New Asemics-Vispo by Nancy Bell Scott (South Portland, Maine, USA)

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Mail art by IUOMA member Nancy Bell Scott (South Portland, Maine, USA)

January 17, 2015 - Nancy Bell Scott is not as prolific as many of her contemporaries; so when she issues a new batch of her totally distinctive asemics-vispo (that's what it is to me anyway), it is a special occasion indeed. The three pieces above are painted on thick, textured paper and measure approximately 3 X 6 inches. They are wonderful examples of Nancy's complex, abstract expressionist-derived style. Chuck Welch aka the Cracker Jack Kid is among those who have noted her roots in abstract expressionism. Two of the pieces have material on the reverse sides:

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Nancy Bell Scott’s abstraction and calligraphy combine to create beautiful and complex explorations at the borderland of visual image and text. Her very recognizable asemic writing at first seems like chicken scratches that vary in intensity, yet the overall result is deeply expressive. As one learns to “read” her work, the vision and possibilities open. She also included larger work that arrived enclosed in a transparent, paint spattered folio:

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And the reverse:

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Beneath the cover we find vispo rooted in collage:

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Another consistent aspect of Nancy Bell Scott’s work is her use of found material from the Age of Print. In the context of her asemic-vispo, the receiver is often guided into a meditation on language, image and expression. Her choice of text that is distressed and/or damaged suggests decay and disintegration, which functions both tonally and thematically. The childlike, scrawled writing in the piece above mirrors Nancy’s all-to-human scratchings and allude to marginalia.

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Initially, I wanted to begin by calling Nancy Bell Scott the Emily Dickinson of asemic vispo. She certainly has a place in the “new wave” of asemic writing that has circulated through the Eternal Network in the past several years. That place has been attained through her experimentation, hard work and development of a style and a body of work. The Dickinson comparison is flawed, of course, and intentionally grandiose in order to make a point; it also references Nancy’s New England, USA location. However, Nancy Bell’s Scott’s poetic vision is in the Dickinson-existential tradition and the comparison does provide an access point. Her work continues to evolve and she delights her audience with each new wave.

The envelope is also very attractive:

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And the reverse:

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As ever, my deepest appreciation goes to Nancy Bell Scott!

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Comment by Nancy Bell Scott on January 19, 2015 at 2:46am

DVS, Emily would appreciate vispo, I suspect, but you're the one who could probably tell us why! (Just looking at her work on the printed page looks related to it, yes?) 

Comment by Nancy Bell Scott on January 19, 2015 at 2:17am

Petrol, Cheryl is a high-energy artist (and great person) with many projects ongoing at all times. She just moved on to following myriad paths outside IUOMA. Check out her blog (and her "Encyclopedia of Everything"!),

Comment by Petrolpetal on January 18, 2015 at 7:16pm

I have heard so much about Cheryl. If I may ask, why did she leave IUOMA?

Comment by Nancy Bell Scott on January 18, 2015 at 6:39pm

Ack. "Age of Print" and "digital" in the same sentence make my skin crawl. Somebody tell me to get over it.

At times the density of Whitman's writings can be a bit claustrophobic; there's more room to breathe when reading Dickinson, but I'm afraid my current (visual of course) work has none of her elegant spareness, unfortunately.  Funny in a way to find poems out of provincial New England mentally roomy!

Nice uplifting comment, Richard--I'll have to write it down as an antidote to mentally low moments (or years).     

Comment by Richard Canard on January 17, 2015 at 8:50pm

17.01.15 Dare Mister De Villo S. & Ms. Nancy Bell S., ...even I  can understand the  abstract idea of maintaining a meditative atmosphere ("never leaving the house") but I also somehow had the impression that Ms. Emily D. & Ms. Nancy Bell S. were more or less constantly moving about & habitually soaring over the walls that surround them. Asemimically yours, Richard Canard  

Comment by De Villo Sloan on January 17, 2015 at 8:44pm

Oops a few typos. Important one: New England is different from other regions. It has to do with the fact that it was colonized, in some cases, centuries before other areas.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on January 17, 2015 at 8:42pm

Nancy, "Age of Print" results from the idea - just raised again in the asemic writing group in fact - that forms like visual poetry & asemics (that are so prevalent in the m-a network for some reason) represent some post-literate evolution of older literary traditions & the forms are migrating from print to the digital. Michael Jacobson's post-literate blog is very well known & helps perpetuate the idea.

OK, so why do I call you the Emily Dickinson of asemic-vispo? (Non-poets can tune out now). I was always taught - & this is the view that was held by Allen Ginsberg in fact - that 19th century American poetry has two branches that gave birth to the modern. One is Walt Whitman, which is expansive & visionary. The other is Emily Dickinson (& Poe), which is a much darker and more foreboding. (Of course it's not that simple, but I'm using shorthand here.) I really do see what you are doing as being in the Dickinson lineage. And she is New England culture as well, which is a bit different than other reasons. So that's why I made the statement. What would Emily ever make of vispo, I wonder?

Comment by Nancy Bell Scott on January 17, 2015 at 8:02pm

I should have attached to the envelope a favorite sticker of mine with a quote by Augusten Burroughs, who wrote, "Emily Dickinson: proof that leaving the house is overrated."  She really appeals to me that way!  I only hope the "Age of Print" doesn't mean it's passed, even though I like that it has a name. Thanks for the great blog, DVS.  It's very interesting to learn things about one's own work from the writing of another. (And I miss Cheryl here too!) Thanks for your kind words, Petrolpetal. 

Comment by Petrolpetal on January 17, 2015 at 3:59pm

I love that too,and I think she'll also be pleased.

Comment by De Villo Sloan on January 17, 2015 at 3:56pm

Thanks Petrolpetal. I have the benefit of knowing Nancy's work for going on three years now. And, you know, if someone wants to call it abstract art or collage or thereabouts, I don't think that contradicts my view. Looking at the asemic aspects of Cy Twombly's work is similar. Nancy's foundation for this style formed during the asemic book projects era when Cheryl Penn had dozens of artists experimenting with asemics and vispo. Nancy was an important part of that, and her work is definitely text and language-centered. I think point out the language and "poetic" aspect of what Nancy is doing can lead you more deeply into the work.

I am sort of proud of naming her "the Emily Dickinson of asemic vispo."



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