Author Archive | Heather Doyle-Maier

Melissa Jay Craig – Manifest O


Encountering Melissa Jay Craig’s book Manifest O is like coming across a tome from an ancient world: exciting, puzzling, and intriguing, a familiar form that contains distinctly unfamiliar landscapes, inhabitants and languages. Experiencing the book for the first time put me in the position of reader-archaeologist, discovering not only an elusive narrative but an underlying culture.

Constructed from abaca and kozo, the book is large yet surprisingly light to hold. At first glance, there seem to be dozens of oversized feather-weight pages, telling what must be a long story. The cover, wrinkled and warped as if weathered over centuries, seems part tree bark, part treasure map. The pages are browns and deep yellows and occasional violets, like a bruise.

Instead of a traditional title on the spine and cover, there are tears in the paper – slits, or burns, or almost claw marks – that could indicate a title, if one could but read the language. Inside, I soon I discover the holes. These are spots where the page appears to have been worn through, as if each tiny area had been rubbed over and over again, a kind of Braille worn down to nothing. Reading like lines of text, the holes are a mysterious and unreadable script.

The holes go on for several pages, and then – and then! – a pair of eyes appears, emerging from the surface of the page. Drawn in colored pencil, they look out at me. Are they poignant? forlorn? or merely seeing? Another few pages with holes, then a drawing of a finger, touching on a spot on the page, and then a nose: sniffing, perhaps. More holes, many lines of them. Then, a mouth. And another mouth. Many mouths, speaking, forming shapes with their lips, through and around the patterns of holes. Trying to clarify, to illuminate, trying to speak to me this hidden language. Pages of mouths. Pages of holes. And yet, try as I might, I cannot receive. I cannot understand the words. I cannot translate. I cannot – hear. What’s missing? Ears. Ah, ears. The narrative continues, with pages and pages of mouths and holes explaining and articulating, yet now that I understand, I have given up trying to comprehend.

As an object, Manifest O is beautiful: finely crafted, rich in color and texture, a sensual pleasure to handle and to look at. Yet vastly more important is the journey that Manifest O took me on, through an experiential understanding of hearing loss and of subsequent isolation. Through her insightful choice of timeless materials, to her considered use of empty and occupied space, to her careful and measured “texts,” Craig has created a transformative experience, bringing readers like me into poignant awareness of another world.

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Sarah Bryant – Simulations on a Two-Dimensional Grid

Sarah Bryant - Simulations

Sarah Bryant’s Simulations on a Two-Dimensional grid begins with a great line – or actually, several.   One line – the conceptual basis for the book – graces the first page: “reveal that if conditions are met to destabilize the equilibrium, individuals cycle out of phase with their neighbors.” This is a portion of a spatial population model, which may not tell you much directly but implies everything you need to know before experiencing this intriguing and appealing book.


Other lines – and there are many of them – stretch horizontally and vertically across the wrapper and across the unbound pages inside, in groups of 8-10 lines drawn in orange and black. They stretch across the surfaces like so many precise warp or weft threads, knotting together somewhere off the edge but on the page presented as flat and straight. They intersect, they interact, they form small grids as they cross. If you’re fascinated by grids, as I am, the multitude of crossing lines is appealing: specific and direct, like so many telephone wires stretching across a densely peopled city.


Additional lines are created by folding, creasing the paper but then flattened out and waxed back into white lines of evenness. The folded lines often parallel the drawn ones, or echo their placement on another page, but occasionally these lines set off on their own, creating their own patterns. They provide a subtle texture, a creased braille, a treat for eyes and fingertips.
The lines are complemented by small holes, just larger than pinpricks. There are groups of them, clustered together as if in a pod, travelling tightly and (for the most part) uniformly. This is the closest literal reference to population, these individual perforations that have gathered together in neighborly communion. For most of the book, they elude structure of the gridlines, but the last page and back cover allow the satisfaction of holes and lines aligning together, delightfully “in phase” with each other.


One of the most engaging aspects of this book is the treatment of the Zerkall paper. The waxed surface is lovely to handle, weighty like an ancient map, and its translucence both reveals and obscures the pages following. The folded lines and pricked holes take on a delicate thickness due to the waxing. I found that I wanted to keep exploring Simulations, especially for the pleasure of touching the pages.


Beyond lines and holes, the book is without imagery. Beyond the title page, initial quote, and colophon, the book is without words. These choices allow simplicity to reign, undistracted. The book is clean, well-crafted, and evocative.


Ed. Note: this book was created using The Artists’ Book Ideation Deck and produced in an edition of ten copies in 2013. It measures 8.5 x 5.25 x .15 (closed). Copies are available for purchase here.


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