Art Book Must Have: Press Press Sentiments

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Struggle and Joy in the Druid Hill Park Memorial Pool

Press Press Sentiments is a Gorgeous Collection of Immigrant and Immigrant-Adjacent Narratives by Cara Ober

Press Press’s new publication, Sentiments, is so good I don’t even know how to write about it.

First of all, it’s a tome; almost textbook sized at 322 pages. It’s heavy and squarish and colorful, but not too colorful. The cover design weaves warm and cool digital images, photos, and text with painterly mark, suggesting, accurately that the inside will do the same. The soft touch laminate cover is the same one we use for the BmoreArt print journal; it feels like rubber and velvet got together and made a baby.

Even before you flip a single page, this publication has asserted itself as being serious and well-planned. This book’s design makes promises to you, the reader, even before you crack it open and this is a good thing.

It comes in a perfectly sized Ziploc plastic baggie because there are extra things, works of art and mini-books hidden like tiny prizes inside this book. There’s one piece of original art included, a hand-painted and slightly oversized US social security card, adorably earnest with wonky hand-lettered printing. The piece is part of a larger installation, a Hans Haacke-seeming pile of similar but not identical Social Security cards depicted in one of the magazine’s interviews with artist Andrea Arrubla, whose work explores citizenship and social security.

Sentiments also includes a purple workbook by Bilphena Yahwon and Nnennaya Amuchie, FOR BLACK GIRLS CONSIDERING WOMANISM BECAUSE FEMINISM IS NOT ENUF that invites conversation and written reflection. And the third item that falls out of my book is Artifact #2: Nylon Pool, a small square booklet by Kearra Amaya Gopee, which I love absurdly and immediately because it marries image and text in a way I have never seen before­–informal photos of people with grids of letters and half-circled word searches imposed on top of them with commentary at the bottom. Each piece is a complete statement and each fits seamlessly with the variety of text and imagery inside the publication.

I should step back and say that Sentiments: Expressions of Cultural Passage is a book that features interviews 18 different artists who are all immigrants or “immigrant-adjacent.” Each offers an informal but deep conversation about their experiences of cultural passage to America. Simply told and uniquely intriguing, the subject of each interview is open to sharing not only personal narratives but the way their art practice has shaped their identity and relationships. The accompanying visuals with each interview work as art and documentation, enhancing and expanding the conversation visually.

This publication was edited by Kimi Hanauer and “mobilized” by Hanauer, Valentina Cabezas, Bomin Jeon, and Bilphena Yahwon, in collaboration with a number of contributors, including the artists who share their stories. According to the team, “Our practice has always been deeply informed by our concerns with immigration, and especially with experiences of what we call “cultural passage,”” which is a central tenet of Sentiments. According to Press Press, cultural passage “refers to experiences of transitioning na dnegotiating one’s way through multiple cultures. It is something that exists at every level of our lives as immigrants or immigrant-adjacent persons. It affects our familial and communal relationships, our conception of “home,” our access to various institutional benefits and opportunities, our self-understanding, and our emotional wellbeing.”

Press Press’s ongoing personal conversations around cultural passage have allowed them to facilitate a number of different projects and they actively talk about their desire to counteract the xenophobia that has gained national media prominence and the reality of anti-immigrant violence. In this particular publication, the team’s goal is to “unpack overly simplistic concepts of “immigrant,” “citizen,” “sanctuary,” and “freedom.”” The team set out to broaden their own community in order to develop a more robust vocabulary for the questions they wanted to ask.

What does it mean to be an immigrant?
What does it mean to be a citizen?
What does it mean to build sanctuary?
What does it mean to be free?

Sentiments is a direct result of the conversations, workshops, art projects, and writing that the team and their collaborators wanted to have. That this publication is so substantial, so beautifully designed and printed, and so full of sensitive smart content gives me hope for the future of this country, as well as the power of artists to work together to create meaningful change.

Don’t be fooled though, because Press Press’s team makes it all look seamless and easy, as if the product was always meant to be. As it is, Sentiments is a timeless and relevant collection of beautiful image and text, designed into an almost textbook-thick tome of interviews, photo documentation, and pullout mini-publications and art projects. It encompasses and enfolds Baltimore’s creative community, without being about Baltimore per se. Rather, it’s an example of what can happen when confident, creative people come together to create something that exceeds expectations so exponentially that it’s difficult to even gaze upon it rationally. Press Press’s new book, Sentiments, is a magical object.

Check out Press Press and Sentiments online version here:

You can buy your copy of Sentiments here:

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