artist book: a work of art realized in the form of a book.
The definition may sound simple, but the world of artist books can be a bewildering place. From the familiar pairing of images and text, to sculptures created out of paper and complicated bindings that create a performance each time the book is opened, nearly anything can be called an artist book if there is intention and consideration. This series showcases artists from different realms of the art world exploring the structure and meaning of the book.
A 2015 finalist for the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) Prize, Sara Langworthy’s new book On Physical Lines began as a series of drawings of power lines. Her minimalist renditions depict studies of zig-zagging and intersecting sets of parallel lines that traverse across muted blocks of color. The lines float across pages that are devoid of horizon lines and landscape.
These drawings were later translated into prints, and the imagery was coupled with text to create the book. For the text, Langworthy choose to use excerpts from the physicist James Clerk Maxwell’s famous paper “On Physical Lines of Force.” Published between 1861 and 1862, Maxwell’s paper drew connections between electromagnetism and the lines of force as defined by physics. As Langworthy notes:
"I was immediately struck by phrases that seemed to speak directly to my drawings of the power lines: [l]ines of force as something real, the lines avoid each other and are dispersed into space… there was poetry woven into Maxwell’s rational intellectual search. In Maxwell’s text there is a strong sense of an individual working through an idea, struggling with the act of questioning while in a state of uncertainty. It is this state I explore in On Physical Lines."
Complementary in all facets as a book, Langworthy’s visuals parallel J.C. Maxwell’s text; each turn of the page further explores the trajectory of Maxwell’s socratic reasoning as Langworthy’s illustrations become more complex, more saturated in tonality, and ultimately break free of the margins on the page. On Physical Lines is a stunning visualization of the process of questioning.
Sara Langworthy is an Iowa City based artist that is reputable for her work with books. On Physical Lines is her most recent publication. The text is printed from hand-set Univers, and the images are printed from linoleum block and photopolymer plates onto Sakamoto Lightweight paper. The book measures 8.5 x 13.5 inches and is an edition of 25.
Elizabeth K. Harris is the Director at Louis K. Meisel Gallery. She holds an MA in Visual Arts Administration from New York University and has co-authored two books on art. She likes looking at books more than reading them.