A Biggs Eye ReView: BEACH: A Book of Treasures by Josie Iselin

Book Review by Adrienne Biggs, Biggs Publicity & Events

www.biggspublicity.com, on Twitter @AdrienneBiggs

Now that summer (and “summer hours” at many publishing houses) has drifted off into the sunset, the pleasure of beach time seems like a far too distant memory. If you’re hoping to keep a bit of the beach nearby as you welcome Fall, I recommend a charming new book, BEACH: A Book of Treasures by San Francisco-based artist Josie Iselin. This hardcover book is just one title in her popular series of nature-based photo books, which also includes Heart Stones (reviewed in our February Muse, link below), Beach Stones, Leaves & Pods, and Seashells (all from Abrams publishers).

Setting it apart from her previous four books, BEACH is the first title in the series to be published by San Francisco’s Chronicle Books and is roughly twice the width of the previous gift books. But similar to the previous books, BEACH is much more than just a “pretty picture” book. While it showcases the expected collections of driftwood, beach glass and sand dollars, her lushly detailed collages also provide fascinating insights into the scientific ecosystem of the ocean, such as how the oyster constructs its shell, how corals build a city, how “holey stones” may accumulate luck, what glandular mechanism permits a seagull to drink both fresh and saltwater, and the ways in which algae are classified.

Using a flatbed scanner and computer, for BEACH Ms. Iselin captured images of an assorted collection of beach finds from the obvious seashells and skipping rocks to the more obscure “beach peas”, sand-tumbled ceramic shards and even gull skulls. Collecting and capturing nature’s anomalies has been a fifteen-year love affair for this Harvard and SFSU-trained artist, who explains, “I am a generalist at heart and the beach is my classroom.” To fully appreciate this book, she feels the reader ”must be open to the poetry of the seaweed…open to feeling the geologic clock…open to taking a backseat and learning from nature’s evidence.”

Nearly every page of this rectangular (7-1/4” x 11-1/4”) hardcover book features an image that is truly “frame-worthy”. Some of my favorite images include the colorful red and purple seaweed (page 12), the dried sea urchin and its complex five-fold geometry resting in a nest of seaweed (page 104), the colorful driftwood flotsam/jetsam (page 117), and the two-page spread of non-natural treasures which, when arranged by this artist, takes on the semblance of the ocean’s indigenous organisms (pages 136-137).

Although I feel the book would have been well served by separate, one-line descriptions near the image of each treasure, I did appreciate the list of Recommendations For Further Reading found in the back of the book, which felt like discovering a hidden beach treasure in and of itself.

In the foreword, Pure Sea Glass author Richard LaMotte (www.pureseaglass.com) describes BEACH as “a treasure in your lap”, and welcomes readers to “enter the pages and think of strolling the beach in the salt air, knowing each day a new tide presents opportunities for those with the patience and vision to look for the beauty in change”. A timely invitation now, as the seasons change from Summertime to Autumn.

To see the NCBPMA review of Ms. Iselin’s HEART STONES, click here

About the Author:
Josie Iselin has exhibited her work at several coveted art spaces, including the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Intersection for the Arts, SF Camerawork, SF Art Commission City Site and other venues in the Bay Area. She lives with her husband and three children on a steep hill in San Francisco. http://www.josieiselin.com

P.S. Have you heard of the North American Sea Glass Festival? Neither had I, but it’s October 9th & 10th in Hyannis, MA, it’s open to the public, and they’re seeking beachcombing volunteers if you’re already missing the feel of sand between your toes. Who knew? http://seaglassassociation.org/festival_nasga.html

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