Tasha Lewis grew up in Indianapolis and later attended Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA. There, she majored in studio art and literature and graduated with high honors in 2012. Since then, she has had 10 solo shows in various cities around the country including Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New Haven, and New York. Her work was also included in recent group exhibitions at The Bronx Museum, The Spartanburg Art Museum, The Cornell Art Museum and The Philadelphia Art Alliance. In 2015, she was a resident for 8 weeks at The Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport, Maine. While there, she used 18 different techniques to visually translate each chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The self-published book, Illustrating Joyce’s Ulysses in Eight Weeks, was featured by Louis Menand in the New Yorker (June 2016). She was an Artist-in-the-Marketplace (AIM) Fellow at the Bronx Museum in 2014 and received The Main Line Art Center’s Emerging Artist Award in 2015. Those summers, she was also awarded work-study and technical-assistant positions at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft. Eight of her illustrations along with a short introduction to the project will appear in the 2017 volume of The Joyce Studies Annual.
Where previous illustrators sought to map their own visual practice onto the words and images of James Joyce’s Ulysses, the mixed-media artist Tasha Lewis allowed the text to guide her. Instead of laboring to distill entire chapters into a single image, Lewis responded to a single word, phrase or idea from each of the 644 pages of the Gabler edition of the text. She designed every chapter to have a distinct mode of image-creation which reflects that section’s themes, compelling critical responses, or her own interpretations of Joyce’s experimentations. Building off one another, every chapter suite evokes a distinct feeling similar to that of reading the text.
In the six months leading up to her residency in Maine she revisited Joyce’s novel and extensively researched previous illustrators of the text. Key to her project was finding a unique entry-point into the text through art. The springboard for her investigation was Karen Lawrence’s The Odyssey of Style in Ulysses. In her work, Lawrence outlines Joyce’s various literary masks which fuel the various tones of each chapter. She succinctly described how Joyce was interested in subverting the expected monotone of an authorial voice and replaced it with a cacophony of experiments. It was clear to Lewis that in order to truly honor the labor which makes Ulysses an innovative and captivating reading experience, she had to break out of her own artistic style and allow herself to by shaped by each chapter in turn.
All of the images for this project were created during a two-month residency in Eastport, Maine through the Tides Institute and Art Museum. Lewis gathered paper source material for her collages beforehand but also responded directly to Eastport’s rich coastal landscape and the materials available in the printshop. The eighteen styles she worked with included xerox transfers, watercolors, layered drawings, stamps, lithographs, paper collage, embroidery, redaction of a copy of Hamlet, silkscreen mono-prints, food art, dioramas and Polaroid photographs among others. After completing the project in November 2015, Lewis began the task of laying out and publishing it as a book. The final design includes an excerpt from each page below every image. While this book does not fully abridge Joyce’s epic novel, it does give a new window into the world of Ulysses for Joyce fans and new readers alike.
The online version of full project can be found on the Illustrating Ulysses website. The book can be purchased from the publisher here, and is also available on iTunes as an ebook. The press release for the book with blurbs from reviewers can be downloaded here.
A video compiling all 678 illustrations of Illustrating Ulysses (18 of which are additional chapter headings images) can be found here.
See below for photos of Illustrating Ulysses and shots from Tasha Lewis’s studio.