Stories from Summer Vacation: Emily Roehl Brings “Nature’s Nation” to Austin on Friday

Today’s story comes from Ph.D. student Emily Roehl, who shares a glimpse of her Master’s thesis in a new artist book coming to Austin this Friday.

This summer has been like so many summers before it: full. For the past four years I have taught reading classes to students ranging from Kindergarteners to retirees, and I stay busy in my “downtime” with (what else?) part-time jobs. But for the past two summers, I have managed to squeeze in a little independent artist book publishing, and this summer—today, in fact—I am busily preparing for the release of my fifth book.

Previously on this blog, I have shared glimpses of the work I have done with Mystery Spot Books, an independent artist book publishing venture based in Austin and Minneapolis that produces small run artist books that explore ideas of land, site, history, tourism, and American material culture. Our fifth book, second eponymous, is Mystery Spot 2: Nature’s Nation, and it features the work of seven artists from Austin, Omaha, and Minneapolis. Last May, we successfully Kickstarted the project, raising funds through individual donations to print the book, and over the past week we have unveiled the finished product at launch events in Minneapolis and now Austin.

This book holds a special place in Mystery Spot Books’ growing catalogue for me, because this is the first time that portions of my Master’s thesis have appeared in print. My thesis is a multimedia project created on Prezi, and it has only lived in digital form over the past two years. In Nature’s Nation, I resurrect (so to speak) sections of narrative from the thesis about my grave, a plot of land I happen to own in rural Nebraska on the site of my great-great grandfather’s homestead. There’s nothing quite like death (one’s own, especially) to get the artistic juices flowing, and in a piece appropriately titled “six feet,” Chad Rutter and I pair words and images to communicate the range of attachments, positive and negative, that assemble at a site as emotionally charged as one’s own grave.

The most exciting thing about this book, however, is the amazing work contributed by the participating artists. All of our previous titles feature the work of Chad Rutter and myself. This is our most ambitious project yet; this time around, we are thrilled to present the work of Caleb Coppock, Paula McCartney, Kate Casanova, Lex Thompson, and Pamela Valfer. Placing all of this work in the same volume provides multiple perspectives, conceptual and aesthetic, on the landscape. Plus, the work is completely gorgeous.

Kate Casanova, from “Floating World”

To get a closer look at the new book and to peruse other Mystery Spot Books titles, join Emily at grayDUCK Gallery in South Austin on Friday, August 17 from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Drinks and desserts will be served, and books will be available for purchase.

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