Talk and Tall Tales

Ray Wheeler at Stoxen Library

For years I’d heard stories about the stories of Ray Wheeler, so I was very happy to get a copy of Bar Talk and Tall Tales, a collection of eight of his originals, recently published by Buffalo Commons Press, so I could see for myself if the hype matches the reality. I can say, without reservation, that it does.

Ray’s narrative voice, whether he’s speaking or writing, has an absurdist quality to it that captures very well the absurdity of living in western North Dakota, where winter temperatures can plunge, seemingly within minutes, to -24 and you can freeze to death if you get lost in the sudden whiteout of a blizzard. Where the wind blows so hard that it seems like you should be able to “retract” your legs and then “ride a wave of it to another country.” Where talking bison—perhaps imaginary, perhaps not—wander through open spaces and suggest quietly that you let the prairie revert back to a “buffalo commons.”

Ray might originally be from Kansas City, but he’s been in western North Dakota long enough (going on 50 years) that he’s seen the oil booms and busts come and go. In one of his stories, “A Kind of Texas,” he spins the tale of Eddie and Lee, two locals who spend most of their time at a bar lamenting the influx of Texans into their community during the latest boom. These Texans, the only folks able to afford the skyrocketing rents, steal their women and cheat them at pool. Eddie, however, is something of a poet (like Ray himself), and so he gets his revenge with a bit of filthy doggerel, but then he pays the price, both in physical and in existential pain.

In fact, in many of these stories there is a price to be paid. In one of my favorites, “How They Spend the Cold Nights Up There,” a writer of western fiction, talking with a washed-up cowboy, Shorty, on a winter’s night at the bar, silently prays that a woman—any woman, so long as she has a warm body and most of her real teeth—will come into the bar. A kind-hearted God answers his prayer, and a woman with luscious lips, calling herself “Belle Starr,” strides into the bar and says that she wants a shot of Scotch and a story. Unfortunately, though, she loses interest in the writer, and in his story about a heroic cowboy named “Dallas Gates,” when she gets drunk and thinks that Shorty, bow legs and all, is the real Dallas Gates. At closing time, she leaves the bar with Shorty, and the writer, whose story doesn’t have an ending, finds himself without an ending, too, as he walks home through the early morning arctic air.

Ray had a bit of a reputation as a playwright back in the 1980s, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he greatly admires the work of Sam Shepard. One of the stories in this collection, “The Dakota Kid,” reminds me of Shepard’s plays, such as True West, in that we have a narrative, composed mostly of laconic dialogue, about two desperados who stop off at a bar in Amidon, population 14, to swap their getaway car for a clean car. Adding a note of gothic absurdity to this suspense is the bar owner’s retarded son, who perches on a stool, eating sunflower seeds (as efficiently as a chickadee) and saying nothing except “The world is everything there is.” Nothing good can come from a situation such as this one, and nothing does.

I certainly hope that you’ll pick up this collection of stories, for I think that you’ll find reading them the next best thing to actually drinking some beer with Ray at the local watering hole as he tells stories that will make you laugh until you cry.

The book is $15 from Buffalo Commons Press, PO Box 15, St. Peter, MN 56082.

Review shared with permission from Jim's Literary Soapbox

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To new heights - Harry Draper on and off the ground

To new heights – Harry Draper on and off the ground

Harry Draper was a classical violinist from Tennessee who studied at Chicago Conservatory, DePauw University, the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, Germany, and the Neues Conservatory in Vienna, Austria. When Draper arrived in Dickinson in September 1936 to become the chairman of the music department at Dickinson State Teachers College (DSTC), he promptly wrote a note home to his mother in his hometown of Springfield, Tennessee, using a postcard with the image of the campus buildings on the front.

When Harry Draper arrived in Dickinson in September 1936, he sent this post card home to his mother in Tennessee.

On the back he wrote:
Monday, 6 PM
Dear Mamma-
Attended a faculty meeting at 10 this AM & have spent most the time since looking for rooms, will probably get located tomorrow. Have a nice studio in which I will also have my class work. It gets hot during the day, cool at night. Most streets are gravel so somewhat dusty. My office is in the large building. Love, Harry

Draper’s tenure at DSTC was relatively short, but during his half-dozen years in Dickinson he had, nonetheless, a profound and positive impact on the college and the community at large. Dedicated to his music, he led music camps and clinics, formed alliances with the city in a cooperative effort to bring top-quality talent to Dickinson for performances, and directed live orchestra and chorus performances on KFYR radio, among many other endeavors. One could say that Harry Draper heightened the cultural experiences of the people in the region. But Harry had another way of heightening experiences. He was also a pilot, and one of, if not the, first to photograph the DSTC campus from the air.

This aerial photograph of the Dickinson State Teachers College campus was taken in 1939 by Harry Draper, chair of the music department. Draper was a pilot as well as a classical violinist.

In the April 29, 1941 edition of the DSTC student newspaper, The Slope Teacher, an unnamed student , who had apparently gone flying with Draper, wrote:

…The College on the hill you’d never know it. The windows glistened like diamonds; would that the same brilliance be reflected within. I had a wonderful perspective of the city from there. The large flat-topped buildings were particularly conspicuous. The dump grounds were a perfect circle. At fifteen hundred feet Rocky Butte was not so imposing. Highway No. 10 stretched ribbon-wise away in a haze…

Harry Draper himself wrote an article for The Slope Teacher titled “High on a Windy Day.” He began his article with this sentence: “Yesterday I worked on the problem of how high is up.” The article outlines his experience of reaching an altitude of 9,300 feet in “the faithful Aeronca plane of the Dickinson Aero Club.” He wrote:

Here was an unusual view, looking down a mile and three quarters on Dickinson. Visible details were the College, High School, court house, hospital, Roosevelt school and Rocky Butte. Two steps away was South Heart. Looking up, I still wondered how high it really was.

Just months after America entered World War II, Draper became the executive officer of the Civil Air Patrol in Dickinson, which held its first organizational meeting on March 12, 1942 at the Stark County courthouse.
A brief article published in The Billings Gazette on Wednesday, March 11, 1942, reads:  

Draper encouraged pilots with a certificate in any class to attend the initial meeting of the Civil Air Patrol. He said that flight training would be adapted to the experience and training of the pilot. Included in the training was searching for simulated lost aircraft, courier missions, reconnaissance patrols, formation flying and other services related to civilian defense. First aid, military drill, air-raid precautions and routines, airport protection, and military courtesy and discipline are topics included in the training program.

Shortly after the Civil Air Patrol was established in Dickinson, Draper left to serve as a pilot in the war, according to his longtime friend Margaret Parker. After the war, he returned to Tennessee where he pursued a long and successful career in the music industry. Harry Draper died in 1993.

-  Shanna Shervheim,  Institutional Archivist

Monday, December 16, 2013

Meet Ryan Riddick

Hi Friends,

My name is Ryan Riddick and I’m the new Library Assistant/ Evening Supervisor for the Stoxen Library. I just recently moved here from Eugene, Oregon where I graduated from the University of Oregon with two bachelor’s degrees - in Chinese and Philosophy. My parents have been residents of Dickinson for two years. You might know my Mother if you have taken a Zumba class at the Rec Center in town, Catherine Riddick. You might also know my Father if you been to the hospital (I hope you haven’t had a need to visit the hospital) but my father is Dr. Robert Riddick the Cardio Vascular Surgeon in town. I’m incredibly grateful that my first real job out of college is working in the Stoxen Library and it will be an experience that I will always cherish. I’m looking forward to assisting you all, during the evenings, while you’re preparing for you futures while attending Dickinson State University. Please feel free to say hello whenever you’re there! Lovely to make your acquaintance and don’t forget to smile!!!!