Three of the books in this years’ Cornucopia are particularly rewarding haptically. All three are one-of-a-kind books relying on touch to be fully appreciated.Sadly few of you blog readers will be able to personally delight in the sensuousness of these works. Even so, I hope you enjoy reading about the works of Servane Briand, Elizabeth Holster and Beata Wehr. More details about all three can be found in the online catalog.
Touching the outside covers of Servane Briand’s déchirures (made from a cashmere sweater) is comforting in the way that stroking a cat can be comforting.This indeed is one of her intentions – to make a book that is ‘comfy’ on the outside, with spiky content within.
Briand introduces another kind of soft to the book’s covers with laid on bits of Kozo paper, torn at the edges and printed with a series of words that reference the book’s interior contents. Bigger lumps take the form of embroidered shapes. The back cover is solid softness.
Torn paper edges peek out from the head and tail edges in a pleasing repetition of what the torn paper edges on the cover. Upon opening an 8 panel accordion is revealed, each panel, including end panels, with a printed image of something spiky from Briand’s current geography, California. Included are images of sharp edge pinecones, various cacti, the pointy bark of a palm tree’s trunk.
I appreciate an artists’ giving consideration to the back side of accordion books and this Briand has done with a composition of vertical, straight edge strips of kozo printed with layers of text and purply red unryu, simulating the red of gashes in the skin. The compositions work both as individual panels and when the entire text block is unfolded (to a length of 40 inches). A horizontal band of text spans the three right panels, tidily placed in the bottom fifth of the panels. The text gives the reader a few factoids about the Cactus family. I learn (or am reminded of something I suspect I learned at some point in school) that the spines Cacti not only defend but provide shade that lowers the plant’s water loss through transpiration.
Briand mentions a few things ungleanable from examining the book itself:
Déchirures was born in translation! I was amused by the term “softcover” and intrigued by the emphasis that exists in the American publishing world bewteen “hardover” and “softcover”. I started to work on a series which is a “jeu de mots” on the French translation of “softcover,” a reflection on the wider use of softbinding in France — even for first editions — and a statement on the invaluable feedback we get from touching a book (something lost in digital editions).
This book has been sold.
Quite different from the soft comfiness of Briand’s use of a cashmere sweater is Beata Wehr’s Blue Book About the Past.The book is housed in a blue canvas pouch with fold over flap. The pouch is encrusted with paint and texture, its surfaces appear pebbly and rough and also reminds me of the pock-marked images of lunar scapes, but in bright and beautiful variations of cobalt and cerulean blues.
My eyes have not deceived, the surface is rough to the touch, the protrusions unyielding and nearly as abrasive as coarse sandpaper.
The book itself has artifacts that, taken out of context, could be from some distant, unknown land. Closer examination renders the objects more familiar – bits of rusty metal and wire, 35 mm sections of film stitched in place through the sprocket holes, broken off metal keys, spiky organic bits that I later learn are agave thorns, arrayed in vertical compositions through the 4 pages and on the covers of the pamphlet sewn text block.
I especially appreciate that the stitch lines are left exposed on the back of each page so that a page spread shows the patterns of the stitch lines on the left, with objects stitched into place on the right. Mechanically simple, the pages turn well and lay flat when asked to. The challenge of working with additive objects that have bulk that is met well in this book.
The pages of this book are made out of old painting cut in pieces. I stitched to them three kinds of objects: old slides of my artist’s books, agave thorns from the desert I live at now and found metal pieces, whose history is unknown to me. All of them speak about time and transience and create short stories on every other page.
The cover of Elizabeth Holster’s book, Black and White, resembles a portfolio; the only surface treatment strips of mulberry, one each front and back. On opening, I am pleased to discover a work with page spreads that bring to mind the oversize coffee table monographs; the ones with full bleed images running across the entire spread; the clutter of explanatory text appearing elsewhere in the tome.
Each of the 7 page spreads, that include both pastedowns, is a skillful composition of mostly solid (i.e. not patterned or very subtly patterned), neutrally toned geometric shapes. The shapes are a combination of various papers, fabrics, buttons and leathers, some held in place with tidily accomplished hand stitching, some cut, others torn.
What is exciting about this book is the abundance of shape and texture accomplished with a very basic set of materials. Details such as the overstitched scalloped hem of a piece of fabric, or the slightly skewed placement of shapes are not fussy additions but rather thoughtful contributions to the overall image.
Holster explains that this book
explores the idea that while we tend to talk about things as either / or, in reality there are a host of variations between black and white.
In fact, although muted and subdued, the palette of the book is many steps removed from black, white and gray.
While on display at the gallery, I have given myself the treat of turning the page at the end of the day, so the first glance at this book (placed flat and opened on a low pedestal) the following day seems fresh and new. I do wish there were more pages.
This book has been sold.