Books as Art

Joining the more than 50 southwest writers and publishing experts gathering in 30 sessions at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, September 27-29 in Silver City NM are Ann Lane Hedlund and Michael P. Berman.  They are two writers who create notable works of art as they fashion their intriguing and well-researched non-fiction books–most recently, Gloria F. Ross and Modern Tapestry, by Hedlund, and Gila: Radical Visions, the Enduring Silence by Berman.

Ann Hedlund’s Gloria F. Ross and Modern Tapestry (Yale Press, 2010) tells the story of the artist Gloria Ross who, over a thirty-year period, persuaded 28 outstanding modernist painters and sculptors to create images that would later be translated into tapestry and hooked rugs by weavers in France, Scotland and the Southwest.

Hedlund directed the Gloria F. Ross Center for Tapestry Studies at the Arizona State Museum ( ) from 1997-2013 while also serving as a museum curator and anthropology professor at University of Arizona.  She is one of the twelve New Mexico Humanities Scholars who will be presenting at the Festival.

Critics call Hedlund’s book about Ross “remarkable” because it balances the biographer’s task of gathering, ordering and explaining the materials or outcomes of a subject’s life with the artist’s task of creating a deeply felt response.

“Each book and article that I’ve written,” Hedlund says, “draws from personal ethnographic research among Native American and other artists, and has required careful listening to life stories as told by individual artists.”

“I make a point to be clear,” she continues, “when I’m interpreting others’ perspectives, that I do not speak for the people involved in my studies, and I try to bring out their own voices as directly as possible.”

Other works by Ann Lane Hedlund include Navajo Weaving in the Late Twentieth Century (UA Press, 2004, Arizona Highways Award for Non-Fiction), Reflections of the Weaver’s World (Denver Art Museum, 1992) and, as editor/compiler, Joe Ben Wheat’s prize-winning Blanket Weaving in the Southwest (UA Press, 2003).

On Friday, September 27, at 3:30pm in the Silco Theatre, Ann joins John Gist and Philip Connors-two other New Mexico Humanities Scholars-to talk about “The truth and beyond: Creative non-fiction“.

On Sunday, September 29 at the Silco Theatre at 10:00am, Hedlund will discuss “Lives through the looking glass: The biographer’s art” with fellow biographers Harley Shaw and Mark L. Gardner.


Michael P. Berman discusses “Book art, illustration, and photography” on Sunday, September 29 at 10:00am at the Silver City Library.  His most recent book is Gila: Radical Visions, the Enduring Silence, which reveals to its readers a Gila River that may very well be unknown to them.  It is his fourth book on the southwest borderlands.

In interviews, Berman–the only Guggenheim fellow who lives in San Lorenzo, NM–says that he is not a photographer but one who looks.

He says that it takes weeks of looking to see things differently. “I must go again and again and again and again.”  From over two decades of experiencing the deserts of northern Mexico, Arizona, western Texas and New Mexico, Berman says, “There’s something up there in the Gila that is really incredible.”

Scheinbaum & Russek’s website, specializing in 20th century vintage and contemporary photography, describes his work this way:  “Berman’s work is firmly rooted in both the contemporary and the classical tradition.  His classically executed black and white photographs participate in and extend the romantic tradition of western landscape photography.  He avoids the spectacular, however, in favor of small and unnoticed scenes or vast empty views.”

In 2008, Berman received his Guggenheim Fellowship for Grasslands: The Chihuahuan Desert Project. His photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum and the Museum of New Mexico. He received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2012.  His work is displayed in galleries in and around Silver City.

Berman’s book collaborations with other southwest writers like Charles Bowden, Philip Connors, Dutch Salmon, and Sharman Apt Russell not only record relationships with the landscape but for the reader, create relationships with the landscape.

Hedlund’s and Berman’s Festival sessions are open to the public free of charge.

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