So begins Liza Kirwin’s More Than Words, a stunning collection of artist-made illustrated letters mined from the Smithsonian Archives. The book features over 90 works of mailable artwork in the forms of thank you notes, love letters, rambling descriptions, holiday greetings and simple how-do-you-do’s. The personal details regarding aspects of life, business, family and love, are accented with images, filling in the literal and figurative blanks to communicate what words sometimes cannot.
“In a letter to his wife, painter Walt Kuhn writes, ‘One should never forget that the power of words is limited,'” reads the books introduction. Indeed, it’s more than obvious that for many of the artists included in the book, images are not flowery adornments, nor secondary means of communication in any sense. For artists like Andy Warhol, Ray Johnson, Rutherford Boyd and Gladys Nilsson, it appears that images are at the core of interpersonal contact, an instinctual and necessary mode of human connection.
Every letter represented is dated and described, providing readers a brief and intimate glimpse into an artist’s most personal creations. Unlike the artworks that hang on museum walls or live in artist catalogues, these visual creations were never intended to leave their recipients’ grasps.