Beauty and the Beast

2004-5 –  Beauty and the Beast is part of a series of fairy stories begun with BlueBeard’s Castle in 2002.

The book consists of a series of four interconnecting solander-type boxes, two either side of a connected dressing table.

The two sets of two boxes fold onto each other and then again onto the front of the dressing table, meeting in the middle, to form an imperfect, elongated cube.They can be unfolded again like the pages of a book to display their contents. There are silhouettes of trees forming covers for these boxes; they are painted paper backed with leather, and when opened out, increase the impression of a forest, a processional route of trees to the dressing table. Click on the image below to see a pdf tour of the book.

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The outside of all the boxes is covered with black leather, specifically bikers’ jackets with the soft texture of skin – there is a history contained in these 2nd/3rd hand skins if we could but read it, as there is in the collage fragments from contemporary magazines used in the books. The leather has been moulded into folds to resemble a forest of trees. Inside, the sides and interconnecting panels are covered and moulded in the same leather to resemble more trees. 

The four boxes each contain two recesses with objects arranged in tableaux – including a dried rose, Beauty’s dress, shells, bird’s skull and bones, feathers, hair and lichened wood.  The dressing table is constructed of card like the boxes and painted with a dark, metallic finish. There is a mirrored top and the base has three opening drawers with rose button handles. The top drawer is full of paper roses; the second, two jewelled hearts, a loose image of the varieties of tortures of the heart from a medieval MS, and a removable book, bound with red paper and a sculpted rose, containing hand drawn and collaged images. The bottom drawer is lined with feathers and contains a broken bone and a rusty nail.

The top of the dressing table also consists of two small books with leather spines covered with a metallic-finish painted paper; one has an inset mirror and the other is inlaid with further tiny objects for Beauty’s toilet; they open to reveal further drawn and collaged images. To either side of the drawers there are narrow compartments for two larger books also with leather spines and metallic painted paper covers; these contain the hand-written story of Beauty and the Beast – as retold by the artist, with accompanying hand-drawn images on hand-made Nepalese, cotton rag paper, all in black ink and blue watercolour with occasional touches of red, approximately twenty pages to each book.

The text of these two books is a form of poem designed to be read in parallel with the images plus the objects and textures embedded in the book’s fabric.

To sum up, the piece consists of a dressing table in a forest, which opens up like a book to reveal five further small, readable volumes inside; a portable altar, a fetish object, a true archive of the heart.

Outer dimensions of the book when folded up – an imperfect cube about 10” each way;

Individual boxes – 10” x 5” x 2” deep; dressing table 10” x 10” x 5” deep; dressing table drawers 4” x 3”; three smallest books, 3½” x 2½”, two larger, 4½” x 3½”, all approx. ¾” thick.