“Every adventure supplies new inspiration for artistic expression, content, and process. With so many stories to tell, there’s no reason to stay in one place.” b.b
How can light be also opaque? Light is opaque when it is oppressive. This book explores individual freedom at the collision of culture and ideology. I am a silent rebel battling the rising sun.
The United Arab Emirates' population is approximately 80% expatriates. I am one of those ex-pats, from the United States, living as a resident of the UAE. This altered book is a reflection on this experience. The vehicle for my clashing culture commentary is the altered book titled "Sharjah Light Festival: Illuminate your Imagination". I transformed pages from this picture book to highlight the contrast between "light" and "dark". For example, the joy of sharing a drink with friends contrasting the conservative observations of contemporary Islamic Law. Alcohol is considered haram in consideration of present-day Muslim dietary practices.
I live in the Emirate of Sharjah in The United Arab Emirates, similar to a state in the USA, which is dry. Sharjah means "rising sun" in Arabic. Alcohol is not bought or sold here since 1979. Sharjah boasts the UNESCO title "Cultural Capital of the Arabic World", which embraces a light show every March which is projected on buildings around the city. Events like these are supported by the ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi. The state next to Sharjah is Ajman where residents can purchase alcohol. Those who do purchase alcohol must transport bottles discreetly, in grey bags and cardboard boxes, similar to the bookcase and cover. Until recently, ex-pats were breaking the law by transporting these goods across emirate lines.
The book series is in an edition of 6. Each book is also unique with each altered book edition pulling from different pages: imagery and text of the selected pre-printed book "Sharjah Light Festival: Illuminate your Imagination Sharjah Commerce and Development Authority, March 2011. The altered book page dimensions are 32 x 25 cm and the interpretive book is 7 x 6.25 cm. By selecting only portions of images to include, randomly shuffling the order, and focusing on the dynamic play between light and dark, the intention of "Opaque Lights of the Rising Sun" is revealed.
Patty earned an MSED from the University of Southern California and a degree in graphic design while in Texas. She trains at the American Academy of Bookbinding with Monique Lallier specializing in French binding and studies other archival structures from Jan Sabota in the Czech Republic. Her experiences now include printmaking, letterpress and sculptural binding allowing a fuller realization of the completed book. Bruce received a Master’s of Object/Sculptural Binding diploma from Society of Bookbinding of the Czech Republic. She works full time binding books in her studio.
I work in three separate but related areas: fibre art/painting, artists’ books, and printmaking (mainly etching). These three areas are connected to each other in a number of ways, firstly through recycling of materials. The fibre art comprises recycled fabric using printing. The artists’ books utilise old carte de visite albums and photographs with drawing, etching, and sometimes fabric.
My work in the medium of artists’ books is not illustration or visualization of a narrative but more an emotional response to the writing or type of book. My books include responses to Georges Perec’s novel ‘Les Choses’ as well as works based on the Biblical books of Jonah, Ruth, Esther and Ecclesiastes; more recent books comprise old carte de visite albums and collections of etchings representing motion and change using photographs with drawing, etching, and sometimes fabric.
My works tend towards abstraction but are influenced by natural processes including growth, flowering, withering and fading. I emphasize the contrasts between dark and light, flowing and stagnant, active and passive, transparent and opaque. Often the work is divided into a geometrical pattern and represents the process of change from one state or situation to another, which is often achieved through a series of images.
In spring of 2020 when we were not leaving our homes, I rediscovered this book on my shelf: The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers, by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald. Each original illustration in the book transported me to a new place for a while. I was grateful for this ‘collaboration’. I wanted to alter the book but in such a way that the book could still be used as a field guide as it was originally intended. I painted over the illustrated landscape surrounding the specimens; this alteration was a source of comfort during the pandemic and a means of ‘travel’ while I was in lockdown. Original illustrations by Rowland and Edith Hilder.
Rachel Davis received her B.A. from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and her M.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rachel’s work has been exhibited in national venues including the Holter Museum of Fine Art, Helena, Montana; Evergreen Galleries, Olympia, Washington; and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters in Madison, Wisconsin. Rachel completed a year-long artist-in-residence at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, Illinois in 2018 and an Artist-in-Residence at the DuPage Children’s Museum in 2019. Currently, Rachel teaches natural dye techniques in the textiles department at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago.
Karen Gustafson creates intricate drawings that reflect on the complexities found in the natural world. Earning her BFA from the University of Minnesota and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Gustafson has been teaching at Normandale Community College since 1999. Gustafson has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad at prestigious institutes including GV Art (London, England), Plains Art Museum (ND), Lexington Art League (KY), Pence Gallery, (CA), San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles (CA), and Burnet Gallery (MN). Grants awarded include the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (2017, 2012) and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Next Step Grant (2014). Gustafson was resident artist for the month of July (2019) at Kingsbrae International Residency for the Arts (KIRA), St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada.
MN Original featured Gustafson and her work on their award-winning program in 2012. Gustafson’s MN Original video was selected by WNET (PBS) in New York as part of an arts content sharing initiative. It has aired in arts programming across the nation, including NYC-ARTS, LaARTS, and Houston’s Arts Insight. Gustafson lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The immediacy of putting a mark on a surface, watching a work take form as individual marks accumulate, motivates me. My work weaves together my interests in art, science, textiles, plants, food, and health. I am driven by the research and discovery inherent in my process.
The Vienna Dioscorides series explores my interest in plants, their relationship to our health, and the importance of growing and consuming diverse crops and plant-based foods. Research into the historical role of plants’ medicinal and nutritional properties, brought me to the fountainhead of herbals; the Greek pharmacopoeia written by Dioscorides in c. 65 AD.
The original Vienna Dioscorides herbal (512 AD) contains the oldest surviving complete manuscript of Dioscorides’ pharmacopoeia. Several of the nearly 400 paintings of plants depicted in the Vienna Dioscorides are still known to us today. These plants create a connection to this ancient text, linking past to present.
This series recontextualizes the historic role of a needlework sampler. Rather than collect and preserve stitches and patterns, I preserve the ancient medicinal plants of Dioscorides. I use thread, translucent organza, and a sewing machine to create ethereal plant portraits. Floating away from the wall, they cast a secondary shadow drawing.
Facebook: Karen Gustafson Studios
Based in Oxford, Kate Hipkiss has recently completed an MFA in Fine Art with Distinction at Oxford Brookes University.
She has worked almost exclusively with paper for over a decade, often using intricate cutting techniques to create layers, series or multiples.
Her map works bridge imagination, memory and reality through a connection to place. She says of her work: “Maps shape our perception of the world around us. Our implicit understanding of them means that we rarely question the information they contain. By altering them we are presented with familiar, and yet unreadable, information leading us to make our own associations and take our own journeys. Maps and books are especially open to this type of interpretation because we are used to placing and orienting ourselves within them.”
A sense of time is embedded in these map works, from the date of original publication, to the residual ‘traces’ of ownership coalesced with the slower sense of time of the making process.
Influenced by many contemporary Paper Artists, including Barbara Wildenboer and Thomas Demand, her work addresses our collective memory and experience often drawing on environmental concerns and our impact as a species on our surroundings.
Life and Times is one of a series of recent works addressing environmental issues through altered atlases. Each cube represents a country with multiple species listed as critically endangered. There are many more I couldn't include in this piece of work.
The concept of boxes made from cut maps is one I frequently return to as a means of exploring collective memory and experience. Our impact on the planet and our collective experience of the consequences have been all too clear over the past year.
Alteration of the atlas invites reinterpretation of a familiar source of knowledge, creating a narrative and a space within which we can place ourselves. There is an ongoing dialogue between the information released from the atlas and the atlas itself which has been retained as an integral part of the work. The cut maps are still contained and there is a sense of both loss and transformation.
Peggy Johnston graduated from the University of Wyoming with degrees in art and education. Since then she has continued her studies in painting, printing and the book arts. She has taught locally in the public schools and at the Des Moines Art Center. She has also conducted workshops across the country. Her award winning work is in public and private collections nationally and internationally, including the National Museum for Women in the Arts.
My love of paper and fascination with containers made it almost inevitable that I would discover the book arts.
Since crafting my first book, I have explored bookmaking as an art as well as a craft. I focus on the book as an art object. The style of binding, cover material, shape, closure--these are all elements of what I consider a functional piece of art.
I think of myself as a sculptor using bookbinding techniques. The mechanics and engineering involved in book structures fascinate me. Often, I will exaggerate elements of book design in creating these sculptural pieces.
I lean toward distinctive materials (old leather, metal, wood, old books) when designing my one-of-a-kind works. The materials I choose add a tactile aspect to the work. I search for just the right materials for some projects, but other times materials at hand suggest a project or design to me.
I often say that I am not in control of my art. It controls me.
Leekyung Kang creates spatial illusions by capturing unseen architectural spaces between the second and third dimensions. Influenced by Kang’s training as a painter and printmaker, the work focuses on the materiality of each medium. She utilizes diverse perspectives within architectural contexts that challenge the perception of space. In her exploration of the processes of mechanical reproduction, Kang often inserts errors or glitches from digital processes into her video works and prints. Kang earned her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and BFA from Seoul National University. She has taught at Rhode Island School of Design, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and currently working in Idaho State University as an assistant professor. She has participated in several residencies internationally including the Fountainhead fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar and the Vermont Studio Center. Kang’s work has been exhibited in South Korea, Doha, Qatar and throughout the U.S.
I have navigated the structural framework and “bone/skeleton” of infrastructure in the urban landscape since 2014. By exploring the surface of spatiality such as construction sites and scaffolding structure, I have leveraged architectural imagery with mixed media. I am seeking to uncover the unseen space, which is present, but never fully revealed. My work has focused on exploring both exterior surfaces and interior infrastructure of the cities I have lived in, including architectural imagery of unfinished scaffold facades through mixed media. The process of work exposes the unseen and hidden spaces by capturing the raw and unfinished state of our present environment, which I define as ‘Invented landscape- In-between Space’. I would like to capture this unfinished state and challenge the conventional understanding of space, which tends to focus on its physical condition, history, and transformation.
Recently, my inspiration from digital navigation made me think about the definition of reality. When I was walking down the street, I suddenly wondered what lies underneath me? Are the trash and sewage, once above ground, now buried or hidden? This underground world does not show up on Google Earth, nor can I see it when I walk down the street in “real time.” I am standing on the surface of “reality.” That is, on the street or ground. However, when my imagination turns to subterranean space, it acquires a layered thickness, an accumulated mapping of endless histories, time, spaces, transitions, and so on. Here exist compressed layers of life of which we may or may not be aware. In my work, I excavate the layers one by one, flipping them over, through the digital language within Google Earth.
Additionally, the concept of my digital work is inspired by my traditional printmaking practice. Similar to printmaking, each image is layered on top of a substrate. The infinite layers of a digital matrix resembles the stone used in lithography that reveals a complex layered history. In order to redefine reality, I invite the viewer to explore the imaginative space, the delamination of reality in the in-between world of dimensions. Through this practice I uncovered bizarre, creepy building structures, nearly demolished skeletal structures due to the insufficient information about certain sites, and the irregular pattern of surfaces. Now I look below. I imagine that the underground is the waste product from the world above. But it is not waste! It is the cast-off and outmoded remains of things, places, people, techniques, and ideas for which physical and conceptual space no longer exist in the world above. Yet because every element of it was once a part of the world above, it maintains the power of that connection with its former meanings recombined in unforeseen ways. As I look to connect the thresholds between above and below, my curiosity of underground, unseen space is piqued.
Through this journey, both actual visits to sites and virtual experiences in the digital form will transform my perception of reality. The recognition of physicality of space will be distorted by leveraging the tension between digital image and traditional mediums. I will intensify this distortion through mass image duplication to create an uncanny aesthetic. From this quest, I will devise an imaginative apparatuses (Image 11) that connects our perception between the world above and below --‘Invented landscape / In-between Space’. The extended cycle of physical transformation in ground and celestial bodies will illuminate elusive resources, triggering the idea of a mechanism in between space. The new project I envision will need time for researching ancient navigation tools, mining skill, cartographic manuscripts, and mineral collections to explore graphical representations of historical transition of our spatial perception.
Carole Kunstadt often invokes a metaphysical quality of contemplation and timelessness. Her works on/of paper reference artifacts, antique books and journals - deconstructing paper and text and using it in metaphorical ways. Process reveals how language can become visual through re-interpretation.
Born in Boston, with a childhood in a small New England town, Kunstadt received a BFA, Hartford Art School and continued with postgraduate studies at the Akademie der Bildenen Künste, Munich, Germany. Seven years ago she re-entered a familiar landscape as in her youth, moving to the Hudson Valley, having lived for 35 years in NYC.
PRESSING ON No. 102 - Homage to Hannah More
Awareness of the persistent and dedicated work of individuals such as Hannah More in the 18th c., illustrates not only the depth and density of deep seated issues, but also serves to inform us of the progression within our culture and inspires us to continue to raise one's voice to inequality and injustice.
Pages of Hannah More's writings* are cut, layered and combined with irons. Antique “sad” (solid) irons evoke the tactile, experiential memory of a domestic labor force. The sad irons represent the erstwhile servitude - the 'herstories' of those laboring under the demands for pressed garments and linens, to suit class distinctions and societal expectations.
Hannah More (1745 – 1833) was an abolitionist, poet, social reformer, feminist, writer, philanthropist and a member of the London intellectual group “Bluestockings.” Her writings and benevolence strongly influenced the public mind and social character of her day. Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 1799, contained many pro-feminist overtones. More's life-long cause was galvanizing women to act not as domestic ornaments, but as thinking, engaged and responsible beings. She devoted herself to educating and helping the poor, establishing over sixteen charitable schools.
Hannah helped give the abolition movement a public voice with her writings. Publishing and collaborating with William Wilberforce, an outspoken member of Parliament, she remained active in the anti-slavery movement her entire life. Her poem Slavery published in 1788 coincided with the first parliamentary debate on slave trade. Dying in September of 1833, she lived just long enough to see slavery abolished in the British Empire. More's convictions were moral, social and political.
Liza MacKinnon is a self-taught multi-media artist and arts educator with 10+ years of experience in teaching, freelance graphic design and exhibited artwork. Working in Lawrence, KS, she has shown regionally in KS and MO as well as NM, WA, IL, CA and TX. Liza specializes in ½ scale 3d historic costumes made from relevant paper and ephemera to create in-depth studies of women in history.
I love the challenge of telling a story and sharing my values through the limited medium of historic costumes fashioned from paper. These sculptures contain layers of meaning and messages that I might not be naturally brave enough to talk about. Whether these pieces speak of LGBTQA+ rights, our oligarchical military complex nation or illuminate astounding women from history; recycled books, maps, letters and photos merge to reveal complex stories and history. Each dress provides a beautiful silhouette from a distance and then reveals covert details up close.
My three-dimensional dresses are a natural extension of lifetime spent illustrating, painting and making prints of historic costume.
These half scale garments, which can take weeks or even months to complete, are made relevant by the materials included. I enjoy surprising the viewer, either with the trompe l’oeil of paper masquerading as fabric, or with thought provoking materials such as making Ophelia from Hamlet out of pages from the DSM IV or nudging the conversation by creating a Marie Antoinette made of 1040 tax forms and US currency. Although the parameters are limited, the possibilities are endless as I combine statements about my ideals with my obsession with historical clothing.
Sarah Matthews is a printmaker and book artist. Her work has been exhibited in the US and is a part of the permanent collections of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, George Washington University’s Gelman Library, University of Puget Sound, and Samford University. Sarah is currently the Alma Thomas Fellow at the Studio Gallery in Washington, DC and she teaches printmaking and bookbinding.
Patricia Miranda is an artist, curator, and educator, and founder of MAPSpace and The Crit Lab.
She has been Visiting Artist at Vermont Studio Center, the Heckscher Museum, and University of Utah; and been awarded residencies at I-Park, Weir Farm, Vermont Studio Center, and Julio Valdez Printmaking Studio. She received an Anonymous Was a Woman Covid19 Relief Grant, an artist grant from ArtsWestchester/New York State Council on the Arts, and was part of a yearlong NEA grant working with homeless youth. Her work has been exhibited at ODETTA Gallery, ABC No Rio, Wave Hill, and Rio II Gallery, in NYC; The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery at UConnAvery Point, Groton, CT; the Cape Museum of Fine Art, Cape Cod MA; and the Belvedere Museum, Vienna Austria. She has a solo exhibition upcoming at Garrison Art Center in Garrison NY in fall 2021.
My work is grounded in deep research into historic material practices, rituals of grief and mourning, women’s labor, environmental and gendered violence. I work primarily with textile in site-responsive installations, and with deaccessioned religious books. Materials carry historical, ecological, and cultural information as subtext in the work.
I am interested in textile as a form that wraps our bodies from cradle to grave, and in the historical role of lacemaking in the lives of women. Recent projects began with family lace and developed from unsolicited donations sent from friends and strangers. This grew into research on lace patterns and histories; every piece photographed, measured, archived.
Books and lace are hand-dyed with natural historical dyes. I choose dyes for their long history; including oak gall wasp nests, cochineal insects, indigo, and clay. Books are altered and deconstructed with hair, fresh water pearls, and bone beads; textiles are sewn into shroud-like tapestries. I adorn with objects of lamentation akin to ex-votos, reliquaries, and other ritualized body forms, traditionally offered to saints in memoriam, request, gratitude, or devotion. Repurposed bio-degradable materials allow for monumental works with a small ecological footprint. The feminine lace exerts a trace of domestic labor; the visceral dyes retain a stain of their environmental origins, a vernacular of mourning as ecofeminist critique.
Social Media: Insta @patriciasuzannemiranda
Following a degreed study in painting, Chris Perry moved to New York where he worked in the art world, first at the Guggenheim Museum, and later for a selection of artists. His own work progressed slowly while he pursued a career in architectural woodworking until 2007 when he returned to making art full time. After residing in Lower Manhattan for almost 40 years, Chris and his wife moved to Ridgefield, Ct. in 2015 where they both have studios in their home.
In 2008 Chris started creating books modeled on flip books, but with the action expressed by cutting away the empty space around the object in question. Because the offset caused by the signatures, he titled the series Ripples, beginning a continuing set of pieces that emulate water in its many forms, both as forces of nature and as structures that are both manmade and natural.
The early pieces stood alone, single volumes that had a small number of pages, each carefully planned and cut into moving shapes, all within the body of the volume. As they became more complicated they accumulated multiple volumes and started to “sprout” appendages of cut paper that extended out from all edges and eventually from the spine as well.
The works incorporate a number of signature elements to elicit the information he wishes the viewer to take away, in the same fashion a writer will use the same elements repeatedly in her writing, like the use odd names, or staging the action in the same time period or location over and over, or simply to have a particular way of crafting sentences.
While still exploring the small spaces he creates within a few hand-cut volumes, Chris is actively planning on pieces that address entire rooms using thousands of volumes to depict water structures such as a hurricane, or tsunami, or a storm front.
Gina Pisello is a paper engineer and book artist. She has taught book arts for over 17 years and is a member of San Diego Book Arts and Puget Sound Book Arts. Her work has been accepted in exhibitions in San Diego County, University of Puget Sound, University of South Dakota, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the University of Western England, Bristol. Her work has appeared in the following galleries: Front Porch Gallery, Cannon Art Gallery, Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, Mesa College Art Gallery, Rose Art Gallery, Columbia City Gallery in Washington, 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, CA, The Ink Shop in Ithaca, NY, and Graficas Gallery in Nantucket.. Her work is in several private collections as well as the University of Washington, UC Berkeley, and the University of Puget Sound special collections.
Books tell stories and by altering them Gina can communicate her stories. Cutting a landscape into an open book or folding the fore edge to make birds fly off the page changes the content of the book without changing its nature. She has been playing with paper her whole life and asking what if...? and artist’s books always seem to hold the answers.
Local shops that display my work in Spearfish:
The Junk Drawer
611 N Main Street
Spearfish, SD 57783
I also have an Etsy shop:
Artist Bio: Brittanna Roberts is a senior at Utah Valley University graduating in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education. She enjoys experimenting with new mediums and techniques; printmaking and book art being current favorites. After graduating, she is planning to teach painting/drawing/printmaking in a secondary school setting. In her free time, Brittanna enjoys reading, baking, and Irish dancing.
Artist Statement: This piece is made out of two books: A World Atlas and 'The Rediscovery of Man' by Henry Link. Strips of the World Atlas were meticulously cut, spiraled, and glued in-between pages of the book. I wanted to emphasize the beauty and simplicity of paper, but reimagine the pages to create something entirely new. Literature itself is an art, which is why I chose to have the title of my artwork correspond with the title of the original book.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Heather Ryan Kelley is a professor of art at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana where she teaches painting and book arts. She holds a BFA in printmaking from Southern Methodist University and an MA in painting from Northwestern State University. In 2009 she established The Midden Heap Press. The press is devoted to prints, artist books, and collaborative ephemera related to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Kelley’s work is in the collections of Cornell University, the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas, and SUNY at Buffalo. She is at about the two-thirds mark in her project of making a collage-per-page of Finnegans Wake.
Although the constitution provides legal counsel for every person in criminal matters, it does not do so in civil matters. The reality is that in civil areas, including issues with housing, health care, child support, disability benefits, and domestic violence, the poor often lack legal representation and must either go it alone or proceed with limited counsel. In a physical way the Harvard Law Review volumes have been altered to signify this inequity.
Lynn lives and works on an island in the middle of a lake surrounded by a big city, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. After retiring from the practice of law eight years ago, she began making artist’s books and small works on paper. Old-style cut & past collage has been and remains a favorite medium, and she frequently also incorporates sewing techniques, thread, fabric, metal, wood and other materials into her pieces. The goal is always to tell a story that might startle, amuse or provoke. Lynnn’s work has appeared in collage and book arts exhibitions across the country.
Lynn is a frequent contributor to Kollage Kit.blogspot.com, a collaborative website featuring themed cut & paste paper collage. Some of her personal collage work is published on-line at regularpaper.blogspot.com, and she maintains a general portfolio of book arts projects, collage and mixed media works (“Some Paperwork”) at lynnskordal.paspartout.com.
KCJ Szwedzinski was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but moved frequently up and down the Eastern seaboard growing up. As an interdisciplinary artist, Szwedzinski’s work addresses social and cultural indoctrination and edification and the nature of belief and perception. Her recent work investigates the intersection of Jewish legacy and lived experience- asking questions about what we choose to embody, embrace, or deny from our inherited legacies.
She was the 2018 recipient of the Mary Alice Hadley Prize for Visual Art and spent part of the year traveling to do research at the Holocaust Center and The Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco.
Szwedzinski exhibits her work nationally and recently received merit and juror awards for the 10 x 10 x 10 show in Tieton, Washington and The Blue Grass Biennial in Morehead, Kentucky. Recent exhibitions include In the Hot Seat at KMAC Museum in Louisville, KY and the Glass Art Society + Refract NW Member Showcase at Gallery Mack in Seattle. KCJ is cofounder and executive director of Project Chance, a non-profit that raises and trains service dogs for children with autism and other disabilities. She has studied and assisted at Penland School of Craft and Pilchuck Glass School and has been an artist in residence at the Vermont Studio Center. Upcoming, she will be an artist in residence at the Chulitna Research Institute in Alaska. KCJ received a BA from the University of North Florida and an MFA from the University of Louisville.
KCJ lives in Seattle, Washington with her partner, dog, and guinea pig. She sometimes moonlights as a dog trainer.
My practice questions the authenticity of history and perception. I am interested in not only what we remember, but how we remember and how we pass information to successive generations. I probe personal familial narratives and established power structures to consider methods of indoctrination. I am interested in how we choose to embrace or deny our inherited legacies and how these choices manifest intergenerationally to shape belief and identity.
This investigation began by learning about my personal inherited legacies. I investigated the intersection of Jewish legacy and lived experience by questioning, imagining, and reinterpreting Jewish law and traditions. Judaism interests me due to its unique attributes of debate and argumentation as mechanisms for expounding on ambiguous passages and laws. Secondly, Judaism manifests very differently across history and the globe while still maintaining a distinct essence. As a result of its multicultural and geographic differences, Judaism is difficult to categorize. It probes categorical markers and feels to me like the progenitor of identity politics. There is a tradition of debate and interpretation in Judaism called midrash. I consider my work to be visual exegesis that continues this practice and a methodology for synthesizing seemingly disparate bodies of knowledge- historic Jewish tradition and my own lived experience.
Recent projects have included “The Ordeal of the Bitter Water,” and “Saccharin(e) Shrines.”
“The Ordeal of the Bitter Water” rebinds the eight books of the Talmudic tractate, Sotah, with glass pages that are screen printed and fused together. The narrative becomes only partially readable, with the layered pages obscuring one another. This work considers sexism in rabbinical literature and the difficulty of accessing these ancient texts from a modernist or feminist perspective.
“Saccharin(e) Shrines” imitates the aesthetics of glass, in truth, this reinterpretation of leaded light remains highly subjective to its environment and will begin to distort as humidity levels rise. Stained glass windows, historically serving as a means of education for the illiterate, made from sugar implicate a culture that preaches from an early age that consumption will bring a kind of deliverance. ”Saccharin(e) Shrines” is at the intersection of belief and consumption, with implications towards systemic power structures.
By reinterpreting common objects in unexpected materials, compositions, or relationships, I create a new context that subverts expectation and elicits the need for further investigation. In the end, the effort of looking is amply rewarded and the work reveals to the critical observer its nuances. I believe arts most powerful function is its ability to create spaces for dialogue, introspection, and connection. My goal is to create work which demands active participation in the construction of "reality," and which requires an attempt to reconcile expectation with what is seen.
Naomi S. Velasquez is an award winning contemporary textile and book artist. Her artwork is consistently shown internationally and nationally and in diverse venues ranging from galleries to public works installations. Naomi holds an M.F.A. from the University of North Texas in Studio Art, Fibers. Naomi is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. She is the coordinator for the Fiber Media and Papermaking areas. Her work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Cynthia Sears Collection, University of Denver Library, Emory University Library, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and the University of North Texas Special Collection.
I am fascinated by the way that we constantly adapt to change and are continually reconfigured by our experiences and influences from the world around us. I am intrigued with the process of creating, deconstructing, and redefining a new composition to communicate the depth of our complex, multi-faceted lives and ever evolving relationships. These altered books are related to viruses and relationships. These artist’s books use the structure of a book to act as a vessel for scientific research about viruses. Reading the news, I have been inundated with stories of viruses and epidemics, such as Zika and HIV, that create fear in relationships with and for our partners and anyone in our communities. As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, these experiences and issues have been amplified and become widespread.
Working with embroidered textile pieces from found, damaged quilt blocks speaks to the idea of the hope that scientific research can create a pathway for healing and mending from the effects that these viruses are having on relationships. The textiles refer to the history of embroidery, quilts and mending to repair and strengthen objects that have kept us warm and are created for celebrations and losses in our communities. Most of the books have been concealed, showing only an embroidered and embellished textile piece created from found damaged quilt blocks. The obscured content of the book also represents the many people suffering from these viruses that are anonymous. These textile pieces are stitched with the shapes of virus cell structures.