The stunning book, “PathwaysArts: New Works” captures artistic moments in time — well, a stretch of time, actually — from just before the pandemic shut down through last spring. The new book abounds in a diversity of stellar artwork. All media are represented: painting, drawing, jewelry, quilts, collage, prints, photography; and words in the form of stories, prose, poems, and lyrics. Sometimes the words stand alone, and at others accompany, play off of, or overlay visual pieces that were either made by the artists themselves, or the combination was in collaboration with another. The pages also come alive through the video stills of dance, theater, music, and spoken word performances, which reside on the Pathways website and can be directly accessed through the QR codes in the book.
Each of the 106 contributors has a two-page spread, whether they submitted single or multiple pieces. Janet Holladay did an exceptional job in designing what could have been chaos, given the variety of the art. While each piece stands alone as an elegant contribution, her color palette, fonts, and design elements create a cohesive whole, giving it a rhythm that makes you eager to go through the pages. The print quality, and that of the paper, which is glossy and has some heft, make the book wonderful to handle as you go through.
Although the art was created during somber times, it is far from melancholy. The book is elegant and lyrical. Holladay also includes quirks such as her illustrated pages at the end titled, “The Story Behind the Book” instead of a purely descriptive paragraph about her process. You might notice that the bios for each of the contributors are listed by their last name. Part of the reason, in addition to some of them only going by a single name, is that the book is rooted locally. So, she says, “they are real people in our community because we know them by their first name.”
The project aligns with Pathways’ dedication to creating and catalyzing creative projects in the visual arts, writing, dance, and collaborative forms. It came about when they sponsored a reading by poet and painter Fran Ogilvie, who read from her illustrated book that Holladay had designed. Keren Tonnesen, co-director of Pathways Arts, explains that it was so beautifully put together they had Holladay give a talk about how to publish your book. Feeling frustrated that people couldn’t gather at Pathways at the time — and Zoom fatigue — Tonnesen says, “I thought, Why don’t we publish our own book about how people are processing their experience of 2020–2021 through art? It wasn’t just that I wanted to publish one, but it seemed that everything we were doing was so digital, and a book felt more grounding.” Tonnesen shares that the book is in alignment with Pathways’ founder Marianne Goldberg’s vision, which was to create a space for people to meet up and share artistic endeavors during the winter in Chilmark, back when there wasn’t anything going on. Tonnesen says, “She was always supportive of books, and we have always had them available at Pathways, so the project fits right in.”
Tonnesen and her team reached out to Pathways’ artists from over the years, and everyone on the mailing list, to get the word out. Before all the submissions were in, Holladay had thought that they would sort themselves out into a natural narrative. But with the wealth of contributions, it turned out that it wasn’t so clear what the narrative was going to be. “I decided to do it chronologically, and see what story the book wanted to tell,” she says, spreading out all 250 3-inch versions of every page on her floor at home.
Tonnesen comments, “It was so much about Janet’s artistry and her craft, so I made it her project with some input. I gave her a free hand to come up with the feeling and the look. It’s something that evolved very organically with her.”
The book is more than just the sum of its parts. Holladay believes that in its totality, “we can look to these pieces in all their forms to help us gain understanding about how to deal with life right now. Life is confusing, and there are not a lot of places to turn to find ways to understand what is the best thing to do. These artists looked inward, and were willing to share their true selves with us. I think that we can turn to this work as a source of inspiration for ourselves and our world. Artists are really core to how we understand life, and we’re privileged to have so many here who are willing to go in deep and share what they’ve found.”
“PathwaysArts: New Works,” $40 softbound, $80 hardcopy ($65 for artists for the hardcopy). Available through Pathways (see its 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.)