In 2003, I was awarded a fellowship by the Worcester Cultural
Commission/ Massachusetts Cultural Council in support of my
reciprocally-inspired poetry/art manuscript. Besides being given
monetary encouragement, it made me believe that I wasn't the
only one who thought "Reciprocity" was a worthy project
(see Judy's Journal - February 2005). The manuscript continued
to grow, and journals accepted individual poems for publication.
I designed a query letter that I thought would certainly awaken
the publishing world to the phenomenon of "reciprocity."
Ten publishers have turned down my proposal since 2003, and
uncharacteristically, I was giving up hope. While rejection
is something every writer and artist must cope with (see Judy's
Journal - March 2005), this project was difficult to let go
of. Then in August, a brochure from the Mead Art Museum arrived
in the mail. It described an exhibit called "Off the Shelf:
Artists' Books from Amherst College Collections." I had
slight knowledge of artists' books, and something said, "GO!"
On September 27th, after stopping at the Fiber Art Center in
Amherst, Massachusetts to see a gorgeous collection of contemporary
one-of-a-kind artists' books, my husband and I headed to the
Mead. Amherst College was one of ten sites in northwestern Massachusetts
celebrating the art of the book. "Off the Shelf" is
at the museum until November 18 and needs to be seen to be appreciated.
Since the exhibit is made up of artists' books from Amherst
College's Collections, you have the opportunity to see these
fine examples at a later time.
The exhibit showed one-of-a-kind and limited edition books
that combined both art and writing. As I looked at each one,
I felt a surge of inspiration that propelled me into a frenzy
of thought. Michael Kasper, who wrote the enticing brochure,
gave a gallery talk that day. I enjoyed hearing him, but my
mind was racing ahead. I had just seen "Reciprocity"
in a new light.
Could "Reciprocity" be transformed into an artist's
book? The answers came as I unpacked Michael Kasper's definition:
Would it be a publication that mixed
words and images in an unusual, inventive way? Yes. Most
poems and paintings I make are not overtly related to each other,
but about 10% of the time a phenomenon that I call "reciprocity"
occurs. Creating any painting or poem comes from the need to
act upon a strong urge to respond to an event, memory, observation,
or idea. However, when that work is done, there are times when
something insists, "There's more." My task is to leave
the door open and continue, using the other medium. Painting
and poem are bound together in response to an event that may
have taken a split second to happen, but many hours at my easel
and word processor to resolve.
Since the early twentieth century, artists
who are also writers and writers who make art have been designing
books that magnify the communicative power of their separate
Amherst College's collection of artists' books make up a body
of work worthy of notice and admiration. As I researched the
phenomenon of "reciprocity" to see if other artist/writers
had experienced it, I discovered that I was working inside a
tradition. Edgar Degas had written a sonnet about his sculpture,
"Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen." The renowned list
grew as I continued to read: Jean Arp, William Blake, Marc Chagall,
e.e. cummings, Leonardo da Vinci, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Marsden
Hartley, Roberto Matta, Michelangelo, M.C. Richards, Dante Gabriel
Rossetti and Dorothea Tanning. The longer I am a member of a
thriving community of poets and visual artists, the more I realize
that there is a large group whose reputations may have not reached
iconic proportions, but who nonetheless do the work of both.
Have they made artists' books? I would need to do more research
to find the answer. Have they experienced "reciprocity"?
If so, they have not written about it. I do know that a book
seemed to be a natural vehicle for delivering my two-sided creation.
However, I needed to design and produce that book.
and bypass traditional modes of
distribution and display.
While publishers and bookstores are not a thing of the past,
widespread use of the home computer and the Internet seem to
have loosened their hold. My design for "Reciprocity"
would present difficulties for a traditional publisher, even
if they were interested in the concept, images and poems. The
"book" that I am producing invites the owner to take
it apart - twenty-two images are reproduced on matte photography
paper and encased in acid-free plastic sleeves which are then
set inside a cover and hand-bound. Slip a reproduction out of
its sleeve, put it into a double-sided clear acrylic frame and
see the image, with its reciprocal poem on the reverse side.
Some of these books are unique objects, or are produced in limited
On December 1st, I will be offering "Reciprocity: An Artist's
Book" on this website as a signed limited edition of one
hundred. There will be a link from the home page to a special
page devoted to "Reciprocity: An Artist's Book."
My thanks to Michael Kasper for permitting me to quote from
his "Off the Shelf" brochure.
Any and all questions and comments about my artist's book are
welcome! I hope that you will be as excited as I am about it.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And please join me for the next Judy's Journal.