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The Stromberg Alphabet 

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Eugenia Ballard identifies as a picture framer first and an artist second. “Picture framing is a very satisfying job,” says Ballard, who loves the orderly, linear process to frame building. “I’ll do it until I’m dead,” she says.

The twin poles of Ballard’s professional and creative existence are inseparable, however, as she creates tableaux and shadow boxes that suggest the exactitude of the craftsman in her art (Ballard trained as a graphic designer), and her frames exude an artistry that transcends mere technical prowess. (Ballard’s skill as a picture framer is attested to by her many dedicated artist clients, who’ve been bringing her their work to frame at the Kingston outlet of Catskill Art and Office Supply for the past 16 years.)

The impulse to make art didn’t hit Ballard until 1999, when she was straightening up her house one day. “I started to clean,” says Ballard, “and I realized I had all this stuff, stuff I’d been saving since I was four years old in some cases. I said to myself: ‘Either do something with it or throw it away.’ I needed [my stuff ] to go on and be in someone else’s life.”

By 2000, Ballard had her first show, at the now-defunct Kingston Cooks. The pieces that emerged from Ballard’s treasure trove of knickknacks reflected her obsession with old things: candy labels, keys, dictionaries; and first and foremost, the alphabet. To accumulate the copious numbers of letters needed for her alphabet-themed pieces, Ballard spends much time of her time searching for letters among the detritus she’s constantly poring over. A favored technique is pulling the keys off of old typewriters.

Ballard is an inveterate collector of what most of us would call junk—rusted hinges, broken-down clocks, and other cast-offs of the pre-digital age—and a “professional yard-saler.” She admits to planning her vacation schedule around various yard sales in the region. Ballard also explained that the cover piece, The Stromberg Alphabet, contains a clock face (note the word “Stromberg,” slightly obscured by the dragonfly) that she ripped off a defunct timepiece sitting in a flatbed trailer full of junk, which the owners couldn’t believe she wanted. The dragonfly, incidentally, was a gift from someone who had been to one of her exhibitions. “After a show,” Ballard says, “someone almost inevitably gives me a box of junk they’ve been saving in a drawer.”

“A to Z,” a Eugenia Ballard retrospective, will be on display at the Town of Espous Library, 128 Canal Street, Port Ewen, September 1 through September 30. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, September 6.
(845) 338-5580; www.esopuslibrary.org.

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