Oooh yes, I have a long list of people I want to interview! And very close to the top of my list is the lovely Alicia Bailey in Denver, Colorado (USA). I "met" Alicia (over internet) last year when I answered a call for artists for an interesting show called One Unit per Increment at her gallery. Not only is Alicia a talented book artist herself, she also runs the very well respected Abecedarian Gallery in Denver which focuses on works on paper, ranging from artists' books to collage and assemblage.
Abecedarian Gallery in Denver
SB: Being a gallerist and an artist gives you insight into both aspects of the art world but also double the workload! How did you get involved in running a gallery, and what does it contribute to your work?
AB: Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined directing a gallery of my own, but here I am. In 2007, out of a need for distraction (I had a series of challenging personal experiences in a compressed time period) and as a way to engage more with the public (living and working alone can be very isolating) I put my administrative and project management skills to use promoting the field I am most passionate about.
I am not sure that running the gallery contributes to my studio work, outside of it helping me lead a more balanced life. It does take away from studio time, so having the gallery has made me appreciate the time in the studio more. I find that my studio work affects my curatorial and installation decisions though. Curating and installing an exhibition is in many ways similar to designing and producing an artists’ bookwork.
One Unit per Increment: installation view
Mia Semingson solo show 39+ installation view
SB: Why do you think artists’ books are important as an art form?
AB: Primarily because they are interactive, tactile objects typically of a scale that allows an intimate and personal viewing experience. With so much of what we are experiencing coming to us through digital or electronic means, I think there is a growing need to interact more directly with tangible objects.
My work up on the wall as part of One Unit per Increment!
SB: Does it matter if an artists’ book leaves the codex format behind and edges towards sculpture in its form? I wonder if you have an opinion as to whether artists’ books are more or less interesting once they leave the safety of the traditional book format behind?
AB: I think of all books as interactive sculptures, with varying degrees of sculptural emphasis. Quite often books that leave the traditional book format have greater initial appeal, more bells and whistles if you will. An idea existing in a traditional form may be no more or less interesting but might take a different kind of attention to appreciate. Some ideas are better presented in a traditional format. Knowing when to leave that format behind is one of the most critical decisions contemporary book artists need to make when considering a project.
SB: Many BookArtObject participants and readers are outside the USA… are you able to give a view on the state of contemporary book arts practice in the US?
AB: There are few training programs in traditional bookbinding technique. Much of what I see is created using techniques adapted from other fields. As there are few degree programs specific to artists’ books, many artists incorporate book arts into an existing studio practice, resulting in a very eclectic range of approaches. Where I live and work forging ahead with little regard for or interest in formal training is typical of all the arts. That may seem a bit unruly or negative but handled well, it can be a positive.
Burning Me Open
SB: Who are your favourite book artists, and why do you like their work?
AB: I know that later I will be chagrined that I forgot about some of my favorite artists. My list of favorites has shifted over the course of time and will doubtless shift again.
The following artists not only produce well crafted, thoughtful works but are committed to this field and are passionate about the work they do. Most of them also work outside the studio as educators, mentors, curators or writers in the field. These are artists whose works I know beyond reproductions in books or on the internet.
In alphabetical order by first name, here is a list of favorites:
Alice Austin, Alicia Bailey (yes, I’m one of my own favorites), Angela Lorenz, Bonnie Stahlecker, Claire Van Vliet, Daniel Essig, Daniel Kelm, Dolph Smith, Ed Hutchins, Emily Martin, Genie Shenk, Hedi Kyle, Jana Sim, Joan Lyons, Julie Chen, Julie Leonard, Karen Kunc, Keith Smith, Laura Davidson, Linda Smith, Mary Ellen Long, Maureen Cummins, Melissa Jay Craig, Miriam Schaer, Pati Scobey, Peter Madden, Richard Minsky, Robbin Ami Silverberg, Shanna Leino, Shu-Ju Wang, Sun Young Kang, Susan Collard, Susan E. King, Susan Joy Share, Tim Ely,
What I most appreciate about these artists in particular is that they bring to their work a consistency of vision and intent with material, content and structure.
Wind Water Stone
If you're interested in participating in one of Alicia's shows, you might be interested in the gallery's annual juried artists' book exhibition: Cornucopia III. The exhibition will be held April 20 - June 2, 2012 with an entry deadline of January 31, 2012. Tony White will be jurying this years' entries: Tony is Head of the Fine Arts Library at Indiana University Bloomington, and an independent curator and book artist who has been involved in the field for 20 years. He is a founding board member of the College Book Art Association and founder of the Contemporary Artist's Books Conference that has been held annually in New York City since 2008. He has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Artist's Books and currently is Field Editor for Artist's Books and Books for Artists for the College Art Association's online reviews journal. His research interests include contemporary artist's books, print culture, the intersection of craft and contemporary art, and professional issues in art librarianship. The full prospectus is available via PDF download from Abecedarian Gallery's website or you can email Alicia to request a copy.
Thanks to Alicia for finding the time in her busy schedule to answer my questions! And BookArtObject artists will be interested to know that there is a possibility that Art&Lies might be travelling over to visit a new audience in the Abecedarian Gallery's "Reading Room" exhibition space some time next year! Details and finances are still to be worked out, but it's very exciting...