Artist's Books

Surviving Genocide: the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi

by Susan Viguers and Lily Yeh

Co-published with Barefoot Artists

Surviving Genocide immerses the reader in the stories of two Rwandans who as small children experienced the 1994 Genocide; it tells of the horrific tragedy each survived, the courage necessary for surviving, and the humanity they embody. Those stories are framed by two chapters chronicling and inspired by the transformation in Rugerero of a concrete burial slab into a powerful Genocide Memorial with its bone chamber, designed by Lily Yeh. An essential theme of the book is the importance of the dead for the living, of honoring the dead, of remembrance.

 

Surviving Genocide evokes its world through images (photographs, drawings, paintings, pattern, and color) as well as words; the text itself is visually choreographed.

 

The material in the book stems from Lily Yeh’s multifaceted Rwandan Healing Project under the auspices of Barefoot Artists <www.barefootartists.org>. Susan Viguers conceived and designed the book, incorporating drawings and paintings by Lily Yeh.

 

This book was made possible by a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Arts Residency.

Price: $40. For purchase contact sviguers@uarts.edu.

 

1/6

The typeface is Constantia and Lucinda Sans; the paper is White Finch Opaque Smooth Book 100 #. Digital printing by Bookmobile, Minneapolis, MN; perfect binding (pur glue).

 

144 pages. 9.25" (h) x 7.5" (w) x .25" (d), closed.

2017

 

 

The Opossum: A Specimen Book

 

The Opossum: A Specimen Book combines writing, scholarship, design, book structure, and printmaking.

 

It is a specimen book in various ways. Most obviously, it is about a particular specimen of animals, the Virginia opossum. In 1831 John D. Godman wrote, “Perhaps nothing can more clearly demonstrate the impatience of the human mind, and the reluctance with which men yield to the hard necessity of carefully observing the operations of nature, than the history of this animal.”

 

The book is also conceived in the tradition of the type specimen book. It is a compendium of voices/observations about the opossum. The primary text, my own story of encounters with the opossum, is surrounded by passages from commentators from the 17th century to the present. I am interested in the fantastical as much as the actual.

 

It is an exploration into the history of illustrations of the opossum, as well as a collection of printmaking (and art making) processes in service of illustrating the opossum. Original prints representing various media by nine artists are tipped in as are reproductions of various images, primarily from 18th and 19th century books.

 

Finally, it is a sampling of historical features of the book: the 18th and 19th century exuberant title page, the use of the golden section for page design, the tradition of commentary text surrounding a primary text, and the limp-vellum type binding.

 

1/25

The typeface is Hoefler; the text paper is Schiller; the paper for the tipped-in prints is Zerkall; the cover paper is handmade by Nicole Donnelly. The book is letterpress printed (using polymer plates), except for the tipped-in prints, which are of various media.

 

8 ½" x 6 ¼" (w) x 5/8" (d), closed.

Edition of 25, 2015.

 

 

1/4
Riddle Me This

 

Riddle Me This is a circular accordion book, on one side of which is printed riddles and on the other side the answers in visual form. The text is inspired by Anglo Saxon riddles, short poems which are not so much verbal tricks, or tests of sharpness, as explorations of everyday objects/experiences. The book’s structure and directional images move the reader to the answers to the riddles, a comically collaged panorama of images. The colophon, in the form of a riddle, is a definition of an artist’s book.   

 

The typeface is Gill Sans; the text paper is Zerkall; the cover paper is handmade by Sainte-Armand. The text was letterpress printed (using polymer plates); the images were screen-printed.

 

9½" x 6½" x ¼", closed.

Edition of 30; 2013.

 

   Process Shot ☛

Falling Shutters

 

Falling Shutters is a 16-piece Jacob’s ladder. When this Victorian toy is held up and tipped, the wooden pieces seem to tumble over each other, bringing the back of each piece to the front. In this work, each side consists of a poem about falling shutters. The movement of the ladder is a visual enactment of the poems. Inside the ladder’s box are directions for handling and an image of one side/one poem in its initial, reading position. 

 

The wooden pieces are old shutter slats, on which the two poems have been screen-printed. The box was letterpress printed (using polymer plates); the typeface is New Century Schoolhouse.

 

Box: 2" x 11" x 4¼" or 2" x 13¼" x 2½"

Ladder: 28" x 10½" x ¼" or 28 ¾" x 13" x 1/8", opened.

Variable edition of 11; created 2000, editioned 2012.

 

Video ☛
Videographer: Bob Giaradini

 

 

1/3

1/8
Empty Nest

 

Empty Nest chronicles the happenings surrounding a nest of newly hatched barn swallows in the eves of a beach cottage and the three short weeks until they are out of the nest. But shadowing that is the human story of children growing up, of time passing it would seem in a moment.

 

The handmade paper gives a tactility and texture to the pages; the cover paper includes rye from Women Studio Workshop’s Art Farm; the images are a combination of plate lithographs, drawings printed letterpress (using polymer plates), and screen-prints. The typeface is Optima, letterpress printed (using polymer plates). Empty Nest was made possible by a grant from the Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, NY.

 

7¾" x 8¾" x ½", closed.

Edition of 55; 2010.


   Process Shots ☛

Tiptoe Through the Cosmos

 

Tiptoe Through the Cosmos is a book of nonsense that shades gradually into meaning. The imagery seeks to conflate the earth with the heavens. The text’s consciousness of the structure of the book itself - the gutter, the edge of a page - adds to the literalism that is a part of nonsense. In the end, the book is a comic hymn to the objects of the everyday (and nature): the earthworm, the embodiment of the worthy meek, ventures into the cosmos (the flower, but more prominently, the heavens).

 

The typeface is Optima, letterpress printed (using polymer plates), and the images are plate lithographs and screen-prints; the paper is Stonehenge; the structure is accordion, with a soft cover. For display purposes, one side of the spine can be slipped out.

 

9½" x 11 x  ½", closed. Edition of 15; 2008.

1/7

1/24
A Selection of Aesop's Fables

 

A collaboration with James Engelbart.

 

This mock scholarly A Selection of Aesop’s Fables claims in the Foreword to be a translation of a recently discovered scroll that survived the razing of the Alexandrian Libraries. Unlike the familiar version of the tales, the animals speak not in human tongue, but in the tongue of their specie. An image distilling each tale, and under which is printed the punch line or moral, follows each fable on the next spread.

 

Susan Viguers was primarily responsible for the text (drawing on several collections, most importantly The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs, London, 1894), James Engelbart for the images. The two collaborated to design, print, and bind the book. The typefaces are New Century Schoolbook and Imprint MP Shadow and were letterpress printed (using polymer plates); the images were printed letterpress (again, polymer) and stenciled. The paper is Schiller. The book was commissioned by the Friends of the Print and Picture Collection, The Free Library of Philadelphia.

 

Case-bound codex; 8¾" x 6" x ½", closed.

Edition of 100; 2006.

Spring Tongue-Tied the Ocean

 

Spring Tongue-Tied the Ocean captures the wonder of the coming of spring. Spring comes slowly as one turns the pages, beginning with the melting of winter: “Weariness burbled and plopped.” With each page turn the word SPRING enters from the left, at first just part of the “g” printed only slightly darker than the page itself until the final spread where the full word presents itself in a vibrant green. As the letters spelling SPRING deepen in color, the primary text turns from almost black to a blue. The type, letterpess printed (handset), is wood, except for an occasional metal letter.

 

7" x 5" x ¼",  closed. Edition of 50; 2004.

 

1/6

1/5
Calling Home

 

The story is a collaboration with Ruth Viguers Arnold.

 

Calling Home chronicles a phone conversation between a daughter in college and her mother. What they say to each other, however, is only part of the story; the real dynamics lie in what they think but don’t say. This is a story of the complex tension between dependence and independence, connection and autonomy. Each spread consists of two sheets, glued at the outside edge: what is said is on the top, what is thought but unspoken is revealed on the page beneath, through cutouts. The text is laid out in the middle of the spread, across the gutter that divides mother and daughter.

 

The imagery was pressure-printed; the text was letterpress printed (using polymer plates); the typeface is Gill Sans for the daughter and Sabon Bold for the mother; the paper is Mohawk Superfine; sewn-board binding.

 

9" x 6¼" x 1/3", closed. Edition of 25; 2004.

On Collecting

 

Poem by Sebastian Agudelo.

 

The size and shape and the black leatherette cover of On Collecting suggest a stamp book. And, in fact, it holds 23 pages of stamps from around the world from the 1940s to the 1960s collected in Mexico by Guillermo Agudelo. One can “read” the pages: the odd juxtaposition of the pope and Grace Kelly on the Monaco page, the large fish gliding above the Hitlers, Mao and Lenin shaking hands, a whole page recording the variations in a Chinese exercise routine.

 

Within the visual and metaphoric context of the stamps, but in its own space, is printed Sebastian Agudelo’s poem — a wry meditation on a grandfather’s legacy to his grandson, on the political and cultural world to which stamps give voice, and on the compulsivity of collecting, its effort to make order in the physical world.

 

The structure is a modified accordion, with an extra flap at the top, adding to the sense of layers of stamps enclosing the text. The poem can be read by turning the pages as in a codex, but as an accordion, the parts also exist horizontally as a time line, echoing the underlying form of the poem. The type is Walbaum and the paper Dulcet; the text was letterpress printed (using polymer plates); the images were offset printed by Lori Spencer in the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts, The University of the Arts.

 

8¼" x 6" x ½", closed. Edition of 75; 2004.

1/3

1/11
Portrait of a Daughter: Ruth's Room

 

Portrait of a Daughter: Ruth’s Room is a mother’s understanding of her daughter through envisioning her room, with its clutter and beloved objects, insulated from the rest of the house, a “cocoon.” The soft paper (Rives) is saturated with intensely colored etching ink. The images are monoprints.  The text was letterpress printed (handset) in Goudy Old Style. The book is case bound, with a mottled fabric cover and caterpillar stitching winding its way across the front and up the spine to the back.

 

5¾" x 6" x ¾", closed. Variable edition of 7; 2002.

 

the universe tends towards disorder

 

On one side of the universe tends toward disorder, a Jacob’s ladder book, is printed the second law of thermodynamics, “the universe tends toward disorder” and below that a sequence of images of a wine glass falling and breaking. When one activates the piece, the slats seem to fall, the back is brought to the front, and that law is replaced by another law’s corollary, “every motion is potentially reversible,” with its corresponding images of the spilled wine and broken glass reconstituting themselves. Only one side of the ladder is readable at a time; mutually exclusive, they embody the artist’s perception of the impossible tension between the two principles.

 

The ladder is made of old shutter slats, which have been repainted and reconnected using the building material Tyvek. As discarded parts of a house come back to life, the materials allude to the fantastical optimism of “every motion is potentially reversible.” The ladder was screen-printed. Written directions and an image of how to handle the ladder were printed letterpress (using polymer plates) on the box. The paper is Elephant Hide.

 

Box: 2" x 7" x 1". Ladder: 11" x 6½"  x 1/8", opened.

Edition of 30; 2001

1/3

1/1
The Self Inside a House

 

What is the self and how does one define it? The Self Inside a House plays with the idea of the self as a person looking out the windows of a house; it explores the sense of separation between the self, a constant, and one’s body, which can be dressed up or down, which grows, changes, becomes old. Small inserts sitting inside the larger pages offer brief contemplations. One contrasts the cross section of a tree trunk with the sapling visible at its center and the impossibility of finding the toddler in any specific part of a diagram of the adult human body.

 

The typeface is Goudy; the paper is Mohawk Superfine. It was printed as a one-side, one-sheet book. The structure is a modified accordion, with the first and last spreads sewn. The book is enclosed in a purple or gray wrap with a cutout window revealing the title on the cover. Offset lithography printed by Patty Smith in the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts, The University of the Arts.

 

6" x 3½" x ¼", closed. Edition of 45; 2000.

On Lines

 

Lines are simple, yet powerful, mathematically, physically, and metaphorically. On Lines seeks to create, in the process of reading, the metaphoric, as well as physical, movement of the lines, from the horizontal, which “moves forward — and sideways — into the future,” to curving lines, which “create eternity.”

 

The typeface is Frutiger; the paper is French Speckletone Oatmeal. A folio sheet of handmade paper separates the cover from the body of the book, enclosing the experience in the textured materials of the natural world. Printed offset lithography by Lori Spencer in the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts, The University of the Arts.

 

5" x 7" x 1/8", closed. Edition of 100; 1997.

 

1/3

1/2
Portrait of a Son: Nick's Room

 

Portrait of a Son: Nick’s Room is a mother’s story of a son moving into adolescence, told in part through envisioning his intimate world, his room. The text is Caslon, letterpress printed (handset) on Chiri Campi Saitama, which creates the image background encompassing the text. The cover is water-colored Kitakata over board; the book is stab bound. Two of the edition are accompanied by a three-dimensional structure, evoking the room.

 

6" x 6¾" x 3/8", closed. Edition of 7; 1997.

A Token of Rememberance:
Tales of a Wedding Ring

 

A Token of Remembrance: Tales of a Wedding Ring is the story of a marriage, from the perspective of the wife. The book, through its structure, pacing, and text on white pages, presents three tales — one of romance and fertility, one of betrayal and fury, and the last of despair and ironic acceptance.

 

The title and the structure of the book, case-bound with an enclosing clap, have connotations of a sentimental memory, a keepsake book. Three envelope paste-paper structures, bound within, each containing a tale, must be opened and closed before moving on to the next, creating space between the stories. An extra paper layer wraps the middle tale, the book’s turning point: for that one tale the font changes from roman to italic, the story unfolds on a surreal plane, and the memory-book expectation is violated.

 

Letterpress printed (handset, except for the middle story, for which polymer plates were used); the typeface is Baskerville; the paper is Mohawk Superfine.

 

7" x 6½" x ¼"  (d), closed. Edition of 20; 1995.

 

1/3

1/4
Red Shutters

 

The reading of Red Shutters begins with the experience of a closed box, covered with embroidered Chinese silk, a box that seems complete in itself. One side swings open, alluding to a door.  The outside contrasts to the plainness inside. The differing sizes and shapes of the six books, suggesting varying beats, become fully apparent only as the reader takes each out.

 

There are no conventional titles or introductory pages. Instead, the word or words on each cover function as the first line of the text, thrusting the viewer immediately into each book. In the first two books one has to work to connect syllables, separated by the turning of pages, which creates a stuttering kind of movement. Blank pages within the books make the viewer read empty space — suspension, anticipatory tension, a shift in tone. The reader moves from the one broken word of the first book to the narrative flow of a full story in the last.

 

The typeface is Baskerville, letterpress printed (handset); the paper is Mohawk Superfine; the silk was acquired in China in the 1930s.

 

Box: 6¾" x 4¼" x 5½".  Edition of 2; 1994.