Cover versions

I’ve been pretty content with the working title of the next collection for the best part of a year. As the book starts to feel like a book (that is, more detached from me as an individual, more an independent artifact) The Resurrection of the Body… seems to do what’s needed.

I’m less certain about a cover image. I’ve been very taken with an image of one of Spencer Tunick’s naked gatherings (installations? happenings?) and had it on my phone and PC for a while, to the point where I’d started taking it for granted. There’s something churchy, bleakly funny, disproportionate, hard to get a handle on in this image of Buffalo 6 (Central Terminal, Albright-Knox Art Gallery) 2004.

When the first proofs of the collection arrived last week, though, I revisited Tunick’s work and came across a couple of other images which set bells ringing. Both seem to have a sense of baffled afterlife, a slightly skewed eroticism cohabiting with a dumb innocence, that picks up on one of the collection’s areas of investigation. This image (Dusseldorf 4 (Museum Kunst Palast) 2006) is stunning, but like the other Tunick would need some imaginative handling to make a book jacket.

As would this amazing image – look at what the water does to skin tone, even our perception of the reality of the bodies and parts of bodies submerged – recording an installation entitled New Mexico 3 (Spencer Hot Springs, SITE Santa Fe) 2001.

But reading the proofs I’ve realised that there is also a strand dealing with the predicament of the untrained or self-taught artist, or the artist whose personal journey has taken him or her away from what they’ve been trained or taught to do. Moscow Joe McKinley is the book’s main example, and looking again at some images of McKinley’s work, which Peter Haining drew my attention to back in 2005, I wonder of one of these might not provide an arresting image for the book cover.

It’s not easy to track down detailed (or indeed any) images of McKinley’s creations on-line, but in the pics included in this brief essay by Peter Haining – useful background stuff – there’s a shot of an assemblage (with speared head of a shop-window mannequin) that has started to feel very right indeed.

Thoughts or suggestions welcome…

2 Responses to Cover versions

  1. Paul says:


    How about looking at the work of Stanley Spencer? The Ulster Museum had an exhibition a few years back. There might still be a coffee-table book to browse in the shop. ‘Resurrection, 1947’ (Jairus’s Daughter, subtitle?) was one that stands out, but I believe there are many versions of the Resurrection by Spenser.

    • Paul

      cheers for joing in – much appreciated!

      Yes, Spencer’s Resurrection at Cookham is (I hope) nodded to in the title poem. I’ve looked at a few others, and wouldn’t completely rule the notion out. And I’d hope that some readers will see the connections between the kind of clumsy, stumbling art-making that some of the poems deal with (clumsy and stumbling not necessarily in the craft but in the oul art/life exchanges and compromises.)

      But one of the reasons the Tunicks seem right to me is precisely because Spencer is clearly (well, at least to me) a ghost hovering above or behind them, so that there’s no need to narrow down the range of references the reader might bring once she turns the page from covere to the poems themselves. To use a painting by the man himself seemed too obvious.

      Or am I being too subtle?

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