Bookmarks: Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord

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.

Spirit Book #43: Renewed Wisdom

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord is a multidisciplinary artist whose work in calligraphy, site-specific installations, and artist books are inspired by the natural world. An English major, Kapuscinski Gaylord became a self-taught artist. Evolving from a background in calligraphy, the artist’s work gradually turned towards the creation of artist books. For over 22 years, she has worked on her most significant body of work—Spirit Books—a process that has allowed her to, “be inspired by the spirit of nature, both wild and cultivated.”

Detail of Renewed Wisdom removed from the cradle.

Composed of natural and recycled elements, Kapusinski Gaylord initially gathers twigs, roots, and vines to create the cradle for the book. With an outline for the cradle assembled, she then sizes her handmade pages. The pages themselves are left uneven and unhewn, varying in dimension, thereby creating the appearance that the book was once a living structure. The pages of the books are then carefully illustrated, often by being hand-sewn. Eschewing text for patterns, organic abstractions fill the pages of her works. Some Spirit Books also feature light beadwork and décor along the edges of the pages to further give the book added dimension and texture.

Spirit Book #30: Ixchel's Dream

For Kapuscinski Gaylor, her Spirit Books, “bring together [her] love of the book and [her] response to the natural world that we see and the invisible one that lies behind it.” Each individual work is linked to a, “longstanding tradition of books as testaments of faith and belief.” Aesthetically, her artist books have the appearance of found woodland objects. Whether perceived as a product of an ancient people or originating from the woods themselves, Kapuscinski Gaylord’s Spirit Books leave her audience questioning their origins and their meaning.

Detail of Ixchel's Dream removed from the cradle.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord has been working as a visual artist since the late 1970s. Her work is held in the library collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Bowdin College, the University of Arizona, Wellesley College, and Yale University. She is an avid lecturer, and her self-produced videos can be found on the web.

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.