Although I work in several different media, I see them all as modes of writing. And when I say writing, I mean the building of narratives through assemblage of fragments. And when I say fragments, I mean the physical, the detritus that combines to form a collage. But I also mean the conceptual, the attempted capture of a thought on a scrap of paper to be put in a drawer for later. When coming across that scrap again, how has its function evolved? It is a contextual challenge. What kind of story does this thought want to build? Or rather what kind of story will welcome it? Or rather what kind of story will, through sheer juxtapositional force, accept this thought against better judgment and, as result of such counter-intuitiveness, flourish?

Because this process involves layering, tactility is important. Also, depth, or rather the illusion of depth, or rather the spaces that confuse dimensions. The book form, then, is ideal: the second dimension gives way to the third with each turn of the page, and the reader’s experience from start to finish takes place in the temporal fourth. And because my process relies on the scraps of narratives past (as is inherent in the process of collaging, of constructing memoir, of altering books), a tension forms between the transitory and the permanent.

Things begin to feel cluttered, though, don’t they? Thus the containment and constraint of prose. There are endless possibilities offered by the interaction of text and image, yet still those typographic fields created by unbroken word-flow keep calling me. And while bearing in mind the sculptural and temporal effects of a book’s structure, I want to remember a parallel power it holds: the meditative and transportive experience a reader undergoes when surrendering to story. A power dependent on content more than form (as long as the typography has the grace to let you past), it’s one I’m intent on investigating further, while also exploring the many kinds of conversations a text block can have with an image, both within a book’s pages and beyond. I was instrumental in the commercial book design of The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2014), while also creating companion images for many of the collection’s stories. Taking the form of collages and letterpress-printed broadsides, these visual pieces partner with the written word, breaking their trance (or perhaps re-casting it) to build extra-textual narratives. And now things grow cluttered again.

I’m digging through drawers of scraps, though—it’s unavoidable. And as I dig, I pull from multiple mediums and genres: comics, zines, literary fine press printing, collage, memoir, fiction, illustration. The places in between these are where things get really exciting, where we see the infinite possibilities of what can happen in the gaps between artifact and story. Synthesis is an ongoing challenge. What formula of mortar will make things cohere (even if just barely)? I’m currently researching historical, commercially motivated, collaborative modes of text + image book production, such as medieval scriptoria and twentieth-century American comics publishers. As I work to integrate a wide variety of techniques and traditions, I draw inspiration from circumstances where a number of artists (copyists, illuminators, rubricators, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists) have allied to do the same.

Catholics is an artist’s book, a limited-edition memoir that makes use of illustration, collage, and letterpress-printed typography to explore the psychic cathedral built by my Catholic traditionalist upbringing. The Hitch: An Agamist Manifesto is an ongoing wedding-themed project that will eventually consist of ten chapbooks of various literary genres creating a variety of visual, tactile, and intertextual patterns. I think of both, by default, as graphic novels, despite their tendencies to wander into dense blocks of prose. They are evolutionary extensions of my autobiographical comic, RUNX TALES, which creates depth and texture through layering, engages with the space between the linguistic and the visual, and experiments with style and layout according to content. As in all my work, I hope the reader feels her way around like I do, that her experience is like my writing process: dimensional, textured, with clues pointing forward, yet shaped by a fragmentary past.

Matt Runkle