Tensile: A Sublime Love Story
Including "Love's Philosophy" a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley 1819
Bisphenol Data compiled by Professor Alyce DeMarais 2017-2021
Tacoma, WA: Springtide Press, 2021. Edition of 35.
6 x 8 inches, expands to 60 inches. Letterpress printed from single-use plastics and handset type by Jessica Spring. Paper Rite-in-the Rain and Pike. Binding leporello structure with pop-up text panels. Plastic covers. Bound by Jessica Spring & Gabby Cooksey. Signed and numbered by Jessica Spring.
Jessica Spring: "’A Sublime Love Story’ weaves together a 19th century poem of seduction by Percy Bysshe Shelley, with current research on bisphenol contamination in our environment, food, water and bodies. Used to manufacture plastics and resins for food and drink packaging, bisphenol A (BPA) impacts the endocrine system, impairing development and reproductive health of animals and humans. BPA analogues, including BPE and BPS, are similar reproductive toxicants with transgenerational effects. 19th century writers didn’t know synthetic plastic would emerge in 1907 to change the world. Mary Shelley’s 'Frankenstein', published in 1818, foreshadows the cost and complexity of scientific progress and defying the natural order. In the midst of industrialization, Romantic era poets bore the responsibility of reinvigorating a spiritual connection to nature by portraying the Sublime. Both poet and scientist note the world is full of interconnectedness. Percy Shelley celebrates the mingling of rivers and oceans while scientists conclude that exposure to bisphenol contamination is ubiquitous. 'Tensile' explores the irony of our sublime love affair with plastic, a monster of our own creation."
Alyce DeMarais (University of Puget Sound): “Alyce DeMarais is Professor Emerita of Biology at the University of Puget Sound where she taught and conducted research. She and her students studied the effects of environmental chemicals on ovary function.”
Where Science Meets Art by Amy Downey: “One of the artists was Jessica Spring, a printer who’s lived in Tacoma for nearly 20 years, and whose letterpress shop, Springtide Press, is just down the street from campus. She paired up with Puget Sound Professor Emerita Alyce DeMarais, a developmental biologist who has long been interested in environmental issues. DeMarais has worked with Puget Sound students to understand how bisphenol chemicals from polycarbonate plastics can affect egg development in the ovaries of zebrafish. They concluded that these plastics, found in food and drink packaging, could also affect fertility in other vertebrate organisms, including humans. ‘Plastic has enhanced life in so many ways, but it’s caused a lot of harm, as well,’ says DeMarais.
“For their artist book, titled ‘Tensile: A Sublime Love Story,’ Spring touched on society’s obsession with plastic by weaving the zebrafish research with romantic text from a 19th-century poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. (‘Tensile,’ which means strong and flexible, is a nod to the longevity of plastic.) The artist also used single-use plastics to print the patterns onto the pages: She placed items like old bubble wrap, bendy straws, contact lens cases, bread bag clasps, and produce netting (think: avocado bags) into her press—even those skinny rings that we discard when opening milk containers. ‘Nothing printed quite as expected, and that made me like it even more,’ says Spring. ‘These were materials that I hadn’t really thought about, but I found them really compelling.’ She chose fluorescent ink for a provocative effect, while a ribbon of red paper running through the middle of the book prominently displayed the research findings of scientists, including DeMarais and her group.
“Plastics pollution is a global problem, and DeMarais says that’s why Spring’s decision to use discarded plastics to design the book was so powerful: ‘That’s just a tiny piece of what’s out there in the environment.’ The timing of the book also was interesting, notes Spring, because the use of plastics was at an all-time high during the pandemic, from restaurant takeout packaging to the plexiglass installed in stores and the workplace. ‘What struck me is that this plastic that we use so much to keep us sterile is literally making us sterile,’ says Spring. ‘The irony is just so painful’.”
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