In the age of instant messaging, communicating with glue may seem downright archaic. But an exhibit at Asheville Book Works proves the zine, with its hand-pasted collages of images and text, is alive and well.
Book Works owner Laurie Corral says that while many book makers are interested in precious materials and the fine craft of artists’ books, others just want to communicate. They like the idea that a zine is easy to reproduce and can be passed along to friends. “But,” she notes, “some zinesters eventually begin making the more traditional artists’ books.”
Exhibition curator Emily K. Larned, who in 2004 mounted The Evolution of Paste and Scissors at the Parsons School of Design’s Gimbel Library, is one of those. She made her first zine in 1993 and hasn’t stopped. She began making artists’ books six years ago, and last year had her Thrift Store: The Past & Future Secret Lives of Things published in a trade edition. Larned, aka Red Charming, contributed a number of works to the show, including her zines Muffin Bones, Memorytown USA and Parfait, as well as several of her beautifully crafted artists’ books.
Zines are as varied as the artists who produce them. Some are filled with personal information about the life of the maker, while others tackle more philosophical topics. Some feature copies of found images, while others include original art works — small letter-press images or serigraphs.
A particularly interesting aspect of this show is that artistic development can be tracked by comparing the artists’ early efforts to their most current publications. The exhibition’s participants are all women, and all began making zines at a very early age.
Eleanor Whitney made her first zine when she was 17, and used it as an outlet for working through issues she faced growing up as an idealistic activist in Maine. Her Indulgence includes a handsome woodcut of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sara Jaffe discovered the zine in 1993 at the age of 16. She has since moved to San Francisco and started her own press for the creation and distribution of collaborations between artists and writers. According to her artist’s statement, she wants to publish “books that eschew contemporary standards of slickness or convenience.” Her zine, Manifixation, includes artwork by Lis Goldschmidt.
Making zines since 1995, Amy Greenan is using her cutting-and-pasting experience to develop her graduate thesis show. Her first zine, called Highest Population of Rock Stars, was a compilation of interviews she did with local musicians she admired. She has published two issues of a new zine called Pumpkin, and a one-off comic book called Silver Shorts.
Molly Kalkstein began publishing Tyger Voyage when she was 14. She says that she read Thomas Wolfe the same year and was influenced by his passion and powers of observation. Kalkstein’s books are aesthetically different from some others in the show: They are carefully planned and more cohesive. Her On Cities has a heavy, stapled cover interspersed with quotes from authors she admires. Her tiny To Come Home features Japanese-style stab binding and perforated covers. The text is dictionary definitions.
Looking at this exhibition is much more time-consuming than looking at an exhibition of paintings, but it is interesting artistically and culturally. Granted, some of the books suffer from youthful self-indulgence, but what a great way for these young women to communicate and express themselves — as well as inspire others.
Here in Asheville, a cluster of teenage girls has gathered around a big table at Book Works every Tuesday and Thursday this month, creating their first zine. Their efforts will be exhibited at the show’s closing reception.
[Connie Bostic is a painter and writer based in Asheville.]
Evolution of Cut and Paste is at Asheville Book Works (28 1/2 Haywood Road) through Dec. 15. 255-8444.