Collins Library has done it again: The University of Puget Sound library is home to yet another wonderful exhibit of book-based art, this time by Tacoma letterpress artist Jessica Spring in a kind of “Greatest Hits” compilation of her work over the last decade. Called “Circus Libris,” it truly is a circus of books: books leaping over horses, tumbling in pyramids and generally doing the kinds of tricks you don’t expect from paper and ink.
In six vertical and five horizontal glass cases the books highlight Spring’s eternal inventiveness and skill in print arts. They range over various forms, subjects and styles, but one thing sings through – the ability of handmade books to transform even mundane ideas into works of art.
Take the way Spring uses the basic accordion-fold format. “The Girl in the Moon” takes that into elegant 3-D with angle-cut inner “pages,” telling the tale of this mischievous midnight trickster with billowing illustrations by Susan Estelle Kwas. If only there was a way to see the glow-in-the-dark ink… “Do You Feel Beautiful?” sets those words in very unglamorous Cheltenham type on a Braille edition of Seventeen magazine. “An Inflammatory Guide” constructs the accordion form into a giant matchbook, with beautifully-fonted lists of banned books as the matches.
Then the tricks really begin. There’s an accordion book set into a big plastic horse, like a paper intestine; a pinwheel book of the four elements; a book made of letterpress-stamped children’s blocks; a book in the form of tiny paper houses, each printed with soft domestic patterns and haiku about homelessness.
Spring also gets clever with paper. There’s paper made of soaked money (made into a tri-hexaflexagon book about capitalism); paper that’s actually red cedar arranged on a vintage shake display and printed with poems about trees; paper that’s actually old photos that Spring discovered in her attic, printed and mounted onto museum board and crafted into a suitably enigmatic x-shaped accordion.
Then there’s a book that’s literally walkable. As you walk along by the five flat cases you realize that each large, handmade paper poster is in fact the page of a book about spices: letterpressed historical excerpts, poems, Salman Rushdie dialogue, Koranic inscriptions. It’s a very creative way to set something so fragile and tangibly beautiful in a way that all library-goers can appreciate.
Spring will give a presentation explaining her work from 7-8:30 p.m. April 25 at the Collins Library, UPS, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. The library is open every day. For hours see pugetsound.edu
Another Tacoma-based artist, ceramicist Yuki Nakamura – whose work is shown at museums nationally including Tacoma Art Museum – will also give an artist talk at UPS, this time at Kittredge Gallery. 3 p.m. April 24. All shows and talks are free.