Why Number 21?

The print at left is "No. 21" based on a selection from the 36-part poem by James Joyce, "Chamber Music."

Made for the group exhibition in 2013 at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle on invitation. We artists were asked to pick one of the poems which "resonated" with us.
As I am not a fan of James Joyce, I thought feeling resonance would be hard. I was wrong. As I studied the poems, and scanned the list of poems that had not been chosen by other artists, I resorted to my favorite numbers: 54 (out of range) 36 (taken) and 21. The last one was available.
It was to be a fortuitous number!

Return to Web preview of my talk. (more)

He who hath glory lost,

Born to be a farmer, but I knew glory would be to be an artist and an art professor. I got my first job at the UW in '66, right out of grad school; that was glory, big time: A plum of a job in up-and-coming Seattle. My wife and I felt the glory. It lasted only 19 years; internecine politics axed my ambitions and I learned what it is to lose glory.

Nor hath found any soul to fellow his,

My ambitions meant the art school should be progressive, prepare students for the coming age of digital reproduction. I traveled the world to gather evidence and validate my plan. My students supported me, but I found no soul in the faculty to help me.

Among his foes in scorn and wrath

In fact, they scorned me, gave me the silent treatment, accused me of being unstable, removed me from the printmaking faculty, and wiped out decades of printmaking advances by Glen Alps and myself.

Holding to ancient nobleness.

My foes held to the ancient notion that printmaking is but a child of painting and drawing, that painting is somehow a noble art, and disallowed my teachings that printmaking is the ancestor to media arts and technologies.

That high unconsortable one -

There is no definition for the word, "unconsortable" but since it sounded like "unconsolable," I applied this feeling to the last lines. My wife was unconsolable at my downfall from glory. I put her high on a pedestal, and . . .

His love is his companion.

. . . she is my love and lifelong, loyal companion, and art is the soul of my calling.

Right: Notes from the Oxford University Press, describing an essay available online titled, "The Unconsolable James Joyce."

"This essay focuses on how Chamber Music is tied to the poetic tradition that precedes and surrounds it . . .. The poems' obsession with betrayal and the solitary hero places Joyce within traditions of 19th- and early 20th-century Irish literary forms, especially those poems of lost glory by Mangan and of betrayal and loss in Moore's melodies. . . . "

Email: ritchie@seanet.com