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Metamorphosis: The Art of Altered Books

Fuller Craft Museum


Front Cover: Jeremy May, The Pilgrim’s Progress, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1” Collection of the artist. Photo: Eva Chloe Vazaka Opposite Page: Andrew Hayes, Sail, 2015 Steel and book paper, 13” x 8” x 5” Collection of the artist. Photo: Steven Mann


Metamorphosis: The Art of Altered Books

Long-Bin Chen • Andrew Hayes • Jacqueline Rush Lee Jeremy May • Wendy Wahl

Fuller Craft Museum July 30 – November 6, 2016


a new context Since the 3rd millennium B.C., humans have transcribed language to chronicle histories, disseminate information, share philosophies, proclaim doctrines, and capture inspired tales, both large and small. As a result, the written word—composed on tablets, scrolls, books, and digital devices—has influenced cultural evolution across the globe and continues to do so today. In addition to serving as repositories of information, books have inspired the altered books genre (a parallel practice to artists’ books). Using printed material as a point of departure, contemporary artists transform existing books and reference volumes into sculptural objects using a variety of techniques. They gouge, carve, fold, paint, shred, pierce, tear, stamp, collage, gold-leaf, burn, glue, cut, and staple. The creative alterations shine with visual appeal and challenge our long-held perceptions about books. As the relatively obscure field attracts more and more professional makers, it bears noting that we all have engaged in book-altering to some degree. Who among us hasn’t highlighted sections, dog-eared pages,

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underlined passages, or jotted down notes in the columns? It is a way of personalizing what we read, facilitating literary absorption, and leaving traces of our engagement with texts that resonate. In addition to the intellectual and emotional connections, these objects offer a multitude of sensory experiences. We feel the heft of the object and the texture of the paper. We smell the pages and hear them being turned. We read the words with our eyes or our fingertips glide across the braille. This holistic relationship with the printed word drives artists to give books new life, reincarnating them as sculptural objects.

The mid-1960s were also pivotal to the altered books chronology. In 1966, British artist Tom Phillips transformed W. H. Mallock’s work “A Human Document” into his own creation entitled A Humament: A Treated Victorian Novel. By painting over the original text with gouache, Phillips revealed a stream of text that, supported by his added images, offered a fresh narrative, thus transforming Mallock’s conservative work into an irreverent tale of sex, misery, and bawdy dark humor. Phillips continues to alter his opus to this day, even sharing its ongoing metamorphosis via his website and a Humament app.

Some of the earliest writings were considered altered books, due in part to the laborious process required. For example, Greek scrolls were often resurfaced for multiple uses, causing the prior texts to bleed through the resurfaced piece of parchment, thus rendering it a “palimpsest.” But it was during the Victorian era that altered books became part of popular culture, as socialites compiled albums of images excised from catalogues or purchased as “scraps”—sheets of pictures intended to be cut up or placed in albums.

Today the field of altered books is positioned within a complex cultural landscape. As information is increasingly digitized, the threat of extinction for printed media looms. Are books becoming a thing of the past? Already we have witnessed encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses become relics of reference. As more and more readers opt to download their news, magazines, and novels onto electronic devices, the threat of obsolescence is real. And one that is not likely to wane.


Jeremy May, Grey’s Anatomy, 2012 Printed text/book, 10” x 6” x 2 ½” Collection of the artist. Photo: Eva Chloe Vazaka

The five individuals featured in Metamorphosis: The Art of Altered Books raise questions about this cultural evolution and the shifting ways in which we choose to receive information. Calling upon a range of techniques and inspirations, they defy our expectations with remarkable diversity in scale, color, subject matter, and media treatment. For some, the work is closely tied to the content of the source publications. For others, the book is simply raw material used to investigate formal concerns or to develop new narratives with no correlation between the author’s subject matter and the final creative output. Some sculptures visibly display the original text

and images, while others obscure the text to the point of illegibility. In all cases, the creations stand as pathways to discover the expressive potential of these commonplace objects. Long-Bin Chen, a New York artist, carves outdated reference material—phone books, dictionaries, magazines—into figurative sculptures. Self-taught in wood carving, Chen uses carpenters’ tools to recontextualize his remarkable forms, including chainsaws, drills, band saws, sanders, nail guns, and scissors. This process yields remarkable work that at first glance appears to be made out of stone, rather than soft, fragile pages.

Chen’s bust series sparks connections between Eastern and Western cultures. In particular, Chen’s Buddhas represent the heads of ancient statues that were looted from Asia and sold to Western museums and collectors. By carving the symbolic busts from phone books listing thousands of residents, Chen amasses symbolic armies of protectors in the art objects. Andrew Hayes uses the strong aesthetic marriage of book pages and forged steel to address the formal possibilities of the material. Using mostly discarded or donated books sourced near his home in North Carolina, Hayes pays no heed

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to literary content, choosing to focus solely on formal concerns of scale, color, form, mass, and malleability. Once the pages are removed from the binding, the intrinsic form emerges. He then cold-forms the steel to further develop the overall structure and hold the pages in place. Through these passages, Hayes composes a graceful yet powerful interplay of hard and soft, movement and rigidity, permanence and ephemerality. Hawaiian artist Jacqueline Rush Lee defies our expectations of what books can and should be with her fecund meditations on nature and permanence. With a deft hand, Lee explores the material possibilities, drawing parallels between the life cycles of books and those of humans through forms found in nature—a blossoming flower, an anatomical cross section, a decaying tree stump. To preserve the sculptures, Lee kiln-fires them at high temperatures to achieve a petrified state, thus infusing one final narrative, one last gesture to honor the object and give it a lasting lease on life. Jewelry maker Jeremy May mines the narrative content and physical material of books to create body

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accompaniment, the excavated space in the original book serves as a safe resting place for each piece when not being worn.

Above: Jacqueline Rush Lee Philosopher Cup No. 1, 2016 Transformed book cover. 4¼” x 4” x 4” Philosopher Cup No. 2, 2016 Transformed book cover. 4½” x 3¾” x 3¾” Philosopher Cup No. 3, 2016 Transformed book cover. 3 ½” x 3 ¼” x 2 ¼” Collection of the artist. Photo: Brad Goda

adornments rife with meaning. May’s rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and brooches are designed to visually reflect the meaning of the books through formal elements of color, form, proportion, and format. London-based May begins his process by reading each book he intends to transform. It is his way of honoring the original work before carving into the text. Once he’s decided on the form that will best embody the subject matter, he cuts the shape into the book, one page at a time. The resulting page stacks are laminated with additional recycled colored paper before being polished to a high shine. As a lovely

Books offer endless creative possibilities, many of which are central to Wendy Wahl’s practice. Based in Rhode Island, Wahl works with thousands of key pages from discarded volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the World Book, and the Columbia Dictionary, refashioning them into crossroads of nature and culture. She probes the lasting and unbreakable relationship between our species and the written word, whether it be reading, writing, or publishing. By working with the cultural artifacts that fuel her practice, Wahl both honors and elevates the printed text and its physicality. Fuller Craft Museum is honored to present the works of these talented artists. We are fortunate to bring them together at exciting junctures in their careers and during this critical point in altered books evolution. As our ingestion of the printed word continues to shift, the future of the genre will remain firmly on our radar. Beth C. McLaughlin Chief Curator of Exhibitions and Collections


Long-Bin Chen

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In my artwork I use printed matter—discarded books, magazines, computer printouts etc.—the cultural debris of our information society. My art form explores different cultural meanings and seeks to combine ideas and concepts from the East with those from the West. I always use text in my work, and the contents of the texts are relevant to my sculptures. My finished sculptures often seem to be of wood or marble though they consist mainly of paper. They are constructed in such a way that the various parts fit together in a seamless manner. In this work, I express what I consider the cultural conflict and problem with communication in the world. Since colonial times, Westerners have stolen Buddha heads from their statues in Asia and brought them back to the West. Today, while one finds so many Buddha heads in Western museums and galleries, just as many Buddha bodies in Asia are headless. They are important cultural icons in Asia, yet, by and large, the symbolism is misunderstood in Western societies. — Long-Bin Chen Long-Bin Chen was born in 1964 in Taipei, Taiwan. He received his BFA from the Fine Arts Department at Tung-Hai University in Taiwan and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Chen has been exhibited across the globe at major cultural institutions, such as Fuller Craft Museum, Mass MOCA, Osaka Contemporary Art Center, the Taipei Fine Art Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. His awards include the Freeman Foundation Fellowship, Grant of the National Endowment for the Arts in Taiwan, award of the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New York, the Silver Prize of the Osaka Triennial 1998, and others. Residencies include Mass MOCA in 2005, Snug Harbor Cultural Center in 2003, and a Vermont Studio Center Residency in 2004. He currently lives and works in New York City. Page 7 left: Long-Bin Chen, Buddha, 2010. Phone book, 16 ½” x 10” x 11” Page 7 right: Long-Bin Chen, One Buddha, Two Systems, 2008. Phone book, 18 ½” x 11” x 14” Left: Long-Bin Chen, Einstein, 2015. (exterior and interior) Science book, 16” x 11” x 9 ½” All the above: Collection of the artist. Photos courtesy of the artist.

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Andrew Hayes

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Unbound blocks of text lose their original meaning when I cut the pages from their bindings. This allows me to respond to the shape and texture of the paper and give them new meaning. Introducing metal to the process gives structure and support to the loose pages, and elevates the steel, a familiar material in industry and architecture—to the level of the book—an object for contemplation. Alongside the paper, the steel becomes graceful, its subtle colors and surface heightened. Bound together, the pages and steel become something new and unified. No longer a book on a shelf, but a unique object with its own strength and story. — Andrew Hayes Andrew Hayes was born in Tucson, Arizona, and studied sculpture at Northern Arizona University. He left school to learn more about metal fabrication by working in the industrial welding trade. Eventually Andrew sought to develop his artistic voice and applied to the Core Fellowship at Penland School of Crafts, in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. During his time as a Core Fellow, Hayes explored a variety of materials and techniques. The book became a big part of this exploration. In the fall of 2014 Andrew returned to Penland as an artist-in-residence where he plans to continue working with book forms and fabrication. Hayes exhibits nationally and most recently in a solo exhibition at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, California. His work is included in a number of collections including Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, and Wingate University in North Carolina.

Page 9: Andrew Hayes, Misshapes, 2016 Steel and book paper, 6½” x 13½” x 4” Collection of the artist. Photo: Steven Mann Left: Andrew Hayes, Chase, 2016 Steel, book paper, paint, 14” x 9” x 3” Collection of the artist. Photo: Steven Mann

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Jacqueline Rush Lee

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Primarily, my work investigates the book as an iconic object, medium, and archetypal form. Using the book as a raw material, I apply various practices and processes to scramble the formal arrangement of books, to create conceptual art forms that explore concepts of time, knowledge, and communication. Having long considered the book form’s potential as a vessel for expression and contemplation, my book sculptures eliminate written content to create an experiential reading of a structure made from books. I utilize the components found in books—such as pages, inks, bindings, covers—deconstructing, then re-presenting them to create new meaning. Originally inspired by Borges’s concept of the library for my MFA thesis, I created a seminal body of work in which I developed a process to fire books in kilns without any clay or slip intervention (Ex Libris 19982000). Struck by the complete transformation of a book’s material form into an abstract, poetic object with an entirely new narrative, I have since worked to reveal or transform the physical nature of the books that I work with into evocative art works that reconsider and re-contextualize the book form. — Jacqueline Rush Lee Jacqueline Rush Lee is a Hawaii-based sculptor. Though having worked with other media, her primary artistic focus has been the book form for 18 years. Lee has a BFA with Distinction in Ceramics and a MFA in Studio Art from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2000. Originally from Northern Ireland, Lee has participated in numerous exhibitions in Hawaii and abroad. Selected group museum shows include Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery, Boundless: The Book Transformed in Contemporary Art (Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum), The Book Borrowers: Contemporary Artists Transforming the Book (Bellevue Arts Museum), and Unhinged: Book Art on the Cutting Edge (Whatcom Museum). Her work is in private and public collections that include the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and the Allan Chasanoff Book Art Collection, Yale University Art Gallery. Lee will be having a solo exhibition of her work in the fall of 2017 at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Page 11: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Strata, 2016 (detail). Above: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Strata, 2016. Transformed book cover, 4 ¼” x 4” x 4” Collection of the artist. Photo: Brad Goda

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Jeremy May

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Each book has a history. It was bought, read, written on, sold, or given as a gift. In time, it was passed on to a street vendor or a second hand bookshop. For each piece made, I select from the book a distinct quote that directly inspires me to create and envisage the form, color, and appearance of the “wearable narrative.” Every jewel is impossible to replicate and carries a serial number. Its beauty extends within the piece: text and images pass all the way through, only exposed at the surfaces, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of the writer’s story and the artist’s vision. The result is an exquisite range of collector’s jewelry pieces that combine simplicity, traditional craft, and sensitivity. Creativity and innovation transform each piece into a true coalescence of thought, word, and deed. As such, each jewel is not just a recycled resource, but it is offering another level of emotional sophistication. — Jeremy May Jeremy May is a former landscape architect born in Suffolk, United Kingdom. After having worked in his field of design for over ten years, May created his first paper ring in September 2007 as a gift for his wife on their first anniversary, traditionally the “paper” anniversary. His literary jewels were first introduced to the public in January 2009. Beautifully, he transforms the paper that aspires to last and brings joy, color, and love to all those sustainabilityminded individuals. The jewels have been presented in London, Paris, Osaka, Athens, and New York. Currently May is working on private commissions and on creating collections of jewels under a thematology to be presented in exhibitions around the world. He lives and works in London.

Page 13: Jeremy May, The Pillars of the Earth, 2012 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1” Collection of the artist. Photo: Eva-Chloe Vazaka Left: Jeremy May, Zonnehei, 2016 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7½” x 5½” x 1” Collection of the artist. Photo: Eva-Chloe Vazaka

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Wendy Wahl

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Unknown spaces and complex censorship are some of the ideas explored in this ongoing experiment with the potency of printed text. This work considers the association between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The former is defined as the patterns of relationships that link all earth’s species. The latter is defined as the connected branches of human thought realized in the form of writing and speaking. The 2D reliefs and 3D pieces are made from the unbound pages of discarded encyclopedias. The reasons to use these cultural artifacts include their unique physical qualities, the meanings that they carry, and the recognition of their existence. By restructuring familiar elements that (in a particular format) belong to a collective consciousness, I’m commenting on an aspect of our station in time. — Wendy Wahl Born in Los Angeles in 1961, Wendy Wahl is an artist, designer and educator with over 25 years of professional experience. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in a number of private and public collections including The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art and the Newport Museum of Art both in Rhode Island, Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan, and Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts. Her public works include a commission for the entrance of SOFA at the Park Avenue Armory, New York (April 15 – 19, 2010). Wahl has received artist fellowship awards from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. The U.S. Ambassador to Tashkent, Uzbekistan selected her work through the Art in Embassies Program. Since 1985 Wahl has taught at RISD in Continuing Education and has been a lecturer at the University and Community College of Rhode Island. She received an MAE in Textile Art from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Art from California State University, Northridge. She resides in Rhode Island with her husband John Dunnigan and their daughter Hannah.

Page 15: Wendy Wahl, Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 2015. Poplar, 30” x 30” Above: Wendy Wahl, Another Stand for Knowledge, 2014 World Book Encyclopedias, American Standard Encyclopedia, rubber bands, India ink, stainless steel, paint, 80” x 72” x 72” Collection of the artist. Photo: Pamela Garnett

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Metamorphosis Exhibition Checklist Long-Bin Chen

Jacqueline Rush Lee

Einstein, 2015 Science book 16” x 11” x 9½” Collection of the artist.

Whorl, 2014 Transformed book sculpture 11½” x 7½” x 8” Collection of the artist.

One Buddha, Two Systems, 2008 Phone book 18½” x 11” x 14” Collection of the artist.

Strata, 2016 Transformed books, ink 14” x 12” x 11” Collection of the artist.

Roham, 2006 Phone book 18½” x 11” x 9” Collection of the artist.

Philosopher Cup No. 1, 2016 Transformed book cover 4¼” x 4” x 4” Collection of the artist.

Buddha, 2010 Phone book 16½” x 10” x 11” Collection of the artist.

Philosopher Cup No. 2, 2016 Transformed book cover 4½” x 3¾” x 3¾” Collection of the artist.

Andrew Hayes

Philosopher Cup No. 3, 2016 Transformed book cover 3½” x 3¼” x 2¼” Collection of the artist.

Chase, 2016 Steel, book paper, paint 14” x 9” x 3” Collection of the artist.

Jeremy May

Misshapes, 2016 Steel and book paper 6½” x 13½” x 4” Collection of the artist.

Coleridge, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1½” Collection of the artist.

Parallel Triptych, 2015 Steel and book paper 14” x 36” x 3½” Collection of the artist.

Functional Neuro-Anatomy, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 10” x 7” x 1” Collection of the artist.

Reglet, 2016 Steel and book paper 17” x 6” x 3” Collection of the artist.

Grey’s Anatomy, 2012 Printed text/book 10” x 6” x 2½” Collection of the artist.

Sail, 2015 Steel and book paper 13” x 8” x 5” Collection of the artist.

Petronel, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7½” x 5½” x 1” Collection of the artist.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1” Collection of the artist. The Pillars of the Earth, 2012 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7” x 5” x 1” Collection of the artist. Zonnehei, 2016 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper 7½” x 5½” x 1” Collection of the artist. Wendy Wahl FW Scrolled #6, 2015 Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia 30” x 30” x 2” Collection of the artist. FW Scrolled #8, 2015 Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia 30” x 30” x 2” Collection of the artist. Another Stand for Knowledge, 2014 World Book Encyclopedias, American Standard Encyclopedia, rubber bands, India ink, stainless steel, paint 80” x 72” x 72” Collection of the artist. Catalogue Design by Titilayo Ngwenya © 2016 by Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts

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Andrew Hayes, Parallel Triptych, 2015 Steel and book paper, 14” x 36” x 3½” Collection of the artist. Photo: Steven Mann

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Above: Jacqueline Rush Lee, Whorl, 2014 Transformed book sculpture, 11½” x 7½” x 8” Collection of the artist. Photo: Brad Goda. Back Cover: Jeremy May, Functional Neuro-Anatomy, 2015 Printed text/book, recycled colored paper, 10” x 7” x 1” Collection of the artist. Photo: Eva-Chloe Vazaka


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Metamorphosis: The Art of Altered Books