A few months ago, I wrote about my persistent fascination with industrial-supply catalogs, especially the Grainger catalog, which runs to many thousands of tissue-thin pages and contains everything from centrifugal belt-drive downblast exhaust ventilators to cementitious mortars.
A number of readers wrote to say they share my interest in these catalogs, which feature dauntingly precise language and serve as a kind of paean to utility. Among those who came out of the woodwork was the artist Steve Greene, who’s married to The Paris Review’s finance manager, Janet Gillespie. Steve has been using supply catalogs in his drawings and collages for years, to incredible effect; he was kind enough to send me some of his work, and to elaborate on his sources:
My go-to resource for years has been the Uline Shipping Supply Specialists catalog, which I subscribe to so I can keep replenishing favorite images. Nice heavy magazine paper with great color. An old favorite is the Arco Officer Candidate Tests by Solomon Wiener, Colonel, AUS-Ret, which is full of useful tips for aspiring military officers and practice tests that have been partially filled out in red ink. The others I take myself—the more wrong answers, the better. Then there are the Mobile Manual for Radio Amateurs, from 1960, and Magnetic Recording by S. J. Begun, from 1949, neither of which I would dare cut up—but both spend a lot of time on the copy machine. I still have stacks of pages from the Global Equipment Co. catalog, which I’ve been using for about thirty years.
I particularly enjoy the random poetry of these books and catalogs, and their listings and names often make their way into my titles:
Accelerator Pump Cam
Tough, Tear Resistant, Out-of order
Below are three additional pieces by Steve; you can see more of his work here.