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Vermont and California

Michele Burgess

Altered Book:

“If Only” / Côte Blanche, Martha Serpas (2002)

Painted with rust, watercolor, and India ink. Mended and rebound in Cave paper.

Artist Statement

This book is part of a collaboration with poet Martha Serpas, whose hometown of Galliano, Louisiana, is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico because of coastal erosion and rising seawaters. We are both concerned with the disappearance of the languages and natural patterns of nature because of climate change and its many consequences. We are currently working on an artists’ book that will be called “If Only,” related to Aquinas’s theory of the “Double Effect,” where something (like a hurricane) is both bad and good. The winds and rains before human encroachment were useful for combing and cleaning out the marsh grasses and maintaining the ecosystem of the Gulf Coast. They are now much more destructive and damaging.

Serpas’s book Côte Blanche, was soaked in rust, water, and blue pigments and, thus, fell apart. I restored it, rebound it, added drawings, and traced her handwritten, new poem “If Only” into it.

Short Bio

Michele Burgess works in book arts, printmaking, painting, and sculpture. She is the director of Brighton Press and collaborates with other artists and poets on projects that involve the book as an art medium. Her ongoing series, “The Stratigraphic Archives” is an exploration of the processes, forms, and markings that reflect the patterns, gestures, and atmospheres of both quiet and cataclysmic events—natural and human made. She is interested in the relationship of these events to the human condition and the conditions of nature at its most fragile. Burgess’s artist’s books are housed in over eighty libraries and museums in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

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