To us, there is nothing like a gifted story over the holidays. From beloved children's tales to dense inescapable novels, books are portals to unexplored time and space; portals that offer us the adventure and fulfilled curiosity of voyages and simultaneous peaceful respite from the hustle and havoc of holiday preparations! This year's book list is all about artistry. The pages of these bound works are filled with masterful imagery—both illustrated and literary—that brings stories to life and cinematically guides us through spellbindingly woven narratives.
LISTEN TO THIS BUILDING
We start here in our home city of Miami with LISTEN TO THIS BUILDING by EXILE BOOKS that brings to life the anatomy of the city for everyone in a multi-sensory, experiential exhibition. Representative reliefs inscribe the forms of the urban structures and, combined with raised braille descriptions, tactile map, and supplemental full length audio, create a sensory bouquet to introduce you to the architecture of Miami.
LISTEN TO THIS BUILDING was published by EXILE to commemorate the 2015 Miami Center for Architecture & Design installation of the same name. Together MCAD and EXILE produced a multi-sensory, experiential exhibition that sought to bridge downtown Miami architecture, independent publishing, and accessibility. In doing so, it brought together tactility, sound, and thematic programming to explore alternative modes of experiencing one's city and better understanding how those without sight navigate their surroundings and advocate for universal design. This spiral bound 11" x 11.5" book boasts tactile illustrations of ten historical, architecturally significant downtown Miami buildings, corresponding braille descriptions with english transcriptions, as well as a CD with LISTEN TO THIS BUILDING's full-length audio component and a raised map highlighting each featured site. (1)
My Grandfather's Tree
Abandoning the urban materialism for organic deconstruction, our next book selection is My Grandfather's Tree by Max Lamb. A documentation of the dismantling, felling, and revitalizing of a monumental ash tree, the book is a chronology of a stunningly romantic rebirth witnessed by the author and his grandfather from their converted cattle shed cottage.
Monckton Walk Farm in the Yorkshire Wolds is run by my 89-year-old Grandfather, Dr Robert Andrew Dunning. He lives in a cottage that together we converted from an old cattle shed. Next to the cottage grew a female ash tree so large it overlooked the 150 acres of farmland and from where, on a clear day, York Minster could be seen 25 miles away. Alas, the age of the tree began to show and its largest limb had died and started to rot. For the safety of my Grandfather and the cottage it became necessary to fell the great ash. I wanted my Grandfather’s tree to survive beyond its rooted life, to offer the ash an afterlife and celebrate the nature of the material within. I wanted the tree to remain integral to the wood and to maintain the story told by its 187 annual growth rings — its age, the climatic conditions in which it grew, the years of heavy rainfall or drought, even its geographical orientation. Together with my friend Jon Turnbull, we cut the tree at regular intervals from the top down, respecting natural divisions within the structure such as knots, branches and crotches. I cut the ash into 131 logs of average ‘furniture’ height suitable for what my Grandfather would call ‘general purpose’ use. Whether as stool, table, chair or log, today My Grandfather’s Tree survives as an ash tree, but with a new function and the start of a new history. And where she once stood, a second generation of young ash trees are fast emerging from her roots. (2)
100 Real People
New York Snow
Following nature back into the urban jungle, New York Snow by 100 Real People captures the hypnotically slowed movement of a restless city when it's blanketed by a cold weeping snow. In black and white, the motion of racing cars and rushing pedestrians is frozen behind a static cloak of roaring flurries. 100 Real People is one of our all time favorite artists-we have several of their zines framed in individual shadow boxes, arranged as a line of open pages on a wall in our office!—and we implore you to look at their full collection of available works because you will almost certainly be smitten by more than one.
There are only 100 real people in the world. The rest are cardboard cutouts.
...The 100 Real People project is an ongoing outpouring of [a] need to create, [a] search for answers/questions and [a] desire to observe. It serves as a way to record...discoveries and to enable a reflection upon them.
If you like, or dislike, any part of what I do then perhaps you are one of those one hundred. (3)
From freezing snow to sun-kissed rain, we turn to Mayumi Otero & Raphael Urwiller for their book DELUGE. Coloured thread-like lines weave the contours of a landscape and the outlines of a city onto the pages. Each page is an accumulation, preserving the line work of previous pages and adding layers of newness and colour. Ultimately, rain falls as steep columns and unruly dashes, speckled with droplets that obstruct the landscape. It's a mesmerizing piece of art that is unquestionably gift-worthy.
Between two mountains, a city is built, color after color.
Suddenly, it’s raining. (4)
Following the rain, N13BL4 Collective published the Charco fanzine, a collection of works from 25 artists from Colombia, Argentina and Mexico who use photography, illustration and text to channel their inspiration around the central theme of water .
From another artist we simply cannot get enough of, next on our list is Thirteen Monsters - Number Counting Flutter Book by Amelia Kieras. As fully grown adults who are adequate at basic counting, we have no reservations about admitting how much we love this book; one of our team members even keeps a copy open on the fireplace mantle in their bedroom, arguably the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a flutter book. In all seriousness, it really is tremendously great!
Count up to thirteen with a variety of friendly looking monsters! I created this book using an original woodcut print scanned and digitally painted to add color. The book is printed using digital pigment inks on a heavyweight fine art matte paper. All printing, cutting and construction is done by me in my studio.
This type of book structure is called a flutter book, it is made from one sheet of paper that is cut and folded to form the book pages. Flipping through the book is a fun puzzle, with a secret monster party happening on the hidden spread.(5)
Nikki Slade Robinson
The Little Kiwi's Matariki
With little ones in mind, the Little Kiwi's Matariki by Nikki Slade Robinson is a New Year's Delight and a perfect holiday gift. An enthusiastic kiwi eagerly scurries to wake slumbering friends in anticipation of rising of the Matariki star cluster (the Pleiades) which heralds in the Māori New Year. And for those not fortunate enough to have Māori family and friends assist with pronunciation, there are phenomenal YouTube readings to guide you through the Te Reo Māori text.
The little Kiwi is fast asleep in her burrow. A beam of moonlight shines right down into her burrow. She wakes, and realises it is time. Hurrying out into the night, she wakes each of her friends from their midwinter slumber.'Kia tere! Hurry!' she urges them. The little Kiwi leads her friends through the pingao and onto the beach. It is pre-dawn. They wait, and watch. As the moon slips away behind the hills, the constellation of Matariki rises for the first time, in the northeastern sky. This gentle tale about celebrating Matariki, the Maori New Year, finishes with an explanation of Matariki - it's origins, traditions and how it is celebrated today. The constellation is also shown, with the Maori names for each star. The text contains some simple words in Te Reo Maori alongside the English equivalent. (6)
Cindi M. Alvitre
Waa'aka': The Bird Who Fell in Love with the Sun
After your little ones are finished following kiwis, why not hop onto the wings of Waa’aka’ in Cindi M. Alvitre's book Waa’aka’: The Bird Who Fell in Love with the Sun. Not only is this volume a beautiful and lyrical picture book, it also shares the "origin stories of the original caretakers" (7).
“Waa’aka’ was born when the earth was soft and the waters were new. It was the beginning of time.” So begins Cindi Alvitre’s vivid and multifaceted telling of a traditional Tongva creation story from Southern California. Waa’aka’ follows the title character, a beautiful bird who falls in love with Tamet, the sun, and tries to follow him up to the sky....A rendition of one of California’s oldest tales, Waa’aka’ is a beautiful children’s book in the classic style. (8)
Water With Water
The Gulf Between Us Vol. 1
While Waa’aka’ introduces an origin story that ties people to the land, Water With Water's Zine The Gulf Between Us is a visual documentation of the contemporary interaction between humanity and inletting oceans and the storied existences of cultures that reside along the Persian Gulf. It's nothing short of breathtaking.
Water With Water is an experimental publishing project and visual research lab based in Doha Qatar. Our work is a funky international mix of historical and vernacular references with dynamic visuals in the form of unique printed books, ephemera, merchandise, and apparel.
Our first photography zine, this 2 color offset zine includes contributions from local and international artists and photographers. Thanks to all who contributed their visions of the Gulf.
Designed and printed in Qatar with support from VCUarts Qatar and Qatar Foundation. (9)
Questions to ask yourself Part 2
For an internal exploration, try the Questions to Ask Yourself: Part 2 Mini Zine from Mythical Type. With questions like "How many trust falls am I?" you can find whimsical meditations on elucidating topics you never thought to ask.
"Questions to ask yourself: Part 2" is a hand-drawn mini zine with thoughtful questions and illustrations...Small zines like this make great gifts and are fun to collect! (10)
Sung Min Baik
Hello My Name Is...
And for a more abstractly illustrative representation of identity, HELLO MY NAME IS... by Sung Min Baik is the perfect choice. Harrowing bleeding halos overwhelm industrial grids printed on sheer pages for a conversation on self that is haunting and beautiful.
Material interactions in the space between written language and mark-making and the boundaries that create identity. (11)
The River of the Mother of God: Nots on Indeterminacy, V. 2
When we'd rather read of someone else's exploration of self rather than explore our own, we turn to Harry Dodge and The River of the Mother of God: Notes on Indeterminacy, v. 2. If you're anything like us, you won't be able to put this book down. The language is gloriously untamed and crushingly descriptive and it sucks us into the deliciously disconnected narrative in ways we cannot begin to put into words. We're deeply, deeply obsessed.
Dear Reader, the following are decontextualized paragraphs, nodes. Many, but not all, are just transferred here from notebooks, thoughts in mid-stream—you know, provisional. And since these very concepts are the animating themes of the work, I here present them to you as an experiment in sociality, thinking together and love. (12)
Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking
Our next selection is a bit more classical in its literary structure, but the romanticism of a journey in Hanji Unfurled: One Journey into Korean Papermaking by Aimee Lee, following the origins of traditional Korean paper and the hands that form the delicate pages, the keeper of heritage, is one too cinematic and exceptional to leave off this list.
With a history of well over 1,500 years, Korean handmade paper, known as hanji, is familiar to Koreans but a mystery outside its home country...Made by farmers and artisans during bitter cold winters, hanji was a noble marker of the literati who demanded high-quality paper for books, documents, calligraphy, and painting. Hanji also played a sacred role as the support for illuminated sutras, the body of temple decorations, and spirit of rituals where it was burned in hopes that its ashes would rise to the sky. Fashioned into objects that ranged from kites to armor to shrouds to chamber pots, there was seemingly no end to the possibilities of the combination of human ingenuity and paper through the transformation of natural fibers, until forces of history and industrialization collided and left this once-celebrated substrate and its related craft practices near extinction.
In this first English-language book about hanji, Aimee Lee shares her experience as a Korean–American artist and Fulbright fellow on her search for a traditional Korean papermaking teacher. ...This book follows her journey as she met papermakers, scholars, and artists from bustling cities to traditional Korean villages to Buddhist temples to island outposts. Not only did she encounter the few remaining papermakers who still practice webal tteugi, the indigenous Korean sheet-formation method, but she found teachers of a whole array of allied crafts that include jiseung—cording and weaving hanji, joomchi—texturing and felting hanji, natural dyeing, and calligraphy. She traveled from the studios of living treasures to the homes of ordinary Koreans, illuminating an often-misunderstood culture through stories from its keepers of traditional heritage. (13)
Bombing New York Issue VII
Last, but unquestionably not least, is the Bombing NY Issue VII from Carnage NYC. As many of us here at ARCANISA are New Yorkers by birth—and certainly in spirit—we are filled with a sense of home and place and a rush of saudade when we see the markings of the life of our street: the warpaint, the territorialism, the expression, and the unrestrained ownership of the city only captured only by street art. Bombings, for those unfamiliar, are instances when street artists throw up a large number of pieces—typically tags or other easily rendered graphics— in a small area over a short period of time. And this pandemic-period has, understandably, fueled an interesting shift in street art and graffiti which is brilliantly documented in this Issue. For those who feel the pulse of the city in their veins, those who find beauty in the vandalism, and those want to bear witness to the artistic scars of a city in isolation, this epic collection of NYC graffiti is a must have.
We'll never forget 2020. It started out strong, until what felt like distant murmurs of the pandemic hit our city dead on, and once we went into lockdown the shock to our collective system was total and undeniable. Empty streets. Endless hand-washing and disinfecting. Parking lots full of freezer trucks. Then, in Minneapolis, the execution of George Floyd at the hands of a white cop. Brief riots followed by sustained, peaceful protests. Many arrests, more police violence. All the other names that we will never forget. A racist future ex-President. A curfew, police helicopters circling the city, every day and night, even long after the curfew was lifted. And fireworks, every single night through Juneteenth and continuing into the summer. And that was only the first half of the year.
In the face of all that happened, the continuing resurgence of graffiti in NYC hardly seems important. But if you are reading this then you know that of course it mattered. Like the virus it was undeniable and it was everywhere, but unlike it, graffiti offered a dash of hope and life in our struggling city. Documenting it provided literally a way out, a way to reconnect with the city every day on a human level, away from the news cycle, the suffering and the injustice.
Issue VII consists of hundreds of shots of street bombing from the first six months of 2020. (14)
Gift one of these perfect paper presents to those on your holiday list or browse the full Holiday Gift Guide for even more gift-giving inspiration.