Before the beginning

When I applied in 2019 to this residency at KKV Grafik, the project I proposed was to print an artist book about the continuum of beginnings and endings, using letterpress, intaglio, and lithographic printing techniques. Here’s an excerpt from my application:

When does a beginning begin and an ending end? At what point does an ending become a beginning? My work explores this in-between space where identity is constantly shifting and all that seemed certain loses form.

Where does each of us begin and end? Are the drops of water in the ocean distinct? In my work I explore individuality within a united oneness, and the continuum of beginnings and endings. Although my diptychs present two distinct images – presence and absence, beginning and end – they transcend “either/or” to convey “and/both.”

During my residency I will continue to work with the line that appears in much of my work, representing the thread that connects us all and the unique strand that we are or the distinct mark we make in the world.

I had planned to use imagery from the diptychs I’d been working on. Since the images were one-of-a-kind, I needed to find a way to produce them as multiples. The image with the hand drawn lines could be produced using an intaglio printmaking method, where lines are carved into copper or plastic, the ink pushed into the grooves and then carefully wiped from the surface. When the paper is placed on the plate and run through the press, the paper pulls the ink out of the grooves.

The mono print image would be trickier to produce as a multiple. I anticipated lithography as an option.

As proposed, the artist book would include text with the images. The text would be from T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, “Four Quartets.” For example: Or say that the end precedes the beginning, and the end and the beginning were always there, before the beginning, and after the end. And all is always now.

I was excited about this proposed project when I applied, and when I learned that the residency would be postponed due to the Coronavirus, I sadly put the project on hold for another year. Then the residency was postponed a second time. When I received word earlier this year that the residency would actually happen, I started thinking about the project again, considering whether or not it still held enough interest to engage me. I had the option of working on an entirely different project. In the end, I decided this artist book still needed to be created, and I forged ahead with planning.

There is one significant difference between the book I’d imagined and the one I’m printing. I’d envisioned a folio or possibly individual sheets contained within a box. But, given the paradoxical nature of the text, that structure felt too organized, too straightforward. Borrowing a process from Maya Lin, I started the project not by making anything, but rather stating my intention for how I wanted the book to be experienced: I want the reader to lose certainty, to feel the vastness of uncertainty and experience the bewilderment of an open mind. To embrace unknowing and paradox. To shed limited beliefs and enter into infinite possibility.

I wondered: could the book be in the form of a mobius strip? That would work for an installation. But I couldn’t figure out how to make it function as a book.

After some experimenting, I landed my solution: dos-a-dos (two books in one) with spiral accordions. The spiral accordion requires a long strip of paper, which meant I had to adjust my approach to the images.

What, you might be wondering, is the title of the artist book? Good question. The book is still in an embryonic form, too soon to know what it wants to be called.

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