Vol. 5 (2022)
Studio Praxis and Pedagogy

Reading Roots

Published 2022-12-22


  • African American women artists,
  • Artists' books,
  • artist books,
  • Women artists


A culture is preserved by marking paper. Those images and words represent beliefs, triumphs, sorrows, and rules of governance. This is how a people sees itself and how it wants others to see it. Paper, heavy with the marks of history, is assembled and sewn into books. The earliest books contain words originally spoken and speak of actions previously performed. The physical book is a vessel of information—a place to preserve a story, an idea, a belief. However, printed words are not the only forms of presevation or the only things to be read.
I recognize other actions as “reading.” One can read the stars, such as in astronomy and astrology—skills developed by peoples on every continent and relied upon for navigation, weather prediction, crop planting, and spiritual observances. Faces and body postures can be read, skills that aid in diplomacy and help maintain safety and assess well-being. There are written, visual, spoken, and performed signs. Modes of dress can be coded. Numbers may be signifiers. A hairstyle can denote social or political affiliation. This paper seeks to present and address some of these other locations of reading.