The Millennium Book: Local artist donates copy
Rough and Ready artist Teddy Kell’s involvement in “The Millennium Book” gave her the opportunity to be part of something that may not last forever, but is expected to endure at least 500 years.
Kell is donating her copy of the unusual work to Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., where she has a childhood connection.
“The Millennium Book” began in 1999 as a five-year project sponsored by a variety of artists and arts supporters. Spearheaded by artist Be Davison Herrera, the book aims to represent life at the turn of the millennium in Northern California.
“It’s the most publicly noticed thing I’ve done,” said Kell, 81.
Each of the 12 participating artists received a copy of “The Millennium Book” – encased in an archival box, which Kell calls a “cumbersome creature” – to either keep or donate.
Kell’s decision to give her copy to Linfield College harks to the early 1930s, when her grandfather was a professor there and lived in a house perched on the edge of campus.
As a child, Kell considered the school her backyard.
A particularly special monument for the college is a majestic oak tree, known as an indigenous gathering place to resolve tribal problems.
“I grew up from 3 or 4 seeing this tree as symbolic and maternal,” Kell recalled.
Kell’s book – which was shown at Grass Valley’s Center for the Arts in 2008 and by appointment for four years – will be made available for public viewing when it arrives at Linfield College.
“They have an excellent art department and art museum. I know they have a new library,” she said.
The Rumsey Community Foundation, the California State Library Foundation, the Sacramento art group Inclusionists and the International Exchange for the Arts sponsored the project.
Herrera chose the participating artists for their “strong commitment to the practice of art as a peaceful, communal pursuit.”
Each one received 12 pages to work on; the only guideline was their work had to fit on the 11-inch-by-11-inch sheets.
Their result “represents a record of the extraordinary vitality and breadth of life as lived in the Sierra foothills and Sacramento Valley with respect, grace and humor at a particular time period,” Herrera said.
The artists became close during the process, Kell said.
“I was the furthest away from Sacramento,” she added. “The rest are all pretty much Sacramento artists of different backgrounds, different races, gender, ages. Definitely a California collection.
“I felt very honored to be in this group of artists,” Kell said.
Eighteen copies of “The Millenium Book” were made. Copies have been donated to or shown at the California State Library; the Stedelijk Contemporary Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and the Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco, among other venues.
One copy, encased in 12 coats of beeswax (one layer for each participating artist) will be dropped in the ocean near San Francisco with the hope it will eventually wash up somewhere.
Kell’s section of the book, “But Earth Abides,” consists of illustrations of quotations from Native American speeches, songs and haikus.
Digital art brings to life images Kell conjured while on assignment for a class: Scenes of a crone dancing. Depictions of Kell’s favorite landscapes pairs with “figures that fit my feelings about it,” representing “all the creatures of the earth,” she added.
“I was fascinated to find exactly the right words to go with what I was trying to do,” Kell explained.
An artist all her life and turning to the arts full-time upon retirement in 1986, Kell said it was “heaven to be able to finish up everything I had in my head.”
What’s next for Kell? Finishing a book: A reflection on a year she spent in Eastern Oregon with her mother. It was like “going back 100 years,” she said, equating the experience with the cowboy books she has read her whole life.
As for Kell’s other significant book? She’s is proud she completed all her pages and they said what she wanted them to say.
“I do a lot of different things. I hate to put one painting in a show because it doesn’t show who I am or what I’m about.”
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