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Miriam Schaer ~ Brooklyn, New York

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Miriam Schaer: "I make sculptural books from clothing, found objects, installations, and prints, which explore themes of sexuality, gender, family, society, spirituality. My books house stories which reveal and honor the beauty and struggle of tiny moments: battles won and lost in everyday life. I seek answers to questions that are unknowable. I am based in Brooklyn, and teach in the Interdisciplinary MFA program in Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago."

Bookworks created from garments
Small edition books by Miriam Schaer


A Life in Parts

By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2017. Open edition.

8.25 x 10.75"; 52 pages. Digital offset. Bound in white glossy covers with illustration. Signed by the artist.

(w)hole: A Life in Parts” is Miriam Schaer’s exploration of her mother Ida’s decline into dementia before Ida's death. A visual essay on how we care for our aging parents when they are unable to care for themselves. “(w)hole: A Life in Parts” uses Schaer’s original writing, photography and collage.

Miriam Schaer: "A companion book to The Presence of Their Absence: Society's Prejudice Against Women Without Children, (w)hole: A Life in Parts is Miriam Schaer's exploration her mother Ida's decline into dementia before death. The project began when Ida saw a photograph of Schaer's garments embroidered with negative comments about childless women on a hyper realistic doll. Ida, a former maternity nurse and lover of all babies, reacted strongly to the photograph. So the artist bought her mother a realistic doll, and began to photograph Ida, the doll (whom Ida named Tabitha), and herself with her mother and the doll. (w)hole: A Life in Parts uses Schaer's original writing, photography, and collage."

The original photographs of Ida with the dolls were transformed into a portfolio of images and text - (W)hole Transformations. The portfolio was then used as the background images for (w)hole: a life in parts.

Miriam Schaer : "Once the photos were complete, I transformed them. I stapled, sewed, laced, pierced, and peeled the prints. I cut them apart, wove them back together, and mounted the resulting photo-collages in old frames from local thrift shops. The framed photos remind me of the small family photo clusters with which Ida once adorned her home. She lived in that home for 50 years in Buffalo, New York, before leaving for a room in Belmont Village, the assisted living center in the Chicagoland exurbs, where she lived."

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The Presence Of Their Absence
Society's Bias Against Women Without Children

By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Ariadne's Thread, 2014. Open edition.

8.25 x 10.75"; 90 pages. Digital printing. Case bound with glossy colored hardcovers Signed by the artist on the title page.

The Presence of Their Absence is based on a portfolio of photographic work of the same name. The portfolio of 19 prints, an edition of 3, was created around "Baby (Not) On Board: The Final Prejudice?", an installation of hyper-realistic dolls and mannequins dressed in baby dresses and rompers embroidered with critical quotes said to women without children.

This hardcover edition of The Presence of Their Absence takes the form of a photographic essay accompanied by an autobiographical text describing Schaer's experience as a woman without children, and a survey of hostile attitudes toward this status.

Miriam Schaer: "The Presence of Their Absence is an account of my journey through childlessness both as I've experienced it and as I've seen it expressed in places where comments like 'Childless women lack an essential humanity' represent a widespread belief. Many cultures resent, disparage, and discriminate against childless women, and in extreme cases drive them to suicide. The Presence of Their Absence is a window into that point of view."

Miriam Schaer, statement announcing a panel "From Sentiment to Sexuality: Revisiting the Maternal Body as Threat" presented at the College Art Association Annual Conference 2014: "The Presence of Their Absence explores the disparagement of childlessness and childless women by the maternal establishment, a reigning cultural norm in virtually every country and historical era. Non maternity, whether chosen or imposed by circumstance, falls outside the biological ideal, usually to its disadvantage. Childless, or child-free, women throughout the world face a spectrum of cultural disdain that ranges from simple disrespect to explicit hostility.

"Non-maternity as a normative standard represents an idea as controversial today as when it was suggested by Shulamith Firestone in 1970’s
The Dialectic of Sex. 'Women will not be fully emancipated,' she wrote, 'until they are free from the demands of biology.' Then, she took emancipation’s tools to be concepts like artificial insemination and surrogacy, options that at the time were little better than science fiction.

"Today, these and other alternative maternities are widespread. Yet, rather than release women from maternity’s grip, they have added new pressures to women in pursuit of biological childbearing, often at great cost in terms of health and finances...."


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Cinderella Ever After
Text by Mary Florio
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2013. Edition of 9.

3.75 x 7.25 x 2"; 56 pages. Digitally printed in Snell Roundhand with an Epson 2200 color printer on 90 lb Whatman Rag paper. Endpapers created on hand-made paper by Melissa Potter and Miriam Schaer. Handbound in shaped drum leaf binding with hyper-packed decorative cord. In cloth-covered clamshell box. Signed by Florio and Schaer. Numbered.

Artists' Statement: "Miriam Schaer teams up again with Mary Florio (The Posture Queen) to create Cinderella Ever After, a revisionist version of the oft-told tale. Housed in highly decorated heart-shaped covers and digitally printed interior pages featuring collages based on Schaer's suburban childhood - a world of idealized women and perfect homes. The images do not illustrate the text, but serve as counterpoint for the imagery in the poem.

"The book is covered by wrapped cords, resembling arteries that crawl over the laser-cut, heart-shaped covers. The densely packed cords twist and turn in and out of the covers in a manner both embracing and strangling, an effect that could have only been produced by Schaer's intensive handwork. The shaped drum leaf binding allows the story to flow from page to page.

"The shape of the book refers back to medieval codex structures, in which heart shaped books were often used for prayer, and to reflect a love of god. Cinderella Ever After contains a different sort of prayer by a narrator who urges Cinderella to flee from her prescribed path, and to change into 'someone you can recognize.' Florio's text contrasts the myth of happy ever after against the reality of finding one's self."


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Hands of Josephus: Part III
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2008. One-of-a-Kind.

6 x 10 x 5"; 462 pages. Appropriated text from the works of Flavius Josephus. Materials: beads, wire hand form. Each page, cut in the shape of a hand, is sewn onto multiple beaded cords, then attached to wire hand forms, which are encrusted with beads. Housed in 8.5 x 13 x 4" linen clamshell box.

Miriam Schaer: "Hands of Josephus is a series of altered books, created from a broken down copy of Flavius Josephus's Twenty books of The Jewish Antiquities, The Life of Josephus and the Jewish Wars. Josephus was a 1st-century Jewish historian and apologist who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. His works give an important insight into 1st-century Judaism, while raising questions about who owns history. The hand of the victor, it seems, always controls . every version of truth. There are five books in this series, created from the original volumes."

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Rules of Engagement
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2008. Trade Edition.

9 x 7"; 44 pages. Softcover perfect bound.

Miriam Schaer: "Rules of Engagement is an ongoing series of aprons that depict images of idealized women complemented by epigrams from Sun Tsu's The Art of War which are hand embroidered onto each apron by the artist. [I have] produced a trade edition book which has images of each apron in the series with the epigram on the opposite page."

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Guardian of Sterile Waters
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, [1997]. One-of-a-Kind.

12 x 20 x 6" sculptural bookwork. Materials: ladies' girdle, acrylic, ink, silk, sterile-water ampules, plastic toy laser print, ribbon.

Miriam Schaer: "Guardian of Sterile Water is the third and last of the three books I made to explore my infertility and issues around motherhood. Guardian was created after the treatments failed, using as art materials some of the leftover fertility drugs — specifically the ampules of sterilized water that was to be used in mixing Clomid and Perganol — infertility drugs that were commonly used in the late 90s.

"Inside the bustier, there is a heart-shaped inset box, or cartouche, which holds a heart shaped book. The book's pages are collages of actual medical records complimented by images of infants.

"The bottom of the heart is lined with broken bottles from the ampules of the sterilized water. All three deal with the urge to have a child – that is, to become a mother – and the coming to terms with its unlikelihood in my own life.

"My work in this vein is chiefly a way of asking questions that explore feminine, feminist, and social issues that I sometimes think have no answers. So I try to make sense of things by making art."


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Miriam Schaer: "My work is often about transformation. Using objects created for other ends in my art, so that their reinvention becomes, as it were, subtext to the broader themes my works address. For example, I often use garments - especially bustiers, bras, girdles, kitchen aprons, children's clothing and gloves - as both means and vehicles of containment. Inside their stiffened, shaped, embellished husks - transformed by resin, glue, instinct and paint - I embed unique books and objects reflecting each works gloss on personal, feminine, societal or spiritual issues."

Golden Apples
By Miriam Schaer
with text by W. B. Yeats
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2005. One-of-a-Kind.

7 x 23 x 4" sculpture using opera gloves. Attached to the palm of the left hand a 2 x 1.75", 9-page miniature book, an accordion structure in apple-shaped pages on which is the digitally printed W. B. Yeats' text, an excerpt from "The Song of the Wandering Aengus." Sculpture housed in linen clamshell box.

Miriam Schaer: "Golden Apples ponders the quest for love. It was created originally for the installation Chapel of Uncommon Prayer. Created entirely of books and book objects using hand shapes and gloves, created using
traditional book binding techniques in a non-traditional way, the exhibition explores the personal relationship to prayer and devotion, in a world with increasingly difficult, often unanswerable questions."

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.


Golden Apples book
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One Heart
By Miriam Schaer
poem by Emily Dickinson
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2004. One-of-a-Kind.

9.75 x 16 x 7.75" sculptural book. Girdle book with hand-shaped book (4 x 6", 14 pages, combination codex and accordion structure) inset. Materials: girdle, acrylic, silk, Indian hand made paper. Housed in linen clamshell box.

Text is a poem by Emily Dickinson, "If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking," as it appeared in The Complete Poems (Boston, 1924).

Miriam Schaer: "One Heart was created for Six Wives for the Brothers Grimm, six dioramas exploring themes raised by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm and other sources of fairy or folk tales at Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. Designed for Brooklyn's more urban, plural environment, the panels depict sculptural figures I created by applying traditional and non-traditional book-binding techniques to pigment-stiffened articles of clothing embedded with objects. Many of the figures open to reveal one-of-a-kind books and additional objects. Serving as the characters' inner voices, the hand-made books contain excerpts from Emily Dickinson poems about the personal tragedies, usually romantic, people secretly endure. The lettering in the text is all hand-cut, reflecting the fragility of their expressions."

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.


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Rest Stops
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 1996. One-of-a-Kind.

5 x 16 x 2" Materials used sock dryers, silk, acrylic, xerox transfer, and printed matter.

Driving directions as a metaphor for life provide the text in this leg-shaped book created with antique wood sock dryers. The hand-cut text is accompanied by vintage images of an idealized past.


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We Are Happy to Serve You
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 1996. Edition of 8

19.25 x 29" 26 pages. Printed gum bichromate on hand cut pages. Bound with a hostess apron.

Subject of this book is the artist's four day career as a waitress. Her waitressing career began immediately after graduation from art school. Includes her reflection on the merits of following one's heart's desire and "ceasing to serve."
$700 (Last Copy)

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Schaer generally produces sculptural books. She does, however, have several small edition books.

The Posture Queen
By Mary Florio
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2005. Edition of 25.

6 x 5 x .5" pamphlet bound in ribbon-tied enclosure. Digitally printed with an Epson 2200 printer using archival ink on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Duo. Type used Futura and Edwardian Script.

The All Girl's Assembly held each year during Miriam Schaer's Junior High School years in Kenmore, New York, outside of Buffalo inspired New Jersey poet Mary Florio's poem. Based on Schaer's memories and memorabilia from that time, Florio creates a new sort of Posture Queen, who stands straight, even under the most trying circumstances.

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Miriam Schaer edition titles out of print:


Adjusting For The Moon
By Miriam Schaer with Stan Pinkwas
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2003. Edition of 15.

29 x 7.5" open. Ink jet on hand-painted accordion pages with digitally printed slipcase and ribbon pull.

This is an edition version of Schaer's book that is in the center of her sculptural piece "Altars of the Invisible." This small book illuminates the tensions in personal relationships through the metaphor of early navigation.
(SOLD/Out of Print)


Adjusting for the Moon book
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Love and Madness
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 2000. One-of-a-Kind.

11.5 x 16 x 9” closed; 11.5 x 17 x 9” opened. Uses a woman’s girdle for book structure. 3.5 x 6 x 2” book inset. Mixed media with girdle, acrylic, ink, dye, chord, linen thread, silk. Inset heart-shaped book sewn on multiple cords, interior text hand-lettered Nietzsche quotation on handmade Tibetan paper.

Miriam Schaer: “Love and Madness is a meditation on Nietzsche’s famous quote about the complexities of relationships. Bound in a heart shaped book, on hyper-packed cords, the book, which cannot break free from the bustier where it is housed, emphasizes the twists and turns that exist in all intimate relationships.”

Love and Madness book
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Zelda Reflects
By Miriam Schaer
Brooklyn, New York: Miriam Schaer, 1994. Open Edition

3" x 4" 18 pages including cover. Printed offset. Double o-wire binding. Printed offset on multicolored mylar card stock. Signed but unnumbered.

Filled with images of bountiful women from vintage French postcard, and wise words from well-known people. Typeset backwards in mirror type. The pages must be read in the reflection which helps our "Zelda" to reflect, and ponder her options, as she looks back on her year.

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Page last update: 05.11.2022

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