Counting the artists, writers, and photographers who have paid homage to the Brooklyn Bridge would be difficult. Since its opening in 1883, this regional—if not national—monument has been a backdrop in theater and film, and has inspired generations to create a plethora of creative works in any number of media. However, no homage would be as imaginative as Donald Glaister’s love song to the Bridge, sung on the aluminum pages of an astonishing book.
Donald Glaister’s first edition Brooklyn Bridge: A Love Song is a unique, hybrid work in which he wrote poetry, painted portraits of the bridge, and built assemblages. The book actually sings a song each time it is touched, as it literally resonates with the turning of each thin aluminum page. The metal pages twang and echo like vehicles passing over the bridge, that distinctive hum when wheels meet steel. Or is it the sound the wind makes flashing through the bridge’s vast suspension cables?
Donald Glaister, one of the world’s pre-eminent designer bookbinders, has centered his career on the exploration, development, and use of unexpected binding materials, visual humor and spontaneous expression, while working within the classical framework of the European binding form. His work appears in public and private collections throughout North America and Europe. In his own words: “Invention is born from embracing limits; making the right specific choices; creating content while at the same time, letting the content direct its own creation.”
This work is the first edition artist book Glaister ever made. In materials that are not what one would expect for a book—but completely in keeping with the subject matter—the limited edition is definitely about a torrid affair between the artist and his subject. From its felt-lined brushed aluminum box to its dark, coarsely textured end papers, this limited edition of 60 is obviously a labor of love.
The opening stanzas of Glaister’s poem that is silkscreen printed on page one hints at the artist’s perspective:
The Bridge spans.
Brooklyn to Manhattan. Ancient to modern.
Heavy mass to lacy space.
Stone to steel.
The Bridge moves.
Vertical to horizontal to diagonal,
joined in a dizzying dance by sweeping lines
inspired by a natural grace.
“Portraits” of the bridge—not “paintings,” according to the artist—grace every other page. Some are quite literal and show the entire bridge. Others are more impressionistic, using repeat stenciled arch patterns in colors evoking different times of day. A strong sense of atmospheric conditions is embedded in the brush patterns of each portrait, like swirling winds rising from the water below and swooping down from the clouds above.
Alternate spreads contain off-center, rectangular abstract assemblages adhered to each facing aluminum page. Each one is made from wire, aluminum tape, laminated polyester film, and sand. The materials, while delicately assembled, echo the powerful industrial qualities of the subject matter.
This astonishing compilation of ideas and imagery is quarter length bound in Nigerian goatskin with painted aluminum sides.