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January Issue 2011

Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, Presents Rare Book Installation

The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC, is offering a book installation, Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Fine Printing, a companion to the large traveling exhibition, I Heard a Voice: The Art of Lesley Dill, on view through Jan. 23, 2011.

The Museum has diverse connections with the University of South Carolina and this particular partnership brings together and highlights book arts in connection to visual arts.

The installation, curated by USC Librarian Jeffrey Makala, is made up of books from the last 50 years and includes a copy of the poet's first collection in 1890. Dickinson's poems and original art inspired by the poet and her work are a special loan from the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. This installation shows how several fine press printers, printmakers, and book artists have all reacted to Emily Dickinson's poetry by creating new works. There are finely-printed selections of her poems, artistic explorations of her work and life, and new books influenced by Dickinson that recall the personal "books" of manuscript poems Dickinson created during her lifetime.

The works included in the exhibition include some of the 20th century's most well-known fine presses including Leonard Baskin's Gehenna Press and Claire Van Vliet's Janus Press. "A highlight is Andrew Hoyem's Arion Press edition of Dickinson's works that was a collaboration with Kiki Smith, whose large body of work, like Lesley Dill's, has explored many of the themes found in Dickinson's poetry," Makala said.

A large community of artists, printers, designers, and publishers are working creatively with the form of the codex book to produce limited edition fine press books, artists' books, multiples, and "bookworks." The form is expansive, and many will say liberating: artists can experiment with multiple processes in the same work, and play with the structure and conventions of the book in interesting ways, creating an interactive experience for their audience in the final product. The combination of "old" technologies like letterpress printing and engraving can be combined in equal measure with new digital processes in the same work in interesting ways. Ultimately individuals are forced to interact with the book itself, intimately, in order to fully explore its complexity and meaning.

Dill's works give visual form to poetic texts particularly by Dickinson. For Dill, words are her 'spiritual armor' and she freely stitches and weaves them across the surfaces of her multi-layered works. "Language is the touchstone, the pivot point of all my work," says Lesley Dill.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 803/799-2810 or visit (www.columbiamuseum.org).


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