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[BKARTS] Boston Book Arts Exhibition

Dear Friends

Yesterday Beverly Burbank posted information about Boston Book Arts' first exhibition at the Rivier College Art Gallery in Nashua. We installed it yesterday and it looks great. In conjunction with this a memorial exhibition I put together of my friend Berna Finley's work. I thought I'd included my Curator's Statements from both shows to give a sense of what to expect.

in good spirit

The Shape of Content: Artists' Books by Boston Book Arts Members

I first read The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn in the 1980’s when I was teaching calligraphy here at Rivier College. I loved the entire book, but one line really stuck in my mind:
“For form is not just the intention of content; it is the embodiment of content.”
When I discovered the artist’s book, the line took on even more meaning. In painting, you are working with canvas, in drawing a sheet of paper, but in the book, you have a choice between a wide variety of forms and materials. Is this idea best revealed in a scroll, an accordion, or a sewn binding? Should the book be made of paper, cloth, metal, or clay? Sometimes the impetus for a particular work will be the form itself; sometimes the exploration of materials will be the initial driving force; and probably most often the content comes first and the rest of the process is about expressing it to the fullest.

This exhibition is intended to serve as a representation of the work being done by the Boston Book Arts group and by book artists in general. In keeping with the title, we have chosen works that illustrate the idea of the shape of content--works that achieve a union of content, form, and material and have an inner harmony. We have also tried to represent a wide range of forms from scroll to accordion, a variety of techniques from letterpress to inkjet printing, photographic imagery, and hand lettering, and a selection of themes from the personal to the political, the serious to the whimsical.

From the Heart: A Memorial Exhibition of Books by Berna Finley

My friend Berna Finley passed away in April of 2001. I first met Berna when she took a class I was teaching called Artmaking for Everyone: Simple Handmade Books in 1989. My main motivation in teaching was to share my enthusiasm for making books as a tool for creative self-expression and celebration. Berna embraced both the process and the idea behind it with vigor, tenacity, and enthusiasm. She came to books at an opportune time in her life. She was still working as a school guidance counselor, but her children were grown, she had stopped teaching college level courses at night and writing for a local newspaper, and she had time to devote to her new love. When she stopped working in the school (she never said the word retired because she felt one’s work in life was much more than one’s job), she was able to devote even more time to her creative life.

This exhibit is a tribute to Berna, but for me, it has meanings that reach beyond the individual. I see her work as proof that the personal is universal. Her love of her grandchildren, her sadness at her mother’s passing, her struggle with illness and her coming to terms with her own mortality are all part of the larger cycle of life. As we share her journey, we can better understand our own.

In her life, Berna was always one who guided and taught, both in her profession and as a friend and family member. In the work that she has left behind, she continues to fulfill those roles. For those who do not make creative work a part of their lives, her message is clear- try it. In this age when we are besieged by news and advertising and messages from outside, in a time when we depend on others for our music and our entertainment, it is a bold step to take control of one’s own life story, to make one’s own books in addition to reading those of others. Berna’s message is embrace life, and in particular, embrace the creative life.

As an artist, I take another message from Berna’s work. It is a reminder of what drew me to making art in the first place- the joy of creation, that wonderful feeling of both excitement and peace. As artists, I think we need to remember to continually rekindle the spark that started us on this path. When I think of Berna and her work, I often think of a quote from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities; but in the expert’s there are few.” May she inspire us all to keep our beginners’ minds.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Newburyport, MA

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