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Of ebooks and Art Shows

May 20, 2013

What do ebooks and the library’s current art show have in common?

Nothing, except that I’m going to say something about each in this column. First, if you read ebooks from the library’s ebook collection (which is shared with all the Marmot Library Network libraries) and have not found what you’re looking for, tell us.

In particular, tell us what you’d like to read. We’ll see if we can get it. Not all ebooks are available for sale to libraries; many that are have constraints, including high prices.

But we’ve begun selecting books for the Marmot collection, so let us know what you’d like, and we’ll let you know if we can get it.

And it’s not completely true that our current show and ebooks have nothing in common. Both have letters.

The show is called “Letters, Unfettered,” and visual artists, writers, and poets have entered work inspired somehow by letters—in particular non-English, non-Latin letters.

The written works have a broader inspiration of “alphabets.” Even if one could write a poem in Thai, one would have a very limited audience here. It would be lovely to look at, but poems usually seek to be understood.

The show is a very interesting mix of work and inspiration. There are poems, an essay, and visual work such as acrylic and oil paintings, pen & ink, a monoprint, photographs, digital imagery, a printed poster, batik on cloth, handmade silk paper, sculpture.

The museum-like category of “mixed media” is mixed indeed. Lisa DeYoung made an expandable book honoring the Adinkra symbols of the Akan people in Africa (Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire).

Roberta Smith’s mixed media piece, “Tears & Orchids, Orchids & Tears,” has a deep frame like a letterbox with stone, wood, string, etched medallions that could be stamps, and papers with beautiful letters and symbols.

Conrad Nelson’s mixed media, “Lettres/Litterae/Buchstaben/Lettere/Letras,” is a collage of papers with that appealing feel of a travel diary. I wish I could put my finger on why such works fascinate me.

I confess I did put my finger on one work. “Let the journey be the reward” by P.J. Bergin is felted wool but also mixed media. I had to know if the lines stitched into it were stiff like wires. They are, so that’s done—nobody else touch.

The show is not just hanging on the walls but includes works on a set of shelves upstairs. Lisa DeYoung’s book is there; you may touch it but use the white gloves provided.

Marilyn Whitney has a beautiful bowl of handmade silk paper with calligraphy in ink. The work is titled “Heart Sutra,” so I assume the Japanese calligraphy includes part of the Buddha’s Heart Sutra. But the bowl is symbol enough.

The show always “opens” with a work in the lobby, in the recess by the water fountain, and here hangs “Happiness is a journey” by Linda Francis, an acrylic painting with lettering.

It’s interesting to me how strongly my eye is drawn to the lettering, such that it was only on my second visit that I actually looked at the painting behind it, which I like. And the painting is richly colored. How could I have missed it?

Perhaps that’s one of the powers of letters, and one of the limitations of my eye. It’s just how my mind works. I’ve had to work to see and feel images without grasping for meaning. But I’m getting there.

I’ve mentioned only a fraction of the work. Come see the show before the crowds of Art Walk arrive.

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