Are Books Art

Merriam-Webster defines art as, “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects”. So, yes. Creating books is an art. School programs may qualify visual publication as a media art. While traditional artists create artist’s books, the qualifier may be that books or other publications are eliminated as an art form when they sell advertising space. Traditional artists do sell their paintings and sculpture, but they do not generally arrive with attached advertisements—unless the artist is Andy Warhol or you count the gallery promotional tag with logo, name and address on the back of the piece.

We have entered our publications, particularly those that do not have any advertising or sponsorship, which are strongly visual in their design, in local art contests. We were rejected from competition, though we were informed that we could enter individual photographs contained in our publications in the art contest. This started us thinking about the general lack of understanding of modern visual media by traditional artists. There is evidently a bias.

My first career was as an art director in a publishing company. I worked for highly visual publications. I considered my job, not just on a page-by-page basis, but as a designer of a sustained experience as the reader turned the pages, moving through the publication. How you design the beginning, the middle and the end in a visual publication draws the reader through the document, creates interest, suspense, delight. It is a matter of color, composition and story.

I remember the first time I edited a video. I realized that it was exactly like art directing a publication. A video has a beginning, a middle and an end. The viewer is led through the visual story, entertained by images, words and sound to give an idea or story life. That story is revealed to the viewer a little at a time as they experience the video unfolding before them.

But I do not believe that the traditional art contest we entered would accept a video as art either. I think it is just the state of our society or our small town at this moment. It is a lack of understanding and experience in the creation of media art. Everyone knows what it is to create a drawing or a painting. Most people have not had the experience of creating a visual experience that requires the turning of pages or exposure of frames so they do not understand it as an art form. A portrayal of a place as a painting is an art. An even richer portrayal of a place as a journal is not yet considered art by many people.



©2023 Susan and David Bonser