Can a book take you before the wind, through the fog, out beyond the safe bay? Can you imagine the timbers planed smooth, the bellied sails, the intricate webbings? Donald Glaister has captured the strength and grace of sailboats with the art of the book.
He uses only the briefest written message of an introductory poem, but with his creation he guides you and “Angelique” through such a voyage-experience, and afterwards:
In the moonlight she sips brandy and talks of Rothko
of Philip Glass and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Her sweet neck is lined with a single strand of pearls.
Quietly, with her friends.
And you are there.
This book is a celebration not so much of the exhilaration of sailing, but of the painstaking craft reflected in creating a boat:
...molded and crafted. Coaxed and caressed,
Worried and tricked and inspired.
Donald Glaister has used every trick and inspiration in his own work, which he calls a painted book. The magnificent binding layered and curved, the hint of the sun’s corona suggested at its edge, and every page of heavy cloth all emphasize the metaphor. Even the weather is suggested in pages grey as impenetrable mist, brilliantly white, a slow day-darkening wine. Possibly Glaister has used as many techniques in creating his book as a boat-builder does in creating a boat.
He gives you the materials and suggestions of the tools in shapes precise as blueprints. One early page has burnished brass and deckle-edged cloth that hint of the saw and its toothed edge. There are layers of thinly milled cork, balsa, oak and spruce shaped to fit exactly where they must go. However, behind all the images and all the shapes, fabrics and on-lays of every page is a rectangle, the golden mean, from which a craftsman finds his aesthetic proportion. Some pages present constellations made of angled stitching: the sail-maker at work; simultaneously, the starry firmament. Single threads stitched onto other pages seem as if when plucked, they would make music, representing sound in sight and texture.
So who or what is the elegant Angelique? The Internet gives lots of choices, most germane a lute-like stringed instrument, and a hollow-stemmed plant that grows only near water, used as a flute. Always, of course, there is the image of an angel in the empyrean, floating, feeling the wind beneath her wings. Perhaps this Angelique, with her string of pearls, is the muse of the boat as well as its passenger. If she is the artist’s inspiration, hers echo his: the rectangle of Rothko, the multi-part ethereal music of Glass, and the overarching presence of the spiraling Andromeda galaxy in the night sky.