Maro Vandorou, “Persephone’s Chamber”

The book on its “sarcophagus” book enclosure of sandblasted Plexiglas. The binding is a limp vellum structure. The covers are of manuscript-quality calf vellum 1/10th of an mm thin, soft and pliable. Even though it is 17” x 10.75” the book weighs only  180 grams (6.35 ounces)

Palladium pigment calligraphy on graphite Greek lettering; the paper is tissue – thin abaca

Open folio with one of the 9 palladium prints; photo taken with a medium format film camera, negative scanned and digital negative made to the size of final print. Shikibu Gampi paper hand coated with palladium metals to render it photosensitive; contact printed and exposed to an ultraviolet source of light. Palladium printing is a historic 19th century photographic process with a long tonal scale and archival value.

Another palladium print nestled within an abaca folio. It is attached with silk threads to the abaca. The translucent quality of the handmade abaca, allows for a “second reading” of the print within the preceding folio, as we turn the pages.

Persephone's Chamber : Maro Vandorou from Maro Vandorou on Vimeo.

“Persephone’s Chamber” presented at Codex 2017


Maro Vandorou
Dublin, California

Persephone’s Chamber
Palladium printing  on Shikibu Gampi paper, palladium pigment calligraphy, letterpress printing from polymer plates, handmade papers , limp vellum binding
9 + 2 artists’ proofs
28– 13 foios, 9 of which contain palladium prints
17″ x 21.5″
17″ x 10.75″ x .75″

Artist Statement

liminal is the space  .  whispers .  fleeting movement  .  in the shadows  .  a cup of light .  to her lips

Persephone’s Chamber explores the aftermath of a process of transformation. Persephone comes to consciousness, exhausted and disoriented in an unfamiliar environment. During the long, poisonous sleep, visions of her ancestors appear; they hold offerings the meaning of which she cannot -as yet- decipher. The echo of three words    εξιλέωσις . εξαγνισμός . εξαΰλωσις (atonement, purification, dematerialization) is haunting.  Persephone intuits that the focus is on maintaining purity of intent. “Persephone’s Chamber” explores transition, an in-between-space and state.  From the underground chambers of Hades, she is now in a space closed and contained where the light is diffuse with gradual transition between shadows and illumination, between external and internal spaces. This place of white marble, devoid of human presence, is a place full of fleeting movements in the shadows and whispers.

The design of the book

In this book, more than in any other previous work, I felt the need for a very close congruence among abstract concepts, content (images and writings) and materials. Atonement, purification, dematerialization are underlying threads in Persephone’s journey, as well as fragility, vulnerability, and a gradual unveiling of the story. Minimalism, white space, and translucency of materials were key design principles that guided the selection of all the materials. Most were custom made for the edition.

The covers of the book are white, manuscript-quality calf vellum, thinned at my request to 1/10th of mm. by Cowley’s in the United Kingdom.  The title is rendered in Greek with ground palladium pigment, mixed with a small quantity of gum Arabic on graphite lettering. The folio of the title, like the end sheets and other intentionally inserted empty folios are of the thinnest abaca.

The palladium prints are on handmade Japanese Shikibu Gampi, 18 gm/m2. Each print is nestled within a folio made of two kinds of abaca.  The front of the folio is “wild” abaca, heavily textured, with irregular deckles that conceals the images, and once lifted, reveals a print attached with silk threads on abaca that is semi-translucent and smooth. Once we turn the folio, there is a “second reading” a ghost image of the back of the print, alongside the next image, partially concealed.  In between sections of images, extremely thin abaca folios slow the viewing. The text, letterpress printed, is minimal, sequentially laid over two folios.

Persephone’s Chamber is housed in a custom enclosure made of 3/8th thick Plexiglas sandblasted on the outside. In contrast to the fragile book, the enclosure is rigid and solid, linked to a sarcophagus of frosted glass that once closed hints to the content it protects.