Beej Nierengarten-Smith, “Narcissus”


Cover is Oriental silk screened paper of a narcissus pattern. Binding is book cover gray-mustard silk. Book cover image is a hand-colored image of a print of Narcissus with a silver heart milagra. Fly and colophon pages are dark gray. The first three pages of the portfolio are a montage of classical images with the text included on each page.


“Transformed” is the story of Narcissus as he is transformed into death. Text on page:

Narcissus, unable to tear himself away could only watch himself and die the slave and victim of his own seductive beauty.

Narcissus was transformed into the flower that bears his name. The flower has come to be viewed as a symbol of spring, but also of sleep, death and resurrection. (Anonymous source)


“Narcissus, Seductive Beauty.” A singular multicolored image of Narcissus as death and Narcissus and a youth.


Artist: Beej Nierengarten-Smith (Santa Fe, NM)

Title: Narcissus (2011)

Medium/technique(s): Photolithography

Edition size: 6

Number of pages: 6

Dimensions, open: 23 x 36 x 1

Dimensions, closed: 23 x 18 x 1


Artist statement:

When I returned to making artist books, the driving force seemed to be that “The limit of Art Cannot be Attained”. Using this philosophy I started my book arts career and printmaking career with the closest and most intimate object there is – the human body.

All my books started with paper models – examining size, color expression and statements to be included. “Narcissus” has been through various revisions and parallel to it are numerous books on MY anatomy as it moved through the inevitable changes of physical life. My book, “White Shoulders”, examines my rotator cuff surgery, “Golden Smile”, is a nod to the embarrassment of having to wear braces at 49 years old, and “Sclera therapy” documents my treatment for hereditary veins. In fact, “Sclera therapy” contains surgical sponges of my blood purloined from the surgical tray while I was recovering. In prints, I created an image entitled “Spinal Tap” which predicted seven spinal surgeries and parallel to that in books I recognized another artist’s back pain with the book “Broken Column” which embraces the pain encompassing Frida Kahlo. My own back surgery book (to come) will contain the Harrington rods that were part of an elevator system to hold my spine upright.

Interweaving these poetic and anatomical stories are other anatomical themes found in my work: sexuality, body tattoos and the exploration of the physical traits of women in other countries including India, China, Cambodia, Brazil, Vietnam. All these are countries, which have body characteristics found in their historical records of female nudes, continue to lead me back to an examination of the physical self and its journey created through book arts.