Ah, the on-going debate: what is a book and what makes a book a work of art?
I liked many of Peter Thomas’s simple but telling definitions; that a book is “information between pages,” that book art is “a work of art in book form,” that a book is a book artist’s medium for creating art. I was also taken with his description of the supreme work of art in book form – the Mona Lisa of the book – as containing the finest materials, the greatest literature (although that makes me blanche vis-à-vis our final project – no pressure!!) and the greatest illustration. As with some of the previous comments here, I was struck by his description of book art as a four-dimensional artwork, by his comment that book art is undervalued, and by his observation that we need terminology to define the different schools of book art.
So, there was much that I appreciated in Peter Thomas’s presentation (not so much the hokey ukulele songs – sorry to be a curmudgeon about that!) but still, I’m still not sure that it brings us much closer to a resolution in the art vs. craft debate. I still think it a very subjective assessment. Obviously, he and wife will fall into the camp that does believe book art is true art since they devote their lives and energies to it. Whether book art would or could become the (or even “a”) dominant fine arts medium is much more debatable, I think. I couldn’t really see their books very clearly in the video but from what I could tell, they look exquisite. In that sense, they are works of art, but I am still doubtful that could ever be considered on a par with, say, a da Vinci painting or a Rodin statue.
I am left wondering if we don’t do book art a disservice by trying to make it something that it isn’t. “Craft” tends to be used almost pejoratively in this argument, but it shouldn’t. Craft implies skill, expertise, ability, artistry – all very fine qualities. In its way, book art is an art form … “in its way” being the operative phrase here.
I really liked Neil Gaiman’s little video clip. “A book is a door to another world, to another person’s head.” I love that. And, “A painting is never finished. It’s only abandoned. I think that’s true of all art. There comes a moment where you just have to leave it behind and move on to the next thing…” That really struck a chord with me. I always feel as if I could tinker with a piece forever, and this comment made me feel a bit better about letting go.