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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Altered Books: Cranberry Red

The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art will be exhibiting artist's altered books from April 26th through May 21st in their galleries at Hamilton Field in Novato, California. The exhibit is a benefit for Marin MOCA and their programs. My submission is shown above - a very personal response to the challenge of altering a book and making art from it.

Cranberry Red was a novel written by Plymouth, Massachusetts newspaperman Edward B. Garside, Jr. Ted Garside was a good friend of my father, and during my childhood served as an inspiration to me - he was a real writer, and that was one of the things I aspired to do. His biggest career accomplishment was to review books, especially histories and biographies, for the New York Times. He wrote a column of “things that interest me” for the Old Colony Memorial, a weekly published every Thursday.

Ted was like a kindly, rather reticent "uncle" with a dry sense of humor. The book critics savaged Cranberry Red, and my dad said that he never got over it. He tried to show what life was like for the Cape Verde islanders who provided the hard labor for growing cranberries. The large local Portuguese immigrant community in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod did not accept the Cape Verdeans.

They were dark-complexioned and their language was a distinct dialect. They were also ignored by the majority of the white population, and lived their lives in their own small communities surrounding the cranberry bogs. Garside had made many friends among the workers, and the book was sympathetic to their plight. But the tone of the times was not kind to an account of immigrant agricultural workers, especially dark-skinned.

Ted Garside’s book is no longer available and he never wrote another novel. However, the Cape Verdean population has assimilated into the population at large in the 70+ years since the book was written. The cranberry crop is still a major source of agricultural income for the area, and the distinctive "screen house" barns and bogs have survived, albeit in smaller numbers as development of new housing has encroached.

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