Imagination: Inspiration and the Artist Book

Featured image: “Common Humanity: Grief of the World” by Katie Christensen

Introduction from exhibit curator, Camellia El-Antably:

Imagine your story…it is a theme as broad as the ocean, and yet, somehow, in this time of pandemic, so necessary to survival. Shut in our homes, many of us have begun to imagine new realities for ourselves, our loved ones, and the planet both frightening and exciting. These books invite viewers to collaborate with the artist(s) in imagining a story—which may be quite different from the artist’s original intent! They utilize form and unique combinations of materials to suggest new avenues of knowing. From imagining what a lung could look like, to a house with books as its connections between walls, to photographs suggesting vague starting points, each suggests the outline of a story and asks the viewer’s imagination to fill in the details.

As a curator, one thing that delights me about this particular collection of book art is the sheer diversity of ways to create a book-like object and insert content within it. Some artists went with more traditional accordion and bound books; some opted for fixed structures which mimic the idea of a book but resist the viewer’s impulse to open them for more information; a few created “chapters” with a variety of related objects; and others discarded the traditional sense of a book altogether. Artists used beautiful hand lettering and letterpress printing, along with today’s quick print processes, or included wordless content through painting, sewing and carefully selected materials like nails, rocks or vintage items.

The goal of a book artist is to use every aspect of the piece to convey and suggest meaning. When you, the viewer, begin to imagine the story the artist is suggesting, consider all these details. How are the words, if there are any, presented? What objects or materials were selected, and what do they contribute to the sense of meaning? What clues does the title offer? What does the form of the object tell you? Bring your own associations to the imagining and the book becomes a piece of your own story.

Katherine Bella Lisa Bonilla Panter
Katie Christensen Sue Cotter
Jenny Dowd Mary Jane Edwards
Camellia El-Antably and Mark Vinich Mona Monroe
Marjorie Vecchio Keith Vinson
Aaron Wallis Rebecca Weed

Watch this short studio tour with artist Jenny Dowd: