Thomas Helmers ~ Washington

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Artist statement: "My artwork stems from an interest in how humans ceaselessly construct (destruct, reconstruct) narratives. I explore how visual forms of communication fail to convey the complexities and minutiae of the world and how this affects the similar process of crafting individual and communal identities. I investigate the points where language and image are unable to express or recount histories, memories, or emotions. How and with what do humans fill or bridge such gaps in narration? Are they facts or fictions?"
Hic Svnt Dinosavrs
By Thomas Helmers
Iowa City, Iowa: Offal Press, 2015. Edition of 30.

9 x 5.5"; 36 pages. Materials: handmade paper, thread. Letterpress printed text. Handset in Gill Sans. Images printed from photopolymer plates and linoleum blocks. Handmade paper by the artist using cotton fibers. Modified paper case binding. Paper wrapper with dinosaur illustration and tiles on front cover. Laid in a three-flap hard cover cloth-covered portfolio case. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Thomas Helmers: "A series of prose fragments, Hic Svnt Dinosavrs explores how our understanding of the past, present, and future is continually in flux. The title is inspired by the Latin phrase, hic svnt dracones, which translates to 'here be dragons.' This phrase, often accompanied by drawings of serpents and mythological creatures, denoted unknown territories on early maps and globes.

"Paired with the text are nine fossil illustrations from Othniel Charles Marsh's 1896 book,
The Dinosaurs of North America. These drawings mark a moment in history when many fossils were initially documented, only later to be questioned or proven incorrect.

"The book observes, using dinosaurs as the foundational metaphor, that as our understanding of the world changes, so does our concept of the self."


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Suite: Grosmannia Clavigera
By Thomas Helmers
Iowa City, Iowa: Offal Press, 2014. Edition of 15.

12 x 8"; 7 leaves. Handset in Centaur. Images printed from polymer plates and feature hand-sewn line details using silk thread. Housed in a paper portfolio with a board base. Signed and numbered.

Thomas Helmers: "Suite: Grosmannia Clavigera, a sequence of five prints, depicts the effect of Blue Stain Fungus, which is carried by the Mountain Pine Beetle and has devastated large portions of forests in western North America as a result of beetle infestation. Blue Stain Fungus, as the name suggests, stains segments of sapwood in infected pine trees a bluish-grey. While the discoloration is strangely beautiful, it is a sign of starvation and death — not only of the individual tree but also of the surrounding forest.

"I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where vast portions of forest have been destroyed as a result of Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. I was interested in how once signs of infestation appear, it is already too late to save those trees — that within a few years they will turn from green to red to gray — all that can be done is attempt to isolate. I was struck by how these small, nearly unseen beetles move through and destroy the forest. And how, as a result of the beetles and the fungus they carry, the unseen, interior wood of the pine tree is stained a beautiful, and somewhat foreign blue.

Grosmannia clavigera is the binomial name for Blue Stain Fungus."

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By Thomas Helmers
Iowa City, Iowa: Offal Press, 2013. Edition of 15.

7 × 4"; 16 pages. Materials: handmade paper, thread. Letterpress printed. Handset in Van Dijck. Images printed from linoleum blocks and feature hand-sewn line details. Islamic-style paper handmade by the artist using a mixture of abaca and recycled paper. Bound as a single-signature pamphlet with matching wrappers. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Thomas Helmers: "Axiom is an artists' book that attempts to prove the existence of silence, by way of proving the presence of sound. The narrative of the poem uses the opposition between silence and sound to approach broader understandings of absence."

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Thomas Helmers Out of Print Titles:  
On the Dream Side
By Thomas Helmers
Iowa City: Offal Press, 2014. Edition of 10.

16 x 10"; 40 pages. Materials: paper, thread, paraffin. Letterpress printed using a variety of wood type on Mohawk Superfine paper waxed with paraffin. Bound as a two-signature pamphlet with wrapper of flax handmade paper. Letter press printed end papers. Title printed on front cover. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Thomas Helmers: "On the Dream Side is an artists' book exploring the sensations of dreaming and how we then make broad generalizations of what dreams may mean. The fragmented text is slowly revealed through the layers of transparent pages, then slowly disappears in the reverse order that mimics the hazy way we remember the passing of dreams.

"The text was written prior to printing; however, the placement and registration of the wood type was composed at the press. I used tracing paper to proof each page to determine the relationship between text fragments from page to page. After printing, the paper was waxed with paraffin to produce the necessary level of transparency."

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Page last update: 11.14.17


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