Tag Archives | artists books

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 She takes with her only what will fit into her bright red suitcase; once there strolling through the city examining historical documents, public buildings and attractions.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founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin), her appreciation for historical records is well embedded, her comfort with historical documents a fact of her life.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.

Look Again: Artists’ Books and Prints by Deborah Bryan

nine blocks

An exhibition of recent books and prints by Tennessee artist Deborah Bryan. Bryan is on faculty at Tusculum College, Greeneville, Tennessee. Ms Bryan’s work was first exhibited at Abecedarian during the RE: (rebound, recycled, repurposed, reused) exhibit when she was awarded the gallery director’s exhibition award. Her work for this exhibition involves using plates, whether copper or wood engraving, as covers or pages, and involves presenting prints in an alternative format.


On display are both prints and books; the books, although created from a medium usually associated with multiplicity, are not editioned but are one of a kind books, using retired copper plates and woodblocks.

portable art experience




For me, the artist’s book provides an opportunity to present my work in a different      format, hence the title “Look Again.”  As a printmaker, I regularly find myself with a  completed edition and used, but beautiful, copper plates or endgrain maple blocks.  These matrices can become pages or covers.  Proofs can be recycled and  reconfigured as content for books.


Detritus series Indian PipesDetritus series Stems & Shreds

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

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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.

Regula Russelle winner of the 2011 Minnesota Book Artist Award

Book o Hours painted 1.jpg

Abecedarian Gallery is thrilled to note that one of our favorite book artists, Regula Russelle of Cedar Fence Press is the winner of the 2011 Minnesota Book Artist Award.


Regula’s work has been featured in exhibitions at Abecedarian, most notably The Beautiful Book exhibit in 2009, and her work is held in gallery inventory (available for purchase here).


The annual award, presented by MCBA and the Minnesota Book Awards, and sponsored by the Lerner Publishing Group, recognizes excellence throughout an artist’s body of work, as well as their significant contributions to Minnesota’s book arts community.

The following is from the MCBA press release:

“Art-making is cultural work,” says Russelle. “It has political and spiritual dimensions. The central themes in my books and prints are the deep questions in my life. Mostly, I am haunted by the great American question, ‘What might we become?’ How do we shape a day, a week, a communal life, the way of the city, and the larger world beyond? Who is my neighbor, my kin?”

Russelle began making one-of-a-kind books during graduate work at Hamline University in the mid-1990s and has been making books on her own and with others ever since. In 1999, she established Cedar Fence Press, a small independent press that publishes limited edition books and prints. She teaches book arts and papermaking for undergraduate and graduate students at Augsburg College and beginning through advanced letterpress printing at MCBA.

Russelle was awarded the 2007 Minnesota Book Award for Fine Press, and had been named a finalist for the same award three times previously (in 2000, 2001 and 2006). In collaboration as Accordion Press, Russelle and fellow artist CB Sherlock were awarded a 2007-08 MCBA/Jerome Foundation Book Arts Fellowship. Other honors include an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board Grant and recognition from the International Society of Bookbinders. Her work is shown and collected internationally.