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Re: [BKARTS] A Queer An alysis of Artists' B ooks

I don't get it, I'm afraid. What larger community are book artists on the margin of? Does this mean something more than that they interest fewer people than, say, Andrei Bely? If one were marginalized, why go looking for sociological (?) explanations when much simpler economic ones are just lying about? Or are people saying (supposing) that there are aspects of the cultural (?) positioning of artists books that are ignored or overlooked by economics or, say, Bourdieu's cultural analysis? If there are such aspects, are they ignored deliberately because of some sociocultural barrier which prevents understanding, for example a prejudice? What reasons can be given for believing in the existence of such a thing? Or did I miss something?
Charles (Ocotillo Arts)

From: John Cutrone <jcutrone@xxxxxxx>
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Thursday, April 9, 2009 11:06:17 AM
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] A Queer An alysis of Artists' B ooks

Most of the on-list responses to Michael's (very valid, I'd say) questions have been mind-boggling to me. I think interested parties should just answer Michael's questions and leave the rest to him. Don't interviews with qualified people (most of us on this list are book artists, no?) count as valid research?

1. Is there a relationship between artists' books and the queer community?  Whether yes or no, please, explain.

I think there's a relationship between artists' books and any community that finds itself on the sidelines of the larger community. I think of Taller Leñateros (http://www.tallerlenateros.com/), the print cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, as an example. They print a wonderful literary journal called "La Jicara," which includes, among other things, items translated from native languages. Many of the people in this cooperative speak only native languages. They make their own paper, they print and bind their own books, and they send them out into the world and suddenly their collective voice extends beyond the boundaries of their own village. 
 pretty wonderful thing.

The GLBT community, though spread far and wide, has a good bit of this same challenge, and artists' books are simply one vehicle--a pretty powerful one, though perhaps not widely seen, in the grand scheme of things--for making that happen. There are many excellent examples out there: "Gay Myths" by Ed Hutchins (Editions, 1993) and "Parallax" by Karen Chance (Nexus Press, 1987) are two that come immediately to mind.

That being said, there are certainly more GLBT artists out there making books than there are artists' books that deal with GLBT topics. I am a member of the GLBT community, but I have yet to create a book that deals directly with GLBT topics. Not that they don't interest me--of course they do. The topics just haven't yet manifested themselves into a book. But there are plenty of GLBT artists making extraordinary books on all manner of topics... which, I think, says a lot in itself: It says that we all are essentially the same in our basic needs and wants. There are major differences, of course, between the queer and straight communities--but the essential similarities are striking (which is what the current fight for marriage equality is all about). And so I feel strongly that some of us GLBT artists, by emphasizing that similarity, are sending out equally strong messages about the GLBT experience... just done in a more subtle way.

2. Is there a queer sensibility to artists' books?  Explain.

In that artists' books and the GLBT community both are marginalized, yes. And if you don't think that artists' books are marginalized, I'm not sure where you're living. I was at Palm Beach 3 last year--a major international artists/dealers show at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, and in hundreds of booths, found only one that featured books (or even had a book, for that matter). They couldn't even be classified as artists' books, really. High end published photography books would be a more accurate description. Not artists' books.

Yes, we see more and more exhibitions of arti
ums... but there is still plenty of resistance to books in the art world. And I don't think I need to go into how marginalized the GLBT community continues to be. Much has improved... but much has not.

3. Is there a queer history in artists' books?  Explain.

It's there but will take some research... and I think primarily it will have to come from the actual artists' books. Hopefully you have access to a collection with a staff that can point you in the right direction. (You could always come to the Jaffe Collection at JCBA!) I would also speak directly to GLBT artists.

Best of luck to you, Michael. And I hope you'll share what you've learned with the rest of us. You've stumbled upon a fascinating topic.

John Cutrone
Programs Coordinator
JCBA: Jaffe Center for Book Arts
Florida Atlantic University Wimberly Library
Boca Raton, Florida

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