Tag Archives: Rocks

Learning about What Has Come Before: Book Art in America

When I was at San Jose State University, some of my favorite classes were art history. I know. Snooze. But I had the gift of three amazing professors who love art history and made me  love it, too.

Dr. Max Grossman’s enthusiasm for art history was a defining moment for me. What seemed dry and drudgery became interesting, even compelling. In his Medieval to Renaissance class, Dr. Grossman talked about the art and artists as if he had been there. His knowledge of the backstories of great works of art made them come alive and had a lasting effect. Now at museums I recognize work we talked about, I understand its place in the history of art, and its significance to work that followed. I’ve become a better consumer of art because I’m more educated.

Dr. Dore Bowen‘s class Contemporary Art: The Thing sounds like a good name for a horror flick. Instead it was a thought-provoking journey through the art world from Duchamp’s Fountain to Jeff Koon’s Puppy and far beyond. And, while I didn’t always like the art (or even agree that it is art), I did learn to really think. Not just about the visual impact, but also about the intent of the artist, the social and cultural context when the art was made, and the influence of that art on all that follows. This class also led to two of my artists’ books, Rocks and You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.

Brian Taylor‘s History of Photography changed everything for me. I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl (I have the “heads cut off” photos to prove it) but, until this class, I had no idea about the incredible artistic range of this medium I thought I was good at.  As I learned about Anna Atkins, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham,  Jerry Uelsmann, Alexander Rodchenko and too many others to name here, I realized that I knew nothing about photography and that I need to begin again. This class also led to new work including The Heaven Project and Ode to Anna Atkins.

Why have I spent four paragraphs reminiscing about art history classes? This rather long-winded introduction leads me to my current foray into art history, reading No Longer Innocent: Book Art In America 1960-1980 by Betty Bright. I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite some time but I’d never actually opened it. One day I realized how much I was missing the reading and discussions from school and decided that this book would be a good start. I know a lot now about the histories of painting, sculpture, photography, but what do I really know about the history of my own media, book arts? So here goes, a self-directed art history class about book arts. I suspect, as the above mentioned classes changed how I view and make art, this book will also have an impact. I invite you to read along with me and join the discussion.



Production Notes (or making an edition of artists’ books)

This week I finished the last of the EYES edition. I’d forgotten how long those little EYES cubes take to make. Painting the cubes, cutting out those little EYES photographs, painstakingly gluing each photo to each face of every cube. Meditative in a way. And, while I was painting and cutting and gluing I was already working on new artists’ books in my head.

In the past I’ve made my artists’ books as I need them. EYES was an edition of 10, I made two in the edition to start and have made one or two at a time since. Now that I’m sending the last three in the edition to Vamp & Tramp, I can’t help but think that maybe I should make all of the new work as complete editions. If there is 1o in an edition, make all 10 at once.

My editions are never very big, 25 at the most. Often 5 or 10. Part of the reason is that I have more ideas than I have time to make books and another reason, quite honestly, is that I get bored with making the same book. I love the process of making artists books, the first thrill of a new idea, the excitement of picking every detail:  what structure, creation of the content, the book cloth or paper to cover the book, whether it will have pieces to play with like Rocks or be a more contemplative and traditional book like The Heaven Project. I even love the frustrations, or more specifically the aha! moment, when the problems that plague a book are solved.

So as I get ready to start new work, I’m wondering should I make it all at once? It would be nice to have it all ready to send out without any lead time and it would be nice not to try to find paper, cloth or some other essential for an edition when it turns out I need more than I planned. But would making and storing the books all at once reduce my relationship with the art? Has making EYES cubes over the years helped me bond with the book and keep it close to my heart?

What do you do? Do you make all of the artists’ books in an edition at once?