Scott McCarney, “Coming to Terms: An Abecedarium”

View of front and back covers showing cloth spine.


Title page mimicking the typographic style of 1940s original text.


“Polymorphus-perverse,” sample page spread.


“Irrumation” sample page spread.


Index spread. This identifies the word on the page spread being referenced by the portrait along with the time, place, and photographer (if known).


Artist: Scott McCarney (Rochester, NY)

Title: Coming to Terms: An Abecedarium (2012)

Medium/technique(s): Ultachrome archival ink prints on Moab Lasal paper, bound with a modified Japanese album/butterfly binding technique with cloth spine.

Edition size: 10

Number of pages: 58

Dimensions, open: 11.5 x 14.5 x 1″

Dimensions, closed: 11.5 x 7.25 x 1″


Artist Statement:

The relationship between collecting and discarding parallels that of remembering and forgetting.  As I get older, I remember less and accumulate more. An attempt at purging my stockpiles initiated an ongoing series of autobiographies that mine small collections of personal ephemera for their identity revealing properties.   I saw these collections of “to do” lists, rejection letters, hand drawn maps and photographs of me made by other people as a new approach to biography and defining the collector and the act of collecting as much as the objects collected.

Coming to Terms: An Abecedarium is part of this ongoing series of autobiographies and combines photographs of myself taken by other people with a small dictionary found in the lobby of a New York apartment building.The appropriated text is a compendium of psychological terms entitled Psychiatric Word Book: A lexicon of terms employed in psychiatry and psychoanalysis designed for students of medicine and nursing and psychiatric social workers by Richard H. Hutchings M.D., D.Sc. published by The State Hospitals Press, Utica NY, in 1943. Its lengthy title belies its unassuming size (9 x 13.5 cm) but clearly describes the dictionary within. The vocabulary reflects the influence of Freudian theory on the field at that time, especially in the understanding of human sexuality.

Coming to Terms is a book within a book of images fused with this alphabetically ordered vocabulary.  The portraits of me imbedded in the page spreads are matched to terms that appear imposed over my eyes. The terms have resonance to the time, place, posture or surface of the photographic portrait. I may seem to be looking through the terms, or the terms may seem to blacken my eyes. This melding of language and image reflects the shifting views that culture and science have on the construction of personhood.