This year’s Artists’ Book Cornucopia features three works that fall into the 3 inches or less US standard for miniature books. All are editioned works and all three utilize an accordion format. All are well crafted and feature content that fits their diminutive size well.
I hope you enjoy reading about Louisa Boyd’s Stardust, Jessica Spring’s Inflammatory Guide . . . and Sun Young Kang’s Memories Unfolded as much as I’ve enjoyed having a chance to examine and remark on them.
Louisa Boyd’s Stardust is housed in a black cloth clamshell, sans label. The fit is snug. The book is wrapped in a brown leather wrapper with hand-applied crayon lines, leather dots and metal foil. The top most panel has a series of vertical, but not exactly parallel lines that, on first glance, look like wood grain. Two cross-directional lines, also slightly angled, begin on the cover and wrap all the way around the wrapper. The bottom third of the panel is additionally adorned with silver foil and leather circles. The wrapper is held closed with a leather thong that is a bit too long and unfortunately detracts from this otherwise refined miniature.
Stardust’s riches are made apparent when the wrapper is fully opened. The interior lining mimics photographs of earth masses on planets viewed from space and is also slightly corpuscular. These shapes, printed in orange over cool black, are overlaid with gray markings that emulate celestial maps.
The text block itself is a concertina. One side has surface applied markings in rust, ochre and black, a landscape of sorts, with spiraling masses above the tree dotted horizon. Above the horizon line holes of varying sizes are punched throughout the text panels. The back side of the concertina is not imaged, but the punched holes create a pared down version of the front side image.
Because the concertina is only half the width when folded of the wrapper that contains it it is possible to see both the text’s imagery and the wrapper liner’s imagery simultaneously. I find this very appealing.
Stardust is part of a series of work that considers themes of infinity, mortality and the journey of the human soul and spirit.
The small but assertive An Inflammatory Guide: Banned & Challenged Books You Should Read by Jessica Spring shouts out with a fluorescent, hurt the eye orange cover that mimics a match book cover. This book also does not have the title on the cover but instead has the directive ‘open mind before striking’.
The accordion fold book uses every available panel to present quotes from a variety of sources, alternating with lists of titles printed in black ink, with their offense printed in orange. So we learn that Huxley’s Brave New World, Alexie’s The Absoluteley True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are among the most challenged books of 2011 – the reason? Racism.
The case for Memories Unfolded is unusual. The back piece has a back cover, spine piece and front tab that is only half the width of the text block. The front cover is attached only to the text block, and not the rest of the cover.
This design allows the book to have the protection of a case binding at the spine, but still allows the spine to be exposed after opening. It also creates an opportunity for more than one loop closure at the front; one holds the front edge closed, the other holds the spine piece in place. The placement of the ‘button’ part of the closure, made of a spiral of dark brown linen cord, mimics the placement of a door handle. The front cover of the book along with the partial tab, has paper cutout images of traditional Korean doors.
In another artists’ hands these details could be construed as overly fussy, or come across as using adornment for adornment’s sake. In Kang’s work, these elements not only introduce ongoing themes that reflect the simplicity and value of form and ritual, they present a primary theme of the book:
I have created this shadow book with paper-cut-out images of Korean traditional doors. The process of cutting the pattern of the doors to create shadows recalls my memories of my grandmother in her old house. When I was inside, I could see the shadow of Grandmother cast on the paper doors from out side. Grandmother’s presence as a shadow on the door has remained a strong image in my mind. Unlike many other doors, the traditional rice paper door does not totally block the inside and out from each other. It only creates the concept of this side and the other while simultaneously connecting them to each other. When this accordion book is unfolded, the pages are shaped as closed, connecting the memories of my Grandmother, who is now in the other side, with myself in this world.
When open and fully extended the duo layer pages present a variety of traditional door patterns, cut out and backed with paper that is somewhere between transparent and opaque. In low light, the patterns are subtle, with stronger lights, the lines of the doors cast shadows. Kang’s work often focuses on the endless circulation of life, in this case she uses light creating shadow as metaphor for life creating death. Her text, minimal and perfect, is revealed when a single folded panel is opened.
Regarding concept Kang says:
Death is not the end, but the other side of life and a part of it. The lost come back as a memory.
Each story, the fragments of memory, is spread out on this screen. The screen is a metaphor of the inseparability of life and death. Light from one side casts a shadow on the other, just as life, this world is inseparable from death, the world beyond.
This edition is sold out.