After folding folios into signatures, Kristin Adolfson (Col ’98) uses a needle and thread to sew the pages of her books together. She prints the text with a letterpress, and if one runs a finger over the paper, the indentations left by the metal letters can be felt. While so many objects obscure the way that they were made—a ballpoint pen, a computer screen—artist’s books reveal the hand of their maker; imprints of Adolfson’s fingerprints are immortalized in the glue between a book block and a cover.
Adolfson marries the content of her books with their form. Burn This Book is a chronological list of burned or banned books from Homer’s The Odyssey to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The spine of the book is a match strike strip and inside the cover page rests a single match.
Artist’s books: works of art realized in the form of a book.
Often published in small editions, they sometimes are produced as one-of-a-kind objects. Artists have been printing and fabricating book for centuries, but the artist’s book is primarily a late 20th-century art form. Practitioners include Yoko Ono, Robert Frank and William Wegman.
Restaurant De Athrow includes menus of the last meals of every offender executed in Texas between 1982 and 2002. The volume is bound in black vellum. “The Texas Department of Corrections posts the last meals of death row offenders on the Web for anyone to view,” says Adolfson. “It was so startling yet moving; in that position, facing your death, what do you say? What do you eat?”
Kristin Adolfson (Col ’98)
Adolfson’s art pieces serve as a record of things lost—books, lives. Her newest book, One Million Eyes, presents a printed letter “i” for each life lost in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. “Often there is an issue that grabs me, and I want to point it out to others,” says Adolfson. “It’s also important for me to not proselytize; I try to keep the content of my books as objective as possible, with the hope that the way I present information—the formal properties of the work—might affect the reader.”
Adolfson teaches bookbinding and letterpress at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center in Charlottesville and founded Still Point Press & Design Studio, a Web and graphic design company. Her artist’s books have been exhibited at Codex International Book Fair in San Francisco, Action/Interaction: Book/Arts at Columbia College Chicago, and are part of several library rare book collections.