What IZ a Book?

At the art show last week, I brought out an old art book of mine and thought it would be fun to share it here.

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I foud this book at a goodwill in 1988 or so. I've always like the feel of old books, probably a symptom of being raised by two voracious readers who had many shelves of old books.  As I was growing up I remember that the books still smelled of Texas and Louisiana  (we moved to Pennsylvania when I was nine). Beyond their literary content, they spoke of substantive journey and sensual mystery in a way that e-media can only scratch the surface of.  

Hardback books of course were the pinnacle.

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So I would go to goodwills and pick up books that felt good, no matter the subject matter. This particular book was an old Sunday school book.  Thick in every sense of the word.  As it sat around my studio I would thumb through it. And certain things started jumping out at me. 

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Repeated words. repeated patterns, words that emerged consistetly throughout the text.  It seemed to me that maybe there were just too many words.  I resolved to begin to edit it.

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With only black paint and some black pencil, I began painting away the items on the page.  Sometimes I found poems underneath them.  

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Sometimes, by connecting the periods on a page like a constellation, I found images.  

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For about a half a year I came back over again and over again to  edit my found book.  

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These are some pages from the book. I think I probably ended up editing about half the book. I wrapped the rest with twine.

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I finished editing what I was going to edit back 1989 but I return to it. 

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As with all my work, I find myself circling back, pulling in strands from past tapestries into my current one.

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I still mine the poems and pages.

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I make new paintings based on poems I discovered. ( The piece above, "in the boat we had no words,"  was completed about a month ago)

On an end note, there are everal things I notice about books:  

They are very compact and dense, deceptively imaginative.

 They can be the lowest tech of media.  Anybody has access. They require no electricity or multi-national high tech industry to make, distribute or consume.

They encourage a slow pace and deep absorption.  I've rarely had someone pour over a painting for more than about 15 seconds (optimistically) but I have seen someone sit with this book and turn its pages for 15 minutes.  

Go ahead grab a book from a goodwill or you see in a pile going out with the recycling. Give it an edit.


Michael Biddison     woodsunarts@mac.com       610-247-8718