At a time when the entire publishing industry is undergoing a sea change as the relative merits of digital and print media sort themselves out, there are certain books that will be unaffected by the turmoil. A classic example is Nocturnes (Luna Press), a large-format volume of photogravures by Josephine Sacabo and poems by Dalt Wonk, both of whom I have known for years. As a beautifully produced limited edition it is something of an art object in its own right, a collectible that, while pricey ($125), is still affordable to anyone who truly wants one. In it, Sacabo's stunning images appear as mysterious, even romantic, paeans to the power of dreams, darkness and the lunar light of the psyche. Wonk's deftly evocative poems, each printed on translucent vellum, segue seamlessly into her haunting visions distilled from the raw materials of her long personal history in the French Quarter, southern France and Mexico, as well as her lifelong immersion in the works of great artists and thinkers through the ages, from Rainer Maria Rilke's poems to Gaston Bachelard's philosophical ruminations on reverie.
Silent echoes of Chopin's Nocturnes haunt these dusky, luminous images where dreamy female forms seem to emerge from the shadows of antiquity. If this hints at 19th century romanticism, there also is more to it than that because Sacabo and Wonk's immersion in the subjective reflects a resurgent critical appreciation for the importance of non-rational modes of understanding. Or as Sacabo puts it: "We dream in images. Images are at the most basic level of our true psychic reality. Our dreams are the metaphorical pictures of our individual realities. I believe that through them we can forge a deeper connection between ourselves and the world. By uniting dream and reality we can produce an art that will resonate and in the process learn something about ourselves and others. I photograph things not as I 'see' them but rather as I might have 'dreamt' them."
And for that we should be grateful. As longtime New Orleans residents, Sacabo and Wonk epitomize the creativity and originality for which this city has historically been known.
Sacabo and Wonk introduce Nocturnes, the first book from their Luna Press, at the Happy Birthday, Mr. Faulkner reception Tuesday. — D. Eric Bookhardt