By Newlin Tillotson
Wakefield, RI – In “Transformed Volumes” at the Hera Gallery, the work of an artist is juxtaposed with the work of an author. Curated by Paul Forte, the exhibit includes six artists from around the country who work with books as a medium.
Forte himself specializes in artist bookworks, and several of his pieces are on display, including “Map of Chaos,” a collage of a shredded atlas on canvas and “John Brown’s Body,” a book on a white pedestal that was unearthed after being buried in the ground for almost a year.
Both pieces include details that add context to the work. “Map of Chaos” has jagged red, blue and green lines mixed throughout. Gallery director Dora Szekely said it reminds her of a T.V. gone static. Similarly, “John Brown’s Body” is weathered and worn from the elements; new roots are growing through the cover of the book.
“Forte found it interesting how the author, Stephen Vincent Benet, became famous with the publication of this book and then the fame just sort of disintegrated,” Szekely said. “As you can see in the piece, he built the pedestal around the book and it kind of looks like a cemetery relating back to the subject being ‘John Brown’s Body.’”
“The Red Line” by Claire Dannenbaum, an artist from Eugene, Oregon, explores light versus the dark. Taking an 1896 King James Bible, Dannenbaum folded down the pages, creating a half-sphere with a red line across the middle. The work starts on a passage from Genesis titled “The serpent” and ends with “and eternity” from Revelation. The folding of the pages casts the lower half of the book in shadow separating light and dark with the red line.
Playing off the “The Red Line’s” central theme is a serpentine piece by Donna Ruff that explores the art of conversation. In “Italkyoulisten,” different parts of a conversation are displayed on coiled white paper.
“Normally this piece is displayed rolling out onto the floor, but the way the curator decided to display it was to have it coiled up to enhance just a little bit of the conversation and include the serpentine part of the concept,” Szekely said.
Forte set up the exhibit in a way that had each artwork working with the next. Books have a storytelling element to them and are an interesting medium in a time where many read with electronic tablets, he explained in his statement about the exhibit. Irwin Susskind adds in the statement that he, “created these objects as if books have passed into history.”
Susskind’s work delves into texture. His pieces are untitled, letting the work speak for itself. Several of his artist books are mounted on the wall, each manipulated in a different way with some paper sliced up and other paper rolled into balls.
Rush Lee’s “Inside Out” is a large wheel of books, melded together; sitting at the back of the gallery, it is probably the show’s biggest piece. She created it from books that were soaked in water until the pages started to disintegrate and then bound the books into a wheel. Once dry, the texture of the books is soft and paper has a fleshy appearance. Like many of the pieces in the gallery, it is a work that combines the human element of a story with the material element of pages.
(“Transformed Volumes” is on display through July 13, 2013 at the Hera Gallery, 10 High Street, Wakefield, Rhode Island. For more information call (401) 789-1488 or visit http://www.heragallery.org.)