in the Reading Room
Books by gallery artists created with HMP
I am both honored and delighted to be featuring the works of Mary Ellen Long and Melissa Jay Craig at Abecedarian Gallery this summer. Both are late-career artists who have spent decades exploring the intersections of hand-crafted papers, book forms and installations.
I first encountered Mary Ellen’s work over thirty years ago. I was so taken with her installation of delicate ceiling to floor scrolls wafting gently as air currents moved through the room, that I wrote her a letter. Some time later I received a letter in return and thus began many years of sporadic but memorable communication with a woman I consider on all fronts to be remarkable.
Living in the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado, her studio surrounded by public lands, Mary Ellen creates Forest Rooms, a series of subtle rearrangements of elements both found and introduced to the sites, then left behind for others to discover and delight in. She has buried her handmade papers, or entire books under winter snows in the creation of forms that empathize with the often extreme seasonal cycles of her chosen environment.
Long’s book works are an extension of these installations, allowing her to continue her celebration and relationship with the natural elements she is obviously so in tune with.
I do not remember specifically when I first encountered Melissa Jay Craig’s work (at the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts) but I do remember experiencing a tingling sensation that was quite pleasant. Imagine my delight when, in 2010, I was unpacking her work for exhibition at Abecedarian and felt that same pleasant tingle. I explain this sensation as my body’s recognition that everything in these works is exactly as it should be. By straddling the worlds of sculpture, craft and book, Craig’s aim, to communicate on a visceral, nonverbal level is realized over and over again with her works.