Published by Siglio/Ugly Duckling Presse. Afterword by Peter Gizzi.
S., another persona invented by artist and writer Robert Seydel, was a recluse who kept a great library which he suddenly abandoned along with a manuscript of poems and a slim stack of drawings. These poems--hypnotic, distilled, obsessive and playful--are written by Seydel as S., whom he devises as a naïf, suffering bouts of madness and apophenia. Seydel described S. in his notebooks as "a small ghost who lived alone in an apartment in a house in Amherst, on a gray street and around the corner from Emily Dickinson's manse on Main Street. He wrote prolifically--these small songs & in a journal & drew as well, small strange drawings of heads like hillocks that stare out from the small valleys of the Holyoke." Siglio and Ugly Duckling Presse have collaborated to publish the complete cycle of poems along with a full-color 32-page booklet entitled "Maybe S." that reproduces the drawings made by S. as well as handwritten excerpts from Seydel's notebooks that reveal the creation and revisions of this persona and the mysterious, permeable universe to which he belongs.
Artist and writer Robert Seydel (1960–2011) often used personas and fictional constructs in a vast body of work that incorporated collage, drawing, photography and writing. His primary alter ego Ruth Greisman--banker by day, artist by night, friend of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell--lived in Queens, caring for her shell-shocked brother, a veteran of WWI. This book collects Ruth’s “journal pages,” typed on paper purloined from old photo albums and adorned with drawings, narrating Ruth’s inner life and the tenuous creation of self. She says, “I’ll invent who I am, against what is. My time and name: a Queens of the mind.” All of Ruth’s works--collages, journal pages and drawings--were purportedly discovered buried in boxes of miscellanea in the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and in the family garage. A definitive selection will be exhibited at the Neilson Library, Smith College.
Robert Seydel's Book of Ruth presents an assemblage of collages, letters, journal entries and other artifacts from the life of Seydel's fictional alter-ego, Ruth Greisman--spinster, Sunday painter and friend to Joseph Cornell. Drawing on the inherent seductiveness and intrigue of archives, the volume is conceived as a gathering of fragmented materials by Greisman unearthed from a storage space in the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage, which are presented as a mosaic portrait of a reclusive artist. The New Yorker described the project thus: "Burrowing into the pop-detritus archive somewhere between Ray Johnson's mail art and Tom Phillips' Humument project, Seydel's serial collage Book of Ruth describes an allusive fantasy about his aunt and alter ego Ruth Greisman, her brother Saul, and their escapades with Joseph Cornell... unfold[ing] in novelistic rhythms." Over the past decade or so, working almost exclusively in notebook form, Seydel has produced hundreds of works in multiple ongoing and interrelated series that move freely between lyric and narrative modes. (Poet Peter Gizzi notes that "so many of his tools are a writer's: whiteout, pencil and pen, erasers, tape, type and newsprint.") Book of Ruth constitutes his masterpiece to date. In Seydel's hands the detritus from which Ruth makes her art and narrates her inner life shines like pages from an illuminated manuscript.