College Book Art Association Conference in Salt Lake City

Footbridge on University of Utah campusThe 2014 CBAA biennial conference was held January 2-4 on the campus of the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. The conference theme Print Produce Publish ( P3) was conveyed through the numerous tours, featured speakers, panels, exhibitions, and workshops. Most of the conference activities took place in the extraordinary J.Willard Marriott Library, including the panel presentations, the Members’ Exhibition, the Vendor Fair, and Members’ Showcase. The library is also the site of the Book Arts Studio and Digital Lab, where several demonstrations were held and where participants could actively engage in two P3 projects.

Invited speakers were Craig Dworkin: poet, critic, editor and professor of English at the University of Utah and Lesley Dill: New York artist, printmaker and sculptor.

CBAA Members' Exhibition at A juried exhibition of artists’ books made by CBAA members was on display in the Marriott Library in cases just outside of the Book Arts Studio. You can see the presses in the studio through the glass windows beyond the display cases.

An all-day production studio on the first day of the conference, P3 Now!, led by Edwin Jager and John O. Smith, invited members to drop in and contribute

P3 Now! keepsakewhatever ideas, images, artifacts, tools, or text they might have brought from their own studios to be turned into a printed book. Participants in the digital lab spent the day creating, designing, printing, collating and constructing a keepsake for all to take home.

Another all-day production studio event, Shift Lab [in code] led by Katie Baldwin, Sarah Bryant, Denise Bookwalter, Macy Chadwick, and Tricia Treacy incorporated both digital and hand techniques. Conference attendees were invited to tweet messages, which were then “retweeted” as collaborative letterpress printed broadsides. The Book Arts Studio was a hub of activity as participants raced to print and produce before the end of the day.

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Posted by L. Whitehill Chong

Artist As Archivist: Maureen Cummins at Watts History of the Book Program

November 29 – December 1, one of several extraordinary Watts History and Culture of the Book Program events was held at the John Carter Brown Library and at other locations in town. The JCB’s autumn series entitled, Books of Business/Business of Books, featured a weekend of lectures, informal conversations and a letterpress printing/bookmaking workshop with guest artist Maureen Cummins. In keeping with the event series theme, a fascinating exhibition of historic record books of early American commerce were on display at the JCB Library. Added to that theme, Maureen’s artist’s books, derived from antique handwritten documents and extensive research into archival collections, provided glimpses of the past, but with contemporary and challenging new perspectives.

Maureen’s lecture on Thursday the 29th described how her work as an artist came to be focused on archival resources as inspiration for her book concepts and narratives. She related how her love of flea markets and antique stores has unearthed many thought-provoking raw materials from which to work. In the process of mining historic archival collections, she uncovers little known stories and facts that she sensitively weaves into a new visual narrative.

Accounts, title page

For example, in her artist book Accounts, the pages of this authentic 1860’s ledger book are filled with client names and sums from a busy New York based cotton trading company. Handwritten in elegant pen and ink, the pages themselves speak of wealth and privilege. Yet Cummins has printed over these ledger account pages excerpts from the WPA Slave Narratives, in bold, sans-serif type, bringing our attention to the wealth gained at the expense of other human beings. We hold in our hands two voices from the past, brought together in a profound visually compelling new way.

Another book by Cummins, Crazy Quilt, provides personal narratives of 19th and 20th century women who were placed in institutions for the insane when it was clear they were as rational as anyone else. In these brief stories we are reminded of how women’s issues were viewed not that long ago, and are still viewed in some contemporary cultures.

On Friday the 30th, in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Fleet Library at RISD, Maureen continued the conversation about her work, where the lively question and answer session from the night before had left off. Students had an opportunity to see some of her books close up and Maureen was able to delve deeper and more informally into her creative process. Several other artists’ books from the RISD collection that also derive from historic events or documents were compared and discussed.

Conversation with Maureen at RISD

Saturday December 1st was spent printing and bookbinding, in a hands-on workshop, held in the book lab of AS220. Maureen asked each participant to come up with a word or short phrase to print on the letterpress, with each person printing a small edition of their page. When all the pages were printed and collated, they created a kind of visual poem, with both elegant and humorous combinations of text and meaning. Students were taught a simple pamphlet stitch binding and each went home with a keepsake book of their very own.

For more information about the work and career of Maureen Cummins, go to http://www.maureencummins.com/  The RISD artist book collection has two of Maureen’s books and several hand printed prospectuses from her other books. A new book based on documents from the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, which took place in Manhattan over one hundred years ago, will be added this summer.

Posted by L. Whitehill Chong, Special Collections Librarian

Artists’ Books Content Design voicE Form

Throughout history artists have long been agents of change, throwing light in new ways on challenging issues of our society, both past and present.  With determination and invention, artists call attention to issues of war and conflict, gender, race, politics, and the environment.  With transparency and honesty they reveal personal issues of family, love and relationships, illness, tragedy, death and loss.  They remind us of the wonder of nature and with playfulness and humor show us how to laugh at ourselves.

Artists find the book form a compelling medium for making works of art in order to give voice to their ideas, narratives or concepts. The physical attributes of books, with their portability, intimacy, interactivity, and time-based sequential elements result in a unique and dynamic involvement between artist and audience.  The structural form of an artist book often goes beyond merely providing a platform for text and image.  More likely it serves as a metaphor for the content, mirroring the subject and meaning through materials, design and form.  The reader’s experience of the artist’s book is both visual and tactile through a hands-on engagement that cannot be experienced with works of art that are displayed on a wall or pedestal.  Organized around selected themes, the books in this exhibit are a glimpse into the many and varied ways that artists speak through paper and print.

An exhibition catalog is available which describes each of the 50 books on display, showing how artists have integrated materials, images, text, and format to convey the underlying story or content.  For information about the exhibition catalog, contact the Special Collections Librarian ( lwhitehi@risd.edu) .   See a review of this exhibit by Arts Editor Bill Van Siclen of the Providence Journal.

One of the themes in this exhibition is September 11, 2001.  The following is an excerpt from the exhibition catalog, featuring an artist book by Jeannie Meejin-Yoon.

The events of September 11th touched us all whether we were there in Manhattan, had loved ones or friends who perished, or experienced it through the media as we sat glued to our TV screens.  In many ways our country has been changed forever.  Some artists in the years following felt the need to express their fears, confusion, distress, and respect for those lost in this tragedy and turned to the book form as their medium of expression.

12.  Absence / Jeannie Meejin Yoon
New York, NY: Printed Matter; Whitney Museum of American Art, c2003

When closed the pages of this book form a solid block of white, with the single word “ABSENCE” in cut-out on the cover.  The first ten pages reveal a single tiny hole in each otherwise blank page.  The next 110 pages have the same identical two squares in cut-out, again with no text or other reference.  The last page has a grid of cut-out shapes, evoking buildings and streets.  On the inside cover, the subject is revealed, “In Memory September 11, 2001”.  Each page, as it is turned, pulls the next page along bringing to mind the falling of the towers.  The holes represent the TV antenna on one of the towers and the number of pages represents the number of floors in each building.

As you look back into the stacked squares, you see the empty space where the towers once stood.  Yoon, an architect living in Manhattan, created this stark “architectural” memorial which at first puzzles the reader and then hits home with poignant reverence.

RISD Artists’ Books on exhibit at Salve Regina Gallery

Currently on exhibit at the Salve Regina University Gallery is a selection of artists’ books from the RISD Library collection.   These include books by Carol Barton; Julie Chen & Nance O’Banion; Johanna Drucker; Eve Faulkes; Rand Heubsch; Paul Johnson; Russell Jones; Angela Lorenz; Judith Mohns & Francois Deschamps; Lois Morrison; Rosemary Simpkins; Jill Timm; Claire Van Vliet; Deborah Wieder & RISD faculty Anne West.  Pop-up structures and accordion variations as well as other innovative book structures and printmaking techniques provide a glimpse of the rich and varied resources from our collection.  If you get a chance to visit Newport, be sure to see this exhibit.

Rhode Island School of Design Artist Book Exhibit

March 18 – April 11, 2010

Gallery Hours:

Monday – Thursday:  11 am – 4 pm

Sunday:  2 – 4 pm

The gallery is located in the Antone Academic Center on the corner of Lawrence and Leroy Avenues in Newport, RI.    lwc

New addition to Artists’ Books

COUNTING: A BOOK OF LISTS

Janine Wong/CenterStreet Studio, 2008

RISD Artists’ Books W646Co

Accordion fold book with cloth bound cover folder and slipcase.  Letterpress printed with wood and metal type over digital archival pigment print underlay. Pages mounted on Arches Cover paper, with pressure print images on verso.

What if someone were to look through your paper recycle bin, picking out discarded envelopes, notes, lists, letters, sketches, calendar pages, or other unwanted scraps you tossed out?  What kind of story would they be able to piece together about you? In our not-so-distant past, before the aid of “Blackberries” and other mobile devices that now help organize our daily lives, we kept lists and wrote notes to ourselves to remind us of the myriad details needing our attention.  Even now, we still sketch or scribble on scrap paper to capture our thoughts, plans or elusive dreams.  And when we uncover a forgotten hand written “to-do” list tucked in a coat pocket or in between the pages of a book, we are reminded of past concerns and events, tokens of a life lived.

Janine Wong’s artist book, “Counting: A Book of Lists”, captures these very details, highlighting the depth and fullness of her life as wife, mother, artist, educator, and administrator.  Each accordion page has a digital print of a “found list”.  Lists are numbered and categorized with a few additional details, printed letterpress on top of the digital print.  On the backs of these pages is a series of monochromatic pressure prints made from scraps of notebook paper, rolodex cards and empty envelopes; a kind of “debris field” in soft silhouette.

A sample entry on page 5, under the category “roles”, depicts a calendar page torn out of an organizer with lists of people to call, tax receipts to track, daycare to research, alumni dinner to plan, summer institute to organize, haircut, lectures to attend, and a new cover project to work on.  As we read each list, a portrait of the artist emerges.  We begin to recognize her handwriting, with its subtle variations that track the speed with which the list was made.  Where the handwriting is more uniform, we can imagine her meditating on this list, mulling over its contents.  Where the handwriting is scribbled, we can sense the immediacy of tracking a thought, possibly while sitting at a lecture, or just before running out the door.  The large blocky word lists written by childish hands bring to mind how quickly our children grow and how important these little scraps of their childhood become over time.

“Counting: A Book of Lists”, elegantly combines the best of techniques from both the handcrafted past and the electronic present, with its letterpress printing, hand bound covers, and digital images.  Turning the pages is a bit like coming across an archaeological find or a time capsule, not unlike Joan Lyons’ artist book, “Twenty-Five Years Ago” (Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1998  RISD Artists’ Books L97Tw) where the artist’s dusty old wallet is discovered in an air duct during renovations of her children’s former elementary school.  Appointment cards, shopping receipts and other ordinary snippets of her life indicate the changing roles of women and the tentative beginnings of the Visual Studies Workshop.  In this digital era, it is books like these that cause us to consider what will be left for people to discover about our lives, hundreds of years from now.  Will our digital photo albums, our text messages, or our emails survive?   How will our descendants remember us?  Will they be able to paint a portrait of us or piece together our lives from scraps of paper?  Will there be any electronic bytes left that are still readable?

Janine Wong has eloquently condensed these bits and pieces of her life without sentimentality and without turning the book into a kind of “family album”.  Because of the book’s simplicity and straightforward approach, it speaks to many of the concerns, issues, and responsibilities, both professional and personal, which women in this fast-paced world today face.           LWC

A Recent Artist Book Conference

THE HYBRID BOOK: intersection + intermedia was a three day conference and book fair organized and hosted by the Book Arts/Printmaking MFA Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, June 4-6.  The Conference focused on the multi-disciplinary aspect of artists’ books as a kind of  “hybrid” art form involving old and new technologies, collaborative processes, performance and interactive digital media.

Conference topics included: Book Arts in Academia; The Future of Letterpress; Modes of Production: Collaborative Processes; Offset Applications: Then and Now; Intersection + Intermedia; Text and the Hybrid Book; Book Art in the Social Sphere; and The Reciprocity of Books and Digital Media.

Highlights of the conference included interviews with internationally known artists Hedi Kyle and Gunnar Kaldewey and a live performance of  “God Bless This Circuitry”, a collaborative book work created by author Tate Shaw and musician Andrew Sallee.

Over 70 book artists exhibited their work at the Hybrid Book Fair.  In addition two gallery exhibitions were held, one featuring the book art of three artists Hedi Kyle, Gunnar A. Kaldewey, and Irma Boom and another the artists’ books of alumni from the Book Art/Printmaking MFA Program at The University of the Arts.  Exhibition catalogs for these will be available soon in the library.HediKyle

The event was well attended by book artists, scholars, educators, students, librarians, and book dealers from the U.S. and beyond.  For more information about the conference, go to the official Hybrid Book website.  For an overview of the conference and detailed reviews of several outstanding artists’ books exhibited there, check out Elisabeth Long’s book arts blog, The Sign of the Owl.  Also take a look at a couple of interactive digital “books” at these sites: My Turning Point , Confess, and War.        LWC