CHOOSE HAPPY by Lise Melhorn-Boe


Creating CHOOSE HAPPY was an intriguing diversion. I was asked to create a book using the “Artist’s Book Ideation Cards” developed by Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen. One chooses one of each of the category cards, plus five adjectives, and then creates a work of art that fits the criteria. One can ignore two of the adjectives, and change one of the other cards, if desired. The cards I drew were Found TEXT, Muted or pastel COLOURS, LAYOUT across the folds, Self-generated IMAGE, Multiple colours of PAPER, TECHNIQUE of my choice, Accordion STRUCTURE. The five adjective cards were Elegant or harmonious, Textured, Scientific or research-based, Opposing or contrasting, and Loud.

Just the day before I drew the cards, I had seen, in Toronto, two billboards for Koodo Mobile. They spelled (in balloons) CHOOSE HAPPY. I searched for more found text in a variety of magazines. I then tried typing CHOOSE HAPPY in the search box of the public library’s catalogue, and came up with How We Choose to Be Happy: The 9 Choices of Extremely Happy People—Their Secrets, Their Stories, by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks. Searching for that on the shelves led me to HAPPY AT LAST: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Finding Joy, by Richard O’Connor, M.S.W., Ph.D and reading that led me to 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Kipfer. I have used text from all of these in CHOOSE HAPPY.

HAPPY AT LAST was the most interesting to me. O’Connor references recent research on brain plasticity (a topic I have explored as I have a son who has had a brain injury) and posits that, just as the brain of stroke victims and people with brain injuries can be reprogrammed and create new neural connections, so too can anyone reprogram his or her own brain to be happier. O’Connor’s text became the linchpin upon which the rest of the random texts could hang.

Since I had to make an accordion, and work across the folds, I decided to make a pop-up book. (Also because pop-ups make people happy.) I decided to make the text blocks become the pops and these sculptural pop-ups themselves became the “self-generated images.”

Artist Bio

Lise Melhorn-Boe has been making and exhibiting books and sculptural bookworks for thirty-five years. She studied at the University of Guelph and received her M.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Wayne State University in Detroit. Melhorn-Boe has exhibited widely across Canada and the United States as well as Europe and South America. Her work is in several public and university collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canada Council Art Bank, Library and Archives Canada, the National Gallery in Ottawa, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has had solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Sudbury, The Timmins Museum Centre, the Art Gallery of Algoma, the Emma Ciotti Gallery (Iroquois Falls), the Art Gallery of Temiskaming (Haileybury), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa), the Lake Galleries (Toronto) and the gallery at the University of Toronto's Scarborough Campus, as well as White Water Gallery and W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in North Bay. Melhorn-Boe offers bookmaking workshops for adults and children. See her website for more information: