Review by Douglas Stockdale •
I met Melissa Lazuka while reviewing her portfolio at the LACP (Los Angeles Center of Photography) EXPOSURES 2018 event last July during which we spent time with two of her artist books, Song of Cicadas and Fly Away, both of which I thought were brilliant. We mostly discussed the challenges of an artist book (1/1) and how to create multiple of the concept, which I have just written about in a previous article on TPBJ.
Lazuka has decided that her the path forward to create multiples of her artist book is to create a series of unique books (each 1/1), each individually unique but slightly different as to all of the found ephemera and materials that constitute her books. This artist books series is unified by the photographs she will included in each edition. I am very excited about her publishing strategy as it has in turn allowed me to acquire an edition for this artist book review.
Her artist book is a wonderful mashup of found objects and old ephemera that are layered with her own photographic prints. Bits and pieces of old books create the foundation to support her photographs, thus creating the back-story of past events, while foretelling of the future. Lazuka’s photographs appear almost mysterious, in and out of soft focus, that are grounded in current experiences while harkening ahead to future memories, as an indistinct recall of past events. She obtains her beautiful visual effects with a combination of technics; freelensing and the use of multiple exposures. Her black and white photographs remind me of the magical work of Keith Carter’s Fireflies and a monochromatic version of the recent photobooks by Cig Harvey, such as her Gardening at Night.
Lazuka has written a poignant passage that I would like to share as it sums up very elegantly her intent; These photographs of single, delicate and fragile moments of time, I collected just as we collected the beautiful see-through wings of the cicadas that summer of 2016. Like the cicadas that lived such a short time, these moments did too. They were beautiful and real, and then they were gone, only to be remembered in photographs, just as all we had left of the cicadas in the end. Each photograph in this series (Editor: artist book) is an individual moment, that was not a memory as it was taken, but became one in its afterlife. However, strung together, in this series, this is their “song”, like the cicadas, of those magical summer days.
It is safe to say that her narrative is not about these prolific cicadas bugs that strangely appear in mass every 17 years, or the sometimes-deafening noise they can create in the late evening. Lazuka as a parent and a mother of four is very aware of events that are not fathomable to a child; that a fleeting event that her child is experiencing now will not reoccur again for a considerable amount of time and when it does, that child will have grown to be a young adult. Her short narrative is about taking note of the present moment, perhaps event admonishing to be present at all times, as today’s events will eventually create future memories.
As a physical object, her small petite artist book is roughly hone with ragged edges, uneven textures and a deckled top-edge on the heavy paper that creates the backbone of this leporello book design. Truly a visual diamond in the rough. There is nothing neat and tidy about this artist book, but conversely it is a bit of a mess, perhaps even purposely crude, with hints of fragility such that it seems as though it might suddenly fall apart, thus a wonderful metaphor for life itself. Highly recommended.
Song of the Cicadas, Melissa Lazuka, Copyright 2018
Artist: Melissa Lazuka (born Cleveland, OH, resides Chardon, Ohio)
Without essays, pagination or captions
Hardcover book, leporello binding, photographs & paper ephemera, hand-made, limited edition 1/1 in a series of 25, USA
Photobook concept & designer: Melissa Lazuka