a book grows in & out of itself

Author Archive

How To Mail A Book


“The role of the text is to put the image in a state of crisis.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet

“What is the Shape of this Problem?” ~ Louise Bourgeois

“How To Mail A Book” arises from a lineage of artists’ books distributed as mail art, tied to artists like Ray Johnson and movements like Fluxus, among other influences. Each postcard in this mailable “catalogue” represents part of an exhibition at Kenyon College in Spring 2012, exhibited in the College’s Greenslade Special Collections & Archives. The artists were students in Ellen Sheffield’s course in Book Arts. Each transformed a copy of the published book, Galerie de Difformité, to alter and extend the definition of “deformity” beyond its historical connotation. (By way of assignment, along with their represented object, they were asked to submit a written artist statement with their materials and a re-definition of “deformity” using metaphor(s) tied to their alteration, like: “Deformity is a bird hatching from a painted egg. Deformity is the act of peeling away old wallpaper to reveal what lies underneath.” Our in-class discussions revolved around concept and materials, form and content, and how artists implicate themselves and their viewers in the making of meanings. Deformations ranged from a bird’s nest to a garden, palm-reading to a castle, eye glasses and more. “How To” instructions move beyond mailing to “How to Hatch a Book” to “How to Grow a Book” to “How to Listen to a Book,” and more. Beyond what is represented here, some students also explored new technologies, including temporary extensions/installations in SoundCloud, YouTube, and other online supplements. The exhibition in the Special Collections included an opening reception to celebrate the students’ works, each of which were displayed and captioned by title, artist, and redefinition of “deformity.”

Each postcard includes the students’ “deformation” of the book (front) and their redefinition of “deformity” (back). The back is formatted as a postcard, with white space for a sender’s message, mailing address, and stamp. To re-assemble this chapbook and/or mail individual postcards, click on the images, save them to your computer, and print front-to-back (or cut and paste), and mail away! To make the enclosure, download this marbled paper, then print, cut, and fold (coming soon).

  • How To Review a Book (Four Eyes, after Exhibit K, by Madeline Gobbo)
  • How To Hatch a Book (Nest, after Exhibit R, by Kat O’Hara)
  • How To Surf a Book (Tidal, after Exhibit O, by Leslie Lasiter)
  • How To Listen to a Book (White Noise, after Exhibit U, by Claire Buss)
  • How To Contain a Book (Pandora’s, after Exhibit M, by Irene McIntosh)
  • How To Protect a Book (What To Do When Being Chased by The Monster, after Exhibit C, by Zachary Katz-Stein)
  • How To Dive Into A Book (The Wrecked Names, after Exhibit A, by Caitlin Fitzpatrick)
  • How To Grow A Book (Jardin de Difformité, after Exhibit G, by Sara Baicker-McKee)
  • How To Smoke a Book (Constriction, after Exhibit J, by Susannah Rosenfield)
  • How To Survive a Book (Fleeing the Storm, after Exhibit J, by Abby Cheney)
  • How To Tame A Book (The Book Monster and How To Take It, after Exhibit G, by Helen Liutongco)
  • How To Resurrect a Book (Nice Day for a Resurrection, after Exhibit V, by Kelly Wahl)
  • How To Palmread a Book (Once Wings, after Exhibit H, by Chelsea Borgman)

Special thanks to Kenyon College’s Mesaros Art Fund for supporting my visit to Kenyon College, to professor Ellen Sheffield and her students, and to Ethan Henderson, Special Collections Librarian.

To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.


A [The] Quick Brown Fox [Jumped] Jumps Over [A] The Lazy Dog

a collection of deformations by D.J. Mamboz

To download & assemble this chapbook, click here.

We are DJ Mamboz.

We are attempting to make something.

We are just like you.

We are Animals Wandering in an Open Plain.

We are MIT’s imagination machine. Clunk clunk!

We are techno-funk masters.

We are altering states

(though I must admit we’re somewhat

uncomfortable with our proclivity for reflexive thinking).

We are quick, brown foxes and lazy dogs.

We are people.

We are artists.

We are deformists.

Take a journey through our minds.


To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.

Beatrice Emerges

By Kathi Stafford (ed.) with Millicent Borges Accardi, Susan Rogers, Jennifer Smith, Maja Trochimczyk

To download & assemble this chapbook, click here.

Deformation Statement by Kathi Stafford

I’ll never forget how dismayed I was to learn as a teenager that Shakespeare did not originate the romance between Romeo and Juliet. He’d actually picked up the story, fairly full-blown, from an Italian story-teller. In fact, Dante mentions the Capulets and the Montagues in the Divine Comedy, interestingly enough. Not only that—the origins stretch back to Ovid’s Metamorphosis, where several similar tenets show up to thwart true love, including parents who hate each other, a faked death, and generational angst.

For this particular chapbook, Beatrice Emerges, the focus began with several phrases and words from the Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, and similar texts: color as of fire; the ladies seven; a dark shadow’s edge; green leaves and branches black; lavender veils; shimmering gold; beatific portrait; and dowry cost. Dante saw Beatrice at a young age and fell under a sort of indescribable spell. It was called courtly love at the time—now, we might call it love from afar, or an unrequited passion. Beatrice (perhaps never knowing of Dante’s feelings for her) married another man, then died young, whereas Dante married another woman to whom he had been betrothed for years. None of these intervening facts stopped him from claiming Beatrice as his one great muse. She is a key figure in in the Divine Comedy—the only person pure enough to escort Dante through Heaven after he has traipsed about through both Hell and Purgatory.

Instead of resenting Shakespeare’s deformations of Ovid and Dante, I’ve now learned to appreciate how plots and characters are recycled by writers and artists across centuries. In the spirit of deformation, the contributors to Beatrice Emerges utilize a few constant starting points for pulling together words and images from earlier artists into a compost pile of ideas, stirred up, pressed down, and mined for new twists on the idea of this particular woman. Deformation of images and symbols allowed for a reclaiming of the mysterious and inspiring Beatrice.

The second focus built on Beatrice’s role as muse, a role that women have filled historically. What would she have thought about Dante’s use of her being as the inspiration of some of the greatest poetry ever to be written in the Italian language? What, in fact, is the true role and perception of the muse herself in this process? Beatrice became ultimately unobtainable to the artist, but he still claimed her deeply and passionately.

Art builds upon earlier art in myriad and unexpected forms, as shown in the “Galerie de Difformité.” A cut-up poem from the project becomes a bracelet on an arm, or sprigs of grass spring up in a tender field.  The mash-up between visual drawings and paintings, performance art, written words, and collage has grown exponentially during the course of this undertaking. Beatrice comes into focus as the muse who reflects the kaleidoscope of perfect beauty and virtue that is deformed and reformed in a new century.  Beatrice comes into focus as the muse who reflects the kaleidoscope of perfect beauty and virtue that is deforming and reforming in a new century—never attainable, changing over time in the eye of each beholder. Centuries after Dante followed Beatrice, we follow her, still.

Image: “Overlapping Moments” by Susan Rogers

Instructions for Assembly:

1. This document is a PDF.
2. From the PDF print menu choose the Page Scaling pop-up.
3. Choose Multiple Pages Per Sheet.
4. From the Multiple Pages Per Sheet menu, select the value 2.
5. Print out each double page of the pdf file.
6. Cut the pages apart with scissors or a paper-cutter.
7. Assemble the pages in the order of this document.
8. Roll the assembled pages into a scroll with the front cover on the outside.
9. Take a long thread or cord and tie the scroll as you would a gift with a bow. Scrolls are the ancestors of the book—thus, the work creates a link back in time.


For more of Kathi’s work, see Exhibits G & M in the Galerie de Difformité. To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.

Tableaux Meurants

By Kate Schapira (editor), featuring deformations by Cybele Collins, Kate Durbin, Michael Tod Edgerton, David Emanuel, Jennifer Karmin, Deborah Poe, Rachel Schapira

To download & assemble this chapbook, click here.

Note: Cover image is from Tableau Vivant, performed by the Flusso Dance Project in 2005.

Editorial (dis)articulation

by Kate Schapira


Much about our bodies is accidental. Sometimes they’re just horses for our awareness; sometimes they’re canvases of enjoyment or sinks of pain. Sometimes we want our bodies to look or feel like other bodies; other times other people want that “for” us, and get angry at us because they don’t, or because we don’t want them to.

Voluntary or involuntary, most of the postures of our bodies are momentary. In “candid” photos or stills from a movie, the cross-sections of our fluid expressions look like deliberate, extreme grimaces or contortions of pleasure, pain, disgust, anger or amazement—“deformations” of serenity, calmness, evenness, the Golden Mean, the middle way. But stillness is also a “deformation”, a miniature death of motion, where context is worn away.

To deform can imply that there is a “form” in the world from which all other forms are deviations. The goal of this project and its collaborators is not to imitate, impersonate or fool—not to “be” the “original” figure (which is already a deformation of text into image)—but to pay homage to, parody, reset, adapt, translate the figure, dress it up, move it around—to change ourselves for it, and change it through us. Who is pleased, dissatisfied, moved, discomfited, even aroused or frightened by these deformations?

Among other things, maybe the texts we started with; among other things, maybe our many selves; among other things, maybe you. To participate in these “tableaux meurants”, I invited writers and artists who have through their work or their statements declared their interest in the vexed, costumed or redelineated body.

Some things that are true about bodies are true about books. They are composite. They are fragile. They can be transcribed or reproduced imperfectly. They change as they go. They can be translated. We can change them, and they can change us. To respond to an invitation, to throw ourselves into a posture or assume it with difficulty, is to acknowledge its artifice—we know it’s a made thing because we are making it. The real (uncorrupted) text, the transparent truth—an impossible goal makes us contort ourselves. We can if we want, even though we can’t do just anything we want. But if we want, if we decide to want or let ourselves want, we can do a lot of things.


The writers and artists who contorted, collaborated and responded here have bent themselves closer to the words and images they questioned or answered, have drawn those words and images closer, have dragged in the world.

Daughters of Juarez by Teresa Rodriguez, Diana Montané and Lisa Pulitzer, and INRI by Raul Zurita, in conjunction with Nina Clements’s Exhibit, prompted Deborah Poe to write from New York state, “I’m thinking of doing something with the gravel/stones in our backyard. I kept thinking of their connection to the gravel where the women’s bodies were found. … I also want some part of my body in this.” The body is made of the same kinds of atoms as the rocks, and when we die the same kinds of rocks will cover us. What divides our minds from the world and from each other is mostly stone. Deborah wrote when she was about to leave for China, “It dawned on me …that it would be quite amazing to take a photograph of ‘mi grava es su grava’ designing around not only the body but also The Great Wall…” When someone tries to make the body disappear, the bodies still living have a responsibility to turn over the stones and reveal it. When the body tries to forget, the person living in it may insist that it remembers.

Cybele Collins’s Ape (Italian for “bee”) seems blown by many winds: one pulls her hair back, one lifts her step, one pushes her forward  like a sail. Her face, human, apelike, feline, deeply concentrates. Depending on what you want from her, you might interpret her expression as fierce, sad, pained, sly or serene, might try to coax her features into the mask of your choice. Rachel Schapira’s playful/painful walrus pose distorts not just gender but species. With the expression of someone examining eirself closely in the mirror before it’s time to face the world, whether checking her teeth for stuff or trying a new and unusual-for-him outfit, those tusks don’t look comfortable but will they be worth it? Sometimes all of the self is concentrated in one part of the body: we love or hate it, experience or remember its pleasure or pain, feel it leading us in a direction or pulling us back. When I first saw Michael Tod Edgerton’s submission, I thought the stairs were a stack of books leading upward—his thumb with its glitzy measurement of time, his arm with its mammal hairs and dermal records, bracing him for or against the ascent. Where will we let our bodies take us, in time as well as space?

In Ami Walsh’s, “What will the future forgive?” a human’s neck fractures, or grows, into trees and sky. Jennifer Karmin and David Emanuel’s collaborative response, “What will the past forget”, takes us back to bones and their context. Riotous in both text and image with multiple complications and contortions, “quoting” or costuming from a number and variety of sources, its figures embrace, erupt, and shun; they move through narrative time and flower out into vision.

Kate Durbin, whose work on Lady Gaga has led the latter’s image to come up when one Googles the former, writes of her submission, “Gaga operates as a Beatific figure pop-culturally, as she is a moving image upon which we project our desires for the pop star. Yet Gaga also monstrously harnesses the potentiality in technology to positively wield herself as flickering signifier. She destroys her image/self repeatedly, so that she can never be destroyed. The search for Gaga’s face, in essence, is the search for God–google as god, god-ga. Of course, Gaga is the most searched for person on Google. The search for Gaga, then, like the search for Beatrice, the descent into the inferno, the endless quest for God, Moses on Sinai, is, in essence, a search for “we” our “selves” in the mirror, or the disco-ball.”

In her own work, Durbin takes Gaga’s self-deformations not to heart so much as to text, posing the beauty and horror of mutability. Here she makes their co-representation—their closeness—almost complete. But not entirely. If these pieces taken together offer us anything, it’s that to share is not to be the same, that similarity (and the difference it implies) is not identity or inadequate or deformed identity, but a relationship, a recognition, and a possibility.

Please note: Page numbers are invisible, so keep printed pages in order as you start your (re)assembly.


For more of Kate’s work, see Exhibit D in the Galerie de Difformité. To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.

Dictionary of Deformity

By Libby Panhorst (editor), featuring deformations by Kathleen Bires, Sara Carminati, Liza Chabot, Rebecca Chowdhury, Ellen Gaglione, Sydney Gutberlet, Brigitte Kemp, Maren Less, Paul Medioli, Max Olson, Vivienne Peng, Anna Roosevelt, Tricia Shimamura, Frances Sutton

To download & assemble this chapbook, click here.

Aesthetic Deformation Statement:

by Libby Panhorst

The tradition of the altered book represents an attempt to challenge the book as a sacred space: to reappropriate, revisit, or reimagine its physical form or intellectual intent. Altered books have their origins in the medieval palimpsest, a manuscript whose surface was scraped clean to be used again, the original text still faintly visible beneath the new. A thousand or so years later, Reverend James Granger encouraged readers of his Biographical History of England (1769) to find and insert portraits of the people named in the book, designating blank spaces for readers to do so. This practice of extra-illustration (or, to its enemies, “Grangerism”) was enthusiastically applied to other books of the era, with readers tearing from one book to add to another. In Tom Phillips’s modern alteration of the Victorian text A Human Document (1892), one book is, in the artist’s words, “exhumed from, rather than born out of, another.” Phillips pulls a new story from the old through condensation: he paints over words in the original text, revealing A Humument underneath its surface.

History shows, then, that a book grows in and out of itself. This chapbook grew in and out of many books, each, in turn, having grown in and out of the mind of its creator. The Dictionary of Deformity showcases the work (both visual and verbal) of Ellen Sheffield’s Book Arts class at Kenyon College (Spring 2011). Given the task to alter an existing codex book and take inspiration from the Galerie de Difformité, Ellen’s students folded, painted, ripped, pasted, planted, and watered their way to deformation. Deformation need not always be a disfiguration—it can be a twist, a rebirth, a dark curtain lifting to let in the light. Though the completed books appear here in two dimensions (alongside each artist’s personal (re)definition of deformity and arranged alphabetically by Exhibit), they were placed on display in Kenyon’s Special Collections in April 2011.

My creation of this chapbook is yet another link in the chain of the Galerie de Difformité. To continue adding to the chain, print the Dictionary of Deformity and reassemble it—following the instructions if you so choose, or making it up as you go, further deforming the chapbook to create yet another layer of authorship.


Cut (in a rectangle) along the dotted lines.
Glue the first page to the second page and the third page to the fourth page.
Cut (in strips) along the dotted lines. Fold along the solid lines.
Stack and sew together with yellow thread.


For more of Libby’s work, see Exhibits G & M in the Galerie de Difformité. To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.

Do Not Eat This Book

by Erik Schurink

To download & assemble this chapbook, click here.

Aesthetic Deformation Statement:

The found, the discarded, the rejected, the deformed. Often it is the mark of age, at times the variety in uselessness, even the constraints of a definition, which lure me to negotiate these bounds and create something new. While my sculptures are assemblages marked by age, my 2D creations often are sparked by uselessnessas is the case with “Do Not Eat This Book.”

We give little mind to this pouch of Silica gel found packaged with some of our dry food products, electronics, and vitamins. We know it when we see it. It is trash. It has done its job. Discard!

The pouch is not to be opened. It has text printed on it, sometimes pictograms. Text and pictograms communicate the supplier’s cover your ass anxiety—a silent siren. A cacophonous silence, while you lean back snacking on a crispy sheet of sesame seaweed or such delicacy imported across the seas.

“Do Not Eat This Book” intends to embrace the size of this pouch, the scale of which gets thrown outmindlesslyby the millions.

Do you print out this pdf, and fold it into an instant book? Will you read it directionally, read it to others, bind it, put it on your shelf, alphabetized between Discourse on the Method and Don Quixote? Will you tuck it into its designated page in the Galerie de Difformité, as if that mass of matter needs a desiccant to stay fresh, lest moisture mold it or spoil its chemical or electronic logic? Will you toss it out as useless?

Whatever you do… enjoy and share! Perhaps while listening to John Cage’s 4’33”.  Or discardmindfully.


For more of Erik’s work, see Exhibits T, O, M, B in the Galerie de Difformité. To view other chapbooks that are growing in & out of the Galerie de Difformité, please see the Directory.