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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Library of Art

Art Review

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Judgingby their handmade covers, the 95 pieces of book art presented at Mount Mary College read with artistic variety. Displayed in the Marian Art Gallery located in Caroline Hall, the exhibition “Books, Books, Books: Awl in a Bind” features an ensemble of 14 women, all members of The Book Art Salon. This Milwaukee artist’s group encourages and critiques each other in pursuing this unique art form rarely seen at local galleries.

Throughout the Marian gallery these artistic books, some readable and others purely for personal expression, range in size from 2” by 2” to over seven feet long, transcending the typical descriptions of two-dimensional art. This ensemble of book artists chooses from various creative methods, depending on their area of art expertise, when fashioning their books. Crafted from wood, metal, paper, bark or even a vintage apron the “books” often interpret visual content or printed text, which may be original to the artist or adapted from another source.

In “Books, Books, Books” the works incorporate painting, printmaking, sewing and collage to mention only a few techniques. Sandra Goodkind’s Muses is a flared star book with piano hinge binding held together with a Chinese paintbrush. Original watercolor paintings on her cover pages, along with crisply cut inner pocket pages reveal decorative text reciting Omar Khayyam for meditation or reflection.

Journal Excerpt, which floats from the high ceilings strung from fishing line, is one of the largest pieces. The design of Jessica McCunick Granger, these 4’ by 7’ sheets feature 100 or more etchings per page, printed on Thai mulberry paper.

Portraying sequential facial images transforming in expression as they shift across the page, these pieced together emotions perhaps simulate the changing sensations and perceptions unexplainable through words when writing a journal.

A large portion of this collection rests under glass. Other books lay open, their pages fanned out so the viewer may clearly understand, “read” and interpret the artist’s intention. Always the product of a complicated process, book art requires ingenuity to display, and the Marian Gallery exceeds this expectation. Because of this art’s fragility, “do not touch” signs appear throughout the gallery. This occasionally detracts from the viewer’s ability to discern artistic meaning and imagery.

While the creativity and originality of the artwork fluctuates throughout the 95 pieces, the craftsmanship of these artists is indisputable. This library of artwork continues until March 29, offering the opportunity to uncover an artist’s imagination in the often-secluded pages of a book.

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