Review by Douglas Stockdale •
Melissa Lazuka’s second self-published artist book Fly Away continues her narrative on the transient nature of her children’s life and her self-awareness that they are very quickly growing up, perhaps way too fast. It is a sequel to her brilliantly conceived artist book Song of the Cicadas that I reviewed last fall.
Lazuka has stated “There is a very short period of time that everyone is a child, and only so many summers we can experience as a child.” As an adult we can appreciate how her perception is not shared by her child, but watching children grow over the seasons, the memory pangs of their younger moments can become acute. We almost want to shout; Stop growing up! Meanwhile the child continues to chase after the things that still might be.
Fly Away triggers for me the story line of the movie version of Peter Pan. Regretfully I always seem to quickly progress to this story’s bittersweet ending when Peter once again returns to a now adult Wendy. During their encounter Peter asks about her brothers only to find out that Michael did full fill his military dreams, but yet he did not survive the outcome of those wonderful boyhood aspirations.
Likewise, Lazuka cannot tell what the future will hold for her daughter while yet she attempts to stay focused on the current moment with her and create memories. “I have tried to create the world which she imagines and inhabits. One in which time is irrelevant and where fairies do exist, and she is Queen of the Butterflies. It is an escape to wonderland, a dream world she flies away to, and always comes back.”
The photographs that Lazuka layers into to her artistic narrative have a strong visual push and pull element; high key images of her subject mashed up with darker brooding photographs that create a mysterious and ambiguous world. She creates complex and layered photographs with her digital camera techniques (freelensing), perhaps not knowing what the results are until the image is captured. Her narrative appears to hint that childhood dreams are not always light and full of fancy as maybe there are some concerns even as they appear to cheerfully play. Her photographs are then layered on top of fond older poetic text that provide another layer to her intriguing narrative, which will vary from book to book in this artist edition.
As a physical object, the book’s outside slip-cover is a re-purposed older book that the interior has been removed from the spine and boards, then reversed to function as a slip cover for the delicate interior leporello artist book. The age and dating of the re-purposed (published approximately 1910) slip-cover appears indeterminable and functions as another excellent metaphor for the passing of time. The antique lace utilized to bind and retain the slip-cover is a nice element of added femininity that hints at the mother/daughter narrative found within.
Similar to her first artist book, this is a wonderful mashup of found objects and old ephemera that are layered with her own photographic prints.In this artist book Lazuka has included another element within the leporello book which is the inclusion of loose, rough cut Kozo paper as an interleaving. The loose Kozo paper provides both a means to protect the delicate interior pages during handling as well as another aspect of memory; these loose pages are hard to retain in place while reading this book. Unlike the Kozo paper sheets tacked into the inside panels of the outer slip-cover, these pages are meant to fall away. The effect is similar to the leaves falling from a tree; first surprise upon opening and then when refolding the leporello book, trying to determine where the loose Kozo paper needs to be replaced. It is that later aspect that creates an interesting reader interaction with her book that I find intriguing.
As in her earlier artist book, this one is neither neat or tidy and a bit of a visual layered mess, with hints of fragility that it might suddenly just fall apart, thus a wonderful poetic metaphor for life itself. As I have attempted to illustrate below, this book lends itself to multiple readings depending on how one unfolds the leporello book. Highly recommended.
Other titles by Melissa Lazuka that have been reviewed on PhotoBook Journal; Song of Cicadas
Melissa Lazuka, Fly Away, Copyright 2019
Artist: Melissa Lazuka (born Cleveland, OH, resides Chardon, Ohio)
Without essays, pagination or captions
Hardcover slip-cover over a hand-made stiff-cover artist book, Antique lace tie, leporello binding, photographs & paper ephemera, loose Kozo paper interweaving, limited edition 1/1 in a series of 25, USA
Artist book concept & designer: Melissa Lazuka