By Phil Zimmermann
Tucson, Arizona: Spaceheater Editions, 2009. Edition of 50.
11.25 x 8.5"; 52 pages. HP Indigo printed on Mohawk Superfine paper. Photographic images on boards with sewn binding. Variation of the floating hinge format creates a book within a book.
Phil Zimmermann: "Shelter came out of an exploration of losing faith and questioning on of its opposites: the process of finding religion. This text came out of watching my dying father, who was never religious when I was growing up, become increasingly interested in faith and salvation as he became sicker from heart disease and cancer. I saw the desert with it's unfriendly flora and harsh environment as a metaphor for the difficult world towards the end of many people's lives. The desert is also used in many religious tracts as a place for contemplation and mortification. In this work roadside shelters and gospel ministries were used as signifiers of ways and places where people look (vainly?) to relive prospects of their approaching death."
A wondrously complex book aptly suited for the knotty subject of dying (very much different than death and its aftermath). Turn the pages and cloud-laden skies, always with a gray cast, provide framework for an alternating chain of Southwest borderland secular shelters (Wayside Stops or Rest Areas in some parts of the US) and churches clad in the look of evangelism. Text at the bottom of most pages contains the tortured musings of a man with "the inevitable irritability that comes with a body surrendering to age," a man who would like "shelter and comfort: peace" both physical and spiritual. The book structure suggests that the comfort may be difficult or impossible because the beauty of blooming cacti is present but almost impossible to see. The final page contains the last lines from William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis," a wish perhaps from Zimmermann to his father – no promise of an undiscovered country, but solace as a kind of shelter in the last moments on this side of the border.