Tag Archives | abecedarian

Women’s History Month – Maureen Cummins


I had no idea when I first encountered Maureen Cummins’ work that I would someday have the privilege of hosting an exhibition of this work (the gallery hosted In Retrospect in 2010, a traveling exhibition featuring the work of Maureen Cummins, Nava Atlas and Ann Lovett), and including it in gallery inventory.

I was so enthralled with my first glimpse of her work that the glance turned into a lengthy examination. This happened during a visit to Norlin Library’s Special Collection at the University of Colorado, Boulder Campus. On display in a cabinet featuring new arrivals was Crazy Quilt. On request Maureen’s other items in that collection were retrieved for me to view.
Maureen Cummins

The bright colors and accessible format of Crazy Quilt make this work instantly approachable. It feels familiar and comfortable, almost cheerful, thus employing one of Cummins’ well used tactics – the instant visual appeal of her work supported by a high level of craft and scholarship. This effectively delays the discovery that these works are about some very unpleasant aspects of history, both personal and from various archives.

By her own admission Cummins is interested in motifs that people have very superficial reactions to. She pulls people in, and surprises them.

“They’re expecting one thing, and then they get another. It’s almost like an ambush.”

Images 1

In Crazy Quilt, Cummins presents experiences of women  in an assemblage of 150 years of quotes from women institutionalized for mental illness. This motif is both a reference to the fact that women in Victorian asylums were forced to sew and the unwanted, useless scraps that are part of the crazy quilt style. The quotes, presented in a text resembling embroidery, range,  from the famous (Zelda Fitzgerald) to the more personal inclusion of a passage of a letter written by the artist’s mother, Dolores Bodkin Cummins. In the passage included in Crazy Quilt Dolores describes the doctors treating patients like rats in a maze.

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Crazy Quilt opens fully to a format that mimics a crazy quilt layout with individual square panels making up the whole, while the “crazy quilt” style, with its use of useless and unwanted scraps of fabric, is a commentary on the position of marginalized populations in our society.

Cummins work with historical record continues, each successive work raising the bar of content/concept presentation with appropriate structure and material.

More about her two recent projects Salem Lessons and The Poetics of Torture can be found in Abecedarian Gallery’s online shop.

Fan frontMCummins 1

Alice Austin – The Rome Project

The Rome Project – on view in the ReadingRoom February 17 – April 7.

It is a pleasure to be featuring the work of Alice Austin in The Reading Room this spring. Alice is one of the artists who sent work out for the first show at Abecedarian, and her ongoing support of this project has been steady and is appreciated. For this exhibition, Alice came for the installation and opening night. During the reception she captivated visitors with details her most recent body of work.
alice w: panorama rp

Alice Austin has been traveling to Italy each fall for the past several years. Although she has spent time in Venice, her favorite Italian city is Rome, where she has been a visiting artist at the American Academy. She takes with her only what will fit into her bright red suitcase; once there strolling through the city examining historical documents, public buildings and attractions.

As a library conservator (Alice works at The Library Company of Philadelphia, a rare book library founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin), her appreciation for historical records is well embedded, her comfort with historical documents a fact of her life. By all accounts, Rome is rich with history, and because Alice visits as an artist with a particular project in mind her visits take on quite a different aspect than were she traveling as another sort of visitor. Indeed, the night of her reception for The Rome Project at Abecedarian, a gallery visitor was telling me that her experience of Rome is that it is corrupt, noisy, expensive and difficult to navigate. This is hardly the Rome that Alice presents in her most recent body of work The Rome Project.

alice w map rp

This project began in September 2008 when Austin was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her project was to study the 1748 Giambattista Nolli map of Rome and synthesize the character of the historic map with modern Rome. She set out into the city to record the patterns, geometry and textures of the Nolli map sites through photos, drawings and paintings made at prominent sites from the map. The first result of her work was a limited edition bookwork, Nolli, a map-book exploring the textural layers of Rome produced collaboratively with designer/photographer Jon Snyder.

This modestly scaled book, presented in a what is sometimes called a meander book format, presents details that are later referenced in the large scale drawing suite and series of artists’ books. The front and the back covers show elements from the originally Nolli map, which was executed in 1748 as twelve copper plate engravings, each about 22 x 30 inches. Nolli had papal permission to enter all buildings in Rome in order to make accurate measurements, a project which took him over ten years. The back page of the book is a photograph of a litho plate of the Forma Urbis, the Roman map which was executed in stone. The red line that continues throughout the book depicts the shape of the city wall, taken from the handmade paper, and is shown on the reverse side of the map in white. The book also includes a detail photograph of the Nolli map, a watercolor of Bramante’s Tempietto, on which the design for St. Peter’s is based, photographs and prints of the Campidoglio pavement designed by Michelangelo, and a rendering of the first century pyramid of Caius Cestius, built when the Romans were interested in all things Egyptian. The back side of the map unfolds to reveal a drawing of historic Rome and Bramante’s architectural plan for St. Peter’s.
Alice-Austin-Rome04 Alice-Austin-Rome06Nolli was offset printed in an edition of 60, in collaboration with the Borowsky Center at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, 2010. Copies are available at this link ($150 each).


On stunning display in the Reading Room is the installation of Austin’s suite of 9 drawings of Rome, each 22 x 30 inches, arranged in the same manner as Nolli’s Pianta Grande di Roma to make one large drawing measuring 66 x 90 inches.

Alice Austin - installing Rome ProjectLimited in palette, the mixed media drawings include ink, crayon, relief printing and transfer drawings on sheets of linen paper hand made at the Dieu Donne Paper Mill in New York City in 2009 especially for this project. During Alice’s informal gallery talks at the opening I learned that the name Dieu Donne means god given, which, given the scope and references of this project, seems appropriate. The paper incorporates a stencil pulp painting of the Aurelian city wall colored with dry pigments from Rome. Linoleum prints inspired by the Cosmatesque patterns of marble floors of Roman churches were inlaid during the paper making process. Cosmatesque takes it name from the Roman family Cosmati who made the inlaid marble floors in many of Rome’s churches using salvaged columns from the ruins of ancient Roman buildings. The ink drawings on the maps are of the historic center of Rome. The blue transfer drawings are of St. Peter’s basilica, designed in the Greek cross pattern by Bramante in 1506, inspired by the Roman temple, the Pantheon. The plan for the Pantheon is relief printed from a linoleum cut.Alice Austin - installing Rome Project

The final phase of the project to date is the production of several artists’ books in which Alice presents in various book forms several of the repeating elements from both the Nolli book and the drawing suite. A series of three unfolding map books, folded into pamphlet bound paper cases were made using sheets of the Dieu Donne paper. The covers are of handmade flax paper from Cave Paper Mill. They are either printed from linoleum and sewn, printed on vellum and sewn, or pierced to create a pattern.

Rome is filled with patterns that have delighted Alice for years, such as an interlocking circle pattern. Alice uses this pleasing and well balanced pattern in several instances in The Rome Project, notably on the covers of the map books and on the interior pages of several of the books. The pattern seems to be a universal response to geometric repetitions. It exists all over the world, in Egyptian cloth from 2000 b.c., as well as in the mosaic designs in Rome.

Also on view, are Austin’s Rome Panorama books, a series of five accordion books with cut floating panels printed and painted on Rives BFK.
Alice-Austin-Rome09The cover of each is inset with a linoleum print on vellum, or paper. These are individually available ($500 each).

Alice-Austin-Rome03Alice-Austin-Rome01Alice has also graciously lent two of her sketchbooks, bound in traditional limp vellum style, for the exhibition. These sketchbooks provide a detailed history of the project generally and her work methods more specifically.

It is an honor and a delight to be hosting this first presentation of The Rome Project at Abecedarian Gallery.

Cornucopia Pick #7 – ±OnePercent

Marginalia Press±OnePercent

ABC11 MarginaliaPress_OnePercent_1

This the inaugural project published by Marginalia Press, 
the press of the MA Art and the Book program at the Corcoran College of Art + Design.  The artists are members of the inaugural class of the program. The piece is a collaborative project exploring the nature of heredity and the human genetic code.

Created with a combination of digital, letterpress, screenprinting and etching, cutouts in the main textblock create recesses that house two additional books, rendering the back sections of the main book difficult to access. The two books housed in the cavities are engaging and appealing on their own. One is a flag book/accordion book combination with each page a printed card front and back, the accordion spine a translucent sheet with photographic imagery. The second is a captivating pinwheel accordion book.

This work is dense with information and ideas but so visually and tactilely engaging that it interests on multiple levels. As the book is done as part of an academic program, rather than by artists in private practice, it offers great bank for the book.

In an edition of 40 it is priced at $300

Artist statement, images, descriptive details and ordering information here: 

Cornucopia Pick #6 – My Belonging

Andrea CraneMy Becoming

ABC11 Andrea_Crane_My Becom_#2


Engaging, interactive and whimsical, this installation of 5 plexiglass turntables each containing 10 unique books is an absolute delight to have on display. Filled with narrative, illustrations and pithy observations, one of the 50 books in this installation begins

“I keep it all, I don’t always enjoy it all” in another she describes and illustrates her flaws and imperfections then ends with “it doesn’t seem so bad, I’m loved.”
I’m looking forward to reading the next I’ve chosen – it begins with “I remember what I wore on my first date . . . “

There are several buying options for this work. Each box contains 50 books. The entire 5 box set (50 books) is $2500, individual boxes (10 books each) are $600 each and individual books are $50 each.

Andrea Crane creates multi media works that portray stories of her past and present. Her works have been exhibited in Emanuel Gallery, Foothills Art Center, Box Car Gallery, and Center for Visual Art in Colorado. She attends Metropolitan State College of Denver in pursuit of a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts.

Artist statement, images, descriptive details and ordering information here: 

Cornucopia Pick 4 – Burn

Cindy StitelerBurn

ABC11 cindy_stiteler_burning holes1.int

This book is engaging in ways reserved for the small scale and simple. It celebrates mark-making in a variety of ways (burning, paste paper and deliberate placement) in a small, easily accessible format. The color palette is limited but dramatic, and although only a a few variables are used, each page spread is quite different then any other.
This book has been sold. 
Cindy Stitler has been making books since 1994, when she studied at Penland. She taught at the Taos Art Institute and many private classes and workshops over the years. One of her books was purchased by the Denver Public Library’s for its Western History Collection, and others are held by private collectors.
Artist statement, images, descriptive details etc. here:


Cornucopia Pick 3 – Suspended; Without Sinking

Amy RobinsonSuspended; Without Sinking

ABC11 Amy_Robinson_Suspended_1

Much about this book is perfect. It is quiet and unimposing book; deceptive in its simplicity. From layers of overlapping, translucent pages images and occasional text snippets emerge.The translucent pages are of different heights, so the glimpses of the images underneath emerge with varying degrees of clarity. The text is minimal, the drawings well executed. It ends with the simple phrase Thank You

This little gem is in a variable edition of 7 copies. The book price is $175.

Amy E Robinson is a book artist in Portland, Oregon. Her work focuses mainly on exploring the identity of humans, how much we or don’t know about each other, or even ourselves. Amy’s work attempts to bring notice to the uniqueness or quirkiness of individuals that may be overlooked.

Artist statement, images, descriptive details and ordering information here: 

Cornucopia Pick 2 – Tyger

Charlene AsatoTyger


ABC11 Charlene Asato Tyger 2


Charlene Asato with text by William Blake. I see a lot of tunnel books these days, most of them edition works and imagery based, rather than text based and smaller in scale than this one. This unique tunnel book by Charlene Asato is entirely handpainted and lettered, the calligraphy text written around the edges of the cut circle shapes on each page, diminishing in diameter front to back. The watercolor weight pages are heavy and stiff enough for the book to display well fully extended, the space between each successive page adequate to allow that each page be accessible to a viewer. One of my favorite aspects is that the side panels are also handpainted with a tiger stripe pattern. The book title is on its own handpainted panel on the inner front cover, the deceptively plain exterior of this book has the title debossed.


This book, containing as it does 6 watercolor paintings, is an of the obvious example of the undervaluation of artists’ books. It is a one-of-a-kind work and is priced at $300.


Bookbinding captured Charlene Asato’s interest over 25 years ago when she was learning calligraphy in the SF Bay Area. In Hawaii for the past seven years, she focuses on incorporating her art pursuits into her artist books, i.e., calligraphy, photography, paper surface design, watercolor, embossing, linocuts, origami, assemblage and collage.


Artist statement, images, descriptive details and ordering information here:


Cornucopia Pick 1 – The Kashash and the Archivist

ABC11 Michelle Ray The Kashash  the Archivist

Michelle RayThe Kashash and the Archivist


This modest book has had more than modest impact on me. It is skillfully executed of materials well suited to its weight, scale and structure. The text written collage style speaks of things both within and outside my own experience, giving me an opportunity to reminisce alongside reflecting on new ideas and information.


The text begins with an Eco paragraph that concludes “We like lists because we don’t want to die”. The text continues on to define and address the role of the Kashash (a corrupt character who gambles and hoards nuisance birds), to reflect on the nature of collecting and archiving, with various personal and historic observations on birds, primarily pigeons. All this richness in a just a few pages, accompanied by drawings of birds, both soaring and held captive in constructed an chosen habitats.


Michelle Ray is currently a graduate student in The University of Alabama’s MFA in the Book Arts program. Before coming to Alabama, she worked as an art subject specialist librarian and adjunct studio arts faculty in New England.


In an edition of only 15, and priced at $175, I expect this edition to sell out quickly.


Artist statement, images, descriptive details and ordering information here:




Elizabeth M. Claffey recipient of Emerging Artist Exhibition Grant


Abecedarian Gallery is pleased to announce the result of the 2010 Emerging/Student Artist exhibition grant.


Elizabeth M. Claffey is the artist selected from the applicants  by gallery director Alicia Bailey. Her work considers physical deterioration and the relationship between medical science and life experience. Elizabeth is a photographer and book artist pursing an MFA at Texas Woman’s University.


She states:


I have great faith in photography and human nature.  I believe that a photograph can tap into the most protected part of a person, where the vulnerability lies and the barriers break down to give way to understanding.  I try to focus my camera on the moments “in between,” those everyday situations that, separate from life’s climactic events, make up the moments that we often overlook even while pushing through them.  These are the moments that can reveal the truths of our nature, nurture, and circumstance, that allow subject, viewer, and photographer to relate.


This work is inspired by the content of a found object, as well as by my folkloric inheritance, which often describes the physical experiences of family members and ancestors. Through personal narrative, this series comments on broader issues of physical intimacy, trends in medical science that can have permanent effects, and the meaning of the body in a familial context.


Merck’s Manual 2


Her work has been recognized by PDN Magazine, Project Basho Gallery and various other galleries and publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and The Kinsey Institute.


On display are 4 of the 5 books in the Medical History series (the 5th is part of the traveling Photo Book Works exhibition which will be on view in 23 Sandy Gallery, Portland, Oregon through February). A catalog of the exhibit is available here. The series utilizes medical texts and reference books to explore family history and folklore through the juxtaposition of words, photographs, and pre-existing text.

Woman’s Surgeon 1


Also included are 8 images and a 28 image artists book from the series Remember Me.



Remember Me is a project that explores the deterioration of physical existence and the changing lines, shapes, and textures of the human body. The images are made clinically, creating a physical closeness that is not sexual or familial, but rather scientific, suggesting a detached intimacy most often known by doctors. Despite the clinical approach to the image making, the subject inspires thoughts and memories that survive and even transcend physical being.


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Selections from a larger series Medical Record are installed in the center of the Reading Room These works are human scale images printed on hospital gowns. Claffey’s choice to present these images in this way makes avoidance of the reality of the aging body impossible for any who wander into the Reading Room during her exhibition.

My personal favorite of the works are the series of 4 Petri Portraits, each a a photographic image with an additional splash of color presented in a Petri dish. The dishes rest on elegant white columns, lit from within letting these works glow with a diffuse but steady illumination.

Abecedarian Gallery will continue offering this grant to eligible student/emerging artists on an annual basis. To help support this project, the gallery is offering a wide range of hand-pulled artist prints created by artists throughout the United States for $15 each during the month of January. Those unable to visit the gallery are invited to peruse some of the online offerings available for purchase here.

Works from Wood

merrill Shatzman Calligraffiti #4Works from Wood, featuring prints and artists’ books that include woodcuts, woodblock prints or woodengraving as a primary element is on display at Abecedarian Gallery July 1 – August 7, 2010.

Neruda Questions L; open book with box

The exhibition, curated by gallery director Alicia Bailey, includes artists from throughout the United States, England, Italy and Australia.

The Orange

Woodblock printing is one of the oldest forms of printmaking, believed to have originated in China in the 8th Century and spreading quickly throughout Asia and Europe. A relief technique, areas of the wood are removed with a variety of tools, the remaining surface area inked, and the inked surface transferred to paper or fabric. Throughout history the technique has been used to produce prints, books, textiles and wallpaper.

Truck Stop

This exhibition includes a wide range of contemporary approaches to both print and book production. Included are the brightly colored, narrative multi-block prints by Anthony Lazorko and by Theresa Haberkorn, stylized one color prints by Merril Schatzman,

Crimes Against Neighbors, Filling Empty Eyes

the exquisitely detailed wood engravings of Johanna Mueller and shrine like boxes covered with reduction wood prints by Carolyn Sheehan.

Woodcut Box 2, interior
Invitation Au Voyage

Artists’ books on display include a selection of books printed entirely with woodcut by Andrea Krupp, Earle D Swope, Joseph J Field and Lorelie Clark.

Arbitrary Units of Measurement

Most of the books on display combine woodcut printing with other techniques such as letterpress in the works of David Mittelman, Leon Loughridge, Lynn Sures, Robert Walk, Rupert Deese and Tom Virgin.

Variations on the  Dialectic between  Mingus and  Pithecanthropus erectus #1

Alicia Bailey and Frans Baake present books printed utilizing other print processes such as intaglio, offset and photography.

Splendid Isolation

Clicking on above images will take you to a flickr page with full information about the artwork pictured, as well as other works by the same artist.

Clicking on the name from the artists’ list below will take you to their website.
Alicia Bailey, Aurora, Colorado;
Andrea Krupp, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
Anthony Lazorko, Mesilla, New Mexico;
Carolyn Sheehan, New York, New York;
David Mittelman, Denver, Colorado;
Earle D. Swope, Boise, Idaho
Franz Baake, The Netherlands;;
Joseph J Field, Newcastle, UK
Johanna Mueller, Denver, Colorado;
Leon Loughridge, Denver, Colorado;
Lorelei Clark, Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia;
Lynn Sures, Silver Springs, Maryland;
Merrill Shatzman, Durham, North Carolina;
Robert Walp, Chestertown, New York;
Rupert Deese, New York, New York;
Theresa Haberkorn, Boulder, Colorado;
Tom Virgin, Coconut Grove, Florida