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Book Art on Display

“Puget Sound Book Artists Eighth Annual Members’ Exhibition"

“A Work in Progress” by Mary Preston. Photo courtesy University of Puget Sound

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Book artists, meaning artists who create books conceived as works of art, combine many of the most fascinating elements of books - stories told with words and sometimes illustrated with pictures - and elements of visual arts such as drawn, painted and sculpted images. When these elements are skillfully woven together, the results can be magical.

The "Puget Sound Book Artists Eighth Annual Members' Exhibition" at Collins Library, University of Puget Sound, offers 57 unique and original books by 36 different artists displayed in a dozen glass cases in the library. There are folding books, books in boxes, books that are stand-alone sculptures, accordion sheets of paper and cloth and other materials with drawn, painted, sewn and sculpted images and decorations, and elaborate pop-up books. Many of the books look as if the pages are meant to be opened, and I wish they could be opened to see what, if anything, is on the hidden pages; but they can't be touched.

Some of the books tell stories with words and images, whether fiction or non-fiction. Some only hint at stories and thereby stir the viewer's imagination, and some are purely decorative or abstract with no attempt at storytelling.

The complexity of these works of art and the patience, skill and inventiveness of the artists who create them are truly impressive.

"The Puget Sound Book Artists have a following and now an excellent reputation in the South Sound and beyond," said Jane Carlin, director of Collins Memorial Library and vice president of the organization. "It is truly an honor to host this exhibit and each year. I am astonished at the creative and inspiring art on display."

Jan Dove's "The Horseman" captured the Curator's Choice award. It is an accordion-fold book with illustrations of horses and people in sensitive line drawings over fields of color. There are a few lines of poetry that talk about hearing approaching hoofbeats and the line "Let's hope it's not those four horsemen," indicating, as I interpret it, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Stylistically, the drawings harken back to Roman art.

A work that is similar, in that it features staccato line drawings over other images, is Bonnie Halfpenny's "With a Compass, Without a Map." It is also an accordion-fold book. The first page features written text that briefly tells the stories of four accomplished women in the post-Civil War era. Drawings of each of the women are created in black thread over collaged images. The materials are tule, paints, thread and more. The craftsmanship is admirable, as are the women whose stories are depicted. I would like to find out more about them.

One of my favorite books is Sandy Tilcock's "Opening the Mouths of the Dead," a two-sided accordion in a clamshell box with images in intaglio, letterpress and hand painting. It illustrates the story of a third-grade girl in North Carolina in the 1960s who used the Egyptian Book of the Dead to "navigate her complicated relationship with her father." This one is a clear example of what I was thinking of when I said book art combines elements of books and art. There is history, drama and beauty galore in this show.

There will be a panel discussion Thursday, July 12, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Archives Seminar Room, second floor.

"PUGET SOUND BOOK ARTISTS EIGHTH ANNUAL MEMBERS' EXHIBITION," 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday and Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, through July 27, Collins Library, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma,

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