Shireen Holman, “Time”

Partially opened

A page that uses text and imagery to show ways in which people create works that defy time and mortality.

A page with imagery and Hindu texts showing the cyclical nature of time, and describing time as a manifestation of God.

A page exploring the idea that time itself may have an end.

A page exploring the elastic nature of time.


Shireen Holman (Montgomery Village, MD)

woodcut prints on artist-made paper with pulp paintings; letterpress text
Edition of 20
16 pages
Dimensions, open: 19.25 x 23.75 x .75
Dimensions, closed: 19.25 x 13.75 x .75

My artist book, Time, explores how we think about time, from the perspectives of art, religion, literature, and science. Time can be fleeting or eternal or elastic. It is unstable. When you try to pinpoint a moment of time, it has already gone. A similar thing happens when you try to pinpoint the meaning of time. You think you know what it is – then, like time itself, your idea of it escapes your grasp. Because it is difficult to conceptualize time as separate from life, we ordinarily think of time in terms of ourselves, our own lifetime, with a beginning and an end. While we are all subject to the inevitability of time’s ravages, some people have tried to control time by creating great works that are to last long after their lifetimes. Time appears to be constantly moving in one direction, from past to present to future, so we try to make it concrete by creating ways of measuring it – with the sun and moon, with clocks and calendars. We read sundials by the shadows they create, and we speak of the longer shadows of time. In Hinduism time is not linear, but is cyclical and considered to be a necessary condition of all growth and decay. The blossoms of spring become the barren trees of winter; spring returns. Time is also seen as a manifestation of God. In order to illustrate the different perspectives of time, I have chosen texts from the writings of Shakespeare, Tagore, Einstein, Thoreau, Hawking, and others.

The book consists of woodcuts printed onto pulp-painted handmade paper. The text was printed letterpress on gampi, which I then pasted onto the handmade sheets. I created part of the imagery within the paper (the pulp painting), and printed part of the imagery on the surface of the paper with oil-based inks (the woodcuts). This gives the images more of a sense of depth than just printing on plain paper would. It also makes it possible to create areas that look translucent and other areas that fade in and out of focus (as does our grasp of the meaning of time). The pages of the book are folded in such a way that one can see a little of each of the subsequent pages from the current page. Thus from the beginning to the end of the book one can see a little of the future from the present.

I was born in Mumbai, India. Because I am half Indian and half American, much of my work involves the interaction of both cultures. I have been a printmaker for more than 35 years, and a book artist for more than 20. Collectors of my work include the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and many university special collections and libraries. My work has been shown in three Book As Art exhibits at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and I have won several awards and grants for my artist books.