Seager Gray Gallery Celebrates the Book in their 14th Annual Exhibition
Seager Gray Gallery presents The Art of the Book, 2019. This signature show for the gallery is in its 14th year and includes an astounding 55 works by 23 artists. The exhibition runs from May 1 to June 2, 2019. There is a reception for the artists on Saturday, May 4 from 5:30 to 7:30. A full color catalog accompanies the exhibition and the artists include Jenny Honnert Abell, Gale Antokal, Doug Beube, Renee Bott, Julie Chen, Joseph DeCamillis, Brian Dettmer, Daniel Essig, Andrew Hayes, Janet Jones, Lisa Kokin, Mary V Marsh, Kate Nicholson/Rachel Hebert, Emily Payne, San Quentin Arts, Katya McCulloch, Gail Skoff, Buzz Spector, Liz Steketee, Susan Stover, Thyrsus Press, Richard Wagener , Michelle Wilson and Barbara Wildenboer.
After 14 years, Seager Gray Gallery has established itself on the leading edge of arts related to books and their yearly catalogs are collected around the world. The aim is to hit as many buttons as possible in their investigation of text, image and form. From conceptual artists, such as Lisa Kokin, Buzz Spector and Doug Beube to exquisite masters of form –Andrew Hayes, Barbara Wildenboer and Daniel Essig each exhibition is an homage to the book as a physical manifestation of human history and thought.
“Great art often inspires multiple associations,” says curator Donna Seager. The associations we have with books, both for their content and form make them a rich resource for artistic expression.” Add to that the beauty of materials, the paper, bindings, threads, inks and illustrations. In the hands of an artist, they provide an exciting opportunity for creative exploration.
Among the roster this year is the incomparable Julie Chen, whose work Wayfinding examines the relationship between physical and mental learning through the context of navigation through time and space. Chen’s non-traditional approach to bookmaking inspires us to consider new definitions of what a book can be. Her talents incorporate writing, printing, binding and inventing structures that offer new experiences of reading.
Other artists veer away from text and approach the book as form. Penland artist, Daniel Essig, for example, blends imagination with a deep respect for ancient traditions. Using a fourth-century binding known as Ethiopian-style Coptic, he creates mixed-media book structures that incorporate unusual woods, handmade papers, found objects, fossils, and mica. Andrew Hayes marries the permanence of steel to the fluidity of paper. “The pages allow me to achieve a form, surface, and texture that are appealing to me,” he says. He takes his sensory appreciation for the book as a material and employs the use of exquisitely fabricated steel to create a new form and hopefully a new story.
Artists Emily Payne and Joseph DeCamillis use the covers of books as material.
DeCamillis’ Bound to Happen - Autobiographical Straightjacket is hand-stitched from cloth, vinyl, and leather hardback book covers along with various parts of deconstructed clothing. The books are chosen either for the formative impact reading it had on him at some point in his life or because the title hints to relevant clues about his history. Emily Payne’s constructions are color studies with drawing on book covers.
Lisa Kokin has three offerings this year. Her amazing series, Enough presents that simple word in thread and shredded money in sizes ranging from “tiny” to “jumbo.” With its intrinsic reference to money, she cleverly graphs the question, “When is enough enough?” Her works Chapter and Verse and Prosody present pages with “asemic” writing. The non-specificity of asemic writing leaves a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret.
Richard Wagener’s book Teapots and Tympani features 18 prose poems by Mill Valley writer Maxine Chernoff. Wagener is a master of wood engraving as well as a bookmaker. He originally came across Chernoff’s writing in a handout he had kept from the Beyond Broke Poetry Foundation. He chose the title for his collection from words found in the poems, feeling that it captured the quirky individuality of the writer’s voice.
Brian Dettmer’s Bubblescape is from his Comic Heroes series. Dettmer’s excavations of the book go beyond anyone else working in that medium. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. His work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators.
Historia Naturel is a brand new work by Barbara Wildenboer in her Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large made specifically for this exhibition. Her other work, Tales of Gods and Heroes will travel on from here to Seager Gray’s special curation this year for the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference in Idaho. The work centers on mythology and was made in response to the attendance of Madeline Miller, author of Circe who will be at the conference.
Artists Kate Nicholson and Rachel Hebert joined forces to create Truth to Paper, or their collaborative works. Working with texts from favorite works, they use thread and weaving to create new physical poems, the meanings delicately woven and stitched together.
Portfolios of beautifully subtle photogravures from the Farnese Walls by Gale Antokal and the fanciful photomontages of Gail Skoff in her Scenes from Provence are also in this year’s show along with a lovely small editioned book by Thyrsus Press in Berkeley entitled Omnia Vanitas offering wonderful translations of the poems of Max Jacob by Alistair Johnson paired with drawings by Jinny Pearce.