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Dust Can’t Kill Me. (2015) Woody Guthrie. 6 ½ by 5 3/8 by 5/8 inches. Collaged 1925 Ladies Home Journal pages, Dustbowl era photo reproductions from Oklahoma, watercolors and stitching decorate the text, cover and clamshell box.

This book has 18 accordion folded pages. The dark grey paper used for the accordion and all other paper was hand made by Peter Thomas. The text features the lyrics of a song by Woody Guthrie. The text was hand written in a controlled roman calligraphic face, directly on the dark grey accordion paper, by Donna Thomas. Pages cut from the May 1925 issue of the “Ladies Home Journal” were cut, rubricated and then hand stitched to the dark grey accordion paper. Photographs from a photo album that had belonged to Peter’s Grandmother, Mary Jane Weaver (see below) were digitally reproduced onto Peter’s handmade paper and then mounted to Ladies Home Journal pages using handmade black triangle corner mounts. The binding is full dark green Moroccan leather cover with black leather bands wrapped around the brown leather spine. There is a photo collage title on the front. The book is housed in a clamshell box made using black colored book cloth and grey handmade paper. The front cover has an inset collaged title panel.

Mary Jane Weaver (1906-2001) was born in “Indian Territory” and grew up in the rural Oklahoma town of Bartlesville in the early part of the 20th century. She “went down that road” to California, following other family members looking for a better life in the land of milk and honey. We don’t know who took the photographs found in this album, nor do we know who many of the other people are, but in the imagery we see a family making the best of things in spite of the poverty and rugged life of the dustbowl era times. This book continues the series of one-of-a-kind books Donna has made working with Grandma Mary’s photo album. This book explores the juxtaposition of the dirt and poverty of Mary’s life (as revealed by the images from the photo album) compared to the life she imagined (where everything was new and clean) when she read magazines like the Ladies Home Journal. Donna chose to use Guthrie’s lyrics because the refrain “Dust can’t kill me” seemed to be so apt for the life Grandma Mary was living in those photographs.

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© 2002 Peter and Donna Thomas