Ann Rosener, a letterpress printer who is designer and publisher at Occasional Works in Woodside, California, is a longtime friend of the artist, and for years they had discussed collaborating on a livre d’artiste. In 1979, when Rosener joined the Brices during their second trip to Greece, these plans became more serious, focusing on the artist’s fascination with the Mediterranean and its ancient cultures. They considered a book that would retell legends from ancient mythology, and Brice even made a few sketches in Greece. In 1990 Rosener heard about new translations of poems by the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy, prepared by her old friend Alan L. Boegehold, a classics professor at Brown University. Brice knew Cavafy’s work and liked the translations, and thus began the two-year project to produce the collection of poems titled In Simple Clothes.
Rosener chose the eleven poems to be included, and Brice approved the format and general design of the book and selected four poems that would be accompanied by etchings. Brice arranged for Aull to help produce and edition the prints, and periodically they sent proofs to Northern California for Rosener’s approval. The first ten copies of the book were accompanied by an extra suite of etchings, contained in a portfolio. In Simple Clothes was published in May 1992.
One of the four etchings in the book illustrates Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” a verse that describes how an ancient city-state was paralyzed by the threat of invasion by barbarians who never came. To accompany this poem, Brice created an image of a sculptural monument in decay. Perched atop an architectural capital with scrolled volutes, a carved figure resembling the trunk of an Archaic Greek kouros is confined by an entwining web of vines. It seems that the neck of this torso was once the fountainhead of a stream that cuts a serpentine groove down the front of the figure, resembling the ornamental meanders found on ancient Greek pottery and architecture. This rivulet courses no longer and thus symbolizes creativity exhausted by the anticipation of catastrophe. Brice’s technical handling of this plate was simple yet expressive. Deeply etched, grainy lines emphasize the texture of the sculpted stone and the roughness of the choking vine.
Brice’s intelligence and sensitivity shine through such spare, eloquent illuminations of verse. Once again we see how each of his images is packed with many layers of meaning. Contemplative by nature, the artist has always worked without assistants or apprentices. His creativity is fueled by solitude, and his studio is organized so that he can efficiently maneuver large canvases and portfolios by himself. Thus the collaborative aspects of printmaking have always been a challenge for him. When hard at work in the print shop, he is businesslike, and all of the printers with whom he has collaborated remark on his unflagging energy and capacity for hours of uninterrupted work. Though his prints appear simple and effortlessly elegant, each is the result of many hours of intensive thought and effort. In the end it is this concentration that draws Brice to printmaking. For he has found there an immersion in process that fuels and expands his work in other media, resulting not only in printed editions but in new ideas that also find expression in his paintings and drawings.