When I first faced the necessity to tear up an old book to use the pages in my collages it was: “Wow, I just cannot do this!” Tearing books is still very unsettling experience for me, rooted way back in my childhood.
In Russia, from my beginning of personal awareness of books and the beauty of the written word, we were taught, “Love Books…They are the source of knowledge.” I loved the written word and remember my parent’s huge oak dining table that doubled as my supervised homework desk. I would sit at the table doing my homework but I had worked out a plan that used a pull out board under the table that held my copy of “The Three Musketeers,” a wonderfully engrossing piece of fiction so much more interesting than 8th grade chemistry. My parents were earnest and very involved in my homework focus so it was my earnest and secret agenda to blend my personal reading with that homework. I was finally caught finishing my book under a blanket with a flashlight.
The bottom line was that all books were precious to me. We were taught as children to protect and take care of books and in exchange for that care, we travelled in time and space sharing life experience of countless authors.
A secondary result is a deeply ingrained reverence for the physical protection of books. As mentioned before, I was aware of my deep seated uneasiness relating to the destruction of books to create a new piece of artistic expression. However, now I’m feeling more comfortable as I’m able to compensate the damage by making new books.
I mentioned all of this to Russ. Russ has his own history which although located in rural Wisconsin, had parallel experiences that developed his own reverence for books. To this day, Russ can not turn down a page corner of a book and he “breaks in” new books in a procedure taught to him in grammar school.
Today, Russ gave me the greatest endorsement by giving me from his precious book collection, a pair of hand bound National Geographic compilations produced in the 1920’s to use anyway I see fit in repurposing these items into new art.
I think maybe Russ really is a “keeper.”