Twenty-second New Jersey Book Arts Symposium
From Here to ... There: Concept and Technique in Artists' Books
November 4, 2016
Alexander Library, New Brunswick
From Here to . . . There, the twenty-second New Jersey Book Arts Symposium (November 4, 2016), took inspiration from the number 22 -- seeking wisdom from age. In many traditions, the number 22 (twenty-two) is associated with creativity. 22 is the number of letters of the alphabet that we find in the Pentateuch, the alphabet of creation. In the Kabbalah there are 22 paths among the sephirot, the emanations through which The Infinite is revealed, and continuously creates both the physical realm and the chain of higher metaphysical realms. 22 is also the measure of a circumference of a circle whose diameter is 7--and 7 is of course a sacred number: the number given to the time it took the Infinite to create the Universe. In astrology, sometimes 22 is equated with contrary essences: with the desire to stay rooted to the ground, within the known, and the desire to soar into the air, toward the unknown--the infinite!
Books, of course, are embodied pairs: one page always faces another; for the front cover, there is a back; every leaf has two pages; every fold in the sheet,a multiple of 2 leaves. Therefore books are multiples of 2 x 2, or 22. The number 22 even resembles 2 compositors standing over 2 California job cases or 2 hooks to hold paper. 22 also may suggest 2 people reading, either standing shoulder to shoulder or in a line. 22 also suggests a writer bent over a desk, writing, as she imagines the reader bent over her book, reading, the reader reading over her shoulder--or possibly, the writer reading over her own shoulder, and thus a tradition of writing and creation constantly reaching out in 2 directions: 2 the future, and 2 the past.
So ... with reference (or not) to the various symbolisms inevitably associated with the number 22, "From Here to There: Concept and Technique in Artists Books; The 22nd annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium" explored different ways artists have devised for negotiating the productive tensions of concept and technique within the creation of artists' books.
For the first time in its history, the NJBAS featured two morning workshops led by old friends of the NJBAS, Catherine LeCleire who demonstrated silkscreening in "Silkscreen on Book Cloth," and Sarah K. Stengle, who initiated attendees in the art of drawing with a host of mechanical tools, in her "Mechanical Toys Workshop."
Aileen Bassis led off the morning lineup of featured artists, talking about the erasure of neighborhoods and cultural traces from the urban landscape, luminously reinterpreting the ellipses in "From Here to . . . There." She concluded her presentation with an original poem. Following Aileen, The Creativity Caravan (Amy Tingle & Maya Stein) discussed the inspiration for their idea of traveling around in a trailer encouraging different communities to make miniature books, and related "on the road" anecdotes. Their images of miniature books made by children and other amateurs (in the best sense of the word) assured us that the talent for making artistic miniature books is alive in America, and perhaps indigenous to the American spirit! In seemingly continuous motion, they suggested the inherent spatial dimension hidden (in plain sight) in the metaphor underlying our title -- "From Here to . . . There." Shellie Jacobson concluded the morning activities by talking about her means of adapting her ceramic technique to book-making, her printmaking, and focused as well on occasions in her life when she drew on the magic of artists' books to fight illness.
Reading Artists' Books
For the second year, our lunchtime seminar included two readings by artists who make books. Lois Morrison read from a couple of her beautiful and whimsical fabric books, which she brought with her and MaryAnn L. Miller, whose artists' books are a separate field of activity from her poetry, read several poems, which she helpfully and elegantly put into context.
Preceding the afternoon presentations, artist-in-residence Asha Ganpat completed the Registry Project, in which participating attendees swapped handmade miniature books. The afternoon session included four artists--Heidi Neilson, Ali Osborn, Robin Price and Miriam Schaer. Heidi discussed her elaborate and imaginative use of skyscrapers to create sundials, non-traditional antennae, and showcased videos that incorporated flipbooks, which she filmed in a moving car (another reference to spatiality in our title and a nimble turn of actual space back into metaphorical space). An astronomy enthusiast, Heidi's work probably represented the most far out "There" on our program. Ali Osborn, an MFA student in the Rutgers art school, also presented video art among other works that included moving reflections on child phenomenology and some mighty handsome letterpress, a specialty of the next speaker's, Robin Price's, who refocused the Symposium theme of the relationship between concept and technique, in describing the typographic challenges of collaborating with poets. Drawing on both the artists' book and fine printing tradition, Robin's mesmerizing books evoked the perfect collaboration of beauty and energy. Miriam Schaer concluded the afternoon's presentations, echoing Shellie Jacbonson's resolution to fight illness with art in her poignant reflections on books she made during her mother's terminal illness. Mimi also discussed recent book art on the social construction of childlessness -- discernible echoes of the day's opening remarks on vanishing, by Aileen Bassis, and thus a re-emphasis of the polysemous silent ellipsis in our title. Judith K. Brodsky once again elegantly responded to the opportunities of the day by highlighting and critically analyzing striking similarities among the presentations, in terms of media, themes, materials and vision, making "here" and "there" both coherent and significant.
- Aileen Bassis is an artist and poet.
- The Creativity Caravan (Amy Tingle and Maya Stein) is a mobile arts-centered organization based in northern New Jersey whose mission is to spark, engage, and nourish creativity in communities everywhere.
- Judith K. Brodsky is an artist and the founder of the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions.
- Asha Ganpat is an artist, writer, instructor at Montclair State University and the Montclair Art Museum.
- Karen Guancione is an artist, curator, author, instructor at Montclair State University and NJBAS Artistic Director.
- Shellie Jacobson is an artist, ceramicist, printmaker and a visiting artist at the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.
- Catherine LeCleire is a book artist, printmaker and bookbinder.
- MaryAnn L. Miller is a poet and artist.
- Lois Morrison is an artist.
- Heidi Neilson is an artist.
- Ali Osborn is an artist, typographer and instructor at Mason Gross, Rutgers University
- Anna Pinto is a Hoboken-based calligrapher and NJBAS Scribe.
- Robin Price is a printer, founder and proprietor, Robin Price, Printer & Publisher.
- Miriam Schaer is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist who uses artist books, garments, photography, installation and college to explore feminine, social and spiritual issues.
- Sarah K. Stengle is an artist and writer.
- Amanda Thackray is an artist and curator. She is the Curator of Exhibitions, NJBAS.
- Marcia Wilson is an artist, writer, and Artist-in-Residence, NJBAS.
Video of the day's events in The Rutgers University Libraries' digital repository, RU-CORE