This starts in a likely place, a library.
After school, on Wednesdays, I host a board game club at Lafayette in our school’s library.
One of those Wednesdays, I purchased and brought a new game for the group to play. Modern Art asks players to bid on paintings by 5 contemporary artists; whoever makes the most money buying and selling art, wins.
Let me backup just for a second, because it just dawned on me how intricately related the board gaming is to this book, not just the cover.
For the first six years of my teaching career I resisted any additional school related responsibilities. Being home was my priority and my passions outside of school, primarily writing, ate into my family time too much (in hindsight) already.
After the separation, I found myself without a family to go home to on certain days of the week. I didn’t feel then, nor do I now, that I was avoiding home by starting a board game club at school. More like I wanted to find meaningful and enjoyable ways to spend my newly available time.
Weirdly related to the board gaming, though only if you consider them outside of the context of a home suddenly bereft of a whole person, I had also made a goal to hang five new pieces of art in my house to make it feel more like a home.
In the space (temporally and physically) that opened up after the divorce, I learned to play and taught students to play this game I bought, Modern Art. While playing the game, I began to admire several of the artists’ work and looked into whether or not I could afford to buy any. The two that captured my eye, Rafael Silveria and Sigrid Thaler, were accessible through the internet.
Drawn to Thaler’s themes and images of relationships, romantic and familial, I reached out to her, translating my message through Google Translate into Italian, asking if I could purchase a print to hang in my home. A few emails later, I had a copy of her work Sandburg, hanging prominently in my living room.
What’s this have to do with the cover of my book? Almost nothing.
Initially, I had hoped for Ron Davis (aka upfromsumdirt) to provide the cover art for Open Burning. Before just a few weeks ago, he and Sigrid Thaler were the only artists I’d manage to hang on my walls.
At the same time I reached out to Ron, I sent Sigrid a message about potentially using one of her works on the cover.
Ron worked on several ideas, as I freaked out, not knowing what I wanted to represent the book visually or thematically.
When Sigrid replied agreeing to allow me to use one of her digital paintings for the cover, the tug of war began. I wanted Ron’s art on the cover, but the emotional significance of Thaler’s won out. I sent some images of Thaler’s work to Katerina and we both liked the same one: Die Familie.
It fit well with the thematic content of the book, with one exception: it didn’t capture the light or warmth, the space the writing of the book opened and allowed me. There wasn’t any healing or compassion in the image. The hands reaching toward each other felt freighted with obligation rather than desire. And I suppose that is part of what a marriage or relationship is, and so I was more than happy with it as the cover the book.
When I went to Sigrid Thaler’s website to check the Italian spelling of the painting, a few more paintings had been uploaded. That’s when I saw abbraccio.
The colors, red and orange, the intimacy of the bodies facing each other but also exposed to the viewer. The guy turned upside down, and the hair of the woman reaching and engulfing the head of the man. He doesn’t touch her head but the hair. Dream like and passionate. There’s still separation but also connection. I feel like I used to have the same hair cut as the guy. I kept looking at the name, abbraccio, and seeing Abra. It means hug or embrace. It fit perfectly, and luckily, Sigrid was happy to let me use it for the cover.