Michelle Moode, “A Winter Garden”


Michelle Moode
Murray, Kentucky

A Winter Garden
letterpress printing from metal type and photopolymer on handmade paper, natural dyes, graphite marginalia, linen thread.
6″ x 4 1/4″ x 1/2″ closed

Artist Statement

A book in a pocket, or on a shelf, or in a box. A leaf, a flower, a thought: safely, yet unceremoniously preserved between its leaves.

A collection; moments on hold.

This artist’s book takes the form of a herbarium and a ghost story.

Images derived from line drawings were printed from repurposed photopolymer plates. Printed inclusions are remainders from previous installation work, acting as a souvenir and stepping stones from one project to the next. Text accompanies the images in the form of short poetic captions, printed from tiny metal type. Additional text is manuscript marginalia. The paper was made of carefully collected and curated scraps of offcuts, old work, and ephemera.

A Winter Garden grew out of research into the predecessors of contemporary Field Guides, particularly medieval herbals and herbaria. An herbal is an encyclopedic resource of prose describing the appearance, habitat, common and scientific names, and medicinal virtues of plants. Exploring such a massive resource prompts an engaging unease of simultaneously understanding and not understanding all the information: an alphabetical glossary, and indices in three languages, each printed in a different typeface. At the same time, a reader may easily recognize some of the illustrated plant specimens.

A Winter Garden’s scale, minimal text and abstract imagery may not prompt an immediate comparison to such a grand tome, but the intention is that readers may have a comparable experience of recognition and wondering. An herbarium is a collection of actual plant specimens, pressed and dried, and collected into a book. These bookish counterparts to botanical gardens were also known as “winter gardens.” They could more easily be taken into the field to compare with living specimens, and they provided identifiable specimens out of season. Likewise, A Winter Garden is a book about being between places, garden-less, looking for home. This project was informed by long winters, (actual and metaphorical) and questions like “Are flowers celebratory or memorial?” and “Where will we store our empty baskets?”

Hidden within the book is a small pamphlet made of translucent abaca paper, containing loose cutouts, tiny prints, and a snippet of thread. Maybe a mysterious secret, maybe a packet of seeds, maybe a map out of the dark woods.

6″ x 4 1/4“ x 1/2”, Edition of 17