Saturday my husband, Greg, and I made our annual drive up to San Rafael to see The Art of the Book at the Donna Seager Gallery. Several freeways, a bridge, and an overturned minivan and travel trailer made this a long drive – but we’ll make the trek every year because Donna Seager provides a fabulous forum for artist’s books and it’s always worth the trip.
In general we felt that this show was stronger than last year’s with several artists’ books worth noting. At dinner we were talking about why subsequent years’ visits felt like a bit of a letdown compared to the first time we went to Donna Seager’s annual show several years ago. We decided that it was because the first year we knew nothing about artists’ books so everything was perfect and exciting, now we look with a more critical eye (darn!) but still love it every year.
We’d like to see fewer repeat books year-to-year, especially since there is so much wonderful book art being released into the world, and we think that technical problems like bowing covers and smudged work do not belong in a show of this caliber. (Really, would it be a “review” if all we did was fawn?) We’d also like to see a return to cotton gloves. There is something about surgical gloves that doesn’t feel right. Artists’ books are luxurious and richly delicious. Surgical gloves are sterile. That being said, if you’re within several hours drive, this show is well worth the trip.
Donna Seager’s website is excellent but the books are so much more impressive in person. You have 13 more days until the show ends April 30th. Take a day off of work, carpool, swim…
Among our favorites:
Helen Stanley’s Egypt
Helen’s paintings in walnut ink are beautiful in their own right, but what makes this book a standout is how it begins as a travelogue and becomes a documentation of world history. Beautiful travel journal paintings about sites such as the pyramids transition into beautiful paintings about the unrest that reshaped Egypt. The effect is powerful and jarring.
Caren Heft’s For Boys Who Dream of War
Caren’s choice of presentation immediately makes this book a compelling statement. Reading the book is heartbreaking.
Michael Henninger’s Ice Cream Man
This book begins with great presentation and ends with social commentary. His craftsmanship is meticulous and his text/imagery combination had each of us going back more than once. The best non-caloric ice cream bar I’ve experienced.
After a short drive to Novato we visited the Altered Books Show/Auction opening at Marin MOCA. We were glad to see that this benefit event had a fabulous turnout and were interested to see the widely ranging interpretation of altered book forms – something we haven’t had a lot of exposure to. The art ranged from book pages collaged onto new forms to interpretations of book content in three-dimensional collage to cut, sanded and re-bound books.
I was pleased to receive an honorable mention from Donna Seager for my contribution, Better Handwriting for You 3.
Lastly, although it has nothing to do with book arts, I have to mention our choice for dinner, the Arun Thai restaurant in Novato. I’m sad that we live so far away since their Tom Kha Gai soup (chicken in broth and coconut milk) is the best version of this soup I’ve ever had. Seriously. We had to finish every bit of this big bowl of soup because it was beyond delicious. We ended up taking our main courses home after just a few bites because we were too full to eat them. The few bites we had of the Yellow Curry and the Pumpkin Curry were also excellent and we’re both looking forward to enjoying them for dinner tonight.