It’s cold in northeastern Ohio today. Even the ducks agree, though why it’s comfortable to dangle duck feet in freezing water is one of nature’s mysteries. And yet that’s exactly what the feathered ones are doing as I look outside the back door. The lake is a mirror of ice except for two liquid ovals, one larger than the other, but both resembling a duck convention. I guess it’s the duck equivalent of the main show and the shadow show, a thought which reminds me of the New York City ABAA book fair and “the shadow show” held at a different location during the same weekend. Dealers in town for the big event can rush over to the shadow show, load up on goodies, and then rush back to the Armory in time for the main attraction. With any luck they can also cash in on a morning’s shopping.
Okay, okay, I KNOW. I have book fairs on the brain these days. But the annual Akron Antiquarian Book and Paper Show will be held at the end of March this year which means I’m in high gear with planning and PR. The date of the show fluctuates with the Easter weekend, so this year we have less time to pull it together. I hinted sometime back that we’d had an awesome idea which tanked, consequently forcing us to fall back on Plan B. But of course even Plan B (which I personally love more than Plan A) couldn’t be counted on without risk of a later meltdown. Except – drumroll please! – there will be no meltdown because we actually managed to pull it off. Yesterday I got the good news that The Altered Book Group of Cleveland will exhibit their gorgeous artwork at the fair and be on hand to demonstrate and talk to fairgoers about this sometimes controversial art.
Personally, (and this comes from a woman who wouldn’t give a nickel for an e-gadget) I am waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over the controversial part. Our hired PR guy likes it though because of the potential buzz, so I’m rolling with it in case he can squeeze some action out of it. But really. In today’s crazy e-book world people are hauling books to the recycling center by the boxload. My bookseller buddy Andrea who has an open store in Akron finds piles of them outside the door of her shop every morning. So if an artist wants to take some common or damaged book and transform it into something more than itself far be it from me to have a hissy fit over it. I love using found items for my own little projects, so in my view the altered book may well be the ultimate found object. An altered book can be beautiful, astonishing, and/or thought provoking, but each one is made of something found even if it’s “just” wisdom, grace, and raw talent. I saw one at a gallery that turned a religious book into a strong statement about violence against women. Whether you liked it, or you didn’t, you certainly never forgot it and part of that was the creative way found items were used to express the intensity of the artist’s feelings.
Ever since last summer when I spoke at Highland Square Library where I met a group of young adults who blazed with excitement over the book as object I have felt as though we are turning an exciting corner in the future of the book. Oh, I think traditional books will still be important to a greater or lesser degree (I fervently hope so anyway), but the book as art is already becoming a revolution. Artists and writers experiment not only with altered books, but with books started from scratch. They make handmade paper, test new bindings, write stories and poems, and keep handmade journals with or without decorated pages. But like medieval monks gilding and illuminating vellum pages with the colors of the earth’s glories today’s artists turn the ordinary “stuff” of 21st century life – even digital images – into something extraordinary.
And THAT’s why I wanted the Altered Book Group of Cleveland to be at the show this year.
P.S.Thank you to my two new followers. I just found you today!