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Art opening showcases explorations in bookmaking at 106 Gallery

Photo by Brittany Beezhold.
Photo by Brittany Beezhold.

Tiny triangular books, sculptural birds, dissected books and traditionally bound codex books were among the variety of books that lined the tables of the 106 Gallery’s basement gallery space.

On Friday, Calvin College’s art department and Visual Arts Guild sponsored the opening of EX LIBRIS: W–Eighty. During the month of January, 11 Calvin students learned the artistry of bookmaking under the guidance of Professor Anna Greidanus.

As a sampling of their collective 150 handmade books, the EX LIBRIS: W–Eighty show is an interactive exhibition exploring the book as an aesthetic object.

“One of the things I like about teaching this class is it sort of merges art with a form that functions for most people simply as a reservoir of text,” says Greidanus.

“Now that we are entering the digital age where people are starting to wonder about the book and is it an antiquated functional object, I think there is more of a sensibility that the book is more that just a piece of paper with text on it,” says Greidanus. “It is an object that could be appreciated aesthetically.”

The 11 students who took the course expanded their creativity between binding methods and stitch styles to more elaborate sculptural forms and dissected books.

“I like the pamphlet stitch because it’s really functional,” says senior Annette Brouwer. “It is cheap to do and really accessible so a lot of people could learn it easily.”

Senior Scott Rodger extended his exploration of the book form into sculptural forms.

“My sculptural pieces are each a paperback book that I folded every single page in a different or sometimes the exact same fold or sometimes in variable positions,” says Roger. “But I folded every single page in the book — about 400 pages long — and they take on the spiral quality all by themselves.”

Students engaged in problem-solving organizational, conceptual and visual elements through their works. From aged graph paper and wallpaper to science fiction excerpts and newspapers, the handmade books demonstrated the wide variety of materials provided.

“This is one of the unique features of the class because I collect materials year round and I save them,” says Greidanus. “The room is usually filled with supplies.”

“I strongly believe in recycling and repurposing materials. I honestly look for materials all year round — if I see a pile of old books or old magazines or maybe even things like string or yarn.”

Investigating the book form at a young age, Greidanus credits her drawing experience as the root of her interest in bookbinding.

“In graduate school when I was taking drawing, I can remember doing layered drawings, works on paper where one layer related to the other layer. I would put them together and essentially that was already a book. So [bookbinding] emerged out of my interest in drawing and working with mixed media on paper,” she says.

In addition to the gallery of books displayed, a wide variety of food was gathered in a potluck, with many visitors lingering in conversation.

“I wanted the opening to be a place for people to gather to share food with that informality extended into sharing the books,” says Greidanus.

The show is open until March 24 at 106 Gallery (106 South Division). Gallery hours are Wednesdays 1-9 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 1-6 p.m.

About the Author

Brittany Beezhold

Brittany Beezhold is a Chimes guest writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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