Tetenbaum, Barbara. Mining My Ántonia. Portland and West Hartford: Triangular Press and the Hartford Art School Print Workshop. 2012.
This book can best be described by the artist’s own statement:
In the late summer of 2010 I created A Close Read: My Ántonia, an installation in the Feldenheimer gallery at Reed College. I had wanted to put myself in the position of a first time reader and respond to the novel as it was read out loud (as an audio book). I imagined I would make drawings in response to what I heard and these would fill the wall of the gallery. I chose Cather’s classic novel of life on the prairie in the late 1880s fairly randomly, and had no idea I would become so obsessed with the actual language of the book. Instead of drawing, I sat every day in the gallery with my antique typewriter and pecked out excerpts onto small scraps of paper. I tacked them to the gallery walls and suspended them from fishing line for visitors to bump into. I mapped out my personal understanding of the novel on the floor of the gallery, assigning each character a different color of electrical tape. The end result looked like a colorful map of the London Underground.
The book Mining my Ántonia is a fulfillment of the desire to put this experience back into book form. It contains the tape-drawn floor recreated as a more freely drawn etching/letterpress map, printed on Japanese paper. It contains excerpts from the novel hand set in a variety of typefaces and printed on various pieces of paper, sewn together in a book with a cloth paper. This book is housed in a portfolio with five etchings, created as automatic drawings on the copper in order to do what I had originally intended: show my understanding of the novel through the process of automatic drawing.
While inspired by a nineteenth century novel, this work by Barbara Tetenbaum is firmly rooted in at least two of the best traditions of twentieth century art. The first is automatism, a term appropriated by the Surrealists from the world of psychology to describe drawing by way of processes not under the conscious control of the artist, and the second is the projects of Marcel Duchamp in creating three boxes relating to the work he painted on glass in 1923, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (the Large Glass) which was shattered by movers after its first exhibition: The Box of 1914, The Green Box (1934), and A l’Infinitif (the White Box) (1967). Both Tetenbaum’s installation at Reed College and Duchamp’s The Large Glass were ephemeral in their own way, one by design and the other by accident, and both are now commemorated by notes and fragments in an editioned box.
This work is a remarkable record of an installation and a remarkable work of art by itself. This book is co-published by the Triangular Press and the Hartford Art School Print Workshop. Etchings of the automatic drawings were printed by Kathy Keuhn in New York and other printing was done by the Triangular Press.
The edition is limited to thirty copies each signed and numbered by the artist. Each copy contains a unique fragment from the 2010 installation at Reed College.
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