Artists work on their own most of the time and wear many hats. Being queen and king of our domain we are free or are we? This freedom comes at a price—loneliness. As artists no matter what medium we work in, the solitary state of the studio comes into play. We are tough, it may take a while but in the end we get inspired by the world around us.
Look what I found in Boise! What will I do with this? Have I found home?
Last week I introduced Christopher Kardambikis’ large format accordion book Mundus Subterraneus. The first time we communicated I mentioned I had recently relocated from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Boise, Idaho. My blog post was a way to communicate with other artists. Christopher responded he had recently made a move himself to New York City from Los Angeles in a similar attempt to get to know more people making books and zines and such he started up a radio program. His program is at Clocktower.org. Paper Cuts is an exploration of the contemporary world of zines and DIY publishing. Hosted by Christopher Kardambikis himself, each program features writers, performers, and artists who have shared their work in print, on paper, and in small editions. This experience of reaching out and talking to many people has really been one of the best things he has ever done. So please listen to his program and find out how Christopher finds artists and writers discussing their practice, studio, daily rituals, and their work fascinating.
After communicating with Christopher I decided to send a call through the BOOK_ARTS-L mailing list by Peter D Verheyen to find other artists who create artists’ books in large format. The response was wild I could not keep up with the emails popping in my inbox.
I enjoy hearing the ideas behind books, and the stories that inspire them. Let me present to you Alex Appella’s, The János Book. Alex writes on the reasoning behind her large book that took 12 years in the making.
« How long is 90 years?
From the silence of its long black cover, The János Book opens, and explodes with what had been unspeakable for over 70 years.
“90 years is long enough to be a child in World War One, a man in World War Two…”
“90 years is long enough for secrets to last 70…”
My Hungarian grandparents emigrated to California in 1931. They passed away before I was born, but left a legacy of questions that began to surface in our home in the 1980s. By then, the only remaining family member who could answer those questions was János (pronounced Ya-noash), my grandfather’s youngest brother, who had emigrated from Transylvania to Argentina in 1949. The questions were innocent enough. My mother always believed she had only two uncles—János and Imre. But then a photo of four young men was found among my grandfather’s things. Three faces were familiar. Who was the fourth man?
In 1994 I traveled to Argentina to meet János, to ask the questions. The answers—the secrets—revealed our identity, and revealed the pain of lying, even to protect those you love. The János Book not only encompasses a family’s history, it reveals the man who, at the age of 90, decided to tell it. The reader is taken on a journey from Oregon to Argentina, to Transylvania, and beyond. Original letters, photographs and paintings entwine János’ testimony with my poetry to reveal a family’s identity whispered away two generations prior. »
And then Alex brought to us a second book of identical size The János Letter, an interwoven volume, a continuation of events.
Alex explains... « I worked for many years researching, writing, and creating The János Book. Over a decade. It's the project that brought me to Argentina originally in 1994, to speak with János, my grandfather's brother. János was the only elder living who could answer questions that arose in our home in the US after going through my deceased grandfather's things.
After nearly 20 years of accompanying this project, I was rather certain I had written and produced all that could be written and produced. But then, in May of 2014, I received a letter in the mail. From János.
He wrote it to me in 1983, and due to a string of incredible events, as only real life can offer us, it showed up on my doorstep last May. János passed away in 2003.
The letter from János, both its arrival and its content, was too incredible to not bring to the readers of The János Book. As a writer, and a book artist, it was a new challenge to revisit a work I believed to be finished, and create a book that is...a prologue? ...an epilogue? I leave it to the reader to decide. However it is labeled, both books are now inseparable. One depends entirely on the other. Not only did the new book design need to mesh with the very large János Book in English, it needed to mesh with the much smaller trade edition in Spanish. It was a unique challenge. »
It takes courage to make two books of this size. I have decided—small books and small editions are the way to go. What do you think?
What creates your history/herstory? We all have interesting backgrounds, how do you portray yours?