SLoWHoUSE a.k.a. Valerie Marek and James Welch

A Letter To The People – City Reports

Valerie Marek and James Welch’s (aka Slowhouse) show is untraditional yet has a comfortable, almost cozy feel to it. The work – chairs, wall hangings, paintings and other furnishings from their home on Cleveland’s west side – is functional as well as decorative.

Most noticeable is a high-backed chair that reaches taller than the height of some people. Built into the
backrest is a chalkboard with messages scrawled on it – today it reads “megaphone.”

An old chest filled with feathers acts as a prize box for guests; visitors putting in their hands could pull out
nything from radishes to dried poppies to a turtle shell with poetry painted around the rim. A sheer, white
curtain hangs from a ring near the ceiling, looking much like a portable shower.

Though it may be hard for some to see the meaning in their art, they insist it’s not just art for art’s sake.

According to Welch, the motto that covers – and may possibly explain – both their art and writing is para-phrased from Voltaire: “All styles are good except the boring style.”

But what they devote most of their time to, when he’s not working at Zubal’s bookstore on West 25th Street
and when she’s not at her full-time job as a graphic designer, is their magazine Wray, which imitates their
art in its originality.

Wray doesn’t have a formal format or any strict rules; according to Marek, they look for the “exceptional,
unusual” submissions, while Welch said they print “stuff that’s involved and not just personal spewing,
memories and reminiscing/it is something that reaches, anything from language, poetry and on the surface
very academic-looking, to collage, free-form and experimental. We try not to veer too far from the concept
of the Negro spiritual,” he said.

The two met when Welch saw a book Marek had made. As a graphic designer, writer and fine artists, she
creates books that are a combination of all three.

She makes her own paper and sometimes uses typefaces that drip from the page. Welch felt a connection ith what she was trying to do – to work art, writing and life all into something personal, like a book.

In their time together, their philosophies have proven relatively successful. Wray, which they print in issues
of 100, has sold out in most bookstores at the price of #3 to $5, and they are always having to make reprints. The library of State University of New York at Buffalo has also become a regular subscriber.

While Marek has formal art schooling, Welch has done this without a degree in anything. For most of his adult life he’s worked with books in one fashion or other; instead of extensive formal schooling, authors of his own choosing – Rimbaud, Dickinson, Beckett – have been a primary source of his self-education, though he noted, “I always try to hook up with a university that’s interesting,” where he can sit in on classes from ideo to English literature.

Sandra Marchese – February 18, 1993