"STELLAR: Book Art and the Cosmos" at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts

"STELLAR: Book Art and the Cosmos" at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts

Universe: Le Petit Prince by Kathryn Miller

Universe: Le Petit Prince by Cathryn Miller from "STELLAR: Book Art and the Cosmos," Minnesota Center for Book Arts, January 25 - May 5, 2013. Photo © Minnesota Center for Book Arts, photography by Jes Lee Studios, used with permission.

The Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) celebrates the book as a vibrant contemporary art form that takes many shapes. From the traditional crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing, and bookbinding to experimental artmaking and self-publishing techniques, MCBA supports the limitless creative evolution of book arts. In 2000, MCBA joined with the Loft Literary Center (an organization that supports the development of writers and fostering a literary community) and Milkweed Editions (a nonprofit independent publisher of literature) to found Open Book, the first comprehensive literary and book arts facility in the United States. Their space in a beautifully renovated century-old building in Minneapolis that affords expansive exhibition space.

Featured until May 5 in the MCBA Gallery is "STELLAR: book art and the cosmos," an international juried exhibition exploring outer space. The artists were charged with the challenge of exploring the outer reaches of both our universe and our collective imagination. From more than 150 entries, including international entrants, exhibitions manager Tracy Doreen Dietzel chose book, print, paper, and installation artworks on the themes of space, science, science fiction, exploration, and humanity. We asked Dietzel some questions about the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and her work as exhibition manager.

How do you come up with the themes for your exhibitions?
At MCBA we strive for variety in our exhibition programming and present shows that demonstrate the diversity of the book form in terms of content, methods, and viewer interaction. Each exhibit offers another opportunity to celebrate traditional methods, showcase new techniques, or completely challenge the definition of "book." A majority of the exhibitions presented in our main gallery -- The Star Tribune Foundation Gallery - are curated or based on themes identified by our executive director, Jeff Rathermel. Jeff selected "stellar" as a theme because it allows both literal and metaphorical investigations. Straightforward explorations are included as well as complex works layered in meaning. An exhibition centered around a common theme is a wonderful way to demonstrate the flexibility of the book format and present multiple methods for communicating related content.

What were some of the surprises when you were jurying this show - ideas around the theme of exploring outer space that were beyond what you had imagined?
We received 150 digital entries from 10 countries, so we expected a wide range of responses to this theme. Each of the 47 works included in the show is unique, yet a few unexpected interpretations include:

• Tim Abel's installation: Pages from the Milky Way installed from the ceiling as a book of round pages descending from the heavens
• Ray Klimek's prints: Carbon 1 and Carbon 2 use NASA photography to depict abandoned mining landscapes in Northeastern so that sunlight reflected on pieces of coal resemble a nighttime sky
• Leah Mayers artists' book: Constellation Prize: star maps for urban dwellers (An astronomically correct artists' book) is a black umbrella with punched holes installed with direction and orientation in mind, to accurately represent stars in the night sky for daytime viewing
• Heidi Neilson's artists' book: Orbital Debris Simulator describes the phenomena of ‘space junk’ in the earth’s orbit and is viewable in 3D with the provided anaglyph glasses

Tell us about the events that you have planned around "STELLAR."
A gallery talk and book arts roundtable will take place on Tuesday, April 23, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees can meet five participating book artists, learn about their work, and tour the exhibition with them and participate in a gallery dialogue on themes represented in the exhibition - from the outer depths of science and space exploration to the inner depths of the human spirit. Presenters will include visiting artists Travis Hocutt (Waterford, Michigan) and Heather Matthew (New South Wales, Australia), and local artists Wendy Fernstrum, Nora Lee McGillivray. and Regula Russelle. The last event is Cosmic Arcade All-Ages Discovery Day on Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. This event is free and open to the public to visit MCBA for a stellar day full of creative exploration and hands-on art making opportunities for all ages!

What's on the horizon, do you have any sneak peeks that you can share with our readers?
The next exhibition in MCBA's Star Tribune Foundation Gallery is: “Directed: The Intersection of Book, Film, and Visual Narrative,” May 17 - August 4, 2013. It explores in-depth the common territory of two engaging artistic practices: book arts and film. Historically as well as in contemporary practice, artists blur and perforate the boundaries between these two disciplines, both of which share a foundation of sequential visual narrative. “Directed” is presented as part of MCBA's 2013 Book Art Biennial. Through workshops, lectures, conversations and exhibitions, MCBA’s Book Art Biennial invites artists, educators, curators and scholars to explore current issues in contemporary artists’ books. The centerpiece of the Book Art Biennial is the presentation of the MCBA Prize. This award is the first to recognize book art from across the field and around the world, celebrating the incredible diversity of this vital artform.