Jewish Cultural Center Gallery showcases handmade books and book arts

Jewish Cultural Center Gallery showcases handmade books and book arts

August 21st, 2011 by By Ann Nichols/Staff Writer in Life Entertainment

Susie Hall creates book structures that contain her questions and observations about nature and human nature.

Beginning Monday, visitors to the Jewish Cultural Center Gallery can see how 10 contemporary artists have explored the ancient art of making books.

"Once the vocation of only master craftsmen, book arts have come into their own being as an artistic discipline," said Ann Treadwell, program director for JCC and curator of the show. "The exhibit focuses on ways in which regional artists can inspire us to look at books through a different paradigm or creative lens."

The show, "In Other Words," allows visitors to open, close and gently touch the books on display. The tactile quality of the artworks is sometimes as important as their visual impact.

* Nora Bernhardt has studied book arts for the past 15 years and founded Chattanooga Book Arts Collaborative, a group of people interested in advancing their skills as book artists.

Bernhardt's interest lies in constructing handmade books and boxes that tell stories using objects of meaning. Papers, fabrics, words, found objects, pigments ground from soil and altered photographic images illustrate the artist's observations, relationships and passages of life.

"My creations are an attempt to honor the sacredness and importance of life's fleeting moments," she said.

* Barbara Bussolari is known for her hand-woven doll sculptures but has been experimenting with papermaking for more than 10 years. She has studied the art of Korean Joomchi, Antaimoro paper and sugar cane paper. Her discovery of handmade books, also around this time, allowed her to incorporate both into her weaving background.

"I use my books as vessels to weave my thoughts, through paper, into another form," she said. "Sometimes I will use no text but let the work speak for itself."

* Laurie Corral is founder of Asheville Bookworks in North Carolina. As a child, she was fascinated with the tactile qualities of books -- how they felt in her small hands, their shapes and sizes. Degrees in printmaking -- combined with studies in letterpress printing, bookbinding and papermaking -- have culminated in a creative career that brings her tremendous satisfaction.

* Gwen Diehn will be represented by four very different artworks in the show.

"If I must find one common element, it would be that all four pieces grew out of my obsessions," she said. "I tend to work in series, doing numerous studies and then many pieces dealing with the same subject."

"Row, Row" was inspired by hours spent canoeing with her grandson, while "Imrana" depicts an aimless journey. "Ice Fishing in New Hampshire" came after two years of repeated visits and drawings of what Diehn saw when she looked into a hole in a frozen lake. "Felicitous Space" was based on the changes of light and times of day on an old silo near her house.

* Jane Goldblatt-Muller loves old things. She built "Ark: Testament to the Old" to house some of the fossils she has collected. Drawing on her Jewish roots, she built a small ark and used ammonite fossils for the door handles. Inside the ark, she placed a Torah cover, scrolls and books.

"Lastly, there are trays that lift out -- giving one the actual experience of digging, uncovering and excavating to find fossils," she said.

* Susie Hall creates book structures that contain her questions and observations about nature and human nature.

For example, "Fall Folios" was made in response to the fall colors in the mountains of North Carolina. One side of her book contains leaves that fall when the cover is opened, and the other side is composed of the artist's paintings, drawings and photographs of fall leaves, as well as scientific explanations of photosynthesis and the chemistry of leaf coloration.

* Bob Meadows discovered that making books was his passion about 11 years ago. The former graphic designer constructs them "from scratch" using calligraphy, watercolor paint, jewelry, photographs, Oriental and handmade papers, wood, leather and, of course, words. Each book is one-of-a-kind.

"Books are a very ancient and basic means of communication, and this is the art form I have chosen to communicate," he said. "Books are also a way of connecting with the past -- to those scribes in dim scriptoriums and writers and thinkers from all over the globe."

* Lisa Norris channels her creative energies into painting, sculpture, photography and teaching as well as book binding. She has amassed a large collection of vintage objects and combines them with decorative papers and found items to create her books.

* Ellen Simak has been making books for about three years. Her love of art combines beautifully with her skills as a book artist and result in constructions that are tangible expressions of fleeting or mysterious experiences.

"Blackbirds falling from a Southern sky, Orion poised over my house on a starry night, the crispness of a fall day in my leaf-strewn yard -- all these things push me to create a book," said Simak. "I want to share my sense of wonder with others."

* Juanita Tumelaire is a printmaker who creates limited-edition books with original narratives. She transforms the abandoned and forgotten into treasures. Flea markets provide her with a wealth of material -- photographs, postcards and letters.

For example, she rescued a box of Mabel Spofford's memorabilia documenting her 1924 grand tour of Europe for only $25. It became available for purchase at the dispersal of Spofford's estate after her death.

"I have spent hours reading her letters, marveling at her self-possession and wit and reconstructing her itinerary," said Tumelaire.

The exhibit continues through Oct. 6. A reception will be held Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

JCC, 5461 North Terrace, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and by appointment. Call 493-0270.

Email Ann Nichols at