Language Comes after Artist: A Selection of Books by Lynne Avadenka
Interview Part I
Peggy Daub: Why did you become a printer and book artist? What drew you to this field?
Lynne Avadenka: An early memory is receiving a speedball calligraphy book and a pen with multiple nibs. Then and now, the shapes of letters, what they look like, what they signify: these elements are fascinating. The ability of an alphabet, really an abstract visual code, to convey meaning, is still magic to me.
The notion of the book, both in form and content, led me to printmaking while in college. In graduate school I learned how to set type and bind books in order to create artist’s books. Not books about an artist, or art history, not a typical book with text and matching illustration, but a book that is the work of art itself.
PD: You are more interested in words and in texts than many book artists whose work we collect. How do you think about the relationships between the words you write and the art you create?
LA: Often the work I make is in response to a text that I am moved by, feel a connection with. I look for texts that are specific, yet universal, that lend themselves to a visual response. Even though an alphabet can be understood to be as abstract as the visual art I’ve created, reading it is something most people are comfortable doing. And a text invites people into the artwork.
When I am writing a text for an artist’s book, there is a back and forth between finding a format for the text and writing enough text to collaborate with my own imagery. The creation of my book By a Thread illustrates the way I work. I researched the stories of Queen Esther and Scheherazade and found many compelling similarities. In thinking about the most effective way to present this information I imagined a conversation between the two women. At the same time, I was refining the structure of the book -- the way the reader would move through the story and accompanying imagery. I came up with a structure of 20 tabbed pages that would carry the text, then wrote the text to fit in the 20 tabs. Not a conventional creation of a text!