Note: The outcome of a close collaboration between artist/printer Felicia Rice of Moving Parts Press and poet Theresa Whitehill
Poems by Theresa Whitehill
Bookwork by Felicia Rice
Preface by Inge Bruggeman
Foreword by Felicia Rice
HEAVY LIFTING is a fierce work that names the darkness in the belief that the first stage of recovery from grief is acknowledgement, and that the precursor to action can be anger. It is a response to a call sounded by artist/educator Paul Soulellis in 2021: “Publishing has always been political, but has it ever felt as urgent as it does right now in the global distress and intersecting crises of the past year? There’s a desperate need for new language to express publishing’s renewed urgency and importance. …let’s turn away from old, legacy publishing models towards something new: an ethics, craft, and politics of urgent making.”
About the book
The limited edition artists’ book, Heavy Lifting, is the outcome of a close collaboration between artist/printer Felicia Rice of Moving Parts Press and poet Theresa Whitehill. It began in 2019 with an exchange in which a poem sparked a drawing which sparked a poem which led to a book structure, then spiraled back round again. In 2020, during their early work on the project, Felicia lost her letterpress shop of over 40 years to a devastating megafire in the Santa Cruz Mountains just as the death of George Floyd trained a blazing light on the many deep-seated inequities in this country amid the global pandemic and threat of political totalitarianism. Heavy Lifting took flight in spite of and because of our personal and collective crises of this terrible time and tackles these issues in book form, performance, and dialogue in search of a tenable future.
The innovative book structure of nested accordion-fold panels features stunning poems by Theresa Whitehill in compelling conversation with prints by Felicia Rice. Inge Bruggeman writes in the preface to The Heavy Lifting Companion, “Felicia Rice has … an unsurpassed commitment to the book as a unique space for expressing artistic content…. Heavy Lifting not only demonstrates Rice’s innovative use of the artists’ book format, it reveals the unique power of this art form to unfurl within the hands of the individual, thus beautifully connecting the individual’s role to art, poetry, and the world around them.”
About Theresa Whitehill
A California-born poet and letterpress artist, Theresa Whitehill has been involved in the production of poetry events and readings for her entire career, especially open readings. These open venues became a key part of her own editorial process in which she refined and strengthened the voice of her poems.
Born in Sacramento and raised in Marin County, Whitehill’s interrelated focus on literary and book arts came out of her studies with poet William Everson at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1970s and at Mills College in the Book Art program in the early 1980s. Since 1984 she has lived in Mendocino County where she is well-known to local poetry audiences.
Travel and living for stretches of time in Europe and especially Greece, Spain, and Portugal have allowed her to witness older cultures in which poetry is considered not just relevant but essential to the vitality of the life of everyday people and by extension the social fabric itself. This early insight has inspired her commitment to cultural projects that address the fundamental connection between poetics and the land. She is a former Poet Laureate of Ukiah, and a co-founder of the Watershed Poetry Mendocino festival.
Her publications include Deep Valley: Poets Laureate of Ukiah 2001—2018 (2019), A Grammar of Longing (2009), Saudades (2003), and A Natural History of Mill Towns (1993). Her poetry and broadsides are in national fine press collections including the Getty Center for the Arts, the John Hay Library of Brown University, and the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
About the poems
Theresa Whitehill’s poems tread a tenuous path at the boundaries between personal and collective reckonings with work that portrays alternating grief, tenderness, defiance, and outrage. The result is a suite of poems that deliberately fuses moments of personal and collective experience in a profound act of witnessing. The work acknowledges the almost unbearable pace of relentless crises that have unfolded in recent years—covid, climate change, racial injustice, the threat of totalitarianism, immigration crises—and begins to dwell in what might lie beyond these times.
From the Foreword by Inge Bruggeman: “It’s hard to convey the crisis that happened to us / back in the early 21st century,” the poetry begins, at first almost modestly taking a dispassionate long view, a look back from an imagined future to this nearly mythical time before sweeping back into the urgency and the experiences of the recent past: “From this time, we date a different life. The stories / we told our children changed at this time. / Our dreams changed. Some of us stopped dreaming. / Others registered guns or took part / in compromised immune systems.” Whitehill subverts the forms of the lament and the ballad and the assumed lyricism that goes along with those forms, nearly lulling the reader into a seeming complacency, before tripping the reader up at a key moment to declare: “War then: the background always. Dreamers / and heretics—always.”
About Felicia Rice and Moving Parts Press
Felicia Rice is an artist, letterpress printer, publisher, and educator. In 1977 she set Moving Parts Press in motion. With one foot firmly planted in the 19th century and the other in the 21st, she utilizes letterpress and digital technologies to produce limited edition artists books, prints, and broadsides in collaboration with visual and performing artists, writers, and philosophers.
Work from the Press has been included in exhibitions from Mexico City to New York and Japan. Her books are held in library and museum collections worldwide and she has been the recipient of many awards and grants from the NEA to the French Ministry of Culture. In December 2018 Rice was featured in the award-winning PBS Craft in America documentary series in their episode, “Visionaries.”
Her entire letterpress shop and her life’s work was destroyed in a catastrophic wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains in August 2020. Rice has relocated to her family home in Mendocino and with the help of over 800 supporters has reestablished Moving Parts Press in a new studio.
Rice writes, “As a printer, my job is to confront complex issues and render my response to them in book form. As an artist, my job is to do so with profound integrity. As a publisher, my job is to make these issues public. As printers have done every decade since Gutenberg, I’m here to respond to argue for a more just society.”
About the prints and book structure
The final stanza of Theresa’s poem, “The Loveliness of Mistakes,” is the driving force behind Felicia’s prints for the “birds” panel of this book. The text overprints a series of drawings of birds rising against a texture of wind and smoke captured from prints taken from rounds of an ancient oak lost to “forest management.” The bird spirits rise in the face of the fires that destroy so much of the West every year. This panel of the book was printed in a tiny wooden 85-year-old shed which served as Felicia’s father, Ray Rice’s art studio for 40 years.
The second “crisis” panel nestles into and almost obscures the birds. Our collective crises are called out in letterforms gathered from gravestone rubbings overprinting high-contrast photographic memes culled from the web. The indistinct dark silhouettes suggest the enormity of these haunting and unresolved issues. This panel was printed in a steel shipping container while the new studio was under construction.
Excerpts from Theresa’s poems on the back of the “crisis” panel were printed in the clean, new studio where is was possible to do the demanding and careful work of letterpress printing. Each of the three workspaces used over a two year period impacted the nature of the printed sheets: organic and rough, gritty and industrial, or clean and carefully crafted.
The book structure of freestanding nested panels was inspired by the experimental folded book structures of the 20th century Russian Modernist Iliazd, and the heavily designed and engineered paper sample books of the late 20th century that could be found in every letterpress print shop and design studio.
About Craig Jensen
Heavy Lifting is the seventh Moving Parts Press book bound by Craig Jensen. The first two, De amor oscuro and Tallos de luna, were bound at BookLab, Inc. in Austin, TX in the early 1990s. The next four books, beginning with Cosmogonie intime in 2005, were bound at BookLab II, and now, with Heavy Lifting, Craig is working under his own name at his studio in San Marcos, TX. Moving Parts Press books depend on Craig’s years of experience and broad knowledge of book structure and housing construction, fine materials, and efficient high quality hand workmanship for their exquisite integrity as book objects. In close collaboration with Craig, Felicia realizes her aesthetic vision of beautiful books.
The Heavy Lifting Project
The impact of the artists’ book, Heavy Lifting, is multiplied by the greater Heavy Lifting Project, which includes a companion book, a powerful public art project in a form new to me—experimental film, and public appearances with fundraising and workshop components.
• The Heavy Lifting Companion, an 84-page digitally-printed book, features the full suite of poems by Theresa Whitehill generated out of this collaborative effort, with a preface by Inge Bruggeman, Director of the CODEX Foundation, and essays by Felicia.
• On Heavy Lifting is a film experiment that draws on readings of Theresa’s poems, live footage of the bookmaking process, and digital projections with dance to perform the fullness of this artists’ book. The film goes beyond instructional video and imagined architectural installation to create an immersive experience of Heavy Lifting.
• The Heavy Lifting listening tour offers opportunities for healing, and dreaming, through dialogue. It kicks off with a book display, readings, and film screening on March 12, 2023 in Caspar and will occur monthly in communities throughout northern California in 2023.
• The artists’ book, Heavy Lifting, will be on display at the Mendocino Art Center January 6–February 24, 2023.
• Mendocino County’s February ’23 REM magazine, features an in-depth article about the book, titled “Heavy Lifting Lifts Off,” including a revealing conversation with the collaborators.
About the companion book
The companion to Heavy Lifting is a digitally printed book that holds the full suite of poems produced by Theresa during this multi-year collaboration. The poems and bookwork are framed in a preface by Inge Bruggeman that provides the context of the project within the artists’ book world, a critical perspective that presents the main artistic themes and how they are deeply embedded in issues of craft, resulting in a profound example of “urgent publishing.” A foreword by Felicia describes how and why the book came into being, and further essays present other elements of the greater Heavy Lifting Project. The book was designed by Theresa and Felicia, who found the heavy lifting of this project much much lighter when shared.
About the film
On Heavy Lifting is a film experiment that draws on readings of Theresa Whitehill’s poems, live footage of the bookmaking process, and digital projections to create an immersive experience of the artists’ book. Going beyond a mere instructional video typical of artists’ books that walk the viewer through a complex book structure, this experimental film provides an immersive experience of the book itself and its complex compositions of birds, words, and moving shadows. The intent is to evoke the fullness of the artists’ book through a multi-media experience of its many facets.
The film is included with each limited edition book on an SD card, and will be broadcast online soon in an effort to satisfy the search for “an ethics, craft, and politics of urgent making.”
Frej Barty, videographer
Paulo Ferreira, reader
Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake County Poet Laureate, reader
Dennis Letbetter, videographer
Eleana Newton, editor
Arlo Reeves, videographer
Sidney Regelbrugge, Mendocino County Youth Poet Laureate, reader
Felicia Rice, producer/director and film subject
Will Rice, composer and producer
Jim Schoonover, reader and videographer
Kara Starkweather, film subject
Shmuel Thaler, photographer
Gustavo Vazquez, consultant
Theresa Whitehill, poet, reader, and film subject
About the listening tour
The Heavy Lifting listening tour aspires to offer opportunities for healing, and dreaming, through dialogue. An introduction to the project opens with a display of the artists’ book and presentation of the experimental film, On Heavy Lifting. It is followed by a poetic conversation between Theresa and the audience in which she alternates reading her poems with an invitation for audience members to read their own work or share brief stories in response to the themes and material.
It kicks off in March in Caspar and will occur monthly in communities impacted by the wildfires throughout northern California in 2023.
• Thursday, February 23, 2023 7:00 Writers Read, Grace Hudson Community Room, Ukiah with guest, Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake Co. Poet Laureate (this event had to be postponed due to a heavy snowstorm and has been rescheduled for October)
• Sunday, March 12, 2023 2:00 Caspar Shul, Caspar
• Saturday, April 15, 2023 2:00 Coast Community Library Community Room, Point Arena with guest, Sidney Regelbrugge, Mendocino Co. Youth Poet Laureate
• Saturday, May 13, 2023 7:00 Starlight Lounge, Willits Community Theatre, Willits
• Saturday, July 8, 2023 1:00 Schoolhouse Museum, Lower Lake with guest, Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake Co. Poet Laureate (originally scheduled for May 20)
• Sunday, July 16, 2023 3:00 Indexical, Santa Cruz (canceled due to venue closure)
• Saturday, August 5, 2023 10:00 am Pacific Textile Arts Gallery, Fort Bragg + exhibit Aug 4-31 (opening Aug 4, 5-8pm)
• Sunday, September 10, 2023 4:00 CODEX Foundation, Berkeley
• Sunday, October 8, 2023 Cascadia Poetry Festival, Spring Street Center, Seattle, WA
• Thursday, October 26, 2023 7:00 Writers Read, Grace Hudson Community Room, Ukiah with guest, Georgina Marie Guardado, Lake Co. Poet Laureate
• Saturday, November 11, 2023 2:00 North Bay Letterpress Arts, Sebastopol
• Saturday, January 27–Sunday, March 24, 2024 M.K. Contemporary Art Gallery, Santa Cruz—Heavy Lifting will be on display as part of the exhibit Selections: Rydell Visual Arts Fellows 2006–2021
• Sunday, March 3, 2024 3:00 Institute of the Arts & Sciences (IAS), UC Santa Cruz
• Sunday, April 21, 2024 4:00 The White Barn, St. Helena
• Sunday, May 19, 2024 3:00 1078 Gallery, Chico
• Saturday, August 24, 2024 2:00 Santa Cruz Public Library, Chico
A very special thanks to those who helped with the process of making this book. As always, Jim Schoonover, Rice’s life partner, gave valuable counsel on many aspects of this project. “I doubt there would be a Moving Parts Press without him.”
Details of the artists’ book, Heavy Lifting
Typeset in Stempel Garamond and Faster One types and printed by Felicia Rice from lasercut and photopolymer plates on Arches Watercolor paper. Images created by Rice and printed from lasercut wood plates made by Rice and photopolymer plates made by Jonathan Clark of The Artichoke Press. Letterpress and relief printing by Rice using a Vandercook proof press at Moving Parts Press.
Two nested accordion-fold panels, Panel 1 “Birds”: 10″ x 14.5″ x 80″ and Panel 2 “Crises”: 10″ x 12.5″ x 100″
Panels extended: 15′ end-to-end
Book: 10″ x 14.5″ x .75″
Clamshell Case: 11″ x 15.625″ x 1.625′
Accordion-fold book and clamshell book box covered in Brillianta book cloth by Craig Jensen of BookLab II
Edition of 60 signed and numbered copies, accompanied by the book, The Heavy Lifting Companion, and the film, On Heavy Lifting, in a clamshell book box
Standard edition of 48: $2700
Deluxe edition of 12: $3400 – includes a second clamshell box holding a digital viewer with the film, On Heavy Lifting, and other shorts
To order, please contact Felicia at email@example.com
Details of the companion book, The Heavy Lifting Companion
7.75″ x 9.5″
Edition of 250, of which 150 are available for sale: $35 Reserve your copy here!