by J. Drucker
What an exuberant, mad thing this is! Here is a passage from The Century of Artists' Books: "Joni Mabe's Museum Book (Nexus Press, 1988)...is a completely manic book about museum production. The work is offset printed (on one side only) on heavy coated stock in a riot of colors and images. The tone of the book is part outsider artwork and part scrapbook. Composed from Mabe's vast collection of stickers (animals, birds, flags, stars, praying hands, automobiles, leaping trout, crosses, children in Swiss mountain outfits, Santa Claus, flowers, Easter seals, angels and saints, hearts, kittens, ducks, Holy Bibles) and her clipping files, the book is a museum of southern United States popular culture. Elvis is the major heroic figure here, right along with Jesus, and a few lesser luminaries: Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, and John F. Kennedy. The texts in this book are found on documents which form part of the collage: 'Healing through prayer cloth' a spread from a tabloid journal on the 'Jim Baker Sex Shame' or testimonials from believers who have been healed through a miracle of faith. The 'museum' is, on the one hand, wildly heterogeneous and, on the other, quite deliberately focused on 'country' culture. The characters are primarily from the country and western music scene, and their legendary status is on display. Mabe is not uncritical and though her editorial point of view is eclectic she includes quotes like: 'After his third divorce Jerry Lee Lewis was asked if he knew any more about women now than he had known two decades earlier, he said 'Yeah. Pussy is pussy.'' This sits in the midst of a page bordered by an old (cantankerous looking) tortoise sitting next to a man who has pulled his pants down, the hair on his thin chest tangling in a medallion while his limp genitals echo the shapes of the tortoises' head and arms. There are dozens of other images on this page (and on all the others) so that any simple reading is virtually impossible. This is a museum of graphic material, much of it kitsch, camp, contemporary, mainstream, and yet quintessentially from a popular culture in which five and dimes, church activities, and gift shops contribute the major aesthetic components. The book is literally the museum--no exhibition preexisted the book and these elaborate collages have no other existence. The sense that this is the space of display and collections which are permanent, ordered, and preserved gives the book its museum status" (323-324).
Joni Mabe's Museum Book
title note: A pseudo-advertisement is continuous with the title on the cover: "The first museum in book form. Collector's item, Limited edition. Featuring some of the greatest--Elvis, Jesus, Loretta Lynn, Etc. And 3 of the Worst--Hitler, the Klan, and Satan. So get yours today while supply [sic] last. 1988" [E. Rettberg]
publisher: Nexus Press
outsider art (AAT)
themes: camp, nostalgia, pop cultural absurdity [E. Rettberg]
artists' book (local)