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Members show at Western New York Book Arts Center

"House of Words" by Maud White.

Making Book

There are not just books in the members show at the Western New York Book Arts Center. And among the so-called books, sometimes it’s hard to recognize them as books.

Such as the devilishly complicated little black box contraption artist’s book by Janna Willoughby-Lohr, complete with instructions on how to open it and then close it up again when you’re done. Inside the box are four accordion-type foldouts of little photos of shopping carts, of all things, some wire netting formed into a shopping cart facsimile, many little mirrors, and a scroll-type typescript of a little poem/story with a punch line.

A more traditional-looking book, about lawn chairs this time, is Suzanne Winterberger’s book of poems by Julie Carter Merwin about youth and death and some memorable occasions in between. The book is titled Circle the Lawn Chairs. One of the poems is about “the C word,” which turns out to be the thing that, in Uncle Joe’s case, the chemo didn’t help. It starts out: “Irish and full of Fate/Aunt Kay couldn’t bring herself/to say the name for years…”

Another book of poems or sort of poems among enigmatic little statements and observations is by Damian Weber. It’s called Nothing Great Happen tzo Me, Except 1000 Little Miracles. Featuring such poems/enigmatics as “May my Love/Reach you all/(in the weirdest/way possible),” and “All you speak/is a spell.”

There are many non-books, but often with allusions to books or with verbal content. Maud White’s paper and cardstock construction of a house—a little like a doll house—of printed book pages, including some British and American classics: Walden, The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited. Mark Wisz’s painting featuring press type legend expounding some personal insight of the artist on artmaking, which Wisz sees as more a result of accident than planning: “The real truth in art lies amongst the errors, the visual bad judgments, and stupid mistakes. Accidents during the process of creating are the first step to pure art. Really.” Michael Morgulis’s illustrated page from his book on How to Hold a Bowling Ball. Some not very helpful little figures of bowlers, and written explanation that starts out: “There are three holes in a typical bowling ball…” Khrista Richardson’s carefully hand-crafted custom-made book box.

Other non-book works include Kassia Keeley’s exceptionally lovely silkscreen print on what looks like silk also, of different weave pattern vertical strips. The actual print, in soft off-yellow, seems nondescript abstract on first viewing, but then on further observation turns out to be a window looking out onto winter barren tree branches. The piece is called Passed Shadows (Winter 11:2).

Also, Craig LaRotonda’s mixed media Immaculate Reception, showing a youngish woman in a slightly languid, basically football tight end pose, about to receive a large, well-marbled butcher cut of red meat that’s dropping from the sky into her arms.

And for any rugged individualist philosophy Republicans who might wander into the exhibit, Christine Gallisdorfer and Jodi Hamann’s letterpress poster of a quote from Elizabeth Warren: “There is Nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.”

Mary Jane Kidd’s piece, a kind of book posing as a picture in a frame, consists of a couple of photo illustrations and an extensive text on the topic of the artist’s remarkable aunt, Loucille Bourneman, who lived to be 90 and is shown in one of the photos in much younger days in a filmy white summer dress playing the accordion.

Probably the bookiest single work—whole display, really—is by Tim Robinson, and features volumes one and two (purchasable) of his serial work for kids of all ages (well, usually about 10 and up, the author says) recounting an elaborate (and somewhat improbable) saga of a tribe of orphaned “Muffin” children in a futuristic time after a devastating attack by some evil force or forces on civilization as we know it, whose mission is to save the world. I expect they will do it. What they have going for them is possession of a powerful immortal stone, called the Bruised Diamond, and seemingly limitless moxie.

There are artworks—usually one each—by some 65 WNYBAC member artists. The show continues through August 25.

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