Accumulating Palimpsest

Thoughts on Book Arts from someone who knows nothing about them.

Yesterday I received a whole list of Book Arts Artists (Artist Book Artists?), so I’ll be working my way through that list day by day, and taking a break from the MN Book Arts Finalist list, though there’s plenty more to explore there. 

So, we start with Thomas Allen, mostly famous for his staged scenes and photos that are centered on cut-outs from covers and pages of books, frequently dime-novel dramas and westerns. Unlike most of what I’ve posted, Allen does not contribute any original text or drawing, but creates his scene and interpretation entirely from his cutting, and then rearranging. “Drawstring” is an exception, as it combines two different sources and creates a narrative there that wouldn’t otherwise exist, unlike “the cowboy” (that’s not the official name) which appears to be an easier entry point to his work as it stays with just a cut-out from a single source. 

"Man up," made for the Wall Street Journal, may be the most enticing: the characters come from various books and sources, and are clearly assembled and framed (the stack of books as a stage) by Allen to work with the title in view, "COME BACK A MAN," the cut-out from the cover of which is in the foreground. In terms of framing, that (come back a man) spine and the open pages behind it going almost straight back make for a fascinating sidewall, especially since we can still see around it on the left, and there are no solid boundaries on any other side. Also, the focus and radial-blur (the most in-focus spot appears to be somewhere between the heads of the two foreground characters and the woman with the ribbon in the background) provides a mysterious or haunting effect, and leaves us to wonder what relationship there is between the foreground and background characters…are they haunting the past? Or are they provided by Allen just to fill in more social context and pull some of the focus off the foreground characters? 

I could ramble on, but I think you’d just rather look at the pictures. This should prove that not only do I know nothing about book arts, family dynamics and social studies aren’t my specialty either. Enjoy! 

Bernie Herman's Blog

One of my favorite thinkers on Material Culture, Objects, Life, and so much more…

Number one: wine. I’m sure others have written on this topic, but the dilemma of wine pairings for potential disasters receives too little attention. For a late October storm, part hurricane/part northeaster, I look for well-structured reds with rustic, yet delicate notes of windblown leaf mold, fallen apples and pomegranates, and tide-churned marsh mud. A powerful bouquet with the architecture of an armageddon; the kind of wine that went with the demolition of the Tower of Babel; old world wines that speak to millennia of unresolved conflict – and definitely not one of those new world, new age, over-extracted West Coast or Oz wines.

Wilber H. “Chip” Schilling and Thomas Rose (Minneapolis, MN, USA):

Arthur & Barbara is a portrait of art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto and artist Barbara Westman seen reflected in the space of their New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. It takes the reader on an exploration of the space inhabited by these public figures of the global arts community. It provides an opportunity to engage in their private space as rendered in the form of an artists’ book. It is abstract yet offers insight into the lives of the individuals. This book embodies their life and work in symbolic forms of thoughtful play.


New ground being broken (in my investigation) for creating a space, in this case modeled after not only an extremely specific physical location, but a relationship and the personalities that inhabit the space. There’s more to say about a how people interact with objects and the space they come to live in than I could write here (and there are plenty of more interesting sources to read about that from…), but this fascinating not only for the collage of objects and things chosen to represent the people/places/relationship, but as an example of a work done replicating some ultra-specific topic rather than attempting to showcase a general mood, etc. 
Also, I don’t know anything about the people who are the subject of this, or the artists, but I imagine their relationship and entangled artistic endeavors would be another worthy subject of pondering…
If you scroll down a bit, you can find the rest of the photos and text here. 

Wilber H. “Chip” Schilling and Thomas Rose (Minneapolis, MN, USA):

Arthur & Barbara is a portrait of art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto and artist Barbara Westman seen reflected in the space of their New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. It takes the reader on an exploration of the space inhabited by these public figures of the global arts community. It provides an opportunity to engage in their private space as rendered in the form of an artists’ book. It is abstract yet offers insight into the lives of the individuals. This book embodies their life and work in symbolic forms of thoughtful play.


New ground being broken (in my investigation) for creating a space, in this case modeled after not only an extremely specific physical location, but a relationship and the personalities that inhabit the space. There’s more to say about a how people interact with objects and the space they come to live in than I could write here (and there are plenty of more interesting sources to read about that from…), but this fascinating not only for the collage of objects and things chosen to represent the people/places/relationship, but as an example of a work done replicating some ultra-specific topic rather than attempting to showcase a general mood, etc. 

Also, I don’t know anything about the people who are the subject of this, or the artists, but I imagine their relationship and entangled artistic endeavors would be another worthy subject of pondering…

If you scroll down a bit, you can find the rest of the photos and text here. 

So, what kind of parallel can we draw to this kind of auditory landscape, a map (and miniature) containing sounds? For instance, what would an auditory twin of the “suburbs” artist book (a few posts ago) look like/sound like? And, could you combine the two, somehow integrating a speaker or headphones to correspond to different points? Diving quickly deeper into immersing various senses in one of these imagined/creative spaces…also, would bringing more senses (sound) into play allow for more detail, and if so would that restrict how abstract it would be? My thought is no, it wouldn’t, because the potential for using sound is so vast and varied…snippets of conversation, ambient noise, or of course music…

"Life Go On," one of the four themes Thornton Dial categorizes his drawings as. This picture comes from the "Thoughts on Paper" exhibit that was at UNC Chapel Hill’s Ackland Art Museum Spring/Summer 2012. 

Which brings me to do a project I’d like to attempt: taking a reproduction (or, hey, doing a reproduction) of one of these “thoughts on paper” drawings, but as a collage, then separating out each layer based on color/texture, and creating a tunnel book…effectively translating the two-dimensional piece into a collage of assembled materials, which is Mr. Dial’s more well-known medium anyway. 

The NC Art Blog’s post on the exhibit and event is more insightful…

This comes from Erwin Huebner who says, after explaining the deep-rooted human fascination with eggs as a source and nexus of all life: 
These egg books were challenging to make. They involved cutting quail egg shells in half, reinforcing them with Japanese papers and creating paper hinges, and supporting each egg on a Black Walnut base so each book stands upright and can be easily opened. The inserted accordion book pages were printed with archival inks on rice paper and are attached to a small archival paper platform at the rear of the cover.
Challenging to make? You don’t say…
It looks as if most of what’s printed on the accordion paper is science/DNA/life related diagrams and charts…but I wonder how relevant and comprehensive these are? They might not be possible to read anyway, in person…

This comes from Erwin Huebner who says, after explaining the deep-rooted human fascination with eggs as a source and nexus of all life: 

These egg books were challenging to make. They involved cutting quail egg shells in half, reinforcing them with Japanese papers and creating paper hinges, and supporting each egg on a Black Walnut base so each book stands upright and can be easily opened. The inserted accordion book pages were printed with archival inks on rice paper and are attached to a small archival paper platform at the rear of the cover.

Challenging to make? You don’t say…

It looks as if most of what’s printed on the accordion paper is science/DNA/life related diagrams and charts…but I wonder how relevant and comprehensive these are? They might not be possible to read anyway, in person…

How on earth does this even work? 

How on earth does this even work?