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Lex Thompson ~ Minnesota

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Lex Thompson “Lex Thompson’s work examines aspects of intellectual and cultural history in relationship to contemporary thought. Obtaining a BA in history at New College of Florida and a MA in Religion and Visual Arts at Yale University, he received his MFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. He is Professor of Art (Photography) at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. He is recipient of a 2010 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, a 2008, 2011 & 2016 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and was selected as a 2009 Flash Forward Emerging Photographer and shortlisted for the 2014 Source-Cord Prize.”.


Cheiro’s Language of the Hand
Concept by Lex Thompson
Design by Joshua Eller and Lex Thompson
New Introduction by Dr. Edward O’Hare Minneapolis,
Minnesota: History-Papers, 2022. Edition of 50.

8 x 10 x.75”; 194 pages. Digital and Risograph prints. Pastedowns of thermochromic paper. Hand sewn with a four-hole Japanese stab binding, with foil stamping on the front and back covers. Text pages printed on a light gray paper in pink and blue.

Lex Thompson: "Published by History-Papers, ‘Cheiro’s Language of the Hand’, reimagines Cheiro’s nineteenth-century palmistry text; an instructional guide to palm reading as science rather than occult art. This dubious application of scientific ideas has the flair of parlor tricks, the language of science with the feel of magic. … It is set in Gills Sans, a humanist sans-serif typeface, released near the end of Cheiro’s life, chosen for its suggestion of objectivity with still a touch of the human hand. Pages of celebrity handprints (Mark Twain, Sarah Bernhardt, William Gladstone, etc.) are Risograph printed on thermochromic paper; the pink and blue sheets turn white with the heat of human touch, leaving the reader’s handprint temporarily on the page – a kind of scientific magic."

The original title page reads -

As is the mind, so is the form

A complete practical work on the sciences of
Cheirognomy and Cheiromancy, containing
the system, rules, and experience of
(Count of Hamomg)

Fifty-five Full-page Illustrations and
over Two Hundred Engravings of Lines, Mounts, and Marks.
Drawings of the seven types by Theo Dore.
Reproductions of famous hands,
Also normal and abnormal hands taken from life.

Containing Illustrations of the wonderful scientific invention
The apparatus for “Thought Photograph and register of cerebral force


Cheiro's Language of the Hand book
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Martha Maxwell’s Menagerie
A Catalog of Mammal and Bird Specimens

Compiled and designed by Lex Thompson
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lex Thompson2017/2019. Edition of 5.

Two volumes in wooden slipcase with dovetailed design along edges and laser etched illustration on sides with an M on the spine. Texts cited from Mary Emma Thompson's ‘On the Plains, and Among the Peaks, or, How Mrs. Maxwell Made Her Natural History Collection’ (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1879).

Volume 1 “A Catalog of Martha Maxwell’s Menagerie of Mammal and Bird Specimens (as far as is possible) as taken account of” by Elliott Coues & Robert Ridgeway”: 8.5 x 6 x 2”; 310 pages. Case bound in lime green book cloth, smyth sewn. Gold gilt edge with gilt line illustration and titles on front board. Hand marbled endsheet. Printed and bound by Conveyor Editions. Illustrated plates (hunted and cut from field guides) by Lex Thompson. Signed and numbered by Thompson.

Volume 2 “A Catalog of Martha Maxwell’s Menagerie of Mammal and Bird Specimens (as far as is possible)” by Lex Thompson : 8.5 x 6 x 1.5”; 223 pages. Case bound in gold book cloth, smyth sewn. Green gilt edges. Green line illustration and titles on front board. Hand marbled endsheets. Printed and bound by Conveyor Editions. Introduction and photographs by Lex Thompson. Illustrated plates by Thompson. Signed and numbered by Thompson.

Lex "’Martha Maxwell's Menagerie’ illustrates lists of Maxwell's specimens made by Elliot Coues and Robert Ridgway to create a nineteenth-century style natural history folio. Combing through existing books and images (a contemporary mediated searching) to find each animal mimics Maxwell's hunting in the field. The creatures are pasted onto chroma-key green rectangles, a background of cinematic, imagined potential, to highlight their extraction from the environment."

“Of the thousands of specimens Martha Maxwell collected during her career, to fill her museums and special exhibitions, only a few remain. These specimens went immediately into museum collections or the private collections of naturalists, later donated to their institutional home. All are study skins, except the Dusky Grouse chick, the only remaining example of Maxwell's taxidermy skills. This is all that is left of the many animals Maxwell preserved."

Lex Thompson: "Over her lifetime, Colorado naturalist, Martha Maxwell shot and stuffed thousands of animals. In 1874, she put the animals on display in her Rocky Mountain Museum, a natural history museum on the second floor of the only brick building in the frontier town of Boulder, Colorado. A year and a half later she moved the museum to Denver, hoping to find a larger audience. Relocating, however, would not prevent commercial failure – income could not keep up with expenses. Still, her scientific work and the museums were well regarded, by the public and fellow naturalists. She was a pioneer in her field. Maxwell was one of the first people to install animals in habitat group dioramas – an innovation for which most histories fail to properly credit her.

“Maxwell was invited to be Colorado’s representative to the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Entitled ‘Women’s Work’, her exhibition was a massive habitat diorama that included hundreds of mammals, large and small, and even more birds. She displayed a few live animals and built running water into the environment. Destitute upon realizing this monumental installation, she built a cave within her Philadelphia exhibition in which to live for the duration of the fair – turning herself into a part of the exhibition. Attempts to commercialize her taxidermy through photographic mementos and other ancillary business ventures repeatedly failed. The exhibition travelled to Washington D.C. and Rockaway Beach, New York, where she died in 1881 at the age of forty-nine. All of the specimens from the Centennial Exposition were sold off and ultimately lost to neglect. While a small number of other specimens reside in museum collections, most of the animals she had intended for immortality through her art were lost to history shortly after her death.

“‘Martha Maxwell's Menagerie: A Catalog of Mammal and Bird Specimens’ illustrates lists of Maxwell’s specimens made by Elliot Coues and Robert Ridgeway to create a nineteenth-century style natural history folio. My combing through existing books and images (a contemporary mediated searching) to find each animal mimics Maxwell’s hunting in the field. The creatures are pasted onto chroma-key green rectangles, a background of cinematic, imagined potential, to highlight their extraction from the environment. Of the thousands of animals Maxwell collected, one hundred twenty-seven specimens remain - one hundred thirty-two if the Smithsonian’s woodpecker eggs are counted individually rather than collectively. The largest quantities of specimens are preserved at the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Field Museum of Natural History, respectively. In addition to those groups, a lone rosy finch resides, one each, at the Bell Museum of the University of Minnesota, the Royal Ontario Museum and the University Museum of Bergen, Norway. Almost all of the specimens are simple study skins. One mounted dusky grouse chick lives at the Smithsonian; the only remaining example of Maxwell’s taxidermy talent. The mounted finch at the Bergen Museum was stuffed and posed by the museum after its arrival in Norway.

“The photographs in this book record all of the known remaining specimens from Maxwell’s life and work. The lists of Maxwell’s specimens made by Elliot Coues and Robert Ridgway, illustrated in the previous volume of ‘Martha Maxwell’s Menagerie’, give an idea of the breadth of her collection, numbering hundreds of species. The individuals in this volume, representing the remaining specimens, do include a few animals not on those lists, but evidence a much narrower range of species; demonstrating just how much of her work has been lost.

“Together these two books join an imagined vision of the past based on historical record, and a contemporary record of the past based on historic artifacts – two complementary and antithetical ways of telling the story of Maxwell’s zoological endeavor.”

Martha maxwell Menagerie book v1
Volume 1
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Martha Maxwell Menagerie book v2
Volume 2
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By Lex Thompson
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lex Thompson, 2007. Edition of 7.

13.5 x 8"; 32 pages. Inkjet and letterpress printing. Pages printed on BFK Rives Gray, Epson Enhanced Matte, and Fabriano Moss Green Paper, using a Vandercook Press and an Epson 2200 Archival Ultrachrome Printer. The cover label and bookmark are actual items recovered from the factory.

Lex Thompson: "Target is a book comprised of photographs taken in the abandoned Winchester Rifle Factory in New Haven, Connecticut. Intermingled with the images are old photos and textual excerpts taken from items (a time card, manufacturing inspection sheet, newsletter, etc.) found in the factory. Included with the book are an actual time card, as a bookmark, and an address label inset into the front cover. The photographs document the now hollow place where labor and social life intermingled. But, only so much can be known from these remnants alone. The spaces are filled by the artifacts gathered off the factory floor. They present the life and activity of those that inhabited this building. The beauty and romanticism of the ruin is populated by a specific, if incomplete, record of the building's life."

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Greetings from Colma
By Lex Thompson
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lex Thompson, 2004. Edition of 150.

4 x 6", 34 postcards in red paper wrap case with slip-in tab closure. Printed on a four color press by Nomad Printing. Standard in red paper wrappers. Deluxe edition, in blue cloth covered box with map of Colma lining interior.

Since 1902 it has been illegal to bury or cremate bodies in San Francisco. This is done in flourishing Colma, situated strategically just south of the city limits. Sandwiched between immaculately landscaped cemeteries are flower shops and headstone suppliers necessary to complete the economic community of the dead, a peculiar amalgam of life, death, ethnicity, religion, consumerism, and tourism thanks to the gods of zoning.

This set of over forty postcards features photographs of the mortuaries, florists, and monument retailers. The postcards pose as mementos for tourists as well as sales pitches for future visitors and residents.

The places are real. Thompson’s presentation allows and even calls for both critique and celebration. Satire? Documentation? Yes. Yes.

Lex Thompson: “Three quarters of Colma's inhabitants are decomposing. The majority of them are housed in a series of establishments stretched along El Camino Real….The deceased come to stay, but the living visit. And it is not just relatives who come to the next world. The cemeteries have tourist appeal. Groups travel to see this city of tombs for the novelty of the area and for the famous San Franciscans who reside there. Gothic teens with morbid fixations join history buffs and the idly curious in their fascination with this assemblage of remembrances of life and death….In order to synthesize and commemorate this unique blend of remembrance, tourism, and resort atmosphere, it is appropriate that the city of Colma have a series of postcards from its attractions. The set of over forty postcards…features photographs of the mortuaries, florists, and monument retailers. They are mementos for tourists as well as sales pitches for future visitors and residents….Greetings from Colma takes its language directly from the city's resort like façade. By mimicking already present elements of the landscape, and associating them with the consanguine form of the postcard, the cards muster a good-humored, loving, and respectful critique of both Colma and the postcard format. They harness the touristic, cultural, and commercial dynamics of these cemeteries, capturing the curiosity of this second San Francisco….It takes the physical place as it is presented, and emphasizes the aspects that make the city simultaneously so bizarre and so grand."
Deluxe: $150
Standard: $ 45




Greetings from Colma book
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Lex Thompson Out of Print Title:  
Cave Drawings
By Lex Thompson
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lex Thompson, 2012. Edition of 100.

8.5 x 11"; 50 pages. Photographs and drawings printed on a digital press. Perfect bound.

Lex Thompson: "Like Plato’s allegorical cave, a physical cave is a place distended with mystery. Photography records dark shadows and vignettes of otherworldly light, while the delicate intimacy of the bright drawings depict the formations that are hidden within. Together, they generate some understanding of the place and what is necessary to represent it, depicting both the darkness and the detail of the underground landscape."

Travel guide, artist's sketchbook, photographic essay/meditation – Cave Drawings leads us on a trip of many pleasures into the depths of Carlsbad Caverns.

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Page last update: 11.13.2023


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