Artist and writer Robert Seydel often used various personas and fictional constructs in a vast and multi-layered body of work that incorporated collage, drawing, photography, narrative and lyric writing. His primary alter ego Ruth Greisman made hundreds of exquisite collages, a selection of which Seydel collected in the artist’s book Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011). As Ruth, Seydel explores the boundaries between the salvaged and the lost, the unknown and the unknowable, art that is made and art that is found. A Picture Is Always a Book is a first-person, fictional archive, collecting over seventy of Ruth’s “journal pages,” luminescent and startlingly original writings—typed up on paper purloined from old photo albums, adorned with drawings in colored pencils, oil pens, white-out and ink stamps—that penetrate Ruth’s consciousness with visceral honesty and poetic precision.
With the acrobatics of her emblem the hare, Seydel’s Ruth makes leaps from the banalities of her daily life into an expansive, alchemical imagination that embraces the shape-shifting of meaning, the occult in letters, and the magical invocations of animals—domestic and hallucinatory. For Ruth, the creation of self is tenuous, the artistic impulse implacable, and the distance between the ecstatic and melancholic “infra-thin.” She writes, “I’ll invent who I am, against what is. My time and name: a Queens of the mind.”
A Picture Is Always a Book accompanies the exhibition “Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter,” opening September 2 at the Neilson Library, Smith College and traveling to the Queens Museum of Art in 2015 and the Center for Paper and Book Arts at Columbia College Chicago in 2016.
Illustrated in color throughout.
6 × 8.5”