Artist’s Books

Artist’s books (not a book about art, but art that IS a book) combine visual imagery and printed or painted words. It can take the form of a container for text, ideas, and/or images, for something that has a sequential narrative of words or pictures.  It can be made from found and recycled materials, in a gestural, funky sensibility, or produced using the most traditional, archival methods of fine printing and binding. Some artistʼs books are unique, one-of-a-kind objects, while some are created as multiple editions. Eschewing the passivity of viewing “wall art,”  artist’s books require the viewer to engage interactively by handling, turning pages or opening and closing the artistʼs creations.
These objects evoke the legacy of Walter Benjamin, the twentieth-century cultural analyst and literary critic who was a passionate collector of rare editions. It is said that his suicide, as he was detained at the Spanish/French border in 1940, was partially motivated by the despair that beset him as he envisioned life without his cherished library. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin writes about the importance of the “aura” of a work of art, its unique, authentic essence, as it exists in space and time, originating as it does from the hand of an individual.
It is the “aura” of these works that I most want to bring to your attention, along with an appreciation for the labor-intensive manipulation of materials which start out in a thrift shop or the trash bin and end up traveling around the world on exhibit (see Winter Journal).
This text is excerpted from my essay, “The Painted Word: Jewish Women’s Book Art,” NASHIM: A Journal of Jewish Womenʼs Studies and Gender Issues, #8 Fall 2004