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artists' books collection

celestial navigation, by karen hanmer

Karen Hanmer, Celestial Navigation.  ([Glenview, IL.]: Karen Hanmer, c2008)

A graduate of the American Academy of Bookbinding and a recognized expert in fine binding, Karen Hanmer is known for producing beautifully structured artist’s books that showcase her own writing on subjects ranging from technology and culture to the politics and history of science. Celestial Navigation creates a geometry of joined triangles, crafted of hard board, and magical inkjet stars and figures printed on a compelling deep blue background. “Like ancient navigators, I look to the sky to find my way back to you,” reads the first line of a poem by Hanmer, juxtaposed with ancient astronomical charts and images of early modern instruments of exploration such as astrolabes, sextants, and telescopes. Reflecting on Hanmer’s sculptural work, book scholar Max Yela writes, “at once vast and minimal, sparse and rich, the night sky has always been a canvas upon which people project their myths and dreams.” Celestial Navigation, a sculptural representation of the sky made to be held in the hands, recounts the myth of lost love, and the longing one feels for the beloved in tracing stars. A sense of the vastness of the cosmos is conveyed by the book’s infinite variety of sculptural shapes. It can be read a page at a time like a traditional book, its pages can be folded into a three-dimensional meteor, or even still the book can be unfolded flat to reveal a photograph of the Milky Way, historical astronomical charts, and contemporary NASA photographs. 

Hanmer’s work embodies within itself the mystery of the stars, a unique treasure produced in only thirty editions. The Clark’s copy is signed and numbered.