Fun Between the Covers

July 25th, 2011  |  Published in On View, Summer 2011  |  1 Comment

"Zulu: A Book Doll" Handmade paper, textile and wood. 24.5" c 6.75" x 6.5" by Pamela S. Howard

Books. From the tiniest , “Musical Boxes” by Mark Palkovic measuring  a mere 1” X 1 1/2”, to the largest, also qualifying as the most outrageous,”Zulu: A Book Doll”  by Pamela Howard, Bookwords 12 at the Main Library through  August 29, 2011, is a plethora of invention and imagination.  Pop-up book artists are now known as “paper engineers”, but this group, the Cincinnati Book Arts Society, needs an even wider descriptive tag,  one that adds in history, workmanship, creativity and sheer delight.
“Zulu” would definitely awaken the the most ardent electronic book maven to the possibilities of the obvious tactile qualities of books. She’s two feet of dynamic incongruity from her shrunken head style of face, and her brown reaching hands, armatured for posture changes, to the book covering her torso.  By the time the actual book portion is discovered, it is the least of her fascinations. Like all of the books displayed, she is entwined in messages.  One glance can never peel off all the layers of information she offers.
Ruth Banta follows this ‘more is good’ reasoning with a little gem of individually shaped pieces of unrelated images, fanning out from a central point and topped by a small printed foot.  It’s title, “Foot Notes” leaves lots of room for the viewer’s own interpretation. It’s purpose? Fun.
All fifty-five of the exhibit’s works follow the individual artists’ themes. These could not be tossed off in a fit of inspiration.  Too much is encompassed by found objects, printed material, collage, bits and pieces dripping with memory and meaning, to allow happy accident to play a serious role.  Small as the details are, in them lies the most amazing part of the art.  Not all, though, are concerned with chuckles. They touch gently on human experience, dressing even tears in textures, compositions, and, yes, spangles.
Much history lurks in these works.  Places and people, notes and photos, the keepsakes of our lives, find the perfect setting in these occasionally complex concoctions.  Sally Murray recycled old greeting cards found in  a relative’s estate long ago.  Alice Balterman, the grande dame of artists’ books, joins this collection with altered bingo cards accompanied by their own book box.  Balterman’s forte is cutting images and rearranging them into new forms.  Hers is not the only collage.  Nearly every piece incorporates collage in some manner, as well as the elegant presence of boxes elevating that prosaic title to a valued element in itself.  The box accompanying Kimberly Waite’s submission is covered with a white, furry substance, while others carry out the themes of the book accompanying them.
Accordian books are especially popular, smaller in this show than in previous years.  There’s more attention being shown to precise workmanship in this genre as well as in the overall show.  An especially appropos example of this was a small accordian book zig-zagging through its display case, chillingly evoking winter through photos of Central Park in New York city after a snow storm.  “C.P.N.W. 12.27.10” by Veronica Sorcher provides a nice, little shiver in a hot Cincinnati summer.

"Skeleton Dance" Mixed Media 9.5" x 13.25" x 3.60 by Nancy Driesback

When speaking of precise workmanship, it’s not possible to slide by April Foster’s exquisite work in   “Heart Matters”.  Collagraph and pressure print imagery from scientific diagrams in strange shades of salmon-y pinks, combined with heart sayings reach out and grab through sheer perfection.  It is one of those moments in an exhibit that deserves a gasp.
Text is not required to make a book.  Their communications are adequate through any number of visual avenues.  But text, too, is not just words.  It can be classic calligraphy, letter press, script,  or just letters and numbers.  For those who love books in any form, these are just as satisfying a reach into that world of unusual papers, original poems, shapes ,connections, and surprises.  Books behind glass in cases are all too tempting.  We  can’t touch, but , oh, how we want to.  Every page mentally urges hands on investigation.
Traditional book forms are equally fascinating.  The materials used in covers such as cloth, beads, and precious leathers, bound with professional care, result in a simpler, yet  equally impressive, product, almost too beautiful to write upon.
And on a personal note, I love books.  I could never begin and end a book by pushing a button.  I need pages, and covers,  mysterious splotches on old time-pocked text, language embroidered with excellent English and flowery phrases.  Paper textures that whisper “quality”.  Many of the books in Bookworks are altered books, i.e., books published as one thing, then manipulated by the artist to become another entirely without destroying the initial physical form. These rely heavily on unrelated material which is introduced to the book, changing its purpose to one the artist prefers.  Having been raised with a profound respect for books, I must admit a momentary cringe in honor of its original purpose, even knowing it is now more meaningful than ever.
-Fran Watson
The writer is a member of this group, though not currently showing.






  1. Theressa Hafele says:

    November 13th, 2011at 1:54 pm(#)

    Just wanna comment on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the written content is real fantastic. “All movements go too far.” by Bertrand Russell.