Marilyn R. Rosenberg Interview by Michael Jacobson
MJ: Can you give me some info about your history and how you came to be involved with visual poetry and book art?
MRR: In 1977or 78 Judith Hoffberg had an essay in a publication about artists’ books. I called across country to introduce myself. After much interaction she asked me to send her books for a show she was curating. Since I was traveling to LA I told her I would bring them, I did. She was always a great champion of my works and showed them often.
I had been putting words in my artists’ books and drawings. So I decided to see what others might think of my works like these, so I tried to get them into visual poetry competitions and exhibits. So I entered Karl Kempton’s KALDRON VISUALOG 1 in 1978, maybe the first Visualog exhibit at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. Then I was so thrilled I won 3rd prize and was published at THE GAMUT Concrete Poetry Contest in 1983. Jury was John M. Bennett, Perry L. Peterson, Mary Ellen Solt, and editorial committee. I thought, well there must be something I am doing that is right.
MJ: What did you go to school for, and do you use your degree and education in your art?
MRR: In the early years, I studied drawing and painting in workshop classes, and commercial art classes. I worked at print shops, magazines, and art departments of retail stores doing proof-reading and paste-ups. I continued making works on paper and canvas and added words and turned many of these into books, they are small, easy to travel with, and store in small spaces. Keep in mind these were pre-computer years. Later I was an undergrad and got lots of life credits and later started taking one course per semester. I pushed for more education, and received an MA Liberal Studies.
All of my studies and all of my life experiences together gave me the subjects and fodder for my work.
MJ: How did your work evolve into asemic writing?
MRR: I always used calligraphic marks in my images, they often look like language. Then when I realized there was a fluxus/dada kind of bent to using these marks with and without words, to push the images and marks into experiments of 100s of pages of abstract, scat language, and fragmented words.
Well here is a part of a page from an early work:
Here is another page from 1988, this is an MRR page I did alone, though most pages in this work and title have marks made by two collaborators:
BEFORE LANGUAGE BEYOND LANGUAGE, MRR & David A. Cole (died April 2000).
MJ: You have a new book out titled FALSE FICTION FRACTURED FACT ALTERED published by Post-Asemic Press. It seems to be the first sketch book published as a novel. What are some of your thoughts about the book?
MRR: Well I guess I don’t think of it as a sketchbook, but rather as a sequential journal, but I often work back and forth on the pages. I think it may be more narrative and poetry, and very little fiction since my experiences and thoughts are noted, altered and coded.
MJ: Can you explain the process involved in your creating your asemic abstract calligraphy?
MRR: Calligraphic drawing marks: indecipherable
language, Ideogrammatic language, asemic poetry is the
language without known language, before written
language, the language beyond any language.
Varieties of Ideogram languages/asemic narratives,
tell abstract stories, of course.
I use India ink and have a variety of nibs, and brushes, and many different size points
of acid free ink pens and markers — Transparent vellum and smooth watercolor paper. Turn it around.
Each sheet is filled with hair thin marks stretching to wide curves and straight lines, wet ink and watered down washes.
Scat (as in Jazz) on paper – a page of asemic poetry.
Almost all of the images are scanned into the computer to become recorded, or used for altered editions or combined and condensed with images, to become combined and altered new works.
MJ: Is it difficult to be an artist in New York these days?
MRR: It has always been difficult. I am part of many art groups since I spend time in many places —International Mail art also, but not so much these days. In NYCity I have been part of a group of Jewish women artists for about 40 years, and this group changes slightly with each decade. I am also part of the Peekskill NY art community. But these days I am on the edge since I no longer have a studio in the center of town. In all I find only a few worldwide artists who are doing exactly what I do, but there are more and more creative people who make artists’ books, visual poetry, asemic poetry, artists stamps, bookmarks, drawings, and other things like I do. Each of these are groups often overlap and are part of my life. I am in the tight space between the visual arts and literary worlds.
I have never made a living from my work, although many institutions have my artists’ books.
MJ: Who are some artists and writers who you admire and influenced you?
MRR: Many painters and poets, men and women, living and dead. So very many visual and verbal artists from very long ago to yesterday.
MJ: What do you like to do besides creating artworks?
MRR: I enjoy going to all the varieties of museums, and used and new bookstores. I enjoy my friends. I watch tv and films of crafts and art information shows, public and commercial stations on both TV and radio. I like to read biographies of artists, and art history, and see/read art sections in the papers. Now, in the last few months, I have an N gauge toy train and am building a dining room table environment from both found objects and purchased cut and paste buildings. My husband and I have traveled overnight on trains in China and Australia; It’s my favorite way to travel. My husband and I go to the city now and then, and do little but love restaurants and museums. We want to spend more time with our kids and grandkids when we are all available; they all live in far away places in the USA.
MJ: What is next for your creative work? Do you have any new book projects coming along?
MRR: I always work on a few projects at the same time. Some are daily or short term some long term, some with collaborators, papers and pages of visual and asemic work. I like to make artistamps and bookmarks once in awhile.
MJ: Is your drawing hand is feeling better (I hope!)?
MRR: Now I can use my drawing hand, right, and my left for other hand work and use both together for working on the computer. The right hand is almost the best it will be. The arm I use for making larger marks, not yet there, but better all the time, slowly.
MJ: Can you answer this last question with asemic writing?
“`~_-__0? ///(liii; s)