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Book Art Criticism: Summary and Query

Go Team! I think the discussion is beginning to take on some life. I'm
trying to sort it out. At the end I make a suggestion.

Rose Slivka (who was Editor-in-Chief of Craft Horizons magazine for 25
years) once said about the art-craft question,

"If it's good it's art. If it's not, who cares!"

The question is: How do you tell if it's good?

So far my understanding is that we have the following: not chronological-I
tried to put together some threads (I clipped what I believe is the essence
of the posts that address this question, and paraphrased what I think is
meant--Please add or comment if I've destroyed the meaning:

Roberta Lavadour said:
it seems to be an inherently unsafe environment for open discussion of a
sometimes emotional nature - after all, we would have to discuss SOMEBODY'S

Keith Berger said:
Does the story appeal to us? Is it a new and original piece or a classic
story retold in an fresh and exciting way? Does it flow and keep our
attention from the beginning to the end? How was it technically executed?
Does it all come together, with such an energy that once you finish looking
at it you want to stand and cheer?

Melinda Gales said:
The head of my department and I argue endlessly over the subject of what
Book Art is and how to define quality in this area.

Richard Minsky said:
Material, Image and Metaphor: ... all three aspects have to be in a strong,
balanced relationship.

Laura Chessin said:
...establish the criteria for how well story and craft are united as one.

Barbara Harman said:
This seems to assume that a book can only be called such if it includes text.
Many artist books do not. The 'story' is visual.

Eric Alstrom said:
I am using the word text in it's broadest meaning - anything that conveys
information, story, feeling, context.
I would then go on to suggest that the second part should be the medium.
How is the text expressed and conveyed to the world.  This is the craft
side, the part where you get your hands dirty making the physical object.
In my opinion where the art comes in is how these two parts (text and medium)
converge and create something greater than the two parts.

Laura Chessin said:
I absolutely agree that a story can be purely visual. Story is an open-ended
term. It can be non-verbal, and purely visual. It can be music, or dance. It
can be a quilt.

Richard Minsky said:
Does a Work have to mean something to everybody to be art? Is Risk a factor
in whether it's Art? Is work made from bourgeois necessity different from
work made for idealistic (aesthetic, ethical) reasons?

Michael Brady said:
Ages-old questions. Got answers?

Eun Ha said:
...unless we're talking about people who are dead (and the Museum's opinion
of something as art), the intent of the bookmaker is crucial.

Bertha Rogers said:
Almost everything the Native Americans made was for a purpose. The Quakers
made the most stunning furniture and objects, all for utile reasons.
Where/who/how the artist is/does should not be a factor.  Is the art "true"
to its materials, its text?  Does it show/tell the artist's truth?  Does the
artist know how to exploit his/her materials; is he/she comfortable with the
materials and tools?  And, if the artist uses text, aside from the obvious
fact that the words should be well written, cohesive, coherent, etc., does
the artist bother to spell the words right, know grammar and the rules of

Michael Brady said:
Everything is made for a purpose.
How can you tell if it shows the artist's truth or comfort with the medium?
Whose truth of grammar prevails?

Bertha Rogers said:
I don't think everything everyone does is ok.
I've read so much poetry and looked at so much art in the last 30 years that
I feel I can tell if what is presented is sham or truth.
It's easy to see if an artist is using oils or pastels or watercolors
clumsily; it's easy to see if a book is badly bound.
...there are rules of grammar...

Suzanne Denker said:
...there is something about book art that is different from art-as-object.
Whether it is text-based or not, a book has some kind of narrative flow....

...does the design of the binding contribute in some way to that narrative

I would like to get back to Roberta's original post:

>after all, we would have to discuss SOMEBODY'S work.

Rather than give generalizations, it would help my understanding of all
these points if we named specific book art works that illustrate the points
that are being made. Real works are best, hypothetical ones will work if no
real ones are available. Links to web-based images would help a lot!


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