On January 5th, 2014, seven book artists were in Salt Lake City to attend the national conference of the College Book Art Association at the University of Utah. A Nissan Armada SUV was rented and the group traveled to Robert Smithson's canonic land-art piece The Spiral Jetty, about an hour or two out of town in the nearby great Salt Lake. To commemorate the visit, we decided that each of us who were there that day would create a book with the Spiral Jetty as theme, and complete it within one year –or earlier if possible. The only restriction would be that all books in the series would conform to a common dimension, 8 inches by 8 inches. Incident at Deseret is my contribution. The other participants are Clifton Meador, Karen Zimmermann, Robbin Ami Silverberg, April Sheridan, Daniel Mellis and Elisabeth Long.
I am fascinated by faith, and how so many religious people throughout the world are able to ignore what many would think of as logical thinking in order to make the leap to belief. In some ways, I admire that ability as it suggests a certain innocence and magical thinking that I am not able to summon up. The danger is when those folks start to think that they are the only people in the world able to communicate with god and that their faith is the only way to travel the true path to heaven. I think of the location of the Spiral Jetty and Salt Lake itself as ground-zero for the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Mormon faith. Although my book uses terminology that comes from the LDS belief (picked due to the location of the Spiral Jetty) I could have just as easily have used nomenclature from any number of other world religions. Stylistically, I think of this book as the meeting of Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville with The Book of Mormon. Deseret is the original Mormon name for Utah and was originally comprised of a large section of the American West that included not only Utah (and the Great Salt Lake where the Spiral Jetty is) but also large portions of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Brigham Young's petitions to the US Congress to recognize this huge new state were turned down numerous times and eventually became what is now the current, much smaller, state of Utah. Deseret was also a language and an alphabet system that was developed but never widely used during the 19th century by the Mormons. The title also gives a little nod to a classic western book that I was impressed with when I read it in high school, The Ox-bow Incident and another book (and famous short film) called An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge.
If you would like to see a video of the book or see all of the two-page spreads, please go here.
We are hoping that almost all of the seven books in the series will be ready for the New York Art Book Fair at MoMA-PS1 on September 25-28 in Long Island City, NYC.