Earlier this year I was invited to participate in the Laramie County Library's summer exhibition, Inspiration and the Artist Book. I was especially excited partly because this exhibition has a yearly theme. This is a challenge I look forward to, knowing that it will take me out of my current box. The 2017 exhibition, curated by Sue Sommers, is Utopia/Dystopia.
Since I don't usually make art with a theme in mind, I find this addition at first jarring and then liberating. I must pass through a few stages:
1. Shock: What?? How do I do That?
2. Acceptance: Hmmm... but it could mean this... or it could mean that...
3. Problem solving: I've looked at several angles, now how do I say what I want to say within this frame?
4. Grateful: I've stretched, learned a bit, and have made something that I would not have come up with otherwise.
While thinking about how to interpret Utopia/Dystopia I kept coming back to books and information, and not only because this show is in a library! I thought about the porcelain books I used to make (see them here) and thought about what a dystopian landscape would look like to me: a heavily censored world with nothing to read.
In order to execute this idea, I decided to alter a book. I recognize that this is a weird process. I love the tactile feeling of books. They offer escape and education all in one place, so destroying a book seems like the last thing I would want to do. However, I see this an an opportunity to redirect the life of an object that has been produced in multiples and has been discarded. (This book was found at the Teton County Library where I have taught book altering classes in the past, they let me pilfer the collection of books that will be in an upcoming book sale.)
For this project I found a particular sized book with a black, hard cover. After distressing the cover I went to work cutting away the interior to create a niche for my hidden utopia.
I made hills out of the discarded pages and used correction tape to obscure any words with meaning, leaving behind only a few pronouns, articles, and indirect objects.
Gluing everything together was interesting:
When I was finished, I had a little fun making a stop-action video:
Flowers still grow
One book is an infinite, hand-held universe. It has the ability to introduce unknown places and ideas with questions, experiences, and thoughts. Just one book is capable of leading a reader on a lifetime of learning and searching.
This book represents a dystopian world of redacted and heavily censored information. While this could be a diagram for the ideal, utopian meadow, it still contains an element of dread. Set like a stage with delicate clouds hanging from thread over rhythmic hills, the subject of the book remains unknown and creates a suspiciously dull scene.
White flowers reflect what little nutrients are available to be gleaned from sanitized, stripped soil, but they are growing. Hope and the ability to evolve will always be found where something grows.
The exhibition will be at the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, Wyoming from June 9 - August 7, 2017. If you are in the area be sure to stop by and see how several artists interpreted this theme!