To Hold Infinity

This is a grand theme, a work in progress, an initial version for year-end distribution (December 2021).

William Blake -
Frontispiece to
Europe a Prophesy
Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour ... 

I had heard the opening line, "to see a world in a grain of sand", in a variety of Buddhist programs. If a source was ever given, I missed it, repeatedly.  So it was with some surprise that I found it recently in this poem by William Blake. The third line, about holding infinity, crystalized my current thoughts. This is what it feels like when my mind settles, and opens, and seemingly without effort, I hold infinity, just by being present.

Augury is the close observation of the flight of birds to interpret messages from the gods. I found this while teaching this year. I was looking at the etymology of contemplation and learned that it comes from templum, a place cleared for observation, for augury. In his art, Blake is giving us what he has received as messages from the divine.

Bill's Wife Grace

My friend Bill called me, devastated by the sudden loss of his wife and marveling at how much she was still present in his life. 

Grace died last Thursday

Bless, Bless (mano, mano po - hand on forehead, turned outward)

Carried by angels

Angels need fire to get to heaven 

What did you make of the gift of the angel I sent you?

Feel the connection

Flesh and Spirit

Couldn’t quench my sadness

Blessings into my open heart

Find and nourish the spirit 

Be a conduit of love


An Initial Sketch 

I had other plans for the hour when Bill called, for the projects I was working on. His call shifted me to some place deeper, close to him, closer to the core of being alive. It was a turning point. Here's the sketch from my notes.

Larry Wolf - Storyboard of Bill's Tale of Grace (2021)

This led to a first pass assembling images.

Larry Wolf - Bless Bless (2021)

Working with Form

An artist commented that my zines reminded her of prayer cards. That thought became a goal, to bring a sense of prayer to this. To make something which invited the sacred.

Another artist suggested I check out the book the Art of the Fold, to explore further ways for working with a single sheet of paper. I had been working with accordion folded sheets (Pavement, Moments, What the Camera Saw) and 8-page single-sheet books (Rough Raw Reclaimed). I wanted something which would add dimension, which would break from the flat surface.

I like how architectural this one is. A single sheet folded lengthwise, then further folded in eighths and cut so that sections are brought forward and backward. The cuts open up a view to the inside surface. It folds flat and springs into this standing form, a modernist alter.

Larry Wolf - 8-Fold Form (2021)

Larry Wolf - 8-Fold Form (2021)

A First Version

Larry Wolf - 8-Fold Grace, Front (2021)

Larry Wolf - 8-Fold Grace, Reverse (2021)

We Are Death

The image on the reverse is derived from a Harold Edgerton photograph of an atomic explosion (see this blog post from October 2021). This particular explosion was code named Harry, latter called Dirty Harry. It spread the most radiation and caused the most documented harm to civilians, of any above ground atomic bomb tested in the continental United States (from documentation provide by Michael Light in 100 Suns).

Harold Edgerton - Atomic Bomb Explosion - Detail (1952?) / aka Dirty Harry

Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific lead of the Manhattan Project, recognized that the first atomic explosion at White Sands in 1945, was a turning point for humanity - we become as Vishnu, a god, manipulating the very fabric of the universe, 

Sun and Moon Watching Us

Leslie Marmon Silko's book Ceremony portrays a world where everything is connected, from the details of our daily lives, the plants and animals, the weather and the seasons, to our history and to the stars. This book presents ritual, ceremony, as a way to heal the wounds, to correct the balance of a world off kilter, filled with trickery. 

Part of that trickery was the work to create the atomic bombs. The work of the bomb makers took place during the gap time of the story, when the main characters were fighting in the Pacific.

Part of the healing is to nurture the connection between our being and the cosmos, between our heart and the sun and moon. The stars will continue long after we are gone. 

NASA - 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

NASA - Full Moon (2017)

A Second Version

Larry Wolf - 8-Fold Grace (2021)

The images of sun and moon, of atomic explosion, of hand on forehead in blessing, are the main elements in this version.

David Wojnarowicz

David's life and work has inspired me for decades. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of his works was included the Between Bridges Solidarity 2020 fund raiser. That poster, on the wall of my workroom, is a daily reminder to live with passion and integrity.

David Wojnarowicz with Tom Warren - Self Portrait (1984/84)

A Chorus of Angles

Larry Wolf - Angels (2021)

Using the David Wojnarowicz self-portrait as a jumping off point, I did a series of drawings with leaned into him as a calm and fiery angel, thinking they would become part of this work.

Chicago Zine Club - A Drawing Scanned, Printed, Cut, Folded

The December 2021 meeting of the Zine Club was a maker time. This is what I'm working on. What can I do, beginning to end, in one evening?

Working from the photographs, working from the earlier drawings, working from the earlier folded objects. 

A drawing with watercolor graphite pencils. Sketched during the evening. Versions scanned and trial prints made over the two hours.

Larry Wolf - To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Drawing - Front (2021)

Larry Wolf - To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Drawing - Reverse (2021)

A Seeker - One Breath

While working on this, I was reading Enlightenment by Trial and Error by Jay Michaelson, a Jewish Queer Buddhist Seeker. I thought back to times I've been on retreat, on how the world opens up, how each breath becomes the universe, this moment the only moment. Infinity. The words of William Blake came to mind: "Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand", shortened to "To Hold Infinity", a title for this work.

A Day with the Risograph at Spudnik

Risography takes monochrome images and turns them into vibrant color. 

Larry Wolf - Risograph at Spudnik (2021)

The first of these images is a base layer, printed from a scan of the Zine Club drawing. It is followed by drawings done with dark grey marker pen on tracing paper placed atop the base layer. Each one was then scanned and printed in a single vibrant ink, building up the colored layers of the final prints.

Larry Wolf, Working Drawings (2021)

The resulting object, printed on 11x17 card stock, cut and folded into three dimensions.

Larry Wolf, To Hold Infinity - Rizo Iteration (2021)

Larry Wolf, To Hold Infinity - Riso Iteration (2021)

Scanned and Tweaked / Printed and Mailed

One of the risograph 11x17 originals was taken to Staples to scan, then loaded into Photoshop for some additional tweaks. The resulting files were sized for 8 1/2 x 14 and printed in color at Staples. An initial run of 25 and then another 25. They were cut, folded and mailed to the swap list from the Zine Club and also to friends and family. 

Larry Wolf - To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Edition - Front (2021)

Larry Wolf, To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Edition - Reverse (2021)

Larry Wolf - To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Edition - Top View (2021)

Larry Wolf - To Hold Infinity - Zine Club Edition - Inner Surface (2021)

From Bill

A little grey envelope 
Nearly illegible return address
What can this be
Inside such incredible emotion 
Such a gift

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