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Book Artist of the Month: Dianna Frid

February 11, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

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Dianna Frid found inspiration in the tragic story of celebrated cave explorer Floyd Collins and in 1998 she constructed this memorializing embroidered cloth book. Using a heat transfer technique, Dianna also included a found image of Floyd Collins. This is one of Dianna’s first fabric books to use found imagery becoming a pivotal point in her approach to narration. 

I asked Dianna to include a few words in regards to the concept behind Floyd Collins, Cave Explorer.
It is, in essence, a narrative book that shows you, not only tells you, what happened to this minor historical figure from Kentucky in the 1920’s. As such, it is an exploration of the potential of the form to use a sequential progression of layers to achieve narrative coherence that echo the story. This happens again in Leak, for example, and in Reversal, although both of those books are comprised by words only. In Floyd Collins… each layer is visible at once when you first open the book because there is a large hole on each page. The hole gets smaller as the pages progress, and they eventually bury Floyd Collins (his photograph).

The story of Floyd Collins is compelling on many fronts, not only because of the ironic tragedy it exemplifies. In the history of American journalism, he became the first ordinary person who rose to celebrity due to a tragedy: he got stuck and died while he was trying to explore an alternative entrance to the larger network of caves that comprise Mammoth Cave. Floyd Collins was an adventurer-explorer, and he was looking for “more.” I found out about his story—or, more aptly his story found me—while I was perusing a textbook on Physical Geography. I was struck that a scientific book with the mission of teaching us about the earth’s layers, volcanoes, and rock formations included this brief vignette of an unknown, illiterate farmer. I was assailed by the interlude. The stitched words of the artist’s book are sourced from the textbook, and I, of course, give attribution to the authors of the textbook in the colophon. 

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1 Comment »

  1. Randi says:

    I reached this post from a link on Ann Wood’s blog, (annwoodhandmade.com) and was drawn to it because of my long-time knowledge and fascination with Floyd’s story. Being claustrophobic, and having once been lost for a short time in complete darkness in a large, but undeveloped cave in the Tennessee countryside, I feel a lot of sympathy for Floyd as his manner of death would be one of my worst nightmares. At least he was an experienced caver and probably not a claustrophobe. Your book is a lovely tribute to Mr. Collins and to a fascinating period in American history – it reminds me of other nationally-known tragedies, like the kidnapping and death of the Lindbergh baby, the loss of Amelia Earhart, and even “Baby Jessica in the Well” in more recent years. Unfortunately, unlike Baby Jessica’s, Mr. Collin’s story did not have a happy ending, as it might possibly have done with more sophisticated drilling and rescue techniques that we have today. Great work on the book!

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  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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