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Book 'Em

Caitlin Cass's foldout book about the medieval Irish monk Columkill.

Members show at WNY Book Arts Center

Art books, artists’ books, one-of-a-kind items, usually, of all sorts are on display in the members’ show currently at the WNY Book Arts Center. As well as pre-books, that is, scrolls. And the in between scrolls and books form, fold-out books.

Even what looks to be—you can’t tell for sure, because it’s in a glass case, so you can’t open it and look through it—a conceptual art book. That is, not an art book in the ordinary sense, but just a regular old book—this one looks like it came straight from the retired book sales carts at the main branch public library practically across the street—in library-style cellophane and black border tape protective cover, a bit tattered and worn. The conceptual book, that is, real book, so it seems, is entitled Wildlife Incursions into Modern Architecture, part of the famous Collingham Science Editions series, by John E. Nickols and Stanley K. Page. And the conceptual artist is Julian Montague.

There are non-books as well, that is, wall-hanging artworks, like paintings, but often some other medium, such as lithographs. About 60 artists are represented.

Among the more notably beautiful book works are: Kasia Keeley’s foldout book of white paper cutouts of Buffalo scenes humble and proud; Rita Argen Auerbach’s book, each page of which is a watercolor painting of tropical trees copious foliage, entitled A Book of Leaves; Elizabeth Frances Brown’s book of collograph prints (collograph refers to a technique of printing off collages, the collages in this case consisting basically of materials of different textures, such as different types of fabrics); and Linda Meyer’s Spelling Bee, a hand-lettered ABC book eschewing the usual letter words, e.g., A is for apple, B is for bear, Z is for zebra, for a variety of more esoteric examples, e.g., under A, amaravole, atabal, and amaranth. (Amaranth was pretty easy. Various often weedy plants of the genus Amaranthus. Such as tumbleweed and pigweed. I’m still working on amaravole and atabal.)

Susan Kornacki has an extremely beautiful work, basically in the form of a scroll, consisting of sheets of paper of different textures painted white on white using what looks like a stencil technique, and the papers seemingly underlain by sections of cloth or light canvas, and papers and underlay delicately hand-sewn together into the final scroll form.

Some books—diaries, for example—are possibly not meant to be read, simply as too personal, too private. There are some books seemingly of this sort in the exhibit. For example, Evelyn Killaby’s sort of a diary in near indecipherably minuscule hand-printing in margins around, and sometimes running right into, the press-printed text of an old book, the overprinting, when it happens, making both original and added text unreadable. Or Sandra C. Fernandez’ fold-out book of pages of indecipherable script interspersed with pictures of painful looking matter such as sutured wounds. The script is reminiscent of—and may actually be, that is, reproduction of—Leonardo da Vinci’s backwards writing that he used to prevent anyone else from reading his journals.

Caitlin Cass has a fold-out book of a story about Columkill, a medieval Irish monk famous for, among other things, copying and illuminating holy books. Too bad this one, which looks quite readable and quite interesting, but is in a glass case so that you can’t see all the pages, couldn’t have been displayed in a way that it could be perused in its entirety. About half of the book-type works are out in the open, that is, not under glass, to allow thorough examination. White gloves are provided.

Among the non-book works, Andrea Zlotowitz has a superb lithograph collage called Divine, ostensibly about tobacco, the addictive pleasures of that minimally controlled substance, but the real subject is the graphic attractiveness, tactile seductive quality, of the various lithographic not so much images as surfaces, contrasting areas.

A most timely piece at the moment is Conrad Bush’s fine handmade paper, ink, and acrylic drawing/painting of a sea bird being cleansed of oil pollution, looking doubly indignant, at the unusual and no doubt not so pleasant experience of detergent washing of his flesh and feathers, and the insult of the pollution of his watery environment in the first place. A note adjacent to the title label says that sale proceeds would go to support relief efforts related to the BP Gulf of Mexico spill. The piece is entitled Last Cry.

The exhibit continues through July 9.

jack foran

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