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Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts



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Dear Peter:

Great topic for discussion!  I see this issue as a matter of refining the
language to more accurately distinguish between the wealth of book related
art (and craft) efforts out there.

As one of the founders and coordinators of Boston Book Arts, it is an issue
that hits close to home.  We chose the name three years ago when we started
our organization as it reflected a mix of respondents who were interested in
gathering to share work and ideas.  We have a membership that consists of:
artists who  make one-of-a-kind art pieces in the form of books, artists who
make unique books in limited editions, artists who publish more extensive
editions of their books using small presses, bookbinders who focus on the
craft of binding, and a wealth of people who would classify themselves as
"experimenters" with book art forms.  So for us, the term "book arts" is an
umbrella term that adequately reflects our membership mix.

As a full-time painter and creator of one-of-a-kind art pieces in book form
(whew! That is awkward) I do struggle to define myself and to communicate
what I am doing when I deal with artist statements and other public
definitions.  The term, "artist book" is often  as ambiguous as "book art,"
but I find myself using it more often to describe what I produce.  My books
are created around collections of my own collages and small paintings, and I
want to make the distinction that my books are completely unique.  Similarly,
when I create a painting, I feel the need to differentiate it from a multiple
print and/or reproduction of my work when publicizing it.  Such distinctions
are not a matter of elitism, but rather one of categorizing an art piece so
that a potential viewer or collector can decide how he or she wants to value
it.

When an art movement or genre gets popularized, it inevitably attracts
watered down versions of itself.  I employ a lot of collage techniques in my
work, but am loathe to call myself a "collage artist" because I don't want to
draw associations with the weaker strains (for want of a better
categorization) of that type of art.

Finally, I agree with those who have stated in this discussion that we should
not be afraid to be self critical and to create high standards for the Book
Art movement.  Personally, I am much more interested in the work of those
artists who are very committed to pursuing their art in the form of books,
who ask the tough questions, who innovate structures and come up with unique
content.  I think we do need a vocabulary to describe them.

Thanks for the discussion,
Sharon McCartney
Artist and coordinator of Boston Book Arts

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