Love, Punky (2022)

My earliest memory is of walking to church on a maple-leaf stained sidewalk in Bremen, Indiana, my Aunt Marie berating my Uncle Dewey for the black grease still embedded under his short fingernails and in the creases of his hands. Dewey was a diesel mechanic, and owned Balsley’s Garage, the name spray-painted in cursive on the doors of his tow truck. He could never get his hands clean enough for church, according to Marie.

My Aunt and Uncle were in their mid to late 40s, their own three children out of the house and the oldest almost through medical school, when my recently widowed father dumped me, an infant at the time, and my 6 year old sister on them. If you’re also from a family tree that features multiple marriages and some tangled branches, you know that inter-family classism can run deep. Adults often make it clear when children are a burden.

Uncle Dewey was the one person who always had a sincere twinkle in his eye and made me feel happy. Even a toddler recognizes and remembers small kindnesses. In their home I was Punky, a nickname that was never used after we were returned to my dad and his new wife.

Love, Punky is a one-of-a-kind artist’s book that began during a residency at Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Art and Agriculture as I was exploring the possibilities of the Sewn Board Binding. The combination of the graphite-grimed pages and the cathedral-like architecture of the form feels like the perfect homage.

…and WHY the blocky stubs, you might ask? Balance.