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Lafayette College’s Skillman Library is hosting “Where are the Books? An Exhibit of Contemporary Artists’ Books” through June 30.

The exhibit, supported by the Friends of Skillman Library, is curated by Curlee Raven Holton, associate professor of art and director of Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute. The official opening will be Thursday, February 10, with a reception at 4:30 p.m. in the Skillman Library Special Collections Reading Room. At 5 p.m., Holton will moderate a discussion among artists Lois Morrison, Kumi Korf, Nancy Diessner, and Jim Toia, visiting assistant professor of art at Lafayette. The panel will talk about what it means to create books and how they approach both the art and craft of it.

Works by 18 artists – including eight from Mexico — are displayed in the exhibit. In addition to the panelists listed above, artists include Melissa Jay Craig, Roy Crosse, Helen Frank, Lorena Glass, Josafat, Michael Loderstedt, Mario Martin del Campo, Craig Matis, Karima Muyaes, Claudia Politi, Juan Manuel de la Rosa, Jorge Sadurni, and Livinia Zacarias. The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“A number of these are wonderful creations of handmade paper and images,” says Diane Windham Shaw, Lafayette’s special collections librarian and College archivist. “Each has its own feel in this batch of books, which is very eclectic in subject matter and style.”

The exhibit includes works by veteran book-makers, such as Morrison, along with ones from relative newcomers bringing energy and enthusiasm to the genre. Many items challenge common ideas of what defines a book. They range from books with illustrations and text to wordless accordion folds of decorated paper, from a box of tarot cards to a large lead and rubber sculpture by Toia.

“Part of the reason for the title of the exhibit is that many of these don’t look like traditional books,” Shaw explains. “That’s one of the things that the artists will talk about — what makes a book.” Toia’s creation includes lead “pages” that can be turned with some difficulty.

“Oddly enough, that particular book makes me think back to the invention of the printing press,” says Shaw. “If you see very old books, they’re generally huge, and in the earliest libraries, they were chained to shelves so people couldn’t walk out with them. This work has a big ramrod through the middle.”

The exhibition marks a first for Skillman Library.

“We have not used a guest curator before, although it was natural to decide that this would be a wonderful thing to do once Curlee starting making books and we started binding them,” says Shaw. “We had done smaller exhibits of his books, and asking him to curate came out of his interest in making books.”

Curating is nothing new for Holton, who has performed that responsibility for a dozen exhibitions. Lafayette’s Experimental Printmaking Institute, which he directs, is housed in Lafayette’s Printmaking Studio. Established in 1996, it provides students and visiting professional artists with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop advanced skills in the areas of printmaking and digital imaging. In the institute’s visiting artists program, students are apprenticed with nationally and internationally known artists. The program encourages experimental investigation within the printmaking medium, including paper-making, digital-image printing, and book-making, while refining time-honored practices and techniques. Numerous student and traveling exhibitions have been organized as part of EPI’s community outreach program. More than 20 visiting artists of national and international reputation have completed residencies and exchanges with the EPI. They have produced more than 200 works, many in private and public collections.

Holton was the 1999 recipient of Lafayette’s Carl R. and Ingeborg Beidleman Research Award, a major Lafayette College-wide prize recognizing excellence in applied research or scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the Cleveland Institute of Art and a master’s degree in fine arts at Kent State University. His special interests include printmaking, African American art history, drawing, and painting. He has mounted more than 30 one-person shows and participated in more than 75 group exhibitions, including the Seventh International Bienniale at the National Center of Fine Arts, Cairo, and shows at Centro de Cultura Casa Lamm Gallery, Mexico City. His works are in the collections of several universities, foundations, and corporations.

Categorized in: Academic News