Karen Hanmer

Artists' Books & Installation

Gallery: Archive

New Work History & Culture Sculptural & Movable Book Structure Modelse Toys & Games Science & Technology Place/Time Altered Bindings Civics Lessons Photo-Based Work Archive Thrifty Picks

Title: Bluestem


Bluestem | 2006 | out of print

Pigment inkjet prints on polyester film, double sided variation on flag book. Illustration in collaboration with Henry Maron.

8x10x.5" closed, 8x9x18" open

Edition of 25
Inspired by Willa Cather's My Antonia, and quote from the text printed on one end panel: “Everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, there was nothing but rough, shaggy, red grass… And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.”


There was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running.
So writes Willa Cather in My Antonia about the ‘rough, shaggy, red grass’ in which Karen Hanmer’s Bluestem finds its subject. Exquisite words chosen by the author, and the artist gracefully moves us through the metaphor through pure visual construction. The illustration is printed on acetate and on the two paper accordions that form the structure of the book, which is based on the Flag Binding created by Hedi Kyle. Hanmer uses the structure to its best advantage: It is the printed acetate panels that complete the gesture of the book and deliver the feeling of ‘so much motion’.

Karen Hanmer is that rare artist who thoroughly understands the vast potential of the book as an art form. Her books consistently unify structure and content in a way that makes her work unforgettable. At the same time, you can tell that she's having a heck of a lot of fun, too.

— John Cutrone, Book Arts Coordinator, The Arthur & Mata Jaffe Center for Book Arts, Florida Atlantic University