Speaking

Speaking (close up)

In front of case

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Exhibition case (detail)

Exhibition case (detail)

Bugs (detail)

Mary Olive Stone devoted most of her presentation to telling stories, but also gave a short history of how she came to be making books, which she describes as vehicles for her stories. Most of her stories centered around her traditional Alabama family, upon which she seemed to look with love and wonder (and of course, tolerance). The following is an impressionistic echo of Mary Olive Stone's talk. "The ordinary is not mundane." "We people have more in common than we don't." "Everyday experience is the most important." "Our hometownness holds us together." "I like making little books because you can hold them." "I went to Montclair because I had to--my husband came to work at home." "I never got past the art deaprtment." "Friends have made a big difference to me." "Suellen [Glashausser] let me believe that what I do makes sense and I appreciate that." [Mary Olive also talked about several large site-specific installations she created, before her bookmaking began. One piece installed on a hill caught in the wind and became difficult to control. Benita Wolfe, the New Jersey bookmaker and printmaker was there with her doing the installation. "Benita Wolfe said, 'Mary Olive. Some people make things they can hold in their laps.'" So "It made sense to leave large works and get to books." The chief difficulty with writing family stories is "your family will challenge you about content. They'll tell you you got the stories all wrong." Mary Olive's family stories included a story about the first radio in Loxley, Alabama, a story about her Aunt May, her father who made a flagpole from a tree in the woods, her brother-in-law, Jack, who killed a ten point buck with a pistol from his chair on the porch, a story about spilling a huge jug of maple syrup on the train. The details are under constant stress from the family, Mary Olive acknowledged: "all stories get 'fictionalized,' because you have to to save your life." A story about her mama fainting at the Metropolitan Opera House, and the young man who helped them, became in her mama's and cousin Janie's telling a miracle in which an angel appeared to them. Three older cousins drove the entire length of the Pan Am Highway ["Alaska to Mexico City"], and somehow, despite their unworldliness, came to no harm. Mary Olive makes her books on the computer because it is important to make a lot of them [100 copies] so she can give them away. Giving them as "gifts" is part of them fun. She likes doing repetitive stuff because "'idle hands are the devil's workshop.'" Her most recent work is a collaboration with her grandson Sammy, age 7, who wrote and illustrated a story about a motorcycle race in which he drives a "glow in the dark motorcycle" with lights that help him fend off the lions and the alligators lurking on the racecourse. Sammy wins the race, writing that he "went across the track like a cloud of magic." "It's wonderful. He's seven years old and he still has magic in his soul! That's pretty much the end of it."

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