‘Train Tracts’

By Brooke Adams, senior writer, University of Utah Communications

The 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike— the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad—is being celebrated with exhibitions and events throughout Utah and one such exhibition is “Transcontinental: People, Place, Impact,” which highlights the work of more than 30 Utah artists.

The exhibition includes “Train Tracts,” a collaborative effort led by Amie Tullius and Stefanie Dykes of Saltgrass Printmakers, which will be on display through June 14, weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rio Gallery, 300 S. Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City.

In November 2018, Amie Tullius invited Marnie Powers-Torrey, head of the Marriott Library’s Book Arts Program and managing director of Red Butte Press, to contribute to the production and dissemination of the traveling literary journal.

Powers-Torrey was paired with writer Rachel Marston, assistant professor of English at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota, who offered a challenging text for interpretation and visual translation. Marston received her doctorate in literature and creative writing from the U.

Copies of their book were due to the post office by Jan. 31, 2019, so that they could join editions produced by 11 other book artists/writer teams. Art Mules, people invited to assist with the distribution of the texts, then delivered the books to train stations, sending them on their individual journeys. Train-traveling readers were invited to add their own verbal and/or visual responses to the tract. Each book included return postage and request that it be returned in time for the exhibition at the Rio Gallery.

Rachel Marston, assistant professor of English at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota with Marnie Powers-Torrey, head of the Marriott Library’s Book Arts Program and managing director of Red Butte Press.

“The Distance We’ve Traveled,” one of the “Train Tracts,” is a frank, complex and moving account of the writer’s experience with breast cancer that brims with visual language. The book is a series of sixteen panels that readers stitched together into a stiff-leaf boustrophedon—a book form that can be read as a codex or opened to a flat sheet to present a full image.

The text, divided by the author into 12 sections, was spread across the panels to parallel the pre-existing structure of the manuscript. The text required the reader to stitch together panels to map the progression of the journey. Pre-sewn copies are available by request from Abecedarian Gallery and Vamp & Tramp Booksellers.

The text and textural elements were printed on a letterpress from polymer plates. The panels are packed in a cotton pouch made of cloth suggesting a hospital gown. The snapped breast pocket accommodated tools for the reader to use in completing the project, including needles and thread, colored pencils and a sharpener, a small hand-carved stamp, stamp pads, two sheets of custom-made stickers, a custom-made plastic drawing template and a small, saddle-stitched journal. The pouch readily holds the panels before and after binding.

This production was funded in part by a grant from the College Book Arts Association Project.