A slim little volume with a red buckram spine, Inheritance has no title on its gray cardboard cover. Instead there is a stencil of a green bin with an open lid – does the tale inside come out of this trashcan, or is it meant to go in? It is a little plaint, a small voice in a big city. The paper is deckled on the bottom; the pages are soft and supple.
The stencil images, design and production of this collaborative work are by Barbara Tetenbaum, Associate Professor and Department Head of Book Arts at the Oregon College of Arts and Craft in Portland, Oregon. She uses a text by a Czech artist Eva Fiserova, a grim but oddly gentle recital of the facts of a sterile, urban life; the illustrations, stencils of buildings and bins in washes of color are homely, and familiar: a lamp post, a bench, the balconies of an anonymous building. The speaker feels herself watched: “Why do those women always stare at me from their balconies.”
Frequently the text, as in this example: “I have a home. Grey and dirty,” is illustrated by a container in a pictorial shorthand that portrays sterility and disposal. Even when there is a touch of warmth, “I got licked by a homeless cat. It rubbed against me and curled up by my feet,” the page shows a dumpster with a light turquoise lid, slightly open like all the bins in this book. All the illustrations are somehow fanciful, despite their desolate subject matter.
Inside the back cover, there is an acknowledgement to the William J. Fulbright Commission, and a note that the book was made in the Czech Republic. Overall, the first lines of text best express the matter-of-fact quality of the book: ”So, you gave birth to me and here I am.”