Published May 16, 2019

We are constantly amazed by the work and other creative endeavors accomplished by our Book Arts members. To better share that work with a broader audience, we will profile members here on the Virginia Center for the Book blog from time to time. This month, we exchanged emails with Book Arts member artist Amy Ransom Arnold—whose work will be on display at the Staunton Augusta Arts Center between May 17-June 29, 2019—to get to know more about her life and her art:

Center: How did you first get involved with book arts as a component of your other creative work?

Amy Arnold: While studying metalsmithing and woodworking at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts in Philadelphia) and Virginia Commonwealth University, I encountered my first artists working in books “Davi Det Hompson” (David E. Thompson). At the time, David was making small, black and white, photocopied and stapled books. His books focused simply on collections of single words or short phrases, emphasizing the form of the words and intensifying their meaning and patterning. I was taken by how books compress ideas into an intimate, reproducible format with inherent temporal and spatial components.

Describe what your work with the Virginia Center for the Book (and formerly, the VABC) has included.

AA: Since joining, my work with the Virginia Center for the Book includes “The Bad Quarto” Members Project in 2015, the “Handmade Harvest” Members Project with “and capture the moon,” and the “Speaking in Faces” lead type inventory project. In addition, I have contributed copies of two books for the Raucous Auction: “Kalendarium Hortense,” which is in the University of Washington, Seattle’s Book Arts Collection and the book arts collection at James Madison University, as well as “shroud” which was purchased at the auction by the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School.

What is the most important aspect of being a Book Arts member?

AA: Being a Book Arts member allows me unique access and connections to a rich and diverse community and knowledge resource about books and book arts. The Virginia Center for the Book has served as an important catalyst, providing the inspiration to continue to question and move my work forward.

In addition to your upcoming exhibit at the Staunton Augusta Art Center, what are you working on currently and/or what else would you like people to know about your work?

AA: Practicing simultaneously as an artist and landscape architect, the exploration of ideas about what comprises eden, through multiple approaches to building, drawing and assembling are threads throughout my work. The process of exploring eden and its qualities (edge, passage, growth, decay, disruption and renewal) takes place in the three dimensional space above and beneath the soil, in the two dimensional space of drawings, and in the sequenced, abstracted patterning of an artist book. The implications for scale, opportunities for physical engagement and the resulting stories lead the work intuitively, determining both material and content.

In my current work, “approximate Eden” is an exploration and expression of the intrinsic nature of ordinary, domestic gardens. Vernacular gardens gather, condense and express broad ranging cultural and horticultural influences. Introduced plants, garden management strategies, formal patterning, approaches to work, cultivar development and manifestations of personal identity are some of the integral elements collected and merged in domestic gardens. The resulting language of the ordinary garden describes the identity of each gardener, how they imagine, utilize and relate to the natural world and their placement within their community and the inherent cultural diversity expressed in every garden.

eden = fruitful, well watered
garden = gher (enclosed) + eden
paradise = paradeisos (enclosed park)

To learn more about Amy’s exhibit at the Staunton Augusta Art Center (May 17-June 29, 2019), click here

Amy Ransom Arnold holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia, a Master of Fine Arts in studio sculpture from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University, transferring from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Gardening is among her related interests, including the cultivation of eight types of southern and northeastern heirloom apples at her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She describes her books by saying that they, “explore the relationship between words, imagery, and expressions of time and movement.”  Learn more about Amy and her work at

Image credits: All images provided by the artist, (from top to bottom) Detail, “sustenance, water and food,” graphite on gesso panel; Detail, “work, swept earth,” graphite on gesso panel; Detail, “identity, midnight zinnia,” graphite on gesso panel.

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