June 11, 2010
A Carousel at Birth
detail of the the final stanza
Ian Boyden and Frank Boyden
There is a decisive beginning to my book collaborations with my father, Frank Boyden, the circumstances of which feel more literary to me than real. On Sunday, May 28, 1996, we were traveling by train to Wuwei, an ancient oasis town at the edge of the Gobi Desert in Gansu Province, People's Republic of China. It was nighttime and our train car, called a hard sleeper, was pulling slowly through smoky air, the floor of the car was strewn with fruit rinds and Styrofoam noodle bowls. We had just been visited by the train's conductor who, hearing there were foreigners on board, had come back to welcome us and regale us with amusing stories about learning English during the Cultural Revolution. As the rest of the passengers fell asleep, Frank and I sat at a small table lit by the dull glow of the running lights and talked for hours about the variety of systems used by the Chinese over the past three millennia to track time, astral cycles, and the evocative Chinese zodiac. While at the time we did not know it, our conversation that evening triggered a series of thoughts and events that significantly changed both of our lives and our artistic development; it led to our first collaborative book, A Carousel at Birth (published by Kathy Kuehn of Salient Seedling Press, 1997), joining my poetry and Frank's prints, and was then followed by six more book projects to date.
This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote on my collaborations with my father, Frank Boyden, for his book Frank Boyden: Prints and Books, which I co-authored with Prudence Roberts (Salem, Oregon: Hallie-Ford Museum of Art, 2006). Read the whole essay. See more images of A Carousel at Birth.