Exhibit "Artists and Books" a fresh look at the power of old medium

Jody Feinberg

At the entrance to the exhibit “Artists and Books,” a white-throated sparrow and a cardinal fly, their open wings like the pages of a book.

Johanna Finnegan-Toplitzer, one of 27 artists in the four-month show at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, fashioned these birds from paper, leather, watercolor and collage and hung them mobile-like from the high ceiling. The birds seem to represent how imagination can soar when inspired by books.

“Each of the artists did something different, so that nothing in the show looks like anything else,” said exhibit curator Craig Bloodgood.

The idea for the exhibit came from a class last year at the museum on altered books, where artists change a book to express new ideas and images. From there, it was a short step to wondering about artists who make books to use in their art or who create art inspired by books.

“We decided to explore the whole idea of books and not put any perimeters around it,” Bloodgood said. “I found there was so much material, I could have put together a second exhibit of this size.”

Like books, each of the 35 works of art has a story, explained by the wall text. The works explore spirituality, identity and cultural and political conflict, and are loving tributes and whimsical spoofs.

“You get a narrative, without opening a book and reading it,” Bloodgood said.

You can see this in Marshfield artist Mary Taylor’s five tapestry-like pieces, which evoke book covers or pages. To create them, Taylor painted washes of color on canvas; she then printed the canvas with a collage she made from photographs she took of the Sacred Valley in Peru and drawings from a journal by a 16th century chronicler depicting Inca customs clashing with Spanish culture.

“His journal inspired me to consider passageways/doorways as entrances ... much like covers to a book that take one into a new place,” Taylor wrote.

As sculptors, painters, photographers and printers, the artists use a variety of materials and techniques. With spent fireworks casings, Marshfield artist Dorothy Simpson Krause created the sculpture “Incendiary Devices,” which explores the power of discriminatory and hostile words to incite and damage.

As a memorial to her book-loving mother, Linda Hoffman created “Filling the Vessel,” three-dimensional wall pieces on wood, with books, rusted equipment and other found objects.

“Books raise the questions of story, history and memory,” wrote Hoffman, who lives in Harvard.

Hoffman conveys the intimacy people have with books in three sculptures; small bronze figures are absorbed in a book, as they recline inside or on a tree stump.

“How sweet to sit together and read from the same book, even while sitting on the edge of a black hole,” she wrote.

Author Virginia Woolf inspired Joyce McDaniels of South Boston, who made books with pages of old clothing patterns. In the sculpture “To the Lighthouse,” the title of one of Woolf’s books, the pages are weighed down by stones. The sculpture reflects Woolf’s suicide when she walked into the sea with stones in her pocket, as well as the weight and burden of the conflicts Woolf experienced.

“Stones bear poetic weight in the pattern of women’s lives,” McDaniels wrote.

Almost reverentially, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord of Newburyport nestles homemade books in cradles of twigs, seed pods and grape vines, in the series “Spirit Books.”

And in her colorful pop-up books about Mr. and Mrs. Scaredy Pants, Carolyn Shattuck of Vermont spoofs the ways people try to control their lives and miss out on the vitality of life.

If you go...

WHAT: “Artists and Books”

WHEN: Through Jan. 25; Hours are 1-4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

WHERE: Art Complex Museum, 189 Alden St., Duxbury.


MORE INFO: Call 781-934-6634 or go to

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