The stunning book PathwaysArts: New Works captures artistic moments in time – well, a span of time actually – from just before the end of the pandemic to last spring. The new book is rich in a variety of outstanding works of art. All media are represented: painting, drawing, jewelry, quilts, collage, printmaking, photography; and words in the form of stories, prose, poems and song lyrics. Sometimes the words stand alone, and sometimes they accompany, play, or overlay visual pieces that were either made by the artists themselves or the combination was done in collaboration with someone else. The pages are also brought to life by the video stills of dance, theatre, music and spoken word performances, which reside on the Pathways website and can be accessed directly via the QR codes in the book.
Each of the 106 contributors has a double page spread, regardless of whether they submitted single or multiple entries. Janet Holladay did an excellent job of framing what could have been a mess given the variety of art. While each piece stands on its own as an elegant contribution, their color palette, fonts, and design elements create a cohesive whole, giving it a rhythm that will have you eager to flip through the pages. The print quality and that of the paper, which is glossy and a little heavy, make the book wonderful to hold while flipping through.
Although the art was created in dark times, it is far from melancholy. The book is elegant and lyrical. Holladay also contains quirks like her illustrated pages at the end titled “The Story Behind the Book” instead of a purely descriptive paragraph about her process. You may notice that the bios for each of the contributors are listed by their last name. Part of the reason, aside from some of them only having a single name, is that the book is locally rooted. So, she says, “they’re real people in our community because we know them by their first names.”
The project is consistent with Pathways’ commitment to creating and catalyzing creative projects in the fields of visual arts, writing, dance and collaborative forms. It came about when they sponsored a reading by poet and painter Fran Ogilvie reading from her illustrated book which Holladay had designed. Pathways Arts co-director Keren Tonnesen explains that it was so beautifully put together that Holladay gave a talk on how to get your book published. Frustrated that people couldn’t gather at Pathways back then – and Zoom tiredness – Tonnesen says, “I thought, ‘Why don’t we publish our own book about how people are processing their experiences of 2020-2021 through art? It wasn’t just that I wanted to publish one, but it seemed like everything we were doing was so digital and a book felt more grounded.” Tonnesen shares that the book is the Pathways founder’s vision Marianne Goldberg, who wanted to create a place for people to meet and share their artistic endeavors in the Chilmark winter, back when nothing was happening. Tonnesen says, “She’s always supported books, and we’ve always had her available on Pathways, so the project fits right in there.”
Tonnesen and her team have reached out to Pathways artists and everyone on the mailing list over the years to help spread the word. Before all the entries were received, Holladay had figured they would sort themselves into a natural narrative. But with the abundance of contributions, it turned out that it wasn’t so clear what the narrative would be. “I decided to do it chronologically and see what story the book wanted to tell,” she says, laying out all 250 3-inch versions of each page on her floor at home.
Tonnesen comments, “It was so much about Janet’s artistry and craft that I did it with some input on her project. I gave her free rein to come up with the feel and look. It’s something that developed very organically with her.”
The book is more than just the sum of its parts. Holladay believes that “we can look at these pieces in all their forms to help us understand how to approach life now. Life is confusing and there aren’t many places to turn to to understand what’s best. These artists looked inward and were willing to share their true selves with us. I think we can turn to this work as a source of inspiration for ourselves and our world. Artists are truly central to our understanding of life, and we are privileged to have so many here who are willing to dig deep and share what they have found.”
“PathwaysArts: New Works”, $40 softbound, $80 hard copy ($65 for artists for the hard copy). Available through Pathways (see website, Pathwaysmv.org/book), Bunch of Grapes and at the First Friday Street Fair in Vineyard Haven. (Check the website for the most up-to-date locations.)