Podcast transcription: Audacious Play: Sculptures by Page Turner
Glen Nelson: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Center's Studio Podcast. I'm your host, Glen Nelson. Full disclaimer, the Center's 2019 arts festival ended last night, and I'm not entirely confident that I can string together more than a couple of sentences, coherently--little disclaimer there. With me today is the artist Page Turner: , who participated in the festival. Welcome Page.
Page Turner: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Glen.
Glen Nelson: Oh, my goodness, it's so great to have you here. Are you as tired as I am?
Page Turner: I am probably less tired than you. But I am very tired, as well.
Glen Nelson: You were everywhere though, those two days. It was a lovely event. I penciled in naps for today.
Page Turner: Yeah, that was smart. I hardly got to eat. Even when we were having lunch, I was talking to so many people. And then I looked down and hadn't even finished my sandwich. But it was wonderful. It was energizing. More than exhausting.
Glen Nelson: I lost some weight. I wrote on Facebook, like, this is a very good, new diet that I just got, right? Bring artists from around the world to New York City in the heat of summer; that's the perfect way to lose a few pounds. When audio recording and interviewing artists, I feel that the audience is at a disadvantage because they can't see the work as we're talking about. It is so much easier to be talking to a composer and hear samples of their music, or a poet who's going to read a poem. And I think it's especially a shame in your case because your work is so evocative and unusual and beautiful. But it really cries out to be examined close up. I think that even a photograph that's flat is not the ideal.
Page Turner: Right. Thank you for recognizing that. And I do intend for people to get as close as possible and continue to look, so I plant things in my sculptures that possibly would never be seen without a close examination.
Glen Nelson: It's almost treasure hunting.
Page Turner: It is. Yeah.
Glen Nelson: Well, we're going to talk about that a lot. But is it a frustration for you that it's a little difficult to put your art in a publication or online because of the flattened quality that you have to do with a photograph?
Page Turner: I wouldn't say it's necessarily a frustration. I think of it as more an opportunity that if you have eyes to see, you will see. And so those that actually do observe and recognize these tiny sculptures maybe displayed next to grand sculptures and large paintings, it almost forces the viewer to have to stop and view.
Glen Nelson: It's like an intimacy that you have to bring, in order to read it at all.
Page Turner: Right, and if you get it, if you have have eyes to see, then you do, and those that don't walk right past it. And I find that fascinating--those that will walk by it three or four times, and then it catches them, and that experience...
Glen Nelson: But that plays to one of my fears in life, that I'm going to walk by something and not get enough of it. I have to say that that's one of my anxieties at museums and galleries.
Page Turner: But to answer your question about publications, it is an incredible challenge for sculpture work, in general, to be represented in 2D. And finding photographers that understand how to capture the detail and the minutiae of the work is a great challenge. I've had the privilege of working with some fantastic photographers who work very hard with multiple photo shoots of my work and a lot of editing to even get that flat image to look like something inviting.
Glen Nelson: Well, lighting has to be very difficult.
Page Turner: Yes, especially with the work under the glass domes. The glass domes are antique, and often they have small bubbles or the glass is so old that it starts to fault--the glass kind of gets heavier at the bottom, you can have waves through it. And when you're trying to photograph that with professional lighting, we might get that one perfect after six to 10 hours of photoing it, watching where the hotspots are. And then I bring in another sculpture, and the glass is completely different. And we have to solve the problem all over again.
Glen Nelson: Some people who are listening might not even be able to visualize what we're talking about. I've seen the term "assemblage artist" used to describe your work. So maybe you could describe what kind of objects do you make? And that's a really general thing, I know. It's not like you're a factory making the same thing over and over. But your work, I've come to recognize it. You know a work of yours and you say, "Okay, I know who made that."
Page Turner: Thank you.
Glen Nelson: So how would you describe these objects?
Page Turner: First I would start with with my process. I would describe my process as audacious play. And it's taken me a long time to recognize that that is, in fact, the core of my process. It's the heartbeat. It's the lifeblood of my work. And so the objects that I assemble into my sculptures are all found objects. And a lot of times I'm finding them in places I'm not supposed to be finding them: collecting things from abandoned houses--I'm not a good girl scout--I will pick up that snail shell and put it in my pocket when I'm in the woods. I have been known to go through dumpsters and things like that. So it's anything that I find. I also work with family heirlooms and personal objects that are either from my family or other people. People will send me boxes of things from their family that maybe there's a curiosity or a connection to the objects, but they maybe don't know what to do with it, or they want it to go to a custodian that will do something magical with those objects. So these these objects find me.
Glen Nelson: And then what do they end up looking like?
Page Turner: Right, they end up looking like whatever happens through that process of audacious play. I often will take these precious family heirlooms--quilts, for instance--and I deconstruct each part and piece back into its original components. And then we'll either sew or bundle those parts and pieces into my sculptures. And that's kind of where the audacity comes into it. I will take your great-aunt Sally's crochet work, and I will cut it up. And I will cut it up with no intention. It's through that play and through that manipulation of material and re-manipulation that then I start to form these objects. And most of the time, it's a guided process where that guidance comes from. I'm not able to place my finger on it. I don't even care to...
Glen Nelson: It's not technically helpful.
Page Turner: It's not. It's such a thing that happens. It's a relationship with myself and my play. That it happened so organically, there's no need for me to dissect where that guidance or that source is coming from.
Glen Nelson: And sometimes the works relate to the figure in some way. If I were to say a word like a "doll," it would give some suggestion of something that isn't the case, but sometimes the finished things have human forms, and so on, or sometimes they're tableaux of things that seem to have happened. So those are some things for the listener to imagine. For me, your works are tied to your place in the world, geographically.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: So specifically, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia, and maybe more specifically still, to the land near your home in Roanoke, Virginia?
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Would you say that?
Page Turner: 100%.
Glen Nelson: Why are those things important to you?
Page Turner: Well, first of all, it's home. This is the place that I was raised. My parents joined the Church 50 years ago, and the families that they met that converted them and welcome them into the community were a group of families that in the 1870s joined the Church. One converted, another brother converted, cousins converted. And so basically, the Church grew in one particular hollow of the mountains. And when my parents joined the Church, they were allowed to purchase land in this community. And so I grew up in a hollow of Appalachian Mormons and Mormon families that had been there forever.
Glen Nelson: I've never heard of this. Is it really kind of unique?
Page Turner: When I left and went to school in Rexburg, I found my experience to be incredibly unique compared to to the typical.
Glen Nelson: So you're not the part of Virginia that's like Washington D.C. You're way to the west?
Page Turner: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: So where is Roanoke?
Page Turner: Southwest Virginia. It's very, very rural. We do have the city. I live in the county and in a very rural part of that.
Glen Nelson: What's your house look like?
Page Turner: My husband and I spent four years building our home and bought a portion of my parent's property. It's still in this hollow.
Glen Nelson: Is it?
Page Turner: Yes. And it's a small home that literally Zephren and I dug the foundation of our home with shovels. And we were a part of every bit of the process. And it was a fascinating experience to have such a connection to the land and the place, and an opportunity to come back, and come back with my husband, and allow my roots to grow even deeper in the same hollow, and then to, by my side, physically dig the foundation for my home with my husband.
Glen Nelson: And where did you say he's from?
Page Turner: He's from Roanoke city.
Glen Nelson: So the materials that used to build your house, are they reclaimed things or are they contemporary building materials?
Page Turner: Contemporary. We had a lot of building codes and things like that. And when you want to reclaim, they start to, you know, have a lot of questions about things.
Glen Nelson: We're in my apartment right now, which is like a matchbox-sized thing. So how many rooms is yours?
Page Turner: So I have 900 square foot upstairs and 900 square foot downstairs.
Glen Nelson: It's a mansion.
Page Turner: Right, so it's a mansion. We have a L-shaped porch, and really the house was built around this covered porch, and in the view is trees and mountains. I mean, it is literally, you step off the porch, and you are in the forest.
Glen Nelson: And the closest home to you is...
Page Turner: The closest home is about 200 yards, and it's my parents.
Glen Nelson: You're kidding.
Page Turner: No.
Glen Nelson: So I think I'm getting a picture of your vibe.
Page Turner: And so my parents have have a bit of land, and my immediate neighbor has a bit of land--about 60 acres that they don't live on. And the woman who owns this land, she is like another mother. I grew up with her children. And she knows the work that I do, and supports it, and in fact celebrates the work that I do. And so she allows me to walk that part of the hollow, and that's where I collect a lot of the natural elements and bits that I'm then using in my sculpture work.
Glen Nelson: And you're the youngest of five?
Page Turner: The youngest of five.
Glen Nelson: And so your training, you said you went to school at BYU Idaho in Rexburg?
Page Turner: I did. I studied humanities there. I have had no formal art training. My art training is actually informed by my relationships with the sisters that I grew up with in the hollow, some of the last remaining generations of these Mormon families, though, the women, in particular, I was very attracted to. My grandparents lived in South Carolina, and we visited them often, but not like living next door to them. And these families became my... I mean, the cousins-- and we call them cousins even though I'm not blood related--we were all raised by each other's families. And the older generation of women that were alive when I was young, I spent a lot of time with, and these women taught me everything from canning, gardening, which plants to harvest, how to identify mushrooms, and different things like that. So they taught me independence and self-sufficiency as well as the domestic arts. You know, I learned quilting and crocheting and many different things. Sometimes it was whatever they were doing, you know. I would go and check on them from across the hollow through the woods, and whatever they were getting into, I was there to help. So if the sister is putting shingles on her roof, I'm climbing up that ladder and putting shingles on on the roof, too. If we're snapping beans, I would snap beans, and I also took this time to ask them questions about their life and their family. So even even as a small child, I was absolutely hungry for the words and wisdom of my sisterhood, which is what I'm now processing and translating into visual...
Glen Nelson: It's like you were banking all of these emotions and knowledge.
Page Turner: Absolutely.
Glen Nelson: And speaking of sisterhood, the first work of yours that I saw was an exhibition at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University in Roanoke. Its title was "Power and Restraint: A Feminist Perspective on Mormon Sisterhood." And I think that was like 2011 or something like that.
Page Turner: That seems about right.
Glen Nelson: That was my first introduction to your work. It was just so exquisite...
Page Turner: Thank you.
Glen Nelson: ...All of these pieces. The whole space, I can visualize it quite clearly, now. All of these sculpture works on pedestals, lit beautifully.
Page Turner: My husband and I made the pedestals together.
Glen Nelson: You did?
Page Turner: Yeah, yeah, with a beehive cutout and the veils behind.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, somehow I'm not surprised to hear that, but I like hearing it. So since that first show in 2011, you've been shown at a bunch of different places, including exhibitions in New York City, in Charlotte, Raleigh, Washington, D.C., Winston Salem, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Wilmington, North Carolina, Galax, Virginia, Lexington, Kentucky, and other places. And what I'm seeing, as I'm reading through the exhibitions and those people who curated them, is there's this link between a curator of one show and how that almost looks like it was an introduction to the next show.
Page Turner: Absolutely.
Glen Nelson: So in your career, these curators have been part of the step to the next thing.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Essentially, advocates.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Did you know at the time that that was likely to happen, or was it sort of a surprise each time--somebody would make another introduction to a new thing?
Page Turner: Oh, I would say it was absolutely a surprise.
Glen Nelson: I was curious about how members of the Church might have heard of you for the first time. And my guess is that that might have come through Exponent II, that publication.
Page Turner: Yes, I would say that would have come through Exponent II. After I was published in Exponent II magazine, I was also published in Dialogue with the "Power and Restraint" series. They did a cover, and then they printed inside all four of the tableaux. So that was my first introduction to members of the Church.
Glen Nelson: How do you think that Exponent II--and Exponent II is a feminist magazine that in recent years has done an extraordinary job of uncovering new voices--I would say...
Page Turner: Yes. I think that's accurate.
Glen Nelson: ... How did they find you?
Page Turner: I found them.
Glen Nelson: Okay. Reaching out.
Page Turner: So I was making the "Stitch in Time Saves Nine" series, which are 21 dress forms that represent individuals from my--they are all sisters from my upbringing. They are also some of my contemporary sisters, as well. So basically, each one is a tableau specifically to a woman who was very influential in the shaping of my identity, and in particular, my identity as a woman, and my identity and femininity, and my independence. And from those pieces--so I was making them, and I was not specifically intending for them to be viewed through a Mormon lens. It was simply, when I think of myself, I am made up of these parts and pieces. And we're all made up of parts and pieces of each other. And so I was making these works. Each one has a sculpted dress form body, made from sugar sacks and flour sacks. Each piece is also adorned with a different dress or garment. Some of them are undergarments, some of them are outer garments. And each one to me reflects my specific relationship with that woman. So they are all stylistically very different. And the work wasn't intended to be necessarily about Mormon women. It just so happened that the women who are some of my foundation building blocks of my identity happened to be Mormon women, and these Appalachian Mormon women, especially.
Glen Nelson: So you had these works, and then why did you decide...
Page Turner: I was making these works. And for no reason. I had never considered myself an artist, it was simply something I was compelled to produce.
Glen Nelson: Really?
Page Turner: And I had visited my grandparents who were in their 90s, who had lived in the same home and same community for 70-plus years, and they had lived through the Depression. So they were very conscientious of materials. And anything that had value would be saved and preserved and kept in a in a good condition, as well. I was in my grandparent's barn or shed, and I found a stack of sugar sacks that were all pressed and tied up in string. And I took them to my grandmother, and I said, "What were these for?" And she couldn't quite remember what they were for, but she said, "Must have been something because I ironed them, pressed them, and tied them all together." And I asked her, I said, "Do you mind if I take these?", and really, I was attracted to the care that this bundle had been created with. And so when I took those sugar sacks home, I just started making these tiny bodies in these tiny gowns and undergarments and outergarments for these women. I felt like I was living with these women in my heart, and I needed to breathe life into them. And for no other reason than to process--my recognizing each of these women, having a bit of respect for these women that have made me who I am more laid that foundation.
Glen Nelson: So let's say you have a sugar sack. Was it like Michelangelo, where he could visualize a sculpture from a block of marble? Was it that you saw this, and it spoke to you as a form?
Page Turner: No, no.
Glen Nelson: It was all the process.
Page Turner: It's play. It was that audacious play. I just started cutting them up, and stitching them together, and figuring out how to make the forms look like women--so they have breasts and butts and waists--and then figuring out how to make their dresses or construct those garments that they were wearing. And then I did them all under 10 inches. So I'm working at a very small scale, which I love. These were simply a production for myself, I had no intention of what to do with them. The moment I had the first one done, I placed a bell jar over top of it. And immediately it was finished. And it had that sense of reverence and completion. And so that's when I saw the form as Michelangelo would. So when it was done, I knew it was done. And I recognized her. That's kind of when it was done is when I felt like I had absolutely portrayed that sister, that woman.
Glen Nelson: I had two sisters, and they would make doll clothes. For them the play was after the making, then they would do something with it.
Page Turner: Right.
Glen Nelson: I think the difference is...
Page Turner: It's the making. Figuring out the pattern and making stitches and unstitches. So to answer your question, I made these 21 tiny under 10-inch sculptures. And my husband, who is not LDS but has a huge background in art and film with his parents and an academic art education, as well. He's a practicing painter, and illustrator, and he draws, and he builds and makes, I mean. So he kept suggesting. He would say, "Page, you've got to put this work in front of Mormons." And I argued with him, and I said, "But it's not Mormon art. It's not devotional. This is nothing you would see in the 'Ensign.' What am I supposed to do, take this to these to Relief Society?" And so I didn't feel like there was a forum or a place for these. And he kept nudging me. Every couple of weeks, he would say, "You really should put these in front of Mormons." He was like, "Your vocabulary, your vernacular, the symbols you're using, they're Mormon." And I argued with him, I said, "No, they're not." And he just looked at me, and he's like, "Come on. You speak Mormon."
Glen Nelson: It was almost like you needed permission.
Page Turner: Right. And so to prove him wrong, that there was no venue, I googled Mormon Art. And I found your Mormon Artists Group. I think I sent you an email just saying, "Is there is there something like this?" And you said, "Yes, we're in New York," and I kind of gotten pouty because I'm in Virginia, and that was a very, very far and expensive distance to travel to, to gather with other Mormon artists. I kind of just stuffed that on a back burner. And I said, "See? It's just not achievable." And then Jephren continued to poke me a little, and then he started, not saying you need to put this in front of Mormons, he started saying, "You need to put this in front of Mormon women. Mormon women need need to see this work." And again, I was just like, "There's no venue, honey." So I got out the Googles, and I typed in "Mormon women artists," and I came upon "Exponent II" magazine. I had never heard of "Exponent," let alone "Exponent II." I knew nothing of their their history since the early 70s, of publishing the voice of Mormon women. And so I shot an email to Amy Hickman, who was the editor at the time. I had also worked with a photographer and had some some flat photos done of the work. I shared with her my story of building these women, and how how they were parts and components of my identity. I also gave Amy five or six back doors of like, "I'm not a professional artist, I have no artistic training..."
Glen Nelson: Reasons to get rid of you.
Page Turner: I mean, I just cut myself at the knees, over and over again. And I hit send. And I looked at Zephren, and I said, "We'll never hear anything back from from that." I think it was about 20 minutes later, I got a phone call from Amy, and she was just emotional about responding to my work. And she shared with me a story of how she uses the crochet hook of one of her great ancestors who carried those crochet hooks in her clothing across the trek. And so these sculptures that were made to reflect these women from parts and pieces that are heirlooms--but not your mother's diamond, but these everyday objects that still have that power of an heirloom--she connected with that. They put me on the cover, they did a centerfold artist's feature, they shared my story. After that was published, my email filled with women connecting with me, and I felt like I was not alone. With the responses, I was no longer alone.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, you were giving permission to all these other artists to do their thing...
Page Turner: Exactly.
Glen Nelson: ... And speak from their heart. On YouTube right now, there's a beautiful introductory video to work. It's called "Page Turner: , Assemblage Artist 2015." And it has examples of your work and a voiceover narrative that explains some things, and I took a few quotes from that, that also come in part from this "Exponent II" article. And so I think I'd like to ask you a few questions about it.
Page Turner: Certainly.
Glen Nelson: Alright, so this was in the winter of 2014. Here two quotes, and I'm interested to see how you might elaborate on them or something like that. They go to the heart of it, the magic of these objects themselves. So here's what you said: "Elder generations heavily emphasized domestic skills, which they bestow upon the younger women. The traditions of women were a major focus of my early development." Here's the second quotation: "Learning how to mend and alter clothing, sew on buttons, the proper way to iron, food preparation, and preservation--all taught to women by women. While under the tutelage of these church sisters, I discovered the sacredness of personal objects. So intense, filled with specific tools, someone's favorite old spoon, drawers of handmade aprons." Alright, so tell me about that. Why are those things especially meaningful to you?
Page Turner: They're meaningful to me because I saw these women have these personal objects that they clearly had had for many decades. And they use them day in and day out. And when these women would iron the aprons--I mean, the apron is simply something that you use while you're cooking to keep your clothes from being, you know, having the food on your clothes--but they mended the holes in the apron, instead of just getting a new one. And they ironed and pressed them and put them away in drawers. And that, to me, she revealed the sacredness of these everyday objects, and you know, your favorite cooking spoon... We all have to cull our objects, you know, we can't carry everything with us through our lives. I was always just mesmerized by the objects that get kept. And we keep our favorite things, and we keep them close by, and we take care of them as well.
Glen Nelson: From those objects into the things that you make out of them, there's this transformation. You could have taken these objects and just displayed them by themselves. Why wouldn't that be as meaningful to you as your participation in the transformation of an object?
Page Turner: I don't know. It's probably goes back to this play because I really want to just kind of get in there and get with the object. I don't know...
Glen Nelson: It's almost like you're mixing your DNA with these other objects.
Page Turner: Yes. And there's something about taking... I'm unstitching another woman's stitches.
Glen Nelson: I mean, it's not like you're not doing something thing derogatory to the original thing. When you say deconstructing it could have a negative connotation, but that's not what you're after.
Page Turner: No.
Glen Nelson: You're going to the element.
Page Turner: Yes, to the element. And also, these personal objects are usually the thing that is left over and discarded after these people die. They're not the heirlooms that the grandchildren are clamoring to preserve. These are the things that get put in a box and discarded at the end of the cleaning out the estate.
Glen Nelson: It's not the silver frame.
Page Turner: Exactly.
Glen Nelson: You've referred a couple of times to honoring these women. And I think that when people see your work and make that connection, it almost makes them these hallowed objects. It almost makes the thing under a dome sacred space.
Page Turner: Absolutely.
Glen Nelson: So then the collector coordinator from the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University--her name is Janet Cardy--wrote, "With her lovingly crafted work, Page Turner: succeeded in honoring the original pioneer women of the Mormon Church. As a feminist, she also acknowledged the struggles of the contemporary sisterhood, each woman like her handicraft figures, utterly unique, but bound together by their commitment and faith." So I imagine that Janet Carty might not know anything about the Church, in particular, right?
Page Turner: Right.
Glen Nelson: So that must have been a fascinating thing for you to read her comment?
Page Turner: It absolutely was.
Glen Nelson: Yeah. So why don't you tell me about this connection then? What does it mean, when you're making a thing and you're honoring these women in the past? It's hard...
Page Turner: That's a very tough question.
Glen Nelson: But you have said it over and over, though. You've said that you're honoring these women by making the thing. Part of it is preservation, I suspect.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: You're preserving a thing.
Page Turner: Yes. I would say that part of my honoring them is to bring to the table the conversation back about these women. So really the honoring, from an artist's perspective, I'm hoping that we would look at these tableaux, either remember the sisters of our own history, and that conversations, hopefully of honor and respect, would be sparked by the visuals that I've presented.
Glen Nelson: I suspect that many of these women probably never had their name in the paper, never won prizes. There's not a statue to them in your town.
Page Turner: Right.
Glen Nelson: So in that kind of sense, you're honoring them. You're elevating them...
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: ... And their stature, their importance to you. You're acknowledging them as an important thing. Is that fair?
Page Turner: Yes. I would say that's fair. Yeah, thanks,
Glen Nelson: Oh, I'm trying my best. I have to say that when I was a kid, I was the youngest of five kids who grew up on a farm. And my mom was extraordinary with all the things that you're talking about, except for food. She was a terrible, terrible cook, which she would acknowledge readily. But we were sheep herders, and she could raise the sheep, shear the sheep, card it, spin it, dye it, weave it, tailor, make textile art out of it, or fashion out of it.
Page Turner: Wow.
Glen Nelson: So she was a top-to-bottom, I don't know what to what. But you are talking often about the ways that women handed down things from one woman to another. She did that with all of us--boys and girls--in her family. I remember when I was thinking about going on a mission, she said, "Well, I'm going to teach you how to sew." And I thought, "Well, that's cool." So I was making shirts. And she said, "...because I need you to know how to change a collar." She imagined that on my mission...
Page Turner: That your collar's going to wear out.
Glen Nelson: ... My collar, my white shirt is going to wear out, and I would need to exchange it.
Page Turner: She didn't want her son walking around with a tattered color, when you can replace it. I love that.
Glen Nelson: So many of the values that you're talking about in the hollow are also true outside of Enoch, Utah. I don't have access to the feminist side of that--directly, the feminist side of it--feeling that I'm part of that woman-to-woman, over generations thing. But I'm getting enough of that sensibility from my own experience to really value it personally--more than just intellectually wanting to be fair. Let's talk about influences. So obviously, the women and the things that they did and made...
Page Turner: Yes. And their sisterhood, their relationships to each other.
Glen Nelson: Yes. In art, though... So you're a humanities person for a while in Idaho, and then came back and did your own thing. And then kind of came to this in a roundabout way. It sort of sprung from your experience, rather than you identifying yourself with some label and making things that the filled in the labeled to justify it, as an art major might say, "Oh, I have to make art if I'm an art major."
Page Turner: Right.
Glen Nelson: But in hindsight though, you're looking at all these other artists that might have justified this way of thinking. Is that is that possible?
Page Turner: A little bit.
Glen Nelson: Or do you feel that you're your own person, you just have gone your own way?
Page Turner: That's a tough question.
Glen Nelson: I hate asking artists about influence. It's almost like it's distracting from...
Page Turner: I'll tell you how it happened. My husband is a practicing artist. I had the privilege of managing a gallery and 25 artists' studios in downtown Roanoke. My husband was also one of the artists in the stable. And at that time, part of my job as gallery director was to build community events. And I have a background in community development from nonprofits that I worked with. And from that, my husband and I started holding open critiques in our home. And these would last from seven at night to three or four o'clock in the morning.
Glen Nelson: Oh, that's intense.
Page Turner: It was absolutely intense. And we had one rule: you cannot attend this without bringing something to be critiqued; it's just not fair to sit and offer criticism and not have it reflected back. So we were holding these in my home. And again, I'm one of these people that need to be beholden to this rule of you have to bring something in order to be here. And so at the time, I had been collecting these things--just things--and the windowsills were full of glass jars and broken things. So I've been carrying around on my back these objects for years.
Glen Nelson: Not knowing that they were inventory.
Page Turner: Having no idea.
Glen Nelson: You thought that they're interesting.
Page Turner: Just, this bottle is precious to me, and I don't know why, but I like it. And that's what I filled my home and my space with were these things. And I was collecting these materials, and then I'm also around all of these local artists. And my husband is a draftsman and a painter, and his execution is impeccable. And when I put pen to paper, it is not impeccable. And so there was a little bit of an intimidation of drawing and painting. And I didn't have a natural aptitude for it, either. And so I started making little collage pieces. I didn't have to draw the face. I could find the face I wanted and assemble those. So I was making collage pieces. And I was doing this out of Provo craft scrapbook paper. And again, thank you, Jephren, my husband, he would look over my shoulder, and he would say--we would talk about composition and form and balance and things like that, after. So we did mini critiques, unofficial mini critiques, as I'm making these collages. And he would kind of nudge me, and he would say, "You know, you've got gallons of other things that you could be using instead of this Provo craft music note paper. You have actual, handwritten music note paper from the 1890s." And I looked at him in horror, "You want me to use my precious, hoarded, collected items?"
Glen Nelson: Interesting.
Page Turner: And he looked at me, and he said, "We're filling up our space." And he said, "If you use them, you can keep collecting." And of course, he observed that what I was making--the compositions and the colors and the aptitude--was there, but the material lacked depth and soul and authenticity. And so at his encouragement... And in the deal was like, "No, we can keep walking the railroad track and picking things up and bringing them home if you're willing to use those object."
Glen Nelson: Why not actually use them?
Page Turner: Exactly.
Glen Nelson: So then for me, the discussion is shifting from an idea of influence to artistic, philosophic concepts that are just in the air.
Page Turner: Right. Again, this play.
Glen Nelson: Yeah.
Page Turner: And play with finding the materials and play with manipulating. And also, it's kind of a balance of finding the sacred in the discarded, and also not being afraid to play with the sacred, even.
Glen Nelson: That makes a lot more sense to me now that you've really explained it. At the same time you are making those explorations, I was going to galleries and museums here and coming across assemblage artists who were using the exact same philosophies to reorder history in their own communities: Robert Gober's work, Dario Roberto's work...
Page Turner: Right.
Glen Nelson: ... Even going back further, Rauschenberg's work, all three of those, men. But I was also struck by Marisol's sculptures, a generation earlier, with found wood objects and putting things together. And they all have a similar--not a similar result, I don't think, but the idea of taking something and changing it. It is sort of an idea that's in the air. At the Museum of Modern Art, I was looking at a work by Vija Celmins, "To Fix the Image in Memory," and it's these 22 stones that look like any rocks that you might just walk across. And it turns out that half of them are the rocks, and half of them are cast bronze that she's painted to look exactly like the rock.
Page Turner: Wow. Yeah.
Glen Nelson: And so they're displayed somewhat randomly, not paired really strictly, sort of side by side, though. And originally, her idea was to keep the found objects, the "actual rock," and take the sculptures and put them back in nature, just like throw them around and so people would walk across them, not even knowing. Ultimately, she couldn't stand it. Like, she couldn't do that. And Dario Robleto, the same thing. I don't know if you know his work. He's from Texas. But the two of you are just like, twins separated at birth, in a way. He would sometimes go into used clothing shops, and take shirts, and take them home, and take off the buttons, and then recreate the button. So instead of using this plastic thing, he might use this super-precious material or a cast object or whatever, and fake it so it looks exactly like the old one, sew it back on, take it back to the store, and hang it. So the person getting it wouldn't know they had this gorgeous, precious thing.
Page Turner: And talk about the overlooked...
Glen Nelson: They're jaded, in a sense. It's almost humorous.
Page Turner: Yeah.
Glen Nelson: I don't get a lot of humor in that way from you. You're really honoring people.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: You're inviting people to see what is the history.
Page Turner: Well, I have two different ways that the work comes out. I have work that's very thoughtful, very intentional. And then another part of the work is simply a response to the material. And I would say those are much more playful, "Tiny Toes" and "Merry Jane," that is not necessarily about... and actually they're made simultaneously. While I'm making the serious, contemplative work, I'm also still having to play in the studio. And that's where some of those much more assembled, less constructed pieces come from. And those have a much more sense of levity and child humor.
Glen Nelson: The object itself is almost toyful.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Yeah. I'm surprised, though, when you said that drawing is less comfortable for you because the works that you're creating are so intricate and often so small, your dexterity has to be insane.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: So I guess those aren't the same skills, and I assumed they were. Now, when other people have looked at your work, let's say people outside of the Church, and many of these artworks have, you know... you've not played down the Mormon connection to them.
Page Turner: No, not one bit.
Glen Nelson: Even though you were thinking that maybe these weren't aimed at that audience specifically, at all. I was wondering... I think of other artists whose work has a strong, female Mormon connection, like Angela Ellsworth, a lot of those have polygamy connections to them.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: But I don't see that so much to your work, or is it? Is it there? Polygamy as a theme?
Page Turner: Not necessarily. The women in my community did not practice polygamy. So that was just kind of something that was left to you guys out in Utah.
Glen Nelson: The Utahrns.
Page Turner: The Utahrns did it.
Glen Nelson: Were other people in your family artistic?
Page Turner: Yes. I would say all of my siblings are incredibly skilled at something. And we're all dynamic and different. But yes, I have some siblings that are very, very artistic. My grandfather--my father's father--was a costume designer in Chicago in the 50s.
Glen Nelson: For what kinds of things? For the theater?
Page Turner: He ran a costume shop called the New York Costume Company, and family lore... (He passed away when he was about 35. So he's someone I've never met, and he died when my father was a teenager.) But the family lore is that he designed the Playboy bunny costume for the club. So he's...
Glen Nelson: The original designer?
Page Turner: Yes, he's attributed to that.
Glen Nelson: Has that come into your work yet?
Page Turner: I mean, a little bit. I mean, he's definitely someone...
Glen Nelson: Have you done a mini bunny...
Page Turner: I haven't. I haven't, yet.
Glen Nelson: ...That's recognizable as a connection to that?
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Oh, I think that's in your future at some point, I don't know. That's too good to pass up.
Page Turner: He did other costumes as well for burlesque dancers and magicians' assistants, and things like that. And, you know, he died such a long time ago, we don't have very many of his objects and things. I did connect with a woman years ago whose mother and father were a magician and a magician's assistant. My grandfather made the costume for her mother. And she was generous enough to send me her mother's gown in completion, with the stockings, the shoes, the costume jewelry that went with it. And she included the original sketch that my grandfather did of this dress. So I have one object from my grandfather.
Glen Nelson: Oh dear.
Page Turner: Included in that were replacement sequins and thread. And I am down to the last three or four sequins and maybe five yards of threads. So I have used my grandfather's objects to stitch together many, many of these pieces.
Glen Nelson: Well, I'm smiling so wide because in my notes I had wanted to talk about magic.
Page Turner: Oh.
Glen Nelson: There's something about these works that feel, I don't know, like alchemy, at the very least.
Page Turner: Absolutely. And yet, I don't understand alchemy, right? So yes, I'm performing alchemy, but I do not know the formulas, and I'm not concerned with where the alchemy of magic comes from.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, well, 10 bucks says that something honoring this person more directly is in your future. I'm going to use now my magic crystal ball. Okay, so after BYU Idaho, you served for 14 months with AmeriCorps VISTA as a volunteer. What did those experiences teach you?
Page Turner: Those experiences taught me a love for community. And I knew I had a love of community and even an obsession of how community, the mechanisms of community, how it works, what it provides to each other, how it feeds. And so through My AmeriCorps tour, I had an opportunity to develop a community garden program, where I connected a retirement facility with a preschool facility. So I had the older generation teaching the younger generation how to garden and how to grow vegetables. And for many of these people, it was the first time that this retired community had put their hands and soil for decades. And of course, for the preschool children, it was the first time that they had ever been exposed to something like that.
Glen Nelson: And where was this?
Page Turner: It was in Roanoke. I got to come back home. There happened to be an AmeriCorps program back home. So I left Idaho and came back home.
Glen Nelson: Did they get emotional?
Page Turner: Absolutely, absolutely. And I also saw people who, most of the time, had an unengaged... They were just kind of going through the motions. And then they would cross the gates of a community garden, and immediately that revitalization happened, and they would tell me stories about their grandmother pulling in soybeans, and typically as slaves, even, or as sharecroppers. So that was incredibly powerful. And probably a sense of why community, sisterhood, our connections... I've been hyper-focused on how we treat each other and how we live together, for forever.
Glen Nelson: These are all such complex issues and resonant ones. We talk often about triggers of memory. And how a smell can take us back or food can take us back. I wonder if actions do, too.
Page Turner: Oh, I would argue, yes.
Glen Nelson: You're digging soil. There's a smell connected to that. But just the sensation of it.
Page Turner: I saw women whose hands were so arthritic that they hardly moved, but when they had a bowl of beans in their lap, they're snappin' beans like a youngster. It comes back. So yes, I would argue that memory and action is real.
Glen Nelson: I think a number of your objects are essentially documentations of actions. The objects are cool--the tools that were used to make the thing--but also the making of the thing is being memorialized in some of your works.
Page Turner: Yes. Thank you.
Glen Nelson: Oh, I'm a fan. Are you getting the sense that I'm a fan of your work? I am. The Center publishes a weekly Art Companion to the "Come, Follow Me" lesson curriculum. And we used a photograph of yours a couple of weeks ago to launch a discussion about seeking. And when I asked permission to use a photograph of the sculpture called "Total Plenitude: A Congregation of Seeker Sisters Sacred Copperhead Spring Divining," here's a quotation that you wrote to us to accompany that image: "This sculpture is about stories and seeking. The plenitude of the forest is overwhelming to me. I love to get lost looking at glorious growth, collecting the bits that I find in the deep forest litter, filling my basket with every walk. These natural elements become my materials. I adorn each bit to reflect its sacredness. I made this work to share the experience of seeking and discovering." So I was imagining you walking through the woods, walking through the forest gathering things. I would love you to describe what that experience is like. So you're in the hollow...
Page Turner: Goodness. This something I do probably four to five times a day.
Glen Nelson: Oh, a day?
Page Turner: Yes, we take we take mini breaks, and we just walk around a little bit, and we see what's to be seen.
Glen Nelson: Do you have a basket to collect things?
Page Turner: I have a collecting basket.
Glen Nelson: What does the basket look like? Is it like a picnic basket?
Page Turner: Similar. It's an it's an old basket that...
Glen Nelson: Because if you said it was from Walmart...
Page Turner: No, no, it is a basket. So I have many of these collecting baskets. The one that I use the most, like "my" basket is one that my husband assembled for me from a basket that I had had in my apartment for years. And his father had some leather luggage that his father had carried around most of his young adult life, and Zephren took the straps from that luggage and used copper pins and--I think they're grommets--anyway, so he hammered the copper pins around the basket. And I have a nice handle. So it kind of holds itself now. And this basket is big enough for me to collect things and also for me to carry like a mushroom knife, and some snips, and some digging tools. So it's holding my collecting tools as well as the objects that I collect.
Glen Nelson: And you're foraging. You're also finding food...
Page Turner: Yeah. And we do and we forage, and we collect mushrooms and other things.
Glen Nelson: So you're walking through the woods.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Is it like a path, or are you just walking through...?
Page Turner: We do have some established paths. But this is Virginia, and in two days, a path that I would clear with a machete that I have--a wonderful machete that was made from my nephew, and he made it from an old butcher knife and scaled it down to fit my small hands and so I use my machete, and I clear the vegetation--but literally in two to three days, if I didn't clear the path, you would not be able to see my trail. So it's incredibly lush. And again, the growth is gregarious, like, it can grow. And so there are a few established paths, but we go off path, and we crawl on our knees looking through briars and brambles and looking... And a lot of this is looking for mushrooms. Mushrooms have relationships that you can identify. From the relationships they cue you in that there's a mushroom under the leaf litter.
Glen Nelson: How did you learn all that? Is it going back to the oral tradition...
Page Turner: That and then contemporary knowledge. We use a lot of field guides.
Glen Nelson: Can I come foraging with you?
Page Turner: Yes, please do, I'll drag you through the woods. It'll be wonderful.
Glen Nelson: What kind of critters do you encounter?
Page Turner: I've encountered quite a bit of critters. We've encountered bears and snakes. Well, I mean, the birds and the deer are my neighbors, and they come up to the porch. I have little bits of wool straight from the sheep that I clamp onto the side of the railing of the porch, and the birds come and take that off. And I often find the wool back in the nests that fall from the tree once once they're done with that.
Glen Nelson: I'm completely loving this picture that you're describing.
Page Turner: It is romantic.
Glen Nelson: And shockingly enough, it's not like Manhattan.
Page Turner: No, it's not like Manhattan, at all.
Glen Nelson: So the way that this plays out in your work, I think, is most readily observed in the list of materials of some of your work.
Glen Nelson: So I have one here--a media label for this piece, "Total Plenitude." Okay, so this is what it says. In fact, I might make you read it. So it's right there, "hand stitched..."
Page Turner: Yes.
Page Turner: "Hand stitched soft sculptures: legs sewn from family quilt, circa 1938; skirts sewn from flower girl dress, circa 1931; leather, acorn caps, turkey feathers, goose feathers, human hair, buttons, oak branches, persimmon seeds, persimmon tops, fur cones, tulip poplar seeds pods, beech nut tree seed husks, witch hazel blooms, milkweed flowers, porcupine quills, turkey-tail mushrooms, hawk rib bones, squirrel bones, copperhead snake rib bones, mouse bones, bird bones, coyote teeth, cherry pits, gold paint, and ink."
Glen Nelson: So each one of those is so evocative. Don't you feel that? Like, it is so rich?
Page Turner: Yes. And that's why I can't walk past them. I mean, they absolutely compel me.
Glen Nelson: If I were walking by something, though, I don't know if I would be able to identify what a persimmon seed looks like. So are you quite up on your botany?
Page Turner: Well, I know this hollow very well. And mostly because I've ran these hills since I was a child. And then I continue to. So I'm observing a very small quadrant of this hollow, but on a continuing and repetitious manner.
Glen Nelson: It's your microcosm.
Page Turner: It is my microcosm. And also in Virginia, we have seasons. So things are very different in the winter than right now in the middle of summer. And so I know these trees, and some of these trees are on property markers that go... It's the big oak tree. "Blessed, Big Oak Revival" is about the big oak tree that eight of us can't get our arms around. It's on a property marker as the big oak tree pre-Civil War, and it's still standing. So the acorns that come from this tree, I can't walk by and not fill my pockets with.
Glen Nelson: So I've written this question down for you. As soon as I finish it, we're going to realize how dumb a question is: "How did these things speak to you? And how are they transformed when they become part of your artwork?" It's so obvious, now. Of course, they speak to you; they're part of you.
Page Turner: They holler at me.
Glen Nelson: It's just an incredible thing. Once you gave me an acorn cap as a gift. The nut had been separated. So the nut was not part of it. It was the cap.
Page Turner: Right, because the squirrels eat the nuts.
Glen Nelson: Yeah. So it's the outside of it. It was untouched, so it looked exactly like was, and then you flip it over, and the inside had been transformed with artwork.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: I think you had drawn onto it an eye, or you might have gold painted or gold leafed, or something like that. And gold has this whole other thing about being precious, you know, instantly. And that was just an imediate example of how a natural object can be transformed by an artist into an artwork.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: We can't end our discussion without talking about a big beautiful book, published in 2018 called "50 Contemporary Women Artists," of which you are one. Here's my copy. It's a very heavy book...
Page Turner: And beautiful.
Glen Nelson: ... A hardcover book, 360-plus pages of amazing things. Each artist has her own chapter, and you have six works here reproduced with full page photographs. The other artists included are, you know, completely impressive...
Page Turner: Incredible!
Glen Nelson: I mean, I'm going to name drop here: Kara Walker, Judy Chicago, Marilyn Minter, Maya Lin, Shirin Neshat, Tara Donovan, Judy Rifka--I mean, some of the most important artists in the world.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: So, needless to say, my question for you is--I mean, two of them are MacArthur Grant genius award winners--all of those names, and many of the others that I didn't name, just have such brand recognition.
Page Turner: And importance.
Glen Nelson: And influence.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: I mean, they're collected so widely and discussed so broadly. And then, here's your name, too. I have to add your work looks perfectly at home with these people.
Page Turner: Well, thank you.
Glen Nelson: I mean it...
Page Turner: Thank you. That's a very touching compliment.
Glen Nelson: You wouldn't say it yourself, but you have to know...
Page Turner: Well, I'm still scratching my head, trying to figure out how I am sandwiched between Judy Chicago and Kara Walker...
Glen Nelson: Alright. Let's go.
Page Turner: ... And the other 49 women.
Glen Nelson: Let's chat about it. So your reaction when you heard that this was going to be a publication? There must have been some celebrating in the Turner household.
Page Turner: Well, so it took John Gosslee and Heather Zises about three years from contract with Shiffler Publishing to print.
Glen Nelson: They're the editors of the book.
Page Turner: They're the editors of the book, and so when I was contacted, I was simply told that I was going to be in a compilation of important feminists artists. It wasn't until the book was published really, or 'til it wasn't near to completion that I realized the magnitude.
Glen Nelson: Important with a capital I.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: I see.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: Wow. How did these editors discover your work in the first place? Was one of them connected to the curation of a show that you had done previously?
Page Turner: No. No, this is an interesting story. So I had completed the first five of the "Stitch in Time Saves Nine" series, which is the 21 dress forms that represent women in my life. I had finished the first five. And I had some family in town--a bunch of brothers were gathering. And so I had decided to hold an open studio, in my studio downtown. My husband and I had 2400 square foot of an old Volvo mechanic shop downtown. And there were four or five other working, practicing artists in the building. And we had a tiny little gallery space that had one window on the street. And we're off the beaten path. It's not on the arts district; this is where we work. It was a working artists' space, not necessarily an exhibiting space. But we did have a small little place for people to put work up. And so I asked Ed Dollinger, who was running the gallery space at the time, I said, "I've got family coming in. Can I just throw these sculptures up there a little bit?" And so we sat there for about a day and just kind of had an open reception. And I had sent out some emails and things like that. And so we had people coming in all day and family, too. My family came in, and they left, and they came in, and left, and the community would come in and see these five pieces. And I think it was about 9:30 or 10 o'clock, and I'm exhausted by that time. And I'm getting ready to deinstall the show. I'm taking the glass domes off and preparing to walk downstairs and, you know, throw these sculptures downstairs into my studio. And in walks John Goslee. And he said, "Oh, are you open? Can I come in and and look?" And I'm like, "You can look at it."
Glen Nelson: Did you know who he was?
Page Turner: I had no idea who he was. I said, "You're welcome to take a look at it as long as you see it as I'm deinstalling the show." And so I've got like a dome under one arm. And you know, I'm getting ready to take the other dome off. And so I basically, I'm looking at him like, "I am ready to go home, but what you can see between my going up and down these steps, you're welcome to."
Glen Nelson: I can be bothered with you. But as long as you don't get in my way?
Page Turner: I'm exhausted. And so he came through and looked at the work and gave the quizzical look like everyone does, you know. He just looked at the work. And he said to me, he said, "I have never seen anything like this." And I said, "Well, I just made it. How could you see anything like it?" I'd just barely tied a knot on the end of that.
Glen Nelson: Right. That's not what he meant.
Page Turner: And so he asked me for a business card. He was like, "Can I get in touch with you? Like, "How do I get in touch with you?" And I threw a business card at him like I had thrown at, probably, 300 people that day.
Glen Nelson: By the way, your cards are gorgeous.
Page Turner: Thank you.
Glen Nelson: There are business cards, and there's your business card. It's this photograph of one of your works under a dome. It's spectacularly beautiful.
Page Turner: At the time, they were even handmade business cards that were individually numbered, so it was even more of a treasure.
Glen Nelson: Ok. Keep going.
Page Turner: So I kind of tossed this business card at him, and it was maybe sometime later... and he at the time, he was an editor for a literary magazine. And he had introduced himself as an editor of "Fjords" magazine. It was what he was editing. And he said, "I'm about to go around the country selling this magazine and getting my magazine booked at universities and things like that." And he said, "I'm going to go all over the world." And he said, "When I get back, let's sit down and talk."
Glen Nelson: He had never heard of you before.
Page Turner: No, he literally walked in off the street. And so I didn't even think anything of it. And sometime later, I get an email or a phone call from him. And he's like, I'm back from Europe, and Poland, and you know, all these other places. And he said to me, he said, "Page," he said, "I cannot stop thinking about your weird little sculptures." And he looks at me, and he said, "They make me feel something." And he's a poet as well as an editor. And I thought, "Well, if a poet thinks that it doesn't quite have words for what my work makes us feel...
Glen Nelson: That's what we want.
Page Turner: That was a bit of a confirmation because I don't really have words for the work, either. And so he came back to my studio and was kind of looking. And I didn't even take him downstairs to where the material horde and the workbenches that I had filled the studio space with. So I took him down there, and he got to see where I was working and some of the other things that I was working on.
Glen Nelson: That same day?
Page Turner: Yes, when he came back. And so we just kind of talked for a little bit. And again, I didn't think anything. I'll talk to anyone who wants to come in my studio just the same. And then after that visit, he was starting to leave, and then he comes back, and he says, "I'm going to do something for you." And again, I'm just like, "See ya."
Glen Nelson: Like, "Buy me a milkshake?
Page Turner: And then from that started a relationship. He's kept in contact, we are dear friends at this point. He's working with my husband on illustrating a second volume of some of his poetry. And my husband is illustrating through carvings, which is fascinating. But the collaboration and the exposure that John has given, just of working with him, has been really incredible. He's a professional powerhouse and has forced me and propelled me through this professional world. And honestly, I've been kicking and screaming a little because I'd rather make work.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, I understand. Because you didn't go to some grad school art program where you're constantly getting this kind of thing, it feels like you have this unique voice because it hasn't been stomped out by all the other people.
Page Turner: Right. I don't know the rules. And even if I knew the rules, I wouldn't pay any mind to them. I mean, that's me being a bad girl scout, like, even if I do know, the rules, I kind of disregard them.
Glen Nelson: It's funny for me, because I know work, but I didn't know the background of many of these things. And so for me, a lot of the questions are falling into place, you know, a lot of the answers, I mean, are falling into place. Have you--since the publication of this book in 2018--have you met some of the other artists who are included in the book?
Page Turner: Yes. Zephren and I got on a train and rode from Roanoke to New York, in November. And we stepped out of the train station to a whiteout snowstorm for the opening book launch party that was held in New York City. Elizabeth Sackler, who wrote the foreword, was intended to be there and to speak. There were a few artists who had intended to be there whose flights literally couldn't make it into the city. Zephren and I were in an Uber, trying to go like seven blocks, for an hour and forty-five minutes.
Glen Nelson: I remember you telling me this while it was happening.
Page Turner: And I'm looking at the guy's screen, I'm like, "Wait a second, I think the address is literally... I can see it." And he was like, "You can." And so Z and I got out and literally just hopped through the puddles. And I was an hour late into the event. But you know, you dry the schmutz off. And I stood there for the photograph. And then I had an opportunity to meet about 15 of the women who are in this book in person, which was an absolutely incredible, an incredible experience.
Glen Nelson: It stopped being a virtual community at that moment.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: That's very, very cool. You know, it just connects in so many ways to the work that you're doing.
Page Turner: And basically, every one of these women that I had an opportunity to meet, I was familiar with their work from the book, and they were familiar with my work. And we basically hugged each other and said, "Oh, we're members of the mutual admiration club." Like, "I love your work." "I love your work." And so that was quite an experience.
Glen Nelson: I'm glad to hear in your voice the acknowledgement of how rare an opportunity that is for people.
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: And I wish more artists had it. I know they're not going to get it--the odds are stacked against them, you know--so I refrain from using the word "luck," because this is not luck. The meeting stuff definitely has an element of happenstance to it...
Page Turner: Yes.
Glen Nelson: But if the work weren't of quality, he wouldn't have spent more than three seconds looking at it. And if it were not unique, he also wouldn't spend that time. Let's talk about acquiring your work, because let's be honest, I think that most of the people who might be listening to this, members of the Church are under-exposed to your work. I think if you're a collector, or if you're an institution that has a collection, and if you don't have a piece of your work in it, you're making a mistake. It's like you're next door to Picasso and you're not visiting his studio.
Page Turner: That's very kind.
Glen Nelson: That would be a bad thing. I mean, maybe Picasso's, like the world's worst example given giving this discussion today, but you get the point of it. So how does someone explore your work who might not have seen it before? How do they find it?
Page Turner: Oh, well, the 50 Contemporary Women book is a good start.
Glen Nelson: And where's that available?
Page Turner: It's available on Amazon, and you can go to the Hirshhorn bookstore and get a copy, in person. Mass MOCA bookstore started carrying it.
Glen Nelson: I got mine from Amazon.
Page Turner: Okay.
Glen Nelson: Oh, can you sign it before you go?
Page Turner: Yes. It'd be happy to. There are other amazing bookstores and museum bookstores that are carrying and promoting the 50 Contemporary Woman book.
Glen Nelson: Yeah, this YouTube video really does give a nice cross section of your work.
Page Turner: Thank You.
Glen Nelson: And it's beautifully shot. And you have a website that has a homepage, where it has contact information. http://pageturnerstudios.com
Page Turner: That's it.
Glen Nelson: It's not as skeletal as that.
Page Turner: Mostly.
Glen Nelson: I can tell that you're not like as techno savvy as some of the people who's that's their media.
Page Turner: Rotary phones...
Glen Nelson: You don't have a rotary phone. What about gallery representation? You've shown at a number of galleries. Were those mostly a specific exhibition or are those ongoing representation?
Page Turner: No, they've been just specific exhibitions.
Glen Nelson: So if you're a gallerist, that also might be something of interest for you to reach out to you, if you would fit into their stable, and so on. As the Center of Latter Day Saint Arts developed as mission, the top priority was to share the best works of our culture with each other and the world. I don't know exactly what works other people visualize when they hear that, but in my mind, you're the exact kind of artist that I have in mind.
Page Turner: Oh, thank you.
Glen Nelson: It's true. I don't know how I can say it better than that. Any final thoughts?
Page Turner: Let's go back to how to find me. I'm on social media a little bit. I have an art Facebook page that I share with my husband.
Glen Nelson: And what is it?
Page Turner: https://www.facebook.com/pageturnerstudios/can get you there. I have a personal Facebook that is not very personal. It's mostly art or pictures of the woods and bits of my process. https://www.facebook.com/page.turner.37 And then I have an Instagram account page, Turner Studios is my handle. https://www.instagram.com/pageturnerstudios/ And there is a much more curated collection of the pieces. But a good message from that or an email is a good way to get in touch, directly.
Glen Nelson: I've had extraordinary luck with seeing somebody's work online, thinking that was completely cool, wanting to know more, sending them a note, hearing back from them immediately. Like, they've all been so--I don't know--so grateful that I was interested.
Page Turner: Oh, absolutely.
Glen Nelson: So when somebody writes to you, how do you respond to that?
Page Turner: Oh, I respond immediately.
Glen Nelson: Right, "Hurray. Thank you. You're so nice."
Page Turner: Yes. A lot of these people that I connect with on Facebook, they then will send me in Roanoke boxes of things from their life. Some people that know me personally, and there's other people who have just connected with me through this virtual space but feel this connection. I've gotten packages from New Zealand, from Korea, from Japan, and all of the states.
Glen Nelson: You have? From people you don't know?
Page Turner: Exactly. Well, I know them now. We're friends now. I get on the phone, and I send thank you notes, and usually little gifts back.
Glen Nelson: I have noticed that you're way above average with correspondence.
Page Turner: But my grandmother and all of these other women also taught me how to be gracious and to express that gratitude.
Glen Nelson: You know, those are the values that I grew up with, too. And I don't know if it's because both of us grew up in somewhat isolated places, but I definitely feel that.
Page Turner: I enjoy connecting with people. And again, it kind of goes back to what we started with: Hundreds of people walk by my work and don't see it. And those that have eyes to see connect with me, and I'm enriched by them sharing their stories. Or when when someone tells me how my little sculptures make them think and feel things. And so I am fed tremendously through the connection of people who actually did see the work.
Glen Nelson: I remember when we had our first Center festival ot Riverside Church, and we borrowed the 24--I think it was--works from the Church History Museum and added a few other works, all the made in the last two or three years. And Laura Hurtado was that curator for the show, and you had one of your images. What was the title of it?
Page Turner: "Headmistress Harpie."
Glen Nelson: That's right. "Headmistress Harpie." And it was one of the works that had a figure, and it had a bird's wing on the side of his shoulder coming out, and was under a glass dome.
Page Turner: It has the bird's feet, the chickadee's feet.
Glen Nelson: Yes. And people would just surround that thing. And I think they were initially interested in it because the elements were things they recognized, in unusual formations that were fresh and fun to them. But then all of these elements were not random. There's a reason why they're there. And they have a specific meaning and history and so on. And it adds up to something. And I think for anyone who even slows down when they're walking by your work, that they become entranced. So a big hint to anyone listening: You would be wise to search out her work. The Center's Studio Podcast has completed 18 interviews now...
Page Turner: Wow.
Glen Nelson: A year and a half--we do these monthly.
Page Turner: Congratulations.
Glen Nelson: Thank you. I'm honored to host the podcast. And having access to such minds and talents is really is a joy for me.
If this interview appealed to you, you might also want to check out other podcasts about visual art. I've done some with Annie Poon, Bronte Hebdon, Brad Kramer, and Laura Hurtado. I'd love to hear from you too how these podcasts enriched your life. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. On behalf of the Center, thanks for listening. This series is one of many projects at the Center. Check them out at centerforlatterdaysaintarts.org. And thank you for being my guest.
Page Turner: Thank you.
Glen Nelson: Bye.