What Does it Mean to be a Book Artist?

Hello wonderful human beings, did you miss me last week? To be completely honest, I forgot about the blog last week. I had a terrible migraine from Saturday to Wednesday and I am still trying to catch up on house work, and finally I decided to sit down and write despite still having dirty dishes that I am strategically not looking at.

I have been trying to form the habit of waking up at 6 am everyday and it is harder than I thought. But I guess today we are using the “extra” hours to get my life together. Anyhow, today I want to talk about artist books, because I always fail to explain it whenever people ask me and I should be better at it because that is what I am trying to make a living out of.

Last year I had a linguistics class and we learned that language is made up, we have the ability to make up a concept and give it a name. The concept artist book was created in 1973, and Perry Vanderlip could have given it any specific and detailed meaning. Instead, she left it open to interpretation and now we struggle to find characteristics that define what an artist book is. 

Based on how the definition of what a book is has changed, maybe the definition of an artist book lies more on the core of what a book is and not so much on how the book looks now a days. At one point a book was made out of a single roll (or scroll) and the information in it depended a lot on how much you could write in each roll. According to history St Augustine’s Confessions consists of 13 books, and that only means that his whole story took up 13 different rolls. There are expressions like “keeping the books” and words like “notebook” or “eBook” that suggest that perhaps a book is just a medium to storing and sharing information, and not the physical cover-to-cover object that we know as books now a days.  

I did not like the approach of comparing the debate about artist books with the blind men fable, because saying that artist books are like the elephant would mean that there is, in fact, The Artist Book that we could all see parts of to come closer to what an artist book is. However, based on how the term came to be, it doesn’t seem like there is one definite-universal-mother-of-them-all artist book. 

I think artist books are like pasta, endless possibilities. We all know how to recognize pasta, even though chances are none of us have actually picked up a dictionary and researched the word “pasta[1].” I believe some people are attempting to make artist books be mac and cheese, setting very specific rules to define what is and isn’t an artist book when we should be looking for the flour, eggs, and milk (I don’t really how pasta is made) that make up the artist book. Elements like color, size, texture or even media, can change and are up to each artist, as long as they are used as a way to store and share information–ideas, thoughts, reflections, research, etc. 


[1] According to Wikipedia Pasta is a type of food typically made from an unleavened dough of durum wheat flour (semolina) mixed with water or eggs, and formed into sheets or various shapes, then cooked by boiling or baking.

Have you ever heard of artist books?

Let me know in the comments if you had ever heard of artist books or book artist before this post. it can be a hard concept to understand, but just think about writing and art coming together to make a baby, that’s what artist books are. Well, I think now its time to refill my coffee cup and go do more awesome things!

Go be happy, share your love to the world and don’t forget to be amazing!

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