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What's In A Book: A Book Arts Exhibition

May 27 - October 3, 2004


"Everything in the world exists in order to be turned into a book," the 19th-century French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme declared. Even the book itself, as viewers of What's in a Book: A Book Arts Exhibition will discover.  From May 27 through October 23, 2004 the Katonah Museum of Art's Children's Learning Center will feature the exhibition What's in A Book: A Book Arts Exhibition.  This exhibition explores some of the ways that artists use books as an expression of their art and as a medium for their personal visions.  As an art form book arts aim to preserve the traditional crafts of bookmaking, to advance the book as a vital contemporary art form, and to interpret the book in its aesthetic, historic, and cultural contexts. On the occasion of the Museum's 50th anniversary curator Tracy Strong, a book artist and founding Director of the Garrison Art Center, has brought together a group of book artists each of whom has chosen different ways to explore the book as an art object. These beautiful, rare volumes, produced in editions of 10, will be for sale with the proceeds going towards the Museum's education programs.


About the Participants:

Ed Hutchins, studied at the Center for Book Arts in New York City and with many professional book artists. Ed says, "Mostly, I've learned by doing, and doing, and doing. I also teach, and there's nothing like teaching for learning." Since 1989 he has been the proprietor of Editions, a workshop for producing artist book multiples based in Mount Vernon, New York.

Roberta Lavadour, lives and works at the foothills of the Blue Mountains of

Eastern Oregon. She made her first book in 1982 and in 2001 her book "By Day" received the Quality Award at the "Books Never Ever Seen" International Exhibition in Russi, Italy. She owns and operates Mission Creek Press where she publishes her own books, collaborates with other artists and creates unique books for a limited number of commercial clients.

Barbara Mauriello, author of Making Memory Boxes and an instructor at the Center for Book Arts.  She has a bookbinding studio in Hoboken, NJ, is a visiting instructor at the International Center of Photography, the Newark Museum, the Paper and Book Intensive and the Penland School of Crafts.

Richard Minsky, is Chairman of the Center for Book Arts, which he founded in 1974.  He has been described as a pioneer in the field of book arts and his work has been exhibited around the world, most recently at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.  His work is included in numerous private and public collections including the Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tracy Strong, took her first class in box and portfolio making at the Center for Book Arts in 1992. She teaches as an artist-in-residence in public and private schools in Westchester, Dutchess and Putnam counties as well as local art centers and assisted living residences.  She was a founding Director of Garrison Art Center and currently serves on the Board of Directors as Vice President.  Her work has been exhibited at Thomas Donahue Studios, Tiffany & Co. and the Forbes Gallery.


What's in a Book

by Pamela Hart Rago


Through the ages the book has captured the human imagination in a variety of shapes, sizes and forms. From cave walls at Lascaux France to scrolls of vellum in the great library at Alexandria to hypertext in cyberspace, people have been compelled to make sense of the world via image and word. And this sense-making usually occurs in some kind of enclosure on surfaces that serve to frame language and image. Think stone tablet or pop-up book. Think oversize coffee table book. Think dime-store paperback. Think computer screen. Think blank book. All are renderings that offer various interpretations on our understanding of the book.

"Everything in the world exists in order to be turned into a book," the 19th-century French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme declared. Even the book itself, as viewers of What's in a Book will see in this exhibition. The book artist takes up the idea of the book as a form in its own right. The project of book artists involves thinking about the book as a work of art ­ like painting or photography. We're all familiar with the exhilarating experience of diving into a good novel or the accomplishment derived from reading a classic of the canon. We may be less accustomed to coming to the walls of the museum to find books.

That's partly because the notion of the book as art form is a relatively recent concept. So-called livres d'artists were first published in the 19th century in Paris. These elaborate books of high production value celebrated artists' work by show-casing it in large-sized, often hand-colored, beautifully bound editions. Artists such as Matisse, Miro and Picasso often featured their work in livres d'artists. But such books are not to be confused with artists books, which is another designation for the book arts. In addition to artists book (without the apostrophe) and book art, other terms applied to this work include book work and book object. Some artists, however, object to these labels. "Many artists are breaking into contemporary art venues where their peers are not referred to as 'paint artists' who make 'artist's paintings'," argues Roberta Lavadour, one of the artists featured in What's in a Book. "We are artists who make books and often work in other mediums as well."

But whatever the terminology, the awareness of the book as an art form gained momentum in the 1970s Contemporary artists such as Sol Lewitt and Ed Rusche have used the structure of the book to articulate their aesthetic musings. Indeed, books have been used throughout the ages as vessels to hold myth, history, genealogy, and prayer. The Aztecs constructed books of strips of animal skin rolled into scrolls. Like the artists whose work is included in What's in a Book, the Aztecs considered their books not so much informative, but rather as vessels that honored images and stories. Oral memory via epic song maintained history through the poetic tradition of story-telling. The book did not replace this endeavor. Instead, the book offered the ancients opportunities for deep reflection by capturing stories and images, and by preserving them apart from time or lineage.

"The book is as old as fire & water," writes the poet Jerome Rothenberg in the introduction to his anthology, A Book of the Book, "& thought is made in the mouth -- as it is also in the hands & lungs & with the inner body." The works exhibited in What's in a Book testify to the physical and aesthetic aspects of the exploration of what's in books. The artists have used materials such as leather, hand-made paper, as well as found items from flea markets and in nature to depict their renderings. Thus, the experience of the book is not only about reading. When you come to the walls of a museum to view the book ­ as opposed to a library, bookstore or even the beach ­ you see the profound impact the book has had on how we receive and retain knowledge. The powerful relationship between book and maker and viewer/reader continues to be interrogated by these and other book artists. "The book comes into being," writes the Egyptian poet Emond Jabes, "by allowing itself to be read as it will be."


By Pamela Hart Rago


Quotes on the book

"Key to the book: neutrality, the real light."
Edmond Jabes
"Le livre, instrument spiritue (the book, spiritual instrument)"
Stephane Mallarme


Programs (call museum for registration requirements and applicable fees:

The Artists Behind the Book
Panel Discussion
Sunday, June 6, 4 to 6 PM
Tracy Strong, curator of the exhibition What's In a Book: A Book Arts Exhibition, on view in the Children's Learning Center until October 23, will moderate a panel discussion among artists represented in the exhibition.  Panelists include Richard Minsky, Chairman of the Center for Book Arts; Barbara Mauriello, author of Making Memory Boxes and an instructor at the Center for Book Arts; Ed Hutchins, proprietor of Editions, a studio that produces artist book multiples; and Brian Hannon, writer, curator and president of the New York gallery BHNY Fine Art.
Art Adventures Workshop
For children in grades 1 thru 6
Wednesdays in June 2, 9, 16, 23, 4:00 - 5:15 pm        
Inspired by the extraordinary hand-made books on view in the Learning Center, students will learn various bookmaking techniques - from a secretive origami book to a fold-out museum book - and will create artwork to fill the pages of their unique constructions.  One book from each student will be on display in the Learning Center this summer.  Reservations required.
Tuesdays For Tots
Ages 3 to 5 with an adult.
Tuesdays in June 1, 8, 15, 22, 12:30 - 2:00 PM
A course of four sessions will introduce both the young artists and the adult care giver (mother, father, grandparent, or friend) to the imaginative use of different art materials.  In this session children will create their own books using paint, collage, and print techniques.  These books will be on display in the Learning Center this Summer.  Reservations required. 
Drawing on the Creative Mind
A Workshop with Robin Lesser Simon
Thursday, June 3 and June 10, 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Do you spend too much time using the logical, left hemisphere of your brain?  In this drawing workshop you will learn to see differently and enhance your powers of creative thought.  Combining art history with a series of innovative drawing exercises, this workshop will have you drawing upside-down and backwards in no time!  Designed for non-artists and artists alike, you will surprise yourself by your ability to draw complex imagery - and have fun doing it.
Let's Make a Book - A Workshop for Kids and Adults
Children ages 7 and up with an adult
Sunday, June 13, 1 to 3 PM
Join book artist Tracy Strong and create hand-made books that can be used for journals, poetry, or family albums.  Learn to make at least four different types of books including easy pop-ups.

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