Cianne Fragione, “A Little Book of Nature Thoughts”
Artist: Cianne Fragione (Alexandria, VA)
Title: A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (2011)
Medium/technique(s): book objects, altered book and purse, oil paint, fiber and drawings by artist
Dimensions: 8 x 9 x 12 in.
The world around me is filled with spaces and objects, and the canvas, with its unique spatial qualities, has been the primary medium to which I have turned in order to investigate elements of the world that interest me. Still, the circumstances entailed in making a painting often seem endless, and for me, this situation created a need to build in different ways — to extend my study into alternative ways of making art — which led me to the artist’s book and assemblage. As a dimensional format available to a unusual variety of forms and materials, including language, the book form has subequentyly become a significant vehicle for exploring literal objects and materials, forms, spatial qualities, textures, and narratives as both components and content. Further, it has enabled me — and indeed many artists — to combine the building or craft sensibility of fine art with a strong literary instinct.
As an artist, I am especially committed to materials and process, and my sense of each has always been expansive and incorporative. In assemblage as well as book work, I may draw a wide range of objects into a piece, but rarely do I use the term “found object” as a descriptive technique. Some objects are indeed “found,” including on occasion the physical platform for a book work. Other objects might come from antique stores, as gifts from friends aware of my interests, from the roadside, or elsewhere — but I make many of the objects, too, including the bundled letters, journals, and drawings that appear as motifs in many of my books, or scraps of old paintings. Whatever their origins, I am drawn to them primarily for their color, surface, and form, and for the poetic associations inscribed in their histories of use, and how they fit into a particular work Objects do have past lives, their own narratives and references. This, for me, initiates the poetry of the artist’s book, giving it energy and life. No matter that a viewer may bring their own associations to an object — this is how poetry operates in the world.
Yet some objects can be very secretive. This characterizes my interest in the purse or pocketbook, with its unmistakably recollection of the book form, first as an object that opens, and, second, as a container of potentially personal, perhaps intimate content. Often there are letters inside my purse-books, or journal pages, which have been are tied and sealed. Some of the little bundles contain hundreds of my drawings of gloves. More drawings might be inserted into a cosmetic compact. Sheets or scraps of paper are partially, and sometimes entirely, covered by other materials, disclosing only fragments of their contents. Each hidden element is itself a story, a personal matter, to be shared selectively, if at all.
With Little Thoughts on Nature, as one example, the scale of the small book, printed in the early twentieth century and discovered in an antiquarian bookseller’s stall, allowed me to alter the book without distrupted its fundamental identity. It seemed to have been designed to be carried in a purse, and that is how I used it. Little Thoughts became, then, a book within a book, an intimate object and, at the same time, an artwork rich in associations and references. This is exactly the kind of development that I welcome during the process of making an artist’s book, and it points to the richness of the medium itself, its ability to generate woven layers of mood and meaning, to speak of the complexity of life as it is truly lived.