On Tuesday, April 12, 2016 I attended a lecture given by the artist Jaime Lynne Shafer. This lecture was held in the Black Rock Press at 5:30pm. Shafer works in a variety of different media within her general feels of book arts. A few of these media include photopolymer plates, and linoleum block printing. Shafer has a BFA in ceramics, and an MA in book arts. Along with her work at the Black Rock Press she has also taught in a variety of public schools.
At the lecture, Shafer presented a number of her own personal projects. One of these was a collaboration entitled “What We’re Made of.” This consisted of a collection of 4 printed poems with symbolic imagery, displayed in portfolio cases. One of her more involved projects however, was entitled “17927.” This was presented as an interpretation of the story of an actual historic event that occurred in Centralia, PA. The title comes from the zip code for this town that was revoked after the fires started in the coal mines in this are. In this project, Shafer tells the story of a twelve year old boy who fell into a sink hole during the time surrounding these events. She used the form of a tunnel book, with each layer of the book telling more of the story, and visually, going deeper into the burning pit. The imagery from each layer of the book is taken from a coal-esque theme, and was printed using reduction printing with linoleum blocks. The book itself is contained in a three panel wrapper that is printed from wood type. Inside the wrapper are prints of two different maps of the town—one of before, and one of after the evacuation.
Another work that was discussed was entitled “Old Geiger Grade.” This was another collaboration project, which Shafer used as an opportunity to reach out more on campus. The work was inspired by the history of the Comstock, and Geiger Grade Road, which historically was the only road in and out of Virginia City. One of the unique aspects of this particular work is that it can be read in any order. The pages are cut out and sculpted in various places to exemplify the topographical maps of the area. Share chose a color palette of shades of tan to represent the desert, and chose to use a typeface that was heavily used around the 1860s. The entire book was printed using hand set metal type.
Though the previous examples are intriguing, what I thought was her most poignant work was a book entitled “Code Red.” This work dealt with the touchy topic of shootings in schools and the easy accessibility of firearms to children in the home. This book was comprised of a single sheet folded in an accordion manner, with a hole cut into the top which allows the viewer to peer down into it. One side of the page is a brick wall pattern with the names of various child shooting victims laser printed. Also, printed in wood type were the documented locations where a child had found a fire arm in the home. There was also silhouettes of children emblazoned across the entire work. The media that she used for this work included metal type, wood type, and photopolymer plate. With this project, she stated that she particularly wanted to emphasize the tragedy that is the careless storage of guns in this day and age. She also brought up the interesting point of how difficult it was to obtain with names of the victims without first searching for the shooter. With this project, Shafer was attempting to move past the glorification of the shooter, and instead make it a monument to the victims.
What I noticed in this lecture, was that Shafer had a very clear concept of what she wanted to express with each of her works, and these concepts, I felt, were very clearly conveyed through her discussion of each work. What I found interesting about Shafer’s work, as well, was that it was not overtly political. There were some controversial themes presented in a few of her pieces, however there seemed to be a more personal connection held between her and these themes than with some artists. Her work was very interesting, and I had not really observed and book art before, however, it made me wonder if it is an antiquated art form. So much can be done and printed digitally that it seems to invalidate the hours of work put into printing the individual prints with type, linoleum block, etc. On the other hand, the manual printing did give each work an extra dimension that could not be obtained if the work were completed digitally.