Michelle Maguire is an Ohio State alumna who works for the Department of History of Art as associate curator in the Visual Resources Library. She and her husband, Aaron Beck, recently created a limited-edition artist’s book about her easily unimpressed Great-Aunt Doll, Salami Dreamin’.
(To read more about Michelle Maguire's book, visit 614 Magazine.)
Tell us about Salami Dreamin’.
Salami Dreamin’ is a non-precious artist’s book about family, pro sports and more. It features 14 hand-printed images of my Italian American Great-Aunt Doll, derived from photos I made of her, with accompanying stories written by my husband, Aaron Beck. Aunt Doll is 84 and has lived in Canton, OH, her whole life. She loves cured meats, hollers at the Browns on her giant analog TV and worships the sun in a 30-year-old tube top. She’s the best.
This is my first book, and I assembled a wonderful crew of people to help me bring it to life — since spring 2015 I’ve been working with printmakers and bookmakers in both the Department of Art and Ohio State Libraries’ Conservation Lab. I’ve learned a ton and it’s been really incredible.
We printed the book using photolithography, silkscreen and letterpress techniques. There are 50 signed and numbered copies for sale.
So, what inspired you to create Salami Dreamin’?
I’ve always documented my family, and when my dad died in 2012, I found myself in my hometown more frequently than I'd been since I'd moved away in 1996 to go to school. During the day Aaron and I tended to my dad's affairs, which was emotional and draining, and at night we'd go hang out with Aunt Doll in her house. Those nights spent with her ended up being the best medicine. She gave us great comic relief, without ever trying or even knowing it, which was invaluable to us both. In the background, my camera was always rolling just to preserve her for myself. I realized half a year later just how much material I'd gathered, and figured it'd feel really good to turn it into something bigger. I began to explore how it could function as a book. What that series of photos and video evolved into has been the most rewarding and challenging project I’ve ever taken on.
I like art that tells a story and transports me to another place. I tend to be drawn to stories about ordinary people with big spirit and colorful dialogue. Aunt Doll’s exactly that.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered while researching your aunt?
Well, I’m not sure I’d call it “research.” It was more like sitting and observing. But what’s absolutely clear after all of this is that Aunt Doll is consistent. Her disposition is always the same. No matter who she’s in the presence of — even if she’s the guest of honor at a launch party for a book about her — she’s cool and collected and does only what she wants. That’s pretty punk rock to me.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Canton, OH, surrounded by my Italian American grandparents and their siblings.
I studied marketing and logistics at Ohio State as an undergrad and went to grad school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. I studied business by accident, really. I guess because I grew up around one — my mom’s side of the family owns a moving and storage business. For electives I took art and design classes, and that’s when I really began to feel inspired. After college I began working for a small design company, and eventually went to grad school for graphic design with an emphasis on packaging. Halfway through, I switched to library science when I realized I could combine everything I was into — I love to catalog things, especially visual materials.
What advice do you have for students?
Be curious. Travel as often as possible, especially to places that are completely different from your hometown. Find someone whose work or style or attitude really grabs you, and learn as much as you can from that person.
To view more photos of Salami Dreamin' visit Michelle Maguire's website.
By Samantha Ruwe, ASC Communications Student