Tag Archives: Frye Art Museum

Altered Books

I am coming off an Inaugural high this week, hoping our country will behave better, the world might find some peace, and that I pay more attention to my writing craft. “Tend to my elephants,” as my friend Teri would say.

Sometimes creativity knows no bounds, and one of the leading literary figures here in the Pacific Northwest, Rebecca Brown, illustrates just that with her “altered books.” Pieces from the series “God, Mother, Country and Rock + Roll” 2012 were recently on exhibit at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, accompanied by some of the “curiosity cabinets” from her nearby writing studio.

“What do I have to work with but words, and words are abstract, they’re not things,” notes Brown. “As a writer I am envious of the physicality of visual art.” And so when she is not writing, “…when I’m flustered, when I can’t get through, when I need to get out of the mode of verbal abstraction,” she has taken to marking up, drawing on, painting, crossing out, cutting, pasting and deconstructing other people’s books.

“I never thought of this stuff as art,” states Brown, “and I still don’t, but now that it’s in a museum, I’m nervous about it and I wonder, ‘is it art?’”

I think it is something like Robert Rauschenberg’s iconic “Erased de Kooning Drawing” 1953, in exploring the very definition of art. Using words as her material, changing their meaning, and transforming the medium, Rebecca Brown’s literary imagination becomes her artistic genius.

And I, for one, am wordless.

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