My work celebrates reading literature as an extraordinarily creative and productive act. It is in reading that we collaborate with texts and authors to construct worlds and face fears, to lose ourselves in pleasure and train our inner soldiers of compassion. Reading is, indeed, an artistic endeavor, an open feast for the curious and imagining mind where we draw form and meaning from texts that, without our attention, would remain inert, only partially formed, indeterminate. As a feature of all literature, of all human communication, such indeterminacy describes a current of uncertainty that flows beneath and throughout the porous structures of language and literature.

 

Gaps in narrative, authorial oversight, ambiguity and instability in translation offer natural vents to such indeterminacy, but far from hindering the literary project, these springs of indeterminacy offer the reader unknowns that are the stuff of interpretation, insight, inspiration. At its best, literature takes advantage of this subterranean flow of indeterminacy, deliberately sinking wells into textual aquifers from which readers can nourish creativity and imagination. What a shame then that the imaginative feats we perform while reading too often remain private, undervalued, left unseen in the dark. In refusing to take itself for granted, my work radically externalizes how, in the act of reading, we draw from bottomless reservoirs of indeterminacy whose restless waters, both mysterious and familiar, are the life- blood of literary experience.

 

To this end, my past work has drawn broadly from Melville and Tolkien and Comparative Literature as a whole, but now I currently focus my attention entirely on one beguiling, profound and maddening book, Haruki Murakami’s novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Page by page, I translate into images my dialogue with the book, transforming a blank 1998 Vintage paperback English translation of the novel into a new work of art. Drawings, paintings, etchings, woodcuts, monotypes and lithographs inserted into every one of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’s pages are exhibitions of one reader’s imagination, one reader’s associations, one reader’s participation in recursive interpretation. These images are marginalia- turned-art, graffiti on the walls of the well, immediate, idiosyncratic and, therefore, as obscure as they are illustrative. All the while, scholarly study continues to confront the novel’s stakes: cultural transmission and appropriation, politics of media and household, burdens of history and patriarchal systems of abuse. Re-vision and re-creation come next, as reading and research incite new images that continue to glorify and illustrate the text, even as they re-write, curate, obscure, question and even poke fun at the novel. Such a flow of exchange and production in the presence of indeterminacy is what keeps writers writing, painters painting, translators translating, creators creating. My work congeals out of this artistic exchange, this democratic economy of imagination hoping to inspire more of its kind, more works that recognize the time has come to recalibrate how we think about reading and show what reading makes.

Download C.V.

© 2015 by JML Lehman. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Twitter Metallic
  • s-facebook