Spheres of Meaning: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books| Art Loft 807 Segment


As the books’ demise is mourned and discussed,
it seems that more and more people want to make books by hand. Artist books are their own art form, just
like photography, or sculpture, or painting. My name is Amy Galpin, and I’m the Chief Curator
at the Frost Art Museum. I was thinking about books in terms of literature
and how books can function as a portal, as a pathway to new experience, new travels. And I was thinking about this relationship
that could be applied to an artist book. I think an artist book can be a sculpture,
it can have text, it can look completely different than we might think a book should look. Or it can have strong connections, like the
work of Margarita Cano with illuminated manuscripts, medieval manuscripts. I used to go a lot to New York to the Morgan
Library. So I was very familiar with books done with
parchment, and gold, and gild, and all that. I started painting in 1993 just after I retired. The first thing I did was an Adam and Eve
being told that they had to leave Paradise. And the Paradise was Cuba, and the tree, instead
of an apple tree, it was mangoes. I thought it made a statement for people to
think about the sufferings of people who have to leave their country. That accordion books, you know, that you open
up, and then I have these little pieces inside, sort of like the mirrors. So when a person grabs one of my books and
starts opening and looking at it, all these things start falling to the floor and it’s
very irritating, but that’s part of what I wanted to cause. I wanted that to be an effect, because the
Cuban situation is so irritating. As some artists are very much dedicated to
the form, I don’t think that either Carol Todaro or, for example, other artists in the
show like Donna Ruff or Rosemarie Chiarlone consider themselves to be only artist book
makers. But they definitely make many artist books. I really enjoy experimenting with media and
pushing the kind of media I can use with artist books. I think a lot about display when I make a
book, I think about where it will be shown and how it will be seen. So this is a group of six artist books that
work together as an ensemble. And it’s called Villanelle. The pages are made of a translucent material
and the images and words are hand-printed on in a very simple method of transferring
text from an actual laser print. And a villanelle is a type of poetic form. It came from a French song form. Therefore, these books, which are a kind of
analogy to the poetic form, are mounted on music stands. The music stands do two things: they provide
a way for the books to be displayed as sculpture, and they also cue us that music is a part
of the content of the piece. So the words are all fragments of poems. This one begins with the words “as if”. So, when you go down to the side, it says
“forming a galaxy”, and on the other side, “becoming a graveyard”. So I’m going from the cosmos to below the
earth in this one segment of the poem. It’s not really a story but more images and
texts that the viewer is invited to put together and make their own meaning from. I think for, you know, most people think of
Diego as a painter. He’s someone who really interrogates, “What
does a painting mean?” But I was really taken with his elaborate
sketchbooks, these deconstructions of other magazines joined with various drawings. And I thought he brought a really fresh perspective
to the exhibition. For me, the artists books came just as a way
of necessity, of just making. And luckily, I work in a lot of art institutions
and what I decided to do was just incorporate a lot of the materials that was around me. They had a lot of catalogs that they were
always throwing away. I didn’t really think about it as like, any
different than painting. I just needed to make. So during my break time I would be making
it, and even during the time when I was working I would be walking around and if there was
like, an interesting page because of the material I thought it would be interesting, I would
just grab it and put it into these, like, artist books. And yeah, I learned a lot from that. And after I made the book, I felt like I couldn’t
make the same type of art again, what I was making in grad school. It just didn’t make sense for me. I’m always thinking about that sense of awe
that a viewer might have, but then simultaneously, what is the resonance? You know, what does the work mean to them
after they leave the museum?

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