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Re: [BKARTS] Drucker Article

I'm usually a "lurker" on the list but felt compelled to respond to and thank you for your email concerning Drucker's article. As Peter said in his posting, I believe a discussion of book arts is necessary in order for it to gain respect and recognition. I read the article, and gained a lot of insight from it.

I'm also having difficulty with the misconceptions and prejudices surrounding the form. At 55 years old I'm a returning student working towards a MFA degree, and confronting the usual (mostly self induced) critical nature inherent in the process. I was a graphic designer for years, and now I've fallen in love with book arts, an ideal form for someone who enjoys process and the varied forms a book can take. I also teach a conceptual book design class at a community college, and stress the integration of form and content. I'm constantly battling the Michael's craft concept of books and, since I have to support my professed viewpoints, I'm always looking for a structured way in which to further define book arts.

After greatly enjoying making books, I actually considered leaving the form behind since I had such trouble distinguishing between craft and art in my own mind and work. So, I found Drucker's article, and the resulting postings very informative.

I'm familiar with and have admired your books, and find them wonderful spiritual vessels. I'm still working through my own apprehensions concerning the form, but know an artist shouldn't be constrained to definitions and guidelines during the creative process. Bottom line, I agree with your statement that "criticism is important to 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."


Date:    Thu, 9 Jun 2005 08:43:52 -0400
From:    Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord <skgaylord@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: Drucker Article

Dear Friends

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,


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 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 meantto brag but to illustrate my point. The jurors were well-know in New England: Rachel Rosenfield Lafo of the
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 Newburyport, MA


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