By Frances Jetter
New York: Frances Jetter, 2009. Edition of 15.
21 x 25.5" closed, extends to 40 feet; 23 pages. Accordion fold book. Linoleum cuts (18 x 24") printed on translucent Japanese paper. Letterpress printed. Large typeface in old wood letters. Housed in zippered cloth sack.
This 23-page accordion fold book on torture belies its topic. But its beauty is not a matter of flippant and facile flair. See the artist's remarks below.
Frances Jetter, prospectus: "My work focuses on telling stories in pictures. Political subject matter, not only to protest and document, intrigues me as an exploration of human nature. The way type looks and sounds as it becomes a character's voice is of great interest, as well as how language changes meaning with the addition of a comma, or by modifying scale or font. The sack and the book inside are large and imposing. The thin creased fragile looking Nepalese appear on the cover resembles human skin. The translucence of the interior pages allows the viewer to glimpse the shadow image of what came previously. The zippered red mouth on the sack that holds the book is the beginning and end of the story; the torturer's lips are sealed. "
Frances Jetter, interviewed by Zina Saunders, Drawger: "I just finished a book about torture. It’s called Cry Uncle. It was largely based on what went on at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and some secret CIA prisons. It’s a picture book with some words in it. It’s a large format book – the images are 18 by 24 – and it’s handprinted. …
“It’s a very interpretive book. It’s based on what they did and my visceral reaction to it, because what they did was so appalling. In most cases they had a list of things they could do to the prisoner that wouldn’t leave physical scars, but it was intended to make somebody crazy. It’s not like they could even get information out of somebody after this kind of torture.
“Some of the descriptions of what they did were so disgusting that I’d realize that I was making the face myself, of someone who is being victimized. I think to get the feeling into the piece, you have to be reacting to what’s going on in it.
“In working on the book, there was a weird mixture of feeling disgusted over what went on and feeling really excited about making the pieces. I’ve always felt a little bit of guilt about that, because I was always doing things about tragedies and wars and illnesses."