ARTIST: Alison Bechdel Feed

Saying goodbye to Pine Street Art Works

Next week Pine Street Art Works will be closing. After five years. I will be opening another small shop, with a much tighter focus, so I'm excited about that. But meanwhile here's a small photo review of most of the shows I've curated since 2005.

Kids in the window '05

My kids used to like to sit in the window and pretend to be mannequins. Liza Cowan Photo 2005


Klein:fake window

same window without kids. David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan photo 2005


Klein fake show

David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan, FAKE! photo by Liza Cowan 2005


Psaw card flash+hunter
postcards for Flashbags and Charlie Hunter Show. 2006


Keith wagner pods in window
Keith Wagner, pods, in show window. Hunter/Wagner show 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Hunter:wagner show
paintings by Charlie Hunter, sculpture by Keith Wagner. 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Psaw card cara+putnam
Show postcards for Cara Barer and David Putnam. Liza Cowan design. 2006


Cara barer show
Cara Barer show. 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Barer butterfly with pucci mannequin
Cara Barer, Butterfly. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci. Photo by Liza Cowan circa 2009.


David putnam show
David Putnam show. Photo Liza Cowan. 2006


Bread and puppet at psaw
Bread and Puppet Theater, benefit performance at PSAW, photo Liza Cowan 2006.


Psaw card artifact+goodman
Show card for Artifact, Liza Cowan design. Show card for SP Goodman, SP Goodman design. 2006

Window sp goodman
Show window for SP Goodman. 2006


Psaw card paper play double
Show cards for Paper Play, Alison Bechdel and Phranc The Cardboard Cobbler. Liza Cowan design 2006

Psaw card myra+steig
20th Century Works on Paper Show, and general use postcard. William Steig poster 1944. Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman mannequin. Card design by Liza Cowan.

Psaw card denis+anderson
Show cards, John Anderson, Denis Versweyveld. Liza Cowan design 2007.

John anderson prepping show
John Anderson setting up his show. Liza Cowan photo 2007.


Versweyveld in green room
Denis Versweyveld show in Olive Room. Photo by Liza Cowan 2007


Paint by number card
Paint by Number Show. Paint by number painting,  image based on Norman Rockwell painting. Design by Liza Cowan 2007

Pbn show
Paint by Number Show. Mark, the postal carrier, enjoys the work. Liza Cowan photo 2007.

Psaw card nakki+connie
Show cards for Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth and Connie Imboden. Design by Liza Cowan, 2007 and 2008.


Sow postcard orange front
showcard Amadou Sow. Design Liza Cowan 2007

Painting by Mr. Masterpiece. Show 2008


Gombar postcard

Show card Richard Gombar. Design Liza Cowan 2008



Heinrich Harrer photographs, Seven Years In Tibet. Curated by Leslie DiRusso. Card design Liza Cowan. 2008


Studio glow in window
Studio Glow lamps and sculpture in the show window. Photo Liza Cowan 2008


Tim Matson. Pilobolous photographs show. 2009


Bloom postcard front
showcard for Bloom show. Liza Cowan design. 2009

Show Card David Powell. David Powell design 2009


Aline postcard

Showcard Aline Smithson. Liza Cowan design 2009.


Aline Smithson photos at Pine Street Art Works. Photo Liza Cowan 2009


TMNK postcard front
Showcard TMNK- The Me Nobody Knows, design Liza Cowan 2009


TMNK hanging his show. Liza Cowan photo 2009


Holiday 09 window
Winter Holiday show window. Liza Cowan photo 2009

Showcard Carol Golemboski. Design Liza Cowan 2010


Front showroom, Carol Golemboski Show. Photo Liza Cowan 2010


OK, well that's the brief tour.

I'm moving, reinventing, reincarnating, all of those things. Opening Sept 10th at S.P.A.C.E Gallery 266 Pine Street in Burlington.

As soon as I'm settled, Seesaw will continue as usual.








Judging a book by its cover: covers + blogs about book cover design

Yes! I do judge a book by its cover. So do you, probably. Most of my readers are pretty design savvy so you know you are critical, but even those of you who are not are still having a subjective response to the books you chose. Sure, we chose our books by author, by title, by subject or by a review we liked. These days, who is going to buy a book just for its brilliant cover?  Yes, I see some hands rising. But what if we are wandering around the bookstore? Or reading a review with a picture of the cover? What catches our eye? More importantly, what thrills us? What demands our attention? The cover.

  Ian Shimkoviak, The boodesigners, How wel live and why we die, book cover design, the human body details, cell illustration

Ian Shimkoviak: book  design. I love this!  The images are from The Human Body, by Cyril Bibby and Ian T Morrison. Puffin Picture book No. 102. Shimkoviak found the image here at SeeSaw. No worries, he's been generous on twitter and Facebook,  and I don't own the image anyway.

There are books I will pass by in the store simply because the covers are bad. They offend my eye. They do not thrill. Sure, for my favorite authors I'm willing to forgive almost anything just for the pleasure of the read, but a bad cover diminishes the thrill, and will likely kill random bookstore sales.

Authors have little or no control over the visual packaging of their books. It's not their fault if the design department of their publishing house has bad taste. But I do blame the houses for hiring  designers who crank out...visual garbage. Such a shame.

That said, there are so many brilliant book designers and so many ways to enjoy their work,  on the books themselves and through their websites and design blogs.  Book design is a good enough paying gig not only for the designers but for the artists and photographers whose work they often feature. Here are some  book covers featuring work by artists who have shown at Pine Street Art Works, or who are related in some way.

First, a photo by Cara Barer, whose work is always available at Pine Street Art Works. What can I say? Cara's work is stunning. Nicely featured here, with no distractions. Image relates  to the book topic  in an almost metaphysical way. Although it is a book of theory, the cover itself is lyrical.

 Cara Barer, ted striphas,
The Late Age Of Print. Photo by Cara Barer. Design by David Drummond. Columbia University Press.

Next, Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. Alison's original ink drawings from her comic series, Dykes To Watch Out For, are available here at PSAW.

 FunHome, Alison Bechdel
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel. Illustration by Bechdel.

Next, a photo by me, Liza Cowan, for Laurie Essig's Queer In Russia: A Story of Sex, Self,and The Other.  I took this picture in Moscow in 1994.  The publisher made it blue and photoshopped it so that the figure of the author stands out. I'm satisfied with the cover, which I didn't design, although I would have right - justified  the subtitle and changed the line spacing to make it closer together. Would have made the Q smaller too, since it's huger than the head, but still, I'm proud of it. Not so pleased that they never paid me, but I was new to the field, and didn't understand that cover photos actually pay quite well. They said it would be good publicity for me. Hah. Fool me once.


 Queer In Russia, Laurie Essig, Liza Cowan photo
  Queer In Russia: A Story of sex, self, and the other. Laurie Essig author. Photo by Liza Cowan. Duke University Press.

Next: American Photobooth by Nakki Goranin. Nakki exhibited images from this book at PSAW in March 2008. We look forward to exhibiting images from her next book on Tintypes. In this cover images sell the book. Anything but a simple title would diminish their power. 

 American Photobooth, Nakki Goranin
American Photobooth, Nakki Goranin. WW Norton, publisher.

Next, Connie Imboden, Reflections, 25 Years Of Photographs. Another photography book, the image is left to speak for itself, which it does eloquently. Connie showed her work at Pine Street Art Works in September 2007.


 Connie Imboden
Connie Imboden, Reflections, 25 Years Of Photography. Insight Editions, 2009

Next, Alix Dobkin's My Red Blood. Alix will be doing a book signing here at Pine Street Art Works in May. This cover uses an old snapshot of Alix in her girl with a guitar folkie phase. I saw the original mock up for this cover with a very different typeface, and it was weak. With this the title in bold caps, right justified, the cover becomes a symbol of strength, played against the sweetness of the muted rainbow tinted image. I would have made the subtitle shorter (not the designer's job) used upper and lower case of the same font family as the title. I don't really like the juxaposition of the two typefaces, but on the whole, the cover works well for me. In case you are interested, Alix writes about me in the last chapter. 

 Alix Dobkin, my red blood
My Red Blood, Alix Dobkin. Alyson Books, 2009.


If you are interested in book cover design here are some great resources. Enjoy!

blogs and websites about book design.

Caustic Cover Critic

Book By It's Cover

premiere de couverture

book covers anonymous

The Book Design Review

Faceout books

Book Cover Archive

Jacket Mechanical

Readerville Journal

covering photography

some designers:

My Book Covers: Megan Wilson

Good is dead: Chip Kidd

Helen Yentus

Elsa Chiao

Beyond The Covers: Ian Shimkoviak

Chin-Yee Lai

Everyday design goodness:

Design Observer



Speaking of  ads, I designed a fake ad for Alison Bechdel in a competition she ran on her blog

This fall, Houghton Mifflin will publish The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For, a compendium of most of the episodes of, what?!! 25 years of the comic strip. In one book!! Wow.

The amazing marketing guy at Houghton Mifflin has a plan to promote the ESSENTIAL DTWOF to bookstores by producing a fake little 8 page tabloid newspaper from the world of the strip, like, with ads for stores and places that exist in the comic strip, and news stories about the characters and stuff. It’ll be a copy of The Daily Distress, the newspaper the characters read, so it’s a way of drawing people into the cartoon universe.
Alison Bechdel, from her blog, March 16, 2008

So Alison and Houghton Mifflin ran a little competition for articles and ads, and I am one of the winners.  Congratulations to all the other winners, as well.

You can be sure that Pine Street Art Works wil be selling the book, and don't forget we still have original drawings from Fun Home and from the strip for sale.

La lentil d'or blog
La lentille d'or ad
La Lentil D'Or ad by Liza Cowan for Alison Bechdel's The Daily Distress. Photo copyright Liza Cowan 2002


I've just partnered with independent booksellers, Powell's Books, to give you, my dear readers, a chance to see my favorite books and, if you want, to buy them. Or any other books, for that matter. Here are a few selections from my list:

Cover_american_photobooth_2 Some are books by artists who have shown at Pine Street Art Works. You can buy Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth,

Cover_fun_home Or Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Cover_a_pattern_language Others are some of the books I've loved and learned from over the years.One of my favorites is A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, which has almost a cult following among architects, designers and visionary city planners.

Cover_hollywood_flatlands Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory & the Avant Garde by Esther Leslie,  traces the co-evolution of cartoons and modern art.

Cover_an_orphan_in_history You might be interested in my late brother, Paul Cowan's, An Orphan In History, which traces the roots of our Jewish American family.

Cover_contest_of_meaning If you are interested in photography and critical readings in photography check out The Contest Of Meaning, edited by Richard Bolton or

Coverphotography_on_the_color_line Photography On The Color Line, W.E.B. DuBois, Race and Visual Culture by Shawn Michelle Smith.

Cover_dv For a rollicking good read in fashion, politics, gossip and culture read D.V. by Diana Vreeland,

Cover_palimpsest or Palimpsest: A Memoir by Gore Vidal.

And the other great part of this whole thing is that by buying books through my Powell's booklist, or any other book you click through to on their search engine, you are helping support Pine Street Art Works. Yep, I get a commission on each sale, with no extra cost to you.

Even if you don't want to buy, the list is pretty neat, and you might enjoy it. Just click onto the Powells link on the right sidebar where it says, My Websites.


We had a great opening here at Pine Street Art Works yesterday. Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth made it's official exhibition debut as thousands thronged to get in. Just joking - that only happens at Art Hop. But, despite snowy roads and a host of other Burlington happenings, we enjoyed a full house of friends and art mavens.

Nakki Goranin (right) discusses her work with my friends Alison Bechdel and Holly Rae Taylor while other friends and visitors look at the images.

We sold over forty books in two hours, and that hasn't happened here since Alison Bechdel's launch party for Fun Home. Several people showed up because they had heard the interview with Nakki the night before on Vermont Public Radio.  I couldn't have asked for better publicity.


Liza, self portrait using iMac Photobooth and digital point and shoot camera. With SP Goodman painting as screensaver.

Alison Bechdel mentioned in a response to my last post that there is a piece about this blog in our local weekly newspaper, Seven Days Vermont. At the risk of this blog turning into an endlessly recursive hall of mirrors, I refer you to the the piece.

Alison is one of several artists who have exhibited at PSAW who also blog. See Alison’s blog, also Elizabeth Bunsen and SP Goodman. Other artists have excellent websites, which you can get to by following the links page on the PSAW website.

Links are often my favorite part of blogs. I’ve found some of my most valuable resources by following links, not only in the body of the text but also by following the URL’s embedded in names of reader comments. [Which, by the way, is different from people using comment space to write about their own sites. This is generally - with certain exceptions -not considered good blogging manners]

Some of the people who respond  to blogs are brilliant bloggers themselves -creative thinkers, writers, artists, analysts, collectors. Or not. But it’s worth following the links if you are interested in what they've said.

Just click on the names on the comments, and if they have embedded their URLs you will get there. How postmodern is that? It’s one of the best and easiest ways for blogs to create community, which, according to the piece in 7Days, is what I’m here to report on.