Across Time & Space: Sarah Peters in the StudioOctober 23, 2013
“Sometimes I think this is really doable and sometimes I think this book is never going to get done,” Artist’s Book resident Sarah Peters said on October 3 amidst her final run on the Vandercook. She pulled a small portrait of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin inked subtly on Thai mulberry paper from the press and added it to the stacks of finished pages.
Ten short days later all the components of Sarah’s artist’s book, The Moon Has No Weather, are sprawled out on a long table ready for the final push. But when a test book is constructed, it isn’t closing completely; the spine is slightly too tight. The structure for the book has changed dramatically since she arrived at WSW in mid-September, and getting the construction to perfection has been long, hard work.
“What’s great about being here is doing something that’s bigger than what you’re able to do on your own,” Sarah says as she glues a text block into a spine, closes the book, and frowns as the corners don’t come together squarely, off by a 16th of an inch. “Obviously I would never be able to do this without help.”
The Moon Has No Weather is Sarah’s third book. As a fairly traditional flat book codex that needs to be technically precise, it’s different from her previous projects, which she calls “sculptural works that include text.” In 2003, Sarah came to WSW to create Necessary Disclosures, an “editioned object” that doesn’t rely on any traditional standards of structural integrity. There was no paradigm for how to create a spherical, hinged book made of cast cloth that would open to reveal six nested pages of text. And no one knew how they were going to make 40 of them.
“I don’t even know how we did that book in eight weeks. It’s only because of the support staff here,” she says, noting how unprepared she was for the experience. When she arrived she hadn’t even fleshed out the book’s content, which explores parallels between interpersonal and global, political interactions. “But that was ten years ago, and it was my first professional project. I was young – after a while you can blame anything on youth. But I can’t do that with this one!”
She’s much better prepared this time. This residency is Sarah’s “first real art moment” since she left her museum education job at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and began a more flexible project-based career three years ago. In the ten years since Necessary Disclosures, Sarah’s seemingly disparate interests have converged in a creative practice that includes staging unexpected art experiences in public spaces – like a floating library of artists’ books on a raft on a Minnesota lake, to which people could row up and “check out” artists’ books for the duration of their boating experience.
With her breadth of interests – history, boats, books, public space, civic engagement, nationalism, exploration, and of course, the moon – Sarah has no shortage of ideas, but she is lacking in time.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve taken time to be an artist – you forget sometimes what this process is like,” says Sarah, who now devotes much of her time to the organizing and supporting of public art happenings around the Twin Cities. “Ten years ago I was much more immersed in a daily studio practice. It’s been such a luxury to be here at this point in my life and to be making something. That time is more precious because I have less of it now.”
Time is precious at the book assembly table, too. Interns Caroline Walp and Anna Thompson sit next to Sarah on opposite ends of the book assembly line, gluing, bone folding, and pressing each book to an arena rock soundtrack. (The final book is completed to the tune of “The Final Countdown”.) The next day, Sarah lays out each copy of The Moon Has No Weather for inspection, pops a deliciously tactile cast-paper “moon card” into the back of each book, and signs her edition.
“Being here reminded me that I love making things and I don’t want to stop and I have 100 more ideas,” Sarah says, physically tired but creatively energized. “My goal is to come back and do a residency at WSW every ten years. See you in 2023!”
Sarah Peters is a Minneapolis-based artist, writer, and arts programmer. She is the Associate Director of the Northern Spark dusk-to-dawn public arts festival, and sits on the board for the Art Shanty Projects, which supports artist-created ice-fishing huts on frozen Medicine Lake. As she packed up her car to leave the workshop, she said, “I don’t want to leave this wonderland!” See more images of Sarah’s Artist’s Book Residency here.