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Artist Books

In my Book-Objects I deconstruct books, dismantle what exists and assemble whatever fragments remain into new composites. The opposite is true when I make artist books. Here I carefully plot, make thorough investigations and spend plenty of time mapping out concepts to build new volumes from scratch. Artist books are a multifaceted genre with many sub-categories being published for different reasons. One overriding principle, however, is a common denominator for most of these efforts. They are generally produced and brought to market by the artists who make them, with little or no interference by either dealers, critics or publishers.

Artist books have been discovered by many creative spirits as a cherished vehicle, a panoply, a private space if you will, where ideas can be freely developed. This unencumbered freedom has brought about an impressive new vitality to book making, with interesting ideas challenging old traditions. But why is there so much attention paid to hand book making at this time? After all, the electronic media via a website or a blog, or by going through the social media, offer many of the same advantages to present unencumbered III ideas to an audience much larger than a few copies of printed matter will ever do.

The answer might be that it is exactly because of the electronic world, why artists make books today. The staggering possibilities, the unimaginable vastness of the Internet can be intimidating. So is the lack of tactile or physical presence. Unlike a book, electronically generated objects inhabit no obvious space. They appear mysteriously into our field of vision and similarly vanish quite as suddenly with the touch of a keyboard.

In some ways the proliferation of artist books can be attributed to a reaction to the passivity of the electronic dialogue. In a way it is a paradox that the same electronic environment which forms the infrastructure of the digital chatter does offer those fabulous tools and enormous resources to the artist book maker. Computers, printers, scanners, copiers, etc., in short the entire digital matrix is suddenly at the disposal of everybody. Versatile software allows for high quality renditions. Given the proper know-how it is possible to produce skillful layouts, be a typographer and digitally print masterful editions on archival paper that challenge the standards of the old guard. With Google at our fingertips we can be expert, skillful researchers and fact checkers of complex subject matter. The making of an artist book is very much the same as developing any other artwork. The creative impulses emerge from a desire to communicate. It is an evolving process, at times laborious, other times spontaneous. The need to express can be stimulated by outside events or is simply an internal dialogue of questioning. It is a testing of reality, of embracing fantasy, of measuring relationships, both visual as well as emotional. Investigating the obvious against the speculative becomes a way of delivering fragments from our innermost being. Like all other things in life, the creative process does not happen in a vacuum. Issues, concerns and questions which occupy our waking hours find their way into the labyrinth of our subconscious. They re-emerge, sometimes years later, surprising and without specific reason as expressions in our artistic endeavors. Once we have identified the need to express something, it is followed by plotting out mechanisms of how to best translate an imagined idea into a suitable form. The format we choose should enhance the original concept and hopefully will support what the imagination envisions. When technique and creative impulse work hand in hand we usually find a workable solution.

For my artist books I do rely on traditional methods. From letterpress printing, to handset type, original print techniques such as wood cuts or linoleum blocks, etchings, to archival papers and intricate binding solutions — these are all part of my vocabulary. This does not exclude new processes or whatever methods are suitable to help enhance what I want to express. My books are typically produced in limited editions between 20 to 50 copies. Most of them have an experimental aspect as part of their structure. I invite the viewer to participate and share the creative dimension of a piece. Experiencing my books requires a hands-on attitude. Touching, folding and manipulating components are an integral part of "reading" the story.

—W. P.