Celeste Maia ~ Spain

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Celeste Maia: "My interest in making books as art grew out of many years of painting. I started painting in Mozambique where I grew up, and continued in other places I lived - South Africa, France, Portugal, United States, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Spain, a background that gave me multiple perspectives on approaches to art, culture, and life. Figurative painting tells a story, so there was a connection with books from the beginning. …

"These strands of interest resolved into artist books, working from the support of a book to convey images and thoughts, exploring the aesthetic possibilities of paper, painting, illustrating, and writing to construct an object one could manipulate. Artist books have become an enduring passion. I find every aspect of an artist book - materials, concept and content, imagery, fabrication and presentation – essential to the creative process."


Enes de Castro
Passion Duplicity Death

By Celeste Maia
Madrid, Spain: Celeste Maia, 2017.
Edition of 20 (3 boxed, 17 in velvet pouch).

24.5 x 18cm; 84 pages. Printed in letterpress on Arjowiggins 100% cotton paper. Hand-sewn with soie sauvage covers, gold engraved title and hand-painted Lotka end papers.

Boxed edition of 3 (out of print): Includes a digitally reproduced map of the Iberian Peninsula in 1350 and 11 original diary pages hand written in script Gothic calligraphy and with illustrations painted by the author on Capellades paper, made according to paper available in the 14th Century. Each page is sealed in Tengucho paper. Each of the 3 copies is in a box inspired by a 19th-Century chocolate-maker's case from Cuenca, Spain. The box contains three levels - a sealed transparent compartment enclosing a reliquary veil and lock of hair, a silk and velvet medieval pouch holding the book and a tray bearing a crown. The Cuenca box opens with hinged wings lined with hand painted Lotka paper and covered in book cloth.

Pouch edition of 17 copies: Printed in letterpress with digitally reproduced diary pages. Presented in a medieval silk and velvet pouch.

Celeste Maia, artist statement: "Enes de Castro, Passion Duplicity Death, is an original story by the artist, a work of imagination deeply rooted in history.

"Enes de Castro, Passion Duplicity Death, is the story of a most remarkable woman from the 14th century and her grand, enduring, and tragic love affair with Prince Pedro, heir to the throne of Portugal. My extraordinary 'discovery' of 11 still legible pages of Enes's diary - surprisingly explicit and personal -- drew me to Enes's compelling and myth-shrouded story. I was soon visiting the manor houses in Portugal where she lived, the castle in Spain where she was exiled, and the fountain where she was brutally murdered in front of her children. My curiosity deepened into a year-long quest researching in medieval libraries and in Monasteries and Universities of the Iberian Peninsula, resulting in this book. Enes includes a hand-drawn map of the Iberian Peninsula in 1350, and the 11 still legible pages of her diary in Gothic script and whimsically illustrated. They reveal Enes de Castro to be a well-educated medieval woman, an accomplished seductress, and an influential protagonist in the complicated dynastic maneuverings between Portugal and Castile in the 14th Century."

Celeste Maia, background: "Enes de Castro was a 15-year-old aristocratic woman from 1340, who, as lady-in-waiting to the Castilian princess who married the Portuguese heir to the throne, was swept away by Prince Pedro’s passion. Therein began a long and turbulent 15-year love story that convulsed Portugal and has inspired countless poems, plays, novels, ballets, paintings, and 29 operas. However, throughout the centuries Enes has been depicted as 'blond and green-eyed', meek and submissive. I show through the diary pages that Enes was well educated, cultured, an amazing seductress – and an accomplished spy for Castile as the Iberian kingdoms fought for power and territory in the wake of the long war against the Moors. (A real Game of Thrones.)

"I spent months researching in the libraries of medieval universities and monasteries in the Iberian Peninsula. I visited the castles where Enes lived and I read deeply into the history of the period."

Celeste Maia, on the boxed version: "The paper for the diary pages was made in Catalonia exactly the way paper was made in Xativa at the time. Then I 'aged' it, wrote in calligraphy and decorated the invented texts and military map. The veil, which I made, was buried in a vase under a plant in my terrace for 4 months, subjected to the heat and cold and rain, as I 'watered' it from time to time with the remains of my teapot. The lock of hair belongs to my naturally blond 15-year-old granddaughter …. I had the crown made from the photograph I took of Enes' crowned head on her sarcophagus by a Czech firm in Prague that specializes in medieval jewelry."
$350 edition in pouch


Standard edition
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The Mermaid's Dream
By Celeste Maia
[Madrid, Spain]: Serpens Caput, 2016. Edition of 10.

8.75 x 9 x 2" box containing a tunnel book and accordion book.
Tunnel structure: 8" X 8.84" X 1.3" closed; seven panels. Cut and glued by hand, containing a magnetically triggered LED light, extending from the right base of the inside of the clamshell box.
Accordion book: 8 x 8.25"; 6 panels. Inserted in the hinged double-lid of the box. Calligraphy text and oil painted images on handmade Moinho da Chuva Mill paper, digitally scanned.
Clamshell box covered in book cloth, machine sewn, with hot foil hand-stamped lettering. Lokta paper and recycled acid free paper.

Celeste Maia: "The Mermaid's Dream is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's idea of circular time and duality, man as dream and dreamer. It recreates the mystery and magic I experienced at a beach party in 1974, celebrating Portugal's revolution. Sometimes an event happens that defies everything we know. Over time we even doubt our memory. But it haunts us.

"I painted the girl as I remember her, sleeping by the sea in the silvery night. But then she disappeared — into the waves? Did I dream the girl dreaming she is a mermaid? Or is the mermaid dreaming she is the girl at the beach party who later makes an artists' book? Meanwhile, the mermaid vanishes down her own illuminated blue path into another dream."

$650 (Last 3 copies)

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On the World
By Celeste Maia
[Madrid, Spain]: Serpens Caput, 2016. Edition of 20.

13 x 7.66"; 34 gatefold pages. Digitally typeset text and images. Bound in paper-covered boards with toile de Marais cloth spines and hand embroidered headbands. French-door binding. Boards illustrated with hand block print and calligraphy. Endpapers and pastedown hand painted with acrylic of imaginary map sketches. Laid in four-flap machine-sewn cloth pouch with vintage buttons. Materials: Hanji paper, cloth, acrylic paints, binder's board, thread, and buttons. Photography by Celeste Pais and Celeste Maia. Typography and image editing by Javier Lerin. Book design by Celeste Maia. Signed and numbered by Maia.

Celeste Maia: "I have been in movement all my life, from city to city, country to country, continent to continent. Mostly it wasn’t tourism, but education, family, and work that led me to reside in different places and learn the customs, culture, and language. Wanderlust is deeply ingrained in my psyche and is what feels natural to me.

"The idea of conveying the constant wonderment of experiencing places in an artist book was deeply appealing to me. We understand a new place with our mind, our feet, and our eyes. So I made
On the World elemental, relying mostly on photos I took of places and events that are personally meaningful, remembering the physical experience of being there, and evoking writings and thoughts about travel that have inspired me."

The left opening in each gatefold contains a travel quotation and an image of shod feet; the right opening is a two-page spread of "wanderings" where the shod feet may well have trod: Atacama Desert, Bolivia; Tamil Nadu, India; Bardolino, Italy….

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Page last update: 11.14.17


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