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Book of the Week: A Pick by Matthew Connors

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Matthew Connors Matthew Connors selects My Blank Pages by Michael Schmelling as Book of the Week.
My Blank PagesBy Michael Schmelling
The Ice Plant, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Matthew Connors who has selected My Blank Pages by Michael Schmelling from The Ice Plant.

"One particularly hot day last September I found myself in Long Island City’s First Ward School watching Michael Schmelling for what many would consider an inappropriately long time. Amid the din of overwhelmed art book enthusiasts who made their annual pilgrimage to the NYABF, Schmelling sat at his publisher’s table, quietly engrossed in his recent past. Methodically penciling margin notes inside copies of his new book, he was rehearsing a conversation between his memory and a personal archive of 4x6 machine prints that were the impetus for My Blank Pages.

The result is an oblique personal narrative that carries us through his former studios, apartments, meals, mumblings, relationships, stray thoughts, and itinerant work life. It is a decade peeled off into genres of experience and infused with the sad optimism of his departure from New York for Los Angeles. Chronology is loose and context is often sacrificed in favor of a life arranged in patterns and metaphors drenched in the light of his camera flash. Nested in the middle of the book, on another paper stock, is an abridged version of his 2008 book The Week of No Computer that offers more nuance to his self-portrait through free form scraps of experience and Sharpie poetics.

His penciled annotations provide a running commentary on the parallax between life itself and life depicted. They are lyrical murmurs seemingly lifted from remembered dialog, diaristic footnotes, and a compendium of title ideas that would provoke the envy of David Berman. Uniquely handwritten into each copy of the book, these scribbles provide a hypnotic oscillation between past and present selves.

My Blank Pages is a messy and intimate attempt to excavate a rapidly receding past; to show us what can be revealed about the self through the careful accumulation of casually recorded observations. It is the product of an artist crippled by both a good and bad memory, who has climbed a mountain to look down and admire his own pants. Schmelling has deftly slipped us into what Ben Lerner calls the profound experience of the lack of profundity, and invites us to fill our own blank pages."—Matthew Connors

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My Blank PagesBy Michael SchmellingThe Ice Plant, 2015.
My Blank PagesBy Michael SchmellingThe Ice Plant, 2015.

Matthew Connors is a Professor and Photography Department Chair at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. His recent book Fire in Cairo was awarded the 2016 ICP Infinity Award in the category of Artist Book. He lives and works in Boston, MA and Brooklyn, NY.

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