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[BKARTS] M.L. Van Nice: The Library at Wadi ben Dagh (National Museum of Women in the Arts--D.C.)
A WHIMSICAL, IMAGINARY LIBRARY FILLED WITH HANDMADE ARTIST'S BOOKS
FEATURED IN M.L. VAN NICE: THE LIBRARY AT WADI BEN DAGH
Washington, D.C. - Imagine coming upon a library where you could
actually peer into your favorite books; where a copy of Lewis Caroll's
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had its own rabbit hole for you to gaze
into with openings in the shape of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds.
Would it be a real library or a library without structure and logic?
M.L. Van Nice's whimsical installation, The Library at Wadi ben Dagh, is
just such a library. Comprised of altered books and handmade artist's
books, this exhibition invites the visitor to explore the richness of
literature. The installation is on view at the National Museum of Women
in the Arts from April 11 to November 6, 2005.
"M.L. Van Nice's books inspire a different kind of reading than we
usually practice," says Krystyna Wasserman, Curator of Book Arts. "This
installation forces the viewer to look at literary masterpieces in a new
way; we find ourselves in a wonderland where everything is left to the
Created by an anonymous character named Woman Doe, the books in The
Library at Wadi ben Dagh are classified by recollection, associations,
deductive reasoning, and curiosity. This site-specific installation
imaginatively conveys the conceptual weight of such popular titles as
James Joyce's Ulysses, Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, and Lewis
Carroll's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
Van Nice allows the visitor to see the books and the ideas they contain
in a new light.
The library is an entire world unto itself - a private book collection
of Woman Doe, who has since departed Wadi Ben Dagh, an imaginary place
the artist roughly translates as the "dry gulch that is washed by the
mountain." According to Van Nice, "She is Woman because she is
nurturer-has given birth ... to the library; she is Doe because
historically women have ... remained anonymous." Woman Doe has
thoughtfully selected each work, reflecting her experience of the world.
Therefore, the library does not have structure beyond the personal. As
Van Nice explains, the library "certainly does not, could not, and would
not care to ... satisfy a Mr. Dewey. Woman Doe created categories that
structure her reality, and maybe ours."
Renowned for her imagination and her ability to create complex
characters, M.L. Van Nice (b. 1945) incorporates image and word in her
installations, artist's books, and sculptures. Her innovative work is
regularly selected for NMWA's annual Book as Art exhibitions, and two of
her artist's books, The Swiss Army Book (1990) and Dinner with Mr. Dewey
(2002), are in the museum's permanent collection.
About the Women's Museum
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, founded in 1981 and opened in
1987, is the only museum dedicated solely to celebrating the
achievements of women in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Its
permanent collection contains works by more than 800 artists. The Museum
also conducts multidisciplinary programs for diverse audiences and
maintains a Library and Research Center accessible to the public by
appointment. The Museum is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC, in a landmark building near the White House. It is open
Monday - Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm and Sunday, noon - 5 pm. For
information, call 202.783.5000 or visit the Museum's website at
Admission to the Museum during M.L. Van Nice: The Library at Wadi ben
Dagh is $10 for adults, $8 for students with valid ID and visitors 60
and over, and free for youth 18 and under. Members receive free
admission. Free Community Days for the exhibition are the first Sunday
of every month through May and then the first Sunday and Wednesday of
the month beginning in June.
Sharon M. Wasserman
Director of the Library and Research Center
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005
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