"Down the Spine" Exhibit Showcases the Art and Craft of the Book

March 13, 2012

The exhibit " DOWN THE SPINE: The Art and Craft of the Book in Central Illinois" opened at the Contemporary Art Center, in Peoria Illinois, and runs from March 10th through April 6th. It features work by several Bradley faculty, alumni and graduate students.

Curated by Robert Rowe, Professor of Art at Bradley University, "Down the Spine" takes an expansive view of the art and craft of the book as it showcases new and traditional approaches to a cherished and enduring art form.

Artist represented in the exhibit are:

Nicole Blackburn

Peter Bushell

Andrea Ernest

Andrew Huot

Steve Kostell

Becky Krohe

Elizabeth Linn

Kevin McGuire

Bea Nettles

Joe Richey

Meda Rives

Veda Rives

Robert Rowe

Todd Williams

Charles Wisseman

Sarah Zaleski

Works range from traditional fine leather binding to experimental sculptural pieces that incorporate text and symbols. One one side of the gallery is a gossamer installation of hanging paper sheets by Meda and Veda Rives; to the other extreme is a finely-engineered 6-foot rotating machined metal piece that rotates in multiple dimension, replete with symbols and figures telling a life story. In all of the instances in this show, there are elements traceable to the history of the book as it has come down to us.

Books are about bonds that connect people. In 2010, a group of Peoria artists and designers met at the Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria and formed a book and print collaborative. The group immediately embarked upon the collaborative endeavor that is in the exhibit, titled The Frankenstein Coffer - each member contributing to the whole. The group holds weekly open studio sessions and has offered instructional classes in bookbinding and letterpress printing.

The nature of books evokes sanctuary and protection of things that have value. In a time when so much is designed for immediate consumption and obsolescence, books evoke a sense of reverence for experience. The works here tell stories, stories that span a lifetime or just a sunny afternoon. The stories are in the words and images, but also in the very material itself, such the book done in conjunction with the the Combat Paper project, that works with returning war veterans, using material from their uniforms to make paper and print their stories.

The recent surge in interest in book arts has fueled the expansion of collaborative groups in many communities and through this exhibition we are reaching out to connect with the artists and makers of books along the Interstate 74 corridor across the state. The real glue and thread that binds this show is the common desire of those who share their love of making and experiencing books, who teach and attend workshops, and preserve and advance the art of the book for all of us.

A full set of images of works in the show and of the opening may be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/portfoliolab/sets/72157629574915083/