Nashville Public Library | July 16 – December 31
by Catherine Randall
When asked to define “book art,” Britt Stadig hesitates several moments before answering. “I usually get one of two reactions to the term. Either the person doesn’t know what it is at all, or they mistakenly think it is a lower form of art.” It is this confusion that inspired the idea for her collaboration project. “I think artists’ books can be fine art, and that is what my exhibit hopes to demonstrate,” Stadig says.
20 Collaborations in Book Art made its debut at the Nashville Public Library in February 2014. The work was so well received the decision was made to hold the show biennially. The new exhibition opens on July 16 in the Main Library Art Gallery and runs through December.
Once again Stadig has brought together a variety of artists. They range in age from 10- and 12-year-old sisters Elise and Alex Elliot, to the legendary 83-year-old designer Manuel. Others include: Mel Ziegler, Alicia Henry, Andrew Saftel, Hans Schmitt-Matzen, Gillian Welch, Mark Mosrie, Scott Thom, and Brian Blas. Britt Stadig, fine book binder and print maker, offers her talents to each of the chosen participants and gives them the uncommon chance to explore collaborative art.
“The intention of the project was to bring book art to a wider audience and to demonstrate the creative potential within all artists to utilizes book form,” Stadig says.
Each book is a tangible and intimate visual narrative. Poet TJ Jarrett paired with Britt Stadig and Katie Baldwin to collectively produce “3 Poems from Ain’t No Grave.” Jarrett’s poems dictated Baldwin’s screen-printing vision. Stadig designed all custom enclosures and cut-paper illustrations. The results are stunning to the senses.
The interior pages, printed from hand-carved wood blocks, create a watermark effect on the pale-green-linen fabric pages. Actual birch leaves and bark are encased in rice paper and are pleasing to the fingertips. The contrasts of serene images with the meaning of the verse are startling. The last page unfolds in crisscross creases; the eerie image revealed takes the mind a moment to process. A woman’s chocolate-brown legs and feet dangle from recessed branches; the “strange fruit” hangs heavy, each foot seems to sway independent from the other.
“I’m really excited to see some of the clearer images in my work shaped into something three dimensional. I try to do that with words but so often fail,” Jarrett says.
Stadig’s unique approach to collaboration fosters deep bonds between the artists. “I usually have a hard time even talking about work in progress, let alone showing it before it is finished. Britt is able to draw me out in such a good way, and the work that results is usually very different from anything I would have done myself,” says Scott Thom.
20 Collaborations in Book Art is on view at Nashville Public Library from July 16 until December 31. For a complete listing of book artists, please visit www.20collaborations.com.