What better place to house an art exhibit on books than in a library? Metropolitan State University’s Third Floor Gallery has done just that with Books Abound, a collection of one-of-a-kind handmade books by artists associated with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA).
Erica Rasmussen is an artist, associate professor of studio arts and gallery director at Metro State. She curated the show with MCBA artistic director Jeff Rathermel. Rasmussen said her intention with this, as well as other exhibits at Metro State, is to connect students to the community by inviting local arts organizations like MCBA to exhibit.
There are 22 pieces in Books Abound. According to Jeff Rathermel, exhibitors—all of whom have a relationship with MCBA as instructors, students or former art exhibitors—were selected to represent a broad swath of artistic styles. “Some of the works in this exhibition are deeply rooted in the traditional crafts of printmaking, binding and handmade paper. Others rely on contemporary methods and mediums,” he said.
In a world dominated by cyber-this and techno-that, it’s both comforting and grounding to view something so tactile and beautiful as handmade books. There is quite a variety here, but leave your white cotton gloves at home—these books are for show only and cannot be handled. Some of the more delicate pieces are displayed under glass.
“Woven Journal” by Roz Stendahl is a pristine example of the age-old technique of dash stitch binding. Using colorful handmade papers in orange and purple hues, her woven cover shows meticulous craftsmanship. The work is tight and radiating.
Tom Cassidy’s “Submarine” is a contemporary piece that is more like a sculpture than a book. Cassidy has transformed an old text, hollowing it out and using mixed media to create an intriguing and whimsical three-dimensional representation of letters and words. The collage conveys a playful sense of randomness. Bits of yellowed text are torn and stuffed into clear bottles. Looking at them, we automatically begin to arrange words and organize phrases, searching for meaning in a multitude of directions.
One of the most captivating books in the exhibit is Lin Lay’s “In the Middle.” In this mixed media piece, Lay uses handmade paper, hand-lettered text, sewing notions, twisted wire and beads to create a unique composition. Each of her 16 panels is a stand-alone beauty, filled with earthy greens and oranges and coupled with images of birds, butterflies and flowers to create an organic story.
“The Small Files” by Jody Williams is also a marvel. Each drawer of her miniature four-drawer file is ajar, exposing an assortment of collected and handmade accoutrements, such as scissors, an erasure, an exacto-knife blade and more. These mite-sized desk accessories would be perfect for Barbie, if only she’d stop chasing Ken and focus on her art …||
Books Abound is on display through Dec. 16 at Third Floor Gallery at Metropolitan State University’s Library and Learning Center, 700 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-793-1631. Gallery hours are Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.