Books as Art
“Everyone has an interesting story deep down within themselves,” says Professor of Graphic DesignJan Baker. For the past 30 years, she has been encouraging students to bring forth their own inner stories by inspiring them to create artists’ books. And this year, while working as a Library Fellow in the RISD Artists’ Book Collection, Baker took the opportunity to revisit more than 500 artists’ books she has collected over the years – all made by former students – and curate an exhibition highlighting some of her favorites from each decade.
Called BOOKMARK, the extensive exhibition is on view at theFleet Library at RISD, woven throughout the first floor, mezzanine and second-floor spaces. “It’s a feast for the eyes, mind and heart,” Baker says, with beautifully made, one-of-a-kind or very limited edition books covering themes ranging from alphabets, animals and food to nature, culture, travel and sensual experiences. “Even though you can’t open each and every one of the books to read their touching narratives,” she says, “you’ll find snippets and glimpses of stories about family, siblings, grandparents, friends and lovers, about feelings, colors and sound, and about pets and imagined creatures.”
In addition to covering a wide range of subject matter, each artist’s book in the exhibition is a lovingly made work of art, Baker points out. Students wrote, edited, designed, printed and hand-bound each of the books being shown. And in the process, they not only revealed their inner interests and stories, they experimented with different papers, printing techniques and binding structures.
“Perhaps visitors to the exhibition will be inspired by the abundance of creativity these books represent,” Baker says. “Maybe some will even make a book of their own this summer – about a story they hold inside.”
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