Woke up this morning with Aunt Sally’s Lament on my mind. This seminal book in the book arts canon was designed by Claire Van Vliet based on a binding structure developed by Hedi Kyle and got me thinking about lineage. Book artists inspired by this work include Phil Zimmermann, Alicia Bailey, and even yours truly.
Aunt Sally’s Lament has had many iterations, from the 1988 original, deluxe hand-bound version from Claire’s Janus Press to the trade version by Chronicle Books and even a 2002 how-to book titled Woven and Interlocking Book Structures that is extremely hard to find and a pricey collectible. The University of Wisconsin library web site has a terrific list of four of the variations of Aunt Sally’s Lament that you can see here.
The version I wish I could handle in person today as I get back to work in my studio, is Woven and interlocking book structures: from the Janus, Steiner and Gefn Presses. This 2002 set of four slipcases containing 16 models, all variations on the structure, and is enclosed with the how-to book in a cloth-covered clamshell box. It was made in an edition of 200 copies and looks quite remarkable.
One of my favorite interpretations of this structure is Phil Zimmermann’s Nature Abhors book. This book was one of the first artist books that I ever purchased for my own collection. What caught my eye in Phil’s book was clever use of two different “spine” images for the accordion spine piece of the book—on the front of the accordion, an x-ray of a human spine and on the back, an illustration.
Another example of the woven accordion structure is Alicia Bailey’s Theia Mania, which you can see here. Alicia’s accordion spine pieces are woven with Tyvek, a fantastic material with many book arts uses. Many of you already know this, but Alicia taught the very first artist book workshop (with Laura Wait) that I ever took, way back in 1997. I love that she still continues to inspire me after all these years—both as an artist and as a gallery owner.
And, last but not least, my own book, titled Good Will & Salvation, came directly from Phil’s book. One of my reasons for purchasing Nature Abhors was so that I could figure out the structure. Between his book and a trip to the Multnomah County Library’s John Wilson Room, which has a copy of Woven and Interlocking Book Structures, I came up with my own simplified version of the structure.
Each of these books is a variation on the original Hedi Kyle structure and it is my hope that artists creating new works for the HELLO HEDI show will get creative in adapting Hedi’s amazing structures to their own work. There are many ways to change up a flag book, a blizzard book, a pivoting panorama or any of Hedi’s other brilliant works.
Here’s hoping you will not only find inspiration in looking back to the history of artist books, but also take the initiative to get creative and take things even further forward as you create new work for the upcoming HELLO HEDI exhibition.