What happens when a book artist and scientist get together? The answer: a lot!
On loan to Penrose Library, Science Stories is a unique exhibit that explores the intersection of book arts, scientific inquiry and the environment. The exhibit features works produced through collaborations between Pacific Northwest scientists and book artists. The examples in this exhibition offer new ways to interpret science while telling a story.
The terms “book arts” and “artists books'” are unfamiliar to many, and are somewhat difficult to define. One definition comes from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. In a blog post about their collection, the authors define an artists’ book as: “A medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of ‘book’ as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object. What truly makes an artist’s book is the artist’s intent, and artists have used the book as inspiration in a myriad of ways and techniques, from traditional to the experimental.”
Science Stories originated at the University of Puget Sound as the brainchild of Evergreen’s Emeritus faculty member Lucia Harrison, Puget Sound Library Director Jane Carlin, and Professor of Biology at Puget Sound Peter Wimberger. The University of Puget Sound created the Art & Sci Initiative to bring together ideas and concepts to promote greater understanding of science. Wimberger, a founding member of this initiative, was eager to find opportunities to engage scientists in new ways of thinking. Harrison, an educator with a rich history of teaching art using science as a platform has seen the impact that combining art and science in educational settings has had on her students at The Evergreen State College. Jane Carlin has been an advocate for books artists in the Puget Sound region, and for integrating artists’ books into the curriculum. As Carlin states, “These artists’ books promote unique opportunities to share ideas and to enhance understanding of science. Combining art, text and formats in innovative ways engages the reader/viewer in ways that a traditional book can’t.”
Main floor display case at Penrose Library
One of the scientists involved in the project, Alyce DeMarais, who is Professor Emerita in the Department of Biology at the University of Puget Sound, shared thoughts about her experience. She worked with Tacoma-based artist and letterpress printer, Jessica Spring:
“I have always appreciated the melding of art and science. I view science as a creative endeavor and marvel at the science that underlies artistic processes. Working on this project with Jessica Spring provided new insights–it was fascinating to see how Jessica approached the project and how she connected data with words and images. Her work captures the complexity of the science and its place in the world.”
All of the artists used images, innovative book structures, and tactile materials to engage in a dialog about issues raised by the scientists’ research. Each one offers insights in the research being conducted in the Northwest and demonstrates how art can help us understand this complex work.
Books in the exhibit are on display on the first, second and third floors of Penrose Library until December 1. If you have questions about the exhibit, or if you have an interest in bringing a class or group to see the exhibit, contact Ben Murphy: [email protected].