Online Exhibitions

Artists make stuff. Books are objects. For the many artists, authors, and printers who are concerned about the size of their ecological footprint, the tension between creation and conservation is very real. Those who choose to explore the tension in sustainable ways are individual participants in an active conservation movement. They are also producing some of their most exciting work. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reimagine celebrates a timely intention, beautifully and variously achieved.

This exhibit, curated by Wendy Burk, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from August 24 to November 3, 2009.

DoubleCross Press Single Sheet Series
Image of I go by Edgar Huntly now, by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Image of Hotel Winter, by Sarah Green

Joshua Marie Wilkinson. I go by Edgar Huntly now. Minneapolis: DoubleCross Press, 2009.

Sarah Green. Hotel Winter. Minneapolis: DoubleCross Press, 2009.

I go by Edgar Huntly now and Hotel Winter are the first two publications in the Single Sheet Series from Minneapolis, Minnesota's DoubleCross Press. Letterpress printer MC Hyland expressly designed the series of mini-chapbooks to minimize waste. Joshua Marie Wilkinson's poem, for example, emerges from a setting of repurposed city maps and graph paper. With an appealing economy of language and resource use, the tiny chapbooks make a large impact.

Hyland thinks about ecological sustainability as an integral part of DoubleCross. She repurposes offcuts and discarded paper goods for her fine press projects, and in making paper by hand, she recycles fiber from worn clothes. She prefers to set lead type by hand rather than print from polymer plates; unlike the plates, the hand-set type may be used for multiple projects. Hyland notes that the Single Sheet Series is also financially sustainable: "When larger amounts of money are invested in bookmaking materials, it can sometimes be harder for the publisher to take the risk [on new poets]; by keeping the Single Sheet Series lean, I am able to absorb the risk of publishing new or unknown authors."

Two Women
Image of Two Women, by Luis J. Rodríguez
Image of Two Women, by Luis J. Rodríguez

Luis J. Rodríguez. Two Women. Pajaro, CA: C & C Press, 2005.

Matt Cohen and Sher Zabaszkiewicz launched C & C Press with several fine press editions of Luis J. Rodríguez's work, including Two Women and its Spanish-language version, Dos Mujeres. Design elements of this letterpress artists' book (from the images inspired by ancient codices to the false-accordion construction) mirror Rodríguez's text: paired poems about his wife Trini and mother María Estela.  The robin's-egg-blue endpapers are made of recycled fabric from the poet's T-shirts.

Sustainable practices at C & C Press take a variety of forms. Excess water from the papermaking process is reused to water a nearby garden, and skylights at the print shop and bindery reduce consumption of electricity. Cohen and Zabaszkiewicz have two guillotine cutters, one of which is solely designated for preparing scrap materials for recycling at their handmade paper studio. They transform scraps from both letterpress and offset publications for use in new projects, or sometimes the same projects. For example, the endpapers of another Rodríguez publication, Making Medicine, are entirely recycled from the leftovers of the book’s trimming process.

Unique Editions by Terry Enfield
Image of There's a Hole in My House, by Terry Enfield
Image of Sense of Place, by Terry Enfield

Terry Enfield. There’s a Hole in My House. Tucson: T. Enfield, 2009.

Terry Enfield. Sense of Place. Tucson: T. Enfield, 2009.

Book artist Terry Enfield is so fond of using discarded and found materials in her work that her spouse sometimes asks her, "I’m going to take out the trash—do you want anything?" There's a Hole in My House recycles the many copies of blueprints generated in the construction of Enfield's house as a meditation on the first time her daughter left home to study abroad.

Sense of Place describes home in a different way, but also using found materials. The metal case and the natural objects stitched to the cloth "postcards" all originated from Enfield's home site. The postcards, with their poetic language about coming to inhabit a new place, were actually sent through the mail.

Enfield specializes in one-of-a-kind books that often comment on human patterns of waste and consumption. For example, a work called Tea Ceremony includes two flag books with accordion spines; the flags are Lipton tea wrappers and used tea bags from Enfield's own morning brew.  Another flag book recycles the green plastic grass from take-out sushi containers into a delicate, lacy "lawn." Enfield is currently working on a book made entirely of found feathers.

The Hugo Ball
Image of The Hugo Ball, by Charles Alexander

Charles Alexander. The Hugo Ball. Tucson: C. Alexander, 2009.

The Hugo Ball combines a reused, gessoed beach ball, a recycled yo-yo string, and human breath to pay homage to the Dadaist poet of the same name. Charles Alexander handwrites his own poem interspersed with words from Hugo Ball: "I dreamed I saw the Hugo Ball dangling from a gadji beri bimba cherry tree…" The result is light on the earth in more ways than one.

The Hugo Ball was created specifically for this exhibit by Charles Alexander, Executive Director of Tucson's Chax Press. The colophon (at the bottom of the beach ball, in blue) reads "by Charles Alexander with lots of Hugo Ball words and sounds and thanks to Cynthia Miller & love to all. 18 August 2009."

Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight
Image of Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field in Twilight by Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield. "Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight." Paradise Valley, AZ: Mummy Mountain Press, 1995.

Artist Karla Elling describes this Jane Hirshfield broadside as the center of her life: the beginning of her work, as Mummy Mountain Press, printing broadsides whose paper is fully sustainable and reflective of its content. The handmade paper for this broadside is made of grasses from the same field that Hirshfield describes in her poem Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight.

Mummy Mountain's sustainable practices include milling paper from Hesperaloe funifera [Giant Hesperaloe] plants from Elling's own field and the University of Arizona Experimental Farm, through partnership with Professor Emeritus Steve McLaughlin. A member of the agave family, Hesperaloe funifera produces what Elling calls "the longest, strongest paper fiber in the world."

Other recent Elling projects include a Marvin Bell broadside made from banana fiber mixed with recycled red flannel sheets and a five-mile-long "stone book," in collaboration with Alberto Ríos, around the Tempe, Arizona Town Lake. Even the stone on which Ríos's words and Elling's images are engraved is recycled: from the discarded centers of granite sinks and kitchen counters.

Encyclical Sunday
Image of Encyclical Sunday, by Debra Gregerman

Debra Gregerman. Encyclical Sunday. Tucson: Kore Press, 1996.

Letterpress printed by Kore Press in an edition of 45 for the Tucson Poetry Festival, Encyclical Sunday is a beautiful example of reuse. Debra Gregerman's poem exploring the difficulties of the mother/daughter relationship is printed on tin foil and wax paper, culturally loaded symbols of domesticity and its discontents.

Tucson's Kore Press has been publishing literature by women as a form of social activism since 1993. Founders Lisa Bowden and Karen Falkenstrom incorporated principles of reuse from the earliest days of the press, reclaiming scraps, printed pages, and used envelopes for both Kore publications and business communications. Currently, Kore's Grrls Literary Activism Workshops encourage students aged 14-19 to make community-oriented art and writing, including books and broadsides using reclaimed materials.

Mexico City
Image of Mexico City, by Dawn Pendergast

Dawn Pendergast. Mexico City. Tucson: MacawMacaw Press, 2009.

This one-of-a-kind handmade book is 100% recycled/reused/reclaimed. Cut-up cereal boxes form the case, collaged with watercolored pages from a tattered Spanish/English dictionary. The case fastens with a soda can tab and a closure made from a braided plastic shipping bag. The pages are salvaged from paper lunch bags, typed on a typewriter with hand-drawn designs. Durable yet somehow fleeting, the book's construction echoes the poems within: momentary observations from Mexico City streets.

Mexico City was created specifically for this exhibit by Bonnie Jean Michalski and Anna Fulford for MacawMacaw Press. MacawMacaw publishes collaborative, experimental poetry in the form of handmade books.

Dos Chap # 3
Image of Dos Chap # 3
Image of Dos Chap # 3

Dos Chap # 3. [Contains Rosa Alcalá's Undocumentary, Ash Smith's Water Shed, Sasha Steenson's The Future of an Illusion, and art by Roberto Ontiveros.] Lockhart, TX: Dos Press, 2009.

The dos-à-dos binding seen here, in which two books are bound together with a shared back board, has the virtue of saving one cover for every book. Dos Chap # 3 takes the reduction of resources one step further, by including three authors in a single volume, instead of two. Dos Press editors CJ Martin and Julia Drescher conceived of this chapbook as an exercise in binding from everyday use. The ordinary kitchen supplies (wax and parchment paper) used for the covers could put vellum to shame.

Dos Press produces handmade chapbooks, all in dos-à-dos format: "1 book, 2 spines, 3 authors," to quote from their blog. In an edition size of 230 copies (as with Chap # 3), the saved resources truly add up.

The World's Smallest Poem
Image of The World's Smallest Poem, by Leafcutter Designs

The World’s Smallest Poem (Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Eagle”). Oakland, CA: Leafcutter Designs, 2009.

Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs runs the World's Smallest Postal Service, transcribing letters of 1000 characters or fewer into a space roughly the size of a postage stamp, complete with envelope, wax seal, and magnifying glass. Here she has used her talent for tiny handwriting and Tennyson's brief lyric to create The World's Smallest Poem, a delightful example of reduced materials use. (The tradition of miniature writing extends back thousands of years; the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library has a copy of the Lord's Prayer handwritten by William Makepeace Thackeray, so small that it fits under a thimble.)

The World's Smallest Postal Service is one of Redmond's many whimsical, participatory explorations in art and language. Others include the Matchbox Poetry Theater, complete with a matchbox stage, matchstick characters, and a poetry 'script'; Tactile Poetry, wooden letters that are presented one at a time to form a poem; and Braille Works, custom-made texts in Braille using materials like vegetable seeds, cracked pepper, and aspirin tablets. Redmond ships with reused packaging, uses organic fabric, and seeks out sustainable materials whenever possible. For example, her Matchbox Theater uses paperboard that complies with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and is packaged in a biodegradable cellophane bag.

When a Bird Shits on You You Want to Shit on It
Image of When a Bird Shits on You You Want to Shit on It, by Jake Levine
Image of When a Bird Shits on You You Want to Shit on It, by Jake Levine

Jake Levine. When a Bird Shits on You You Want to Shit on It (and they know I'm a hooker, too). Tucson: J. Levine, 2009.

Here, gritty poems find their complement in an equally gritty housing. The handmade book has covers cut from a 'rescued' beer carton; the pull-tab enclosure on the inside front cover is made from a cigarette pack. The poems, blending smart, fevered language about sex, drugs, and rock and roll with a statement against war and genocide, are printed on recycled paper.  

When a Bird Shits on You... was created specifically for this exhibit by University of Arizona Creative Writing MFA alumnus Jake Levine. Levine often uses reclaimed materials in his unique- and limited-edition books. Included in his repertoire are covers made from beer bottle labels or record jackets, and even a book made from a cigarette.

Arizona Board of Regents