Bookmarks: Ariana Boussard-Reifel

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.

Between the Lines is a simply executed but incredibly charged piece created by Ariana Boussard-Reifel in 2007. At first glance, the work is simple: an ordinary sized book from which the text has been removed word-by-word, cut-by-cut. Stark white and enlivened by light and shadow, there is an airiness that draws the viewer in, the paper left between words reminiscent of veined insect wings. 

The real power of the work comes from closer inspection of the pile of removed words at the book’s side and the accompanying artist statement: this simple paperback book is RaHoWa, published by a white supremacist group that rose to power in Boussard-Reifel’s home state of Montana. By removing the text and jumbling it to the side, the power has been removed and the content rendered meaningless. Boussard-Reifel removed the black from white, imposing the books own doctrine on itself and countering its ideology. 

Freedom of speech, religion and press converge in Between the Lines, and Boussard-Reifel has created an inspiring option for fighting hurtful words and movements that are otherwise protected under the 1st Amendment. Over a year, she painstakingly hand cut out each word, saving them to present alongside the book. In her own words, “This process for me became a meditation and an act of dedication to dismantling these hateful thoughts;” The piece is a quiet, peaceful protest that embodies a cathartic act removing power from a group that wants to remove power from others. 

I grew up in Kansas, where Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church were the resident hate mongers. With Phelps’ recent passing, I find myself thinking about hate in our society, and greatly admiring Boussard-Reifel’s confrontation of the emergence of The World Church of the Creator in Montana. Too often, we get caught up in the drama and indignation we feel when faced with racism, prejudice, and hate, nearly eliminating the possibility for a thoughtful and powerful response. Walking up to the podium that held Between the Lines at the Museum of Art and Design’s SLASH show in 2009, my body flashed with chills as I took in the simple power of Ariana Boussard-Reifel’s piece. As I move through a world of 24-hour news cycles built on sensationalism and indignation, the art of this peaceful protest, both clever and cutting, continues to resonate with me, reminding me of the strength of a well-considered response.   

Margret Hall is a book artist and photographer living and working in Asheville, NC. Before moving to Asheville to train in book restoration (and live life in the mountains), she taught book arts at The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, where she also received her BFA in Photography with a minor in Art History and Book Arts.