Books as Artistic, Historical, and Physical Objects

trio Listen here on Arts Friday, 1370 Connection, to Sally Snow, and Andrea Reithmayr talk to Announcer/Producer Mona Seghatoleslami at WXXI about books as physical, historical, and artistic objects. Click here and here to listen. You can enter an artist or altered book in the library’s juried show, The Art of the Book.

Sally Snow is Assistant Director of the Monroe County Library System and Communications director for the Rochester Public Library. Andrea Reithmayr is Special Collections Librarian and the Rare Book Conservator at the University of Rochester. Mona Seghatoleslami, radio host, is the host and producer of Classical 91.5 FM on WXXI. The book image above is “Date Due: It’s Not A Popularity Contest” by Jody Alexander. NN Art Librarian at Central

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Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

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In 2014 the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County will host an international book exhibit, “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.”, a project to memorialize much of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad on 5th March 2007.

The coalition handling the project, asked each Book Artist who joined the project to complete three books (or other paper material) over the course of a year, books that reflected both the strength and fragility of books, but also showed the endurance of the ideas within them. We asked for work that reflected both the targeted attack on this “street of the booksellers” as well as the ultimate futility of those who try to erase thought.

You can see some of the booksellers via the al-Mutanabbi Street Project in photos by Iraqi photographer Ghassan A. Malik.

Below you can see some images artist Scott McCarney did for the exhibit. When the exhibit arrives next year you will be able to see the book in real time.

Scott McCarney is an artist, designer, and educator based in Rochester, New York. He received formal design training at Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond VA) in the 1970s, and earned an advanced degree in photography from the University at Buffalo/Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester NY) in the 1980s. His primary art practice has been in book form since 1980 and spans many media, from offset and digital editions to sculpture and site-specific installation. His books combine his academic background in photography and design with a love for the corporeality of craft and philosophic possibilities of sculpture. His works are widely distributed and can be found in the library collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and Yale University Arts of the Book collection, among others. His work is shown internationally (Sao Paulo, Brazil; Melbourne, Australia; Budapest, Hungary) as well as close to home (Hallwalls, Buffalo NY; Everson Museum, Syracuse NY; Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester NY). His teaching and lecturing itinerary is varied and eclectic, carrying the banner of artists books to Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, and South America. He currently teaches in the College of Imaging Arts and Science at Rochester Institute of Technology.

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Rare Books: Large and Small

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The Arts Division has a very good sized collection of rare books and folios. These rare items are reference and they must be used in the library.  Although these can’t be checked out it is worth the trip to see these items that you will not see in other Monroe County public libraries.

So while looking in our stacks I am come across some small handmade books. They are interesting little books that book artists will find interesting. One of them measures 2 1/4 inches across. The first one I found is called ABC Gem Box: A Display of skill in Typography. Is is by Kurt H. Volk and dated 1941. It was published in a limited edition of 500 copies.

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This book is in a clam shell box and consists of the 26 letters of the alphabet. Each letter is done in a specific typographic font. Consists of 27 folded leaves (folded to 13 cm. X 17 cm.), one t.p. and one leaf for each letter of the alphabet, each with a cut-out on the first recto revealing the “gem” on the second recto. It’s simplicity itself—27 typographic arrangements, each printed on a folded page behind a cut-out window, all of them tucked into a small box. According to the Volk organization  ” it is the practice of the Volk organization unceasingly to direct its sense of form and fitness to making distinguished typography. Our aim is to discover and use the new type faces, embellishments and mechanical methods.”

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The next book is called Sunday in Monterey. It is a  book of woodcuts by Antonio Fransconi, dated 1964. This is an accordion style book with folding panels, it measures 5½x2¼. The book is made up of 58 accordion-folded pages which open to 127 inches, revealing original color woodcut illustrations of the piers, boats and houses of Monterey.

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Here is a sample of his other woodcuts from a different book.

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Other works by this artist at MoMA and here.

The books above are examples of very small sized rare books.

The two listed below are from the Art’s division folio collection and are very over-sized.

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This Frank Lloyd Wright book is a massive volume of plans and designs. It’s title is, Buildings, Plans and Designs. It measures 16 inches across and 25 inches high. Along with the plans there is a book about Wright and his work and describes each one of the 96 designs. Due to it massive size, I’m guessing this one is for Wright fans only.

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The other folio I found is a stunning collection of Navaho drawings and symbols. It is called, Where the Two Came to Their Father: Navaho War Ceremonial. This one measures 18 .5 inches across and 24 inches high. This work takes its title from the richly symbolic creation legend of the Navaho people, which they incorporated into their blessing ceremony for tribe members headed to battle. Having observed this rite during World War II, when native Americans were for the first time drafted into the U.S. military, ethnologist Maud Oakes recorded the legend and made reproductions of the beautiful ceremonial paintings, given to her by the medicine man Jeff King.

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Come in and take a look at these rare items in the Arts Division.

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Caution! Artist @ Work! 2013-14 Season Line-up

It’s back! The Arts Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County will feature a different artist once a month with its Caution! Artists at Work! 2013-2014 program series. We will host a different local artist or musician who will be working on a piece right in the Arts Division. Patrons are welcome to stop by and observe an artist painting or listen to a musician playing. These programs happen on the third Saturday of each month from 1-3 PM in the afternoon on the second floor of the Bausch & Lomb Library building. We look forward to seeing there!

We hope you will stop by and see our local talent at work! Call 428-8140 for more details.

Woodcut artist Heather Swenson demonstrates her technique for Rochester Public Library patrons. Photo credit: Judith Schewe. Caution! Artist @ Work! was also featured on the Library As Incubator Blog!

Here is this year’s line-up…

September 21Alicia Fink, precious metal clay jewelry artist. Metal Clay (PMC) is a product from Japan.  It consists of microscopic particles of silver or gold suspended in an organic binder to create a pliable material with a consistency similar to modeling clay.  Alicia has been certified by the Precious Metal Clay Guild and by PMC Connection and has taken workshops under Celie Fago, an outstanding Senior Teacher for the PMC Guild.  She teaches PMC jewelry making in the area Continuing Education Programs, at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery and at her studio.

October 19 –  Paula Marra, felted animals and creatures. Paula, of Queen Mab Fairy Houses fame, returns to the Central Library this fall to demonstrate the wildly popular craft of felting.

November 16Sandra Kemp, gourd artist. Sandra Kemp’s beautiful gourds have been displayed in the Eileen Reidman Display Cases in the Art’s Division. She will demonstrate her unique gourd artistry this fall.

December 21Karen Barber and Linda Taggart, hammered dulcimers. Karen and Linda are members of Striking Strings Hammered Dulcimer Ensemble directed by Mitzie Collins.

January 18 – Mary Housel-Demanchik, painter and book artist. Mary is an Art teacher at Rush-Henrietta Middle School and Adjunct Professor at Nazareth College. Mary’s artist’s books have been featured in the Central Library’s 2011 and 2012 Art of the Book exhibits.

February 15Randy Pollok, Rochester Ukulele Support Group. The Rochester Ukulele Support Group (RUSG) meets on the first Thursday of every month. They learn tunes, new techniques and share info about the world of ukulele. Randy and friends will be on hand for ukulele fun!

March 15Mia Sohn, decorative Ukrainian eggs. This art form is based on a 5,000 year-old tradition. It is a wax resist process on actual eggshells. This art form is known as ‘pysanka,’ which is a Ukrainian word meaning ‘to write.’

April 19 – Kathleen Barry-Wagner, landscape painter. Barry-Wagner is a Rochester area artist associated with the Outside the Box Art gallery and part-time art teacher who will be doing a demo of how to paint a landscape. She will be available to talk about use of color and  perspective and looks forward to answering any questions you may have about painting in general.

May 17Nancy Valle, ceramist. Ms. Valle’s work has been featured at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. Her ceramic studio is located on the top floor of a former shoe factory that flourished in the early days of Rochester. Nancy also offers clay workshops in her Rochester studio.

Al-Mutanabbi and Book Artist Scott McCarney

The Art of the Book opened here at the Central Library on October 21, 2012. There was a great reception and we had a great turnout.  Of course the best part were the artists books and altered books on display. A full post on that exhibit will be coming.

Along with the artists and altered books exhibit is a display by book artist Scott McCarney.  His book  Material Meditation on Mending Al Mutanabbi Street, is a commemoration of  Al-Mutanabi Street  in Iraq, that was destroyed by a bomb on March 5, 2007.

Before being bombed, Al-Mutanabbi Street was a place for to find books and a place for readers, writers, artists, and a place for all in pursuit of culture. His artist book commemorates the attack, the victims, and the survivors. You can view images from his book  in the library’s Link Gallery.

Scott McCarney, Rochester, NY, USA, April 2012
Material Meditation on Mending Al Mutanabbi Street consists of fifteen two-sided loose-leaf prints made from collages constructed from remnants of found books, rubbings from book bindings and photographs. The leaves are gathered into a tar paper folder, like scattered pages picked up in the street and slipped into a convenient sheath. The fragments, assembled with staples, tapes, and glue, attempt to speak to reconstruction as well as memory; of life, literature and culture suspended, disjointed and reassembled into some sense of a whole.

8.5 x 11 inches; 15 loose-leaf pages, digitally printed, housed in tar paper folder

Below are some images from Scott’s book
Material Meditation on Mending Al-Mutanabbi Street

Scott McCarney is an artist, designer, and educator based in Rochester, New York. His primary art practice has been in book form since 1980, combining an academic background in photography and design with a love for the corporeality of craft and philosophic possibilities of sculpture. His works are widely distributed and can be found in library collections at MoMA New York, V&A London and Yale University, among others. His work is shown near (Hallwalls, Buffalo; Everson Museum, Syracuse) and far (Sao Paulo, Brazil; Melbourne, Australia; Budapest, Hungary). He currently teaches in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Book Artists Commemorate Al-Mutanabbi

Project website in Boston  

Al-Mutanabbi Street is the centuries-old center of bookselling in Baghdad, a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Named after the famed 10th Century classical Arab poet, Al- Mutanabbi, this street has been, since time immemorial, the historic heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.” On March 5, 2007 a bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street killing 30 and wounding 100.

To mark the anniversary of the bombing and the essential role that art plays in our lives, poet Beau Beausoleil and others have organized readings in 10 cities. These readings are part of a much larger project that Beausoleil and a dedicated group of artists and volunteers have worked on since 2007. Read more at the Huntington Post.

On July 2010, Beau Beausoleil put out a call for book artists to join ‘An Inventory Of Al-Mutanabbi Street’, a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street on 5th March 2007. We joined in with Beau that month, to co-curate the call to artists to join our project and further enhance the previous work of the Coalition by honouring al-Mutanabbi Street, through creating work that holds both “memory and future,” exactly what was lost that day.

Beausoleil also reached out to artists to create books that would hold both “memory and future” of the bombing. There are 261 books that have been created as part of the project. More at the Huffington Post.

More information at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts.

At the Art of the Book exhibit you will see some of the book art created for Al-Mutanabbi  by Rochester book artist, Scott McCarney. Read more below and click on the image for exhibit information.

On October 21, 2012, the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County will host the second exhibit of Art of the Book. Included in this exhibit will be a book by Rochester book artist, Scott McCarney in memory of those who lost their lives at Al-Mutanabbi Street. Entitled Material Meditation on Mending Al Mutanabbi Street, his book consists of fifteen two-sided loose-leaf prints made from collages constructed from remnants of found books, rubbings from book bindings and photographs. The leaves are gathered into a tar paper folder, like scattered pages picked up in the street and slipped into a convenient sheath. The fragments, assembled with staples, tapes, and glue, attempt to speak to reconstruction as well as memory; of life, literature and culture suspended, disjointed and reassembled into some sense of a whole.

Sue Huggins Leopard is another book artist who’s work will be seen commemorating  Al-Mutanabbi. Her book is entitled, ElegiesElegies uses part of a poem titled Elegy on the death of the mother of Saif al Daula, written by al-Mutanabbi in the year 948. Although written by the great poet in an age seemingly vanished and separated from the car bombing on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad by more than a thousand years, the words remain very moving and speak powerfully to the universal themes of mourning and the futility of violence. I echoed these lines with words by an imagined poet in 2007. A poet who I imagined might be like a young person who would frequent a street of booksellers. A poet with a potential to see beauty; to speak.

Book artist, Barbara Fox will also have her book shown. That Day On Al Mutanabbi Street 2012, is a collection of digital images and poetry on various papers. It is printed in English using Lithos Pro, and in Arabic the font is Baghdad. 4 inches high by 6 inches wide. Digital Images on Various Papers. You can see more her work on her website, Barbara Fox.

Al-Mutanabbi is also commemorated by local artist printmaker, Kristine Bouyoucos. Her book folds out with
twenty-eight shadow people in the pages, one for each killed. Their names appear on the back of each page. The last page has a reddish background to remind us of the more than a hundred wounded.

Read and see more at the Centre for Fine Print Research. Find more information and images here at An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street.