One of the most interesting images in local musician Tara Jane ONeil’s new book of drawings is of a figure’s back, its exposed spinal column extending below its body, below its webbed feet, even. The caption reads, “Take better care now”; a cryptic warning, but a perfect analog to the bare guitar of ONeil’s solo records for which she is best known.
Wings. Strings. Meridians. A Blighted Bestiary (Yeti Publishing, 96 pages, $14.95) is her first domestically released book of art (she has one book out on a Japanese press). Repeating earthen tones and shapes, scribbled, intertwining lines, and animalistic or anthropomorphized characters infuse her sinewy drawings with an anxious energy. No lines in ONeil’s work are parallel; each moves and breathes, vibrating with life.
The Bestiary is being released by local outfit Yeti Publishing, best known for Yeti magazine, an innovative confluence of music, fiction and art. It seems natural, then, that its newest undertaking is to provide multifaceted artists a multimedia outlet for their work. Yeti head Mike McGonigal intends the series to stick to the format of a six-inch square trade paperback with some kind of disc. One of the next releases will come from Portland musician, E*Rock, probably with a DVD.
“The Yetis asked me if I’d like to do something for their new book series,” said ONeil via email. “It’s cool to have something available that’s inexpensive.”
At the same price as a CD, the book is a steal. Made up of years’ worth of ONeil’s work, from small sketches to grand mixed-media pieces, the inclusion of a full-length CD is not just a kind addition—it fleshes out the emotions embedded in ONeil’s drawings. Some of the tracks on the CD are somber instrumentals; some feature her guitar and voice. She covers Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” in a haunting style, which, juxtaposed with the drawings, takes on a different meaning. The high-pitched voice hiding behind hers in the mix suggests the tethered birds present in many of her drawings; the end of the song devolves into the sounds of guitar strings being stretched, strained; fought.
This tension runs throughout the entire collection of line-based drawings. Though the figures (as the title suggests, many are avian in essence) are filled in with watercolors or acrylics, their skeletons are still exposed, reminding viewers of their brittleness.
SEE IT: The Bestiary is scheduled for a Thursday, Nov. 1 release, with a show at Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak St., 274-1449. 6 pm. All ages. Free. ONeil’s work will be on display and she will perform along with friends Mirah, Michael Hurley, Venable and “John P.”