San Francisco Public Library
image by Merry-Beth Noble
RV-128 Merry-Beth Noble

Title: Artist Unknown
The tragic news of the violent destruction of books from the Hormel Center of the San Francisco Public Library was immediately shocking. The inventive idea to reverse this act by creating artworks from the damaged materials inspired me to participate in this project. I received the damaged “Tattoo” book (author and title are unknown, due to the damage the book received), and I allowed the book pages to direct my approach to the work I would make. Initially the photographs of tattooed skin and colored markings appealed to me as visually seductive, grotesque and erotic. Beyond these impressions, I noticed the majority of the photos credited the tattoos as drawn by “Artist Unknown” rendering the artwork authorless. By contrast, many of the tattoos include banners with specific names, homage to lovers, mothers, or the dead. This contradiction of specificity, and anonymity is the theme the work Artist Unknown addresses. The second element to this work manifest itself as a “cut-out” or cutting action I applied to the material to create this artwork. This was directly influenced by the vandal’s use of the same method to destroy the books. The violence of knife into surface, be it book or skin, property or person, continued to overtake my thoughts as I made this piece. Similar to a tattoo needle piercing the skin to mark it, I have cut into the paper’s surface to re-mark images and to alter the context of the text. This reorganization of body segments, cut-out space, and text on dimensional panels creates planes of inside and outside where the viewer can peer into this mystery of irreversible fetish and destructive beautification of the human skin.

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