Friday Fun Facts: Artist’s Books

This week we kicked off a challenge to take existing books and create a new work out of it: book spine poetry. We’ve gotten great submissions so far, so keep sending them in! (We’ll start posting them on June 6th.)

Playing with genre and form made me think about the medium of a book itself. One amazing way people do this is with the creation of artist’s books. According to the Smithsonian:

An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the structure or function of “book” as inspiration—a work of art in book form. Although artists have illustrated the words of others for centuries, the book as art object is relatively recent.

I was fortunate enough to see an artist’s book display at Indiana University recently, and I wanted to take them all home with me! Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • BadQuarto9
    by the Virginia Arts of the Book Center
    The Bad Quarto by the Virginia Arts of the Book Center features an unofficial variant of Hamlet that was likely used by traveling minstrels. When creating it, the artists had several rules, including that “the only words that could appear on any page had to be from the assigned page in Q1; they could be re-arranged, excerpted.” The differences between this version and the Hamlet we all know are striking, moving, and humorous. To be presented in such a playful yet dark way, really does the text justice.
  • Praxis by Julie Chen is a playful, summery book. It has tabs that pull and twist, revealing new words and colors. It is reminiscent of a child’s interactive pop-up book.

    by 23 Sandy Gallery
    by 23 Sandy Gallery
  • Sanctus Sonorensis by Philip Zimmermann mimics a child’s first bible with its board-book pages, its rounded corners, and its gilded edges. It represents the passing of a day in the desert by the US-Mexico border as agents wait for illegal immigrants to give up in the heat of the day and rise from the scrub brush. Each spread features the sky as the day grows in light and heat, as well as a beatitude reading something like “Blessed are the pool boys” or “Blessed are the adobe brick makers.” Toward the end of the book, dusk begins to fall and the text turns to phrases like  “and let us forgive la migra.”

    by RISD Special Collections
    by RISD Special Collections
  • Soap Story by Angela Lorenz comes to you as two small packages. The first is a photo album with six, oval openings. The second is a box of six square, numbered soaps. To release the story, you must wash and wash with each soap block, freeing the piece of paper within. Once the paper is freed, it can be put into the album to tell the story.
  • Riverine by Sara White explores the landscape around New Orleans, Louisiana. The pages unfold this way and that, and the text flows along the pages with each page turn. It’s a beautiful book, printed on handmade paper with an eight-color letterpress process.

Enjoy your long weekend! And send us a poem!


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