Barbara Tetenbaum, “Mining My Antonia”

Cover of portfolio box


Three views of the portfolio: cover view, open to show cloth-covered book nested in wood frame, wood frame open to show suite of 5 etchings (automatic drawings drawn directly on the copper plates while listening to the book on tape)


Cloth-covered book contains excerpts from the novel, My Ántonia, by Willa Cather. This image shows 4 views: Cover, first spread, third spread, fourth spread.


First spread of cloth-covered book containing a favorite quote from Cather’s novel My Ántonia


Detail of the large pull-out map, created using a variety of etching techniques and multiple color runs of letterpress on Sekishu Japanese paper.


Artist: Barbara Tetenbaum (Portland, OR)

Title: Mining My Antonia (2012)

Medium/technique(s): Letterpress, etching, hand binding

Edition size: 30

Number of pages: 28

Dimensions, open: 14” x 20” x .75” in

Dimensions, closed: 14” x 10” x .75” in


Artist Statement:

In the late summer of 2010 I created “A Close Read: My Ántonia”, an installation in the Feldenheimer Gallery at Reed College. I had wanted to put myself in the position of a first time reader and respond to a novel as it was read out loud (as an audiobook). I imagined I would make drawings in response to what I heard and these would fill the walls of the gallery. I chose Cather’s classic novel of life on the prairie in the late 1880s fairly randomly, and had no idea I would become so obsessed with the actual language of the book. Instead of drawing, I sat 
every day in the gallery with my antique typewriter and pecked out excerpts onto small scraps of paper. I tacked them to the gallery walls and suspended them from fishing line for visitors to bump into. I mapped out my personal understanding of the novel on the floor of the gallery, assigning each character a different color of electrical tape. The end result looked like a colorful map of the London Underground.

The book Mining My Antonia, is a fulfillment of the desire to put this experience back into book form. It contains the tape-drawn floor recreated as a more freely drawn etching/letterpress map, printed on Japanese paper. It contains excerpts from the novel hand set in a variety of typefaces and printed on various pieces of paper, sewn together in a book with a cloth cover. This book is housed in a portfolio with five etchings, created as automatic drawings directly on the copper, in order to do what I had originally intended: show my understanding of the novel through the process of automatic drawing.