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Re: [BKARTS] Drucker Article
This is a late response to Johanna Drucker's article in bonefolder. I
wanted to read the whole article and not just comment on other people's
comments but I don't seem to be making it through so I'll respond now.
I do think that some kind of critical language needs to be developed if
book art is going to take its place in the broader stream of the art
world. I also think that artists need to create independently and not
limit themselves by worrying about where their work fits.
I say this from personal experience. I came to making books in the late
eighties after ten years of serious work in calligraphy and several
years of dissatisfaction and searching and was thrilled to find
something that spoke to me and seemed satisfying in all ways. I made
several edition books combining text and imagery and using calligraphy
and type. I then began to make wordless books with repetitive imagery.
A friend lent me a copy of Artists' Books: A Critical Analogy and
Sourcebook which was edited by Joan Lyons in 1985 to address the same
questions Johanna Drucker did in her article:
"'What am I experiencing when I turn these pages?' That is what the
critic of an artist's book must ask, and for most critics it is an
uncomfortable question. This is a problem that must be addressed if the
audience for artist's books is to continue to grow, if they are to
reach a larger public."
One of the articles was The New Art of Making Books by Ulises Carrion.
At the beginning, he states,
"WHAT A BOOK IS
A book is a sequence of spaces.
Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment- a book is also
a sequence of moments. "
In my newly formed consciousness of the artists' book, I took these
words deeply to heart and thought that all books had to be about
sequence. I felt that the rug had been pulled out from under my feet.
My books weren't. Some were meant to be for all the pages to be viewed
at once. I felt I was doing the wrong thing but also that I was making
work that pleased me and that came from my heart.
Transcendence II and The Book of Hair and Lips which are representative
of the books of this time can be viewed at
I took courage from two encounters of sorts: a radio interview with
Mickey Hart, one of the drummers from the Grateful Dead, and a
biography of Georgia O'Keefe by Laurie Lisle. Mickey Hart was spending
a lot of time in Africa recording drumming and spoke of the chanting
nature of the drums unlike the progression of Western music and I
thought, yes, that's what I'm after in my books. And the biography of
Georgia O'Keefe had this quote from her:
"I grew up pretty much as everyone else grows up and one day seven
years ago found myself saying to myself- I can’t live where I want to-
I can’t go where I want to- I can’t do what I want to- I can’t even say
what I want to-. School and things that painters have taught me even
keep me from painting as I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool
not to at least paint as I wanted to and say what I wanted to when I
painted as that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn’t
concern anybody but myself- that was nobody’s business but my own."
Exhibition catalog statement, Anderson Galleries, January 29, 1923
O’Keefe was teaching at Columbia College in Columbia SC at the time
from Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keefe, Laurie
Lisle, NY, Washington Square Books, 1980
I continued to follow my own path which led to The Spirit Book Series
which I have been working on since 1992 and will end this year with #50
and a culminating show at the Regis College Fine Arts Center in Weston,
MA. What has been interesting to me is that the earlier work and the
Spirit Books have been quite well received in the context of the larger
art world. And for them I think it is the sculptural quality and not
the bookness that appeals. I won the award for Sculpture/3D at the
Regional Juried Show at the Newburyport Art Association for the past
two years. This is not meant to brag but to illustrate my point. The
jurors were well-know in New England: Rachel Rosenfield Lafo of the
DeCordova Museum and Carl Belz, Director Emeritus of the Rose Art
Museum at Brandeis.
I entered two pieces in both shows. The pieces that were less booklike
were the ones that won and this year the more booklike one was
rejected. All had a sense of the book form but the ones where the pages
were more open and seemed to imply the need to turn the pages and
interact with it like a book were less well-received than the ones that
where the pages formed more of a sculptural unit with less of an
invitation to be experienced as a book. I don't know if the jurors
handled the books during the the process. I haven't updated The Spirit
Books on my website for a while so I'm sorry I can't give images for
reference. As far as I know I was the only one entering books in the
exhibits so I have no sense of how they would have evaluated other
kinds of artists' books.
So I guess my point is that criticism is important for the art form but
that it comes after the creation of the work which needs to come from
the artist's mind and hand and soul.
in good spirit
Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Edelpappband / “Millimeter” Binding Bind-O-Rama, Entry Deadline - October 1, 2005
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