I had just published a memoir of our seventeen years in France, restoring a watermill, and also hosting artists, when I was asked to do an installation at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Since it’s a place that teaches all aspects of artists’ book-arts, I decided to make a giant walk-through book. I invited seventeen artists, one for each year we were in France, half American, half French, to contribute a page. I gave them no other instructions except the pages must hang, and they must fit into a something I could check on a plane.
I made the covers, my husband, Mike O’Shea, a print maker, painter, and photographer, created the spine and together we mounted the largest book ever displayed at the Center for the Book. The covers were fifteen feet tall, the spine eighteen feet. The pages were to all hang from the ceiling allowing the viewer to meander through the spaces between. But artists, being artists, didn’t all follow directions, so I put those in the middle, like a full-color centerfold. I hung the pages close together so walking through them felt surreal, strangely illicit, having encouraged the viewer to touch the pages.
Using a technique I learned from one of the visiting artists, I built twenty-five two-foot stones out of packing tape and hand-cast, cyanotype-dyed paper. I published the words of the last paragraph of the book, Water Paper Stone, that I had written about our experience in France. Those translucent rocks formed the last page of the book.
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