Taking a New Look at Books
new-book ritual, splaying the crisp spine and gently smoothing down,
front and back, a few pages at a time? Remember the feel, the smell
of those pristine pages? What is it about books? Why do we like
not only to read them, but also to look at them, feel them, yes
even smell them? We build public monuments and private altars to
them and, as a current exhibit shows, we translate them into visual
“It’s another way to have a conversation about books,
” says Ronni Komarow, who organized “Beyond the Book:
An Exhibit of Book Art and Collage,” at the Honan-Allston
branch of the Boston Public Library. “And what better place
than in a library?”
a book artist who lives near the library, proposed the idea of a
juried show as a way to draw attention to Allston’s growing
arts community that will soon include Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum,
temporarily relocating a few blocks away during its building renovation.
Branch librarian, Sarah Markell, was immediately enthusiastic.
Some of the
exhibit’s works are recognizable as books, like Komarow’s
own accordion book, “She Was Very Smart,” which gives
voice to unheard family legend. Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord crafts
“Spirit Books” of fabric, paper, and wood that open
like large, wise dictionaries or hide in twig nests and embellished
seed pods. In Tricia Jones’s “Trees Have Always Been
My Friends,” a tiny book rests in a curl of bark, reminding
us that early books were written on the natural materials at hand.
Letters spelling out “mea culpa” reach from the pages
of “Remorse” by Annie Zeybekoglu.
have a freer take on the idea of books, like Tricia Neumyer’s
“Self Portrait as Action Figure Trading Cards,” in which
she appears as, among others, Naomi Armitage, “former police
officer on Mars.” Squiggly shapes that cavort through Keith
Maddy’s “Roll Over” remind me of the grasshopper
that jumps through E.E. Cummings’s poem, “rpophessagr."
A secret message hides in the sole of a shoe in “How They
Brought the Word from Dailytown” by M. L. Van Nice. Jennifer
Flores references the Day of the Dead tradition in “She’s
Always Among Us.”
are collages that incorporate text, like Ruth Segaloff’s idyllic
and unsettling “Lost Boys” and Michal Rebibo’s
enigmatic “Silent Heart” and “Silent Soul.”
As a visual artist and writer, Betsy Showstack acknowledges the
possibilities and limitations of the written word in her collage,
“Words Cannot Say.” Likewise, Veronica Morgan, who describes
herself as “torn between the two worlds,” is represented
by “Hearth Goddess,” with its burnt offering of words,
and “Homemaking,” in which words unseen in this exhibit
underlie images of construction.
art has a long history, it has become even more visible in the past
decade. It’s possible all the discussion about the decline
of the hard copy in favor of online reading has inspired this new
proof that the iconic form still endures. At the very least, it
is a way of seeing that something old can be new again and again.
one creates a work of (visual) art, the object becomes a crossroads
for the artist and the public, a place for minds to connect,”
says Maria Vitagliano, director of the Chamberlayne School of Design
at Mt. Ida College, who, with her colleague Judith Veronesi, was
a juror for the exhibit. “It’s just a little leap from
there to treat a book as an art object and also push the boundaries
of people’s common notion of what books are.”
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