Friday, September 01, 2006

About Poetry & the Making of Book Art


If my book art be prose, then my "Waste·Not·Want·Not" books are
poetry.
 
Decades ago, my tools were exclusively a pen, an electric typewriter, and a copying machine. Each two-page spread began as a collage of typewritten text and my pen drawings that, with a copier, would be reduced to fit on a standard letter size paper. Then, I'd assemble four to six sheets to be folded and sewn to form a signature. The computer and its software, printer and scanner changed all that (though I do continue to make books of copier art). In those days, I hand-colored small editions with markers, as the pigments were permanent and didn't buckle or warp the papers. They bled through to the verso sides, but I liked how it looked, even when it was duplicated with a black-and-white copy machine.

Inevitably, there is a lot of 'waste' in the process of 'building' any book that wasn't simply a procession of drawings in a notebook (or even full page comics which I also loved making). I would feel the need to constantly improve upon each printed out copy, proofreading typos and revising the texts which, upon each revisiting, prepared me to understand that the earlier versions were inferior and inadequate. Thus each edition of a book would generate numerous variations and permutations (a fact that remains the case, even to this day). But I didn't throw them away. My studio became piled with these imperfect drafts, revisions, seconds, and try-zies. My 'damaged perfections,' I'd put them to some good use.

Some years ago, I began to form these stacks of leftovers into books. The resultant assemblage I'd fold and staple together, using the verso sides to record a kind of log or annotation. These works served two purposes: a sampling of the actual projects I had been working on, and a journal of thoughts these works had inspired. In the course of time, I realized that this spontaneous process had become a genre in its own right.

So it evolved. With each successive of salvaging of refuse, I assembled as though by sheer randomness and serendipity these books that left a very authentic record as to who I was and where I'd been: a mix-and-match shuffling of pages that spoke with the succinctness of poetry.

I began to actively use the copier as a tool, manipulating my discarded pages before I formed them into books. The process of mix-and-matching assorted copier-printed pages, feeding them into the copier with other images, overprinting the originals or the semi-printed, the badly printed, the smudged and off register print-outs, led to surreal and surprising outcomes. Serendipity did this work better than I could have!

When I colored editions with felt markers, the verso sides would become stained. I soon discovered that these abstract marks could be used as unique  underpaintings upon which I could create completely new drawings. 

The weird and uncrontrived juxtapositions told my story, and I helped it along with hand written reportages (dating it as though this were my log). These books could be opened at any page and read in any sequence. They revealed the Where-I've-Beens, the What-I've-Explored, the Discoveries, and the Epiphanies. I stood back and allowed 'CHANCE' to be in charge.

In my most recent book additions, I have found myself emulating many of the attributes I had found and appreciated in these 'Waste-Nots.' Folding, trimming so as to fit the papers beneath the cutter, shape, sew, feel the 'BOOK,' tactile in my hands -a work of sculpture, was exhilerating. A blank-verse embodiment of a book that was itself poetic. This work is like a river, flowing, organic, ever in flux. One steps through, but never twice in the same waters.

To be cont'd

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