About Face, 2013
A handbound chapbook of poetry and prose responding to artwork by Susan Low-Beer.
The design takes its cue from the various processes the artist engaged to produce this body of work. Twenty-six portrait heads were created using the same mold, into which Low-Beer pressed an array of texturally varied clay pieces; each sculpture is a variation on the same basic form. The layout of the chapbook is similarly structured around a repeating window or frame of fixed dimension within which the individual heads are centered, echoing the iterative nature of the series.
Chapbook cover with embroidery thread wrapping
The opening sequence is expressive of the relationship between the About Face series and Ra, the series of Japanese paper pieces included as part of the About Face exhibition. The Ra image, printed in archival inkjet on washi, is a photograph of the mold which Low-Beer used to create the heads. Clean and smooth, especially in comparison to the seething textures of the heads, it is not immediately apparent that such an angelic visage could be the source or underlying form of the twenty-six fractured faces on display.
Tipped-in flyleaf printed on translucent paper
In layering a slightly translucent sheet of washi printed with the face of Ra directly over the image of a sculptural head on the title page, a clear visual relationship between the two works is made and the physical connection between them strongly implied.
Background colours of the interior pages were chosen to reflect and complement the organic materials and processes that are integral to the works and reflected in the heads' various finishes.
The text inside the books is laid out in visual relationship to the images, both formally and conceptually. Where poets referenced particular heads, the images of those heads are placed in juxtaposition with their poems.
Spread with poem by Sheila Stewart
A visual index at the back allows the reader to view the entire series at once, as well as to refer to individual heads mentioned by number in the poems.
Visual index of complete sculpture series
The typeface is Museo, a contemporary family featuring delicate stroke widths counterbalanced by classically sturdy proportions. A slight curve to the semi-slab serifs subtly evokes a humanist sense of playfulness and warmth, fitting for a book focused on subjectivity and emotional response.
The hand-sewn binding with threads wrapping the book is a finishing touch referencing Low-Beer's process of winding various spools as bases for particular heads, as well as the appearance that several heads have of being wound or wrapped. The final size of the book is 6 x 9 inches.
About Face was published by Fieldnotes/MSH in September 2013 in an edition of 100 copies.
Kelley Aitken, Grant Carmichael, Beth Follett, Maureen Scott Harris, Margaret Hollingsworth, Maureen Hynes, Sue MacLeod, Jim Nason, Ruth Roach Pierson, and Sheila Stewart
Shani K Parsons
Incredible Printing, Toronto
Lawrence Acland, David Kaye, Susan Low-Beer, and Shani K Parsons