Jody Arthur ~ Hawaii

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Artist Statement: " It often starts with something dry and didactic: a reference book, a map, a dictionary, or a safety manual. These everyday tools offer a chance to create something unusual out of something mundane, to use visual and verbal storytelling to take the source in an unexpected direction. With the inspiration in hand, I then concern myself with the concept, which always informs the structure or technique. The structure may or may not take the form of a traditional book. Although I have a particular passion for letterpress, sometimes the best way to realize a piece is with screen printing, collage, or even laser printers. I prefer to produce multiples, rather than one of kinds. The text is often my own writing, although I enjoy collaborating with other voices. I strive to create work that's clear and polished as well as thoughtful and whimsical. My reinterpretations can take the form of maps made of crumpled paper, birding guides depicting fantastical creatures, or even etiquette manuals that dole out dating advice to astronauts."
By Jody Arthur
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jody Arthur, 2011. Edition of 20.

8.25 x 9"; 22 pages. Letterpress printed using polymer plates on Somerset Book. Typeface Bell MT. Bound with a Japanese linen paper cover. Written, designed, and printed by Jody Arthur.

Jody Arthur: "In the early 80s, my parents moved to American Samoa, a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific. My sisters and I were born and raised there. Though we often traveled to the US to visit our family, we grew up on a tropical island with a thriving Polynesian culture. Each of us left for college and now lives stateside.

“This book is about coming to terms with how my identity was shaped by growing up in American Samoa. My changing relationship to the island on which I was born and raised is a theme that I find myself constantly exploring and redefining. How was my identity formed by living on a place isolated in the middle of an ocean? How was my perspective shaped by living alongside (but excluded from) a different ocean?"

Colophon: “The images were inspired by stick charts from the South Pacific. Pacific Islanders made stick charts to map the locations of islands, ocean swell patterns, and currents. These navigational tools were personal. The meaning of each map was a secret known only to the navigator who made the chart.

“Palagi, haole, and pakeha are Samoan, Hawaiian, and Maori terms for Caucasians.”


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Out of print titles by Jody Arthur:  

A Field Guide to Irregular Birds
By Jody Arthur and Katy Dwyer
Oakland, California: Eucalyptus Press, 2009. Second edition of 20.

6.25 x 8.75; 28 unnumbered pages. Type handset in Bembo and letterpress printed on Rives heavyweight cream paper. Illustrations are collages using clip art of old etchings of birds, hand-colored by pochoir. Case binding with marble paper cover.

A collection of absurd imaginary birds in the style of a Victorian field guide.

Jody Arthur: "This book grew out of a fascination with the way that European explorers and naturalists described and catalogued the natural world. When I started working on this book, I was reading the journals of ornithologist John James Audubon and studying nineteenth century bird and animal prints. I began making collages using clip art of old etchings of birds. I felt like a mad scientist, creating bizarre creatures by pasting ears or fins on illustration so sparrows and sandpipers.

"I decided to collect these birds in a faux Victorian field guide. I contacted a friend of mine, Katy Dwyer, who is a vet tech and can tell great stories about animals. Together we made up English and Latin names for the birds, as well as a brief description to go in the guidebook. We strove to mimic the formal yet catty tone that tone might find in an old informational book. The introduction, with its delusions of grandeur, set the scene for the absurd birds to follow. We imagined a pair of disgruntled naturalists, whose discoveries were never celebrated in the manner of Audubon. Were these naturalists (and their unusual discoveries) forgotten because of the politics of the bird watching world, or because they were women in a male profession? Or are they simply liars who created these animals without ever leaving their sitting rooms?

"The structure of the book is meant to emulate the style of a book made in a Victorian job shop, with the type and ornaments available at the time. It took me a while to find the printing process that best evoked Nineteenth century illustrations. I finally ended up using polymer plates and pochoir to capture the look. The finishing touches on the illusion were a simple, formal binding, a marble paper cover, and a gold-stamped title on the spine."

The Pardiso Whisperer (Ocreatus
bracypes) lues its mate near with flashy
tail displays, stimulated by juicy gossip it
senses with its superior hearing.


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Page last update: 01.22.18


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