Wednesdays with Arthur: Reflections from the Jaffe Center for Book Arts #2

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Today I met the Salzburg artist-in-residence for this semester, Merike Van Zanten from the Netherlands, and had a chance to read her proposal for the residency, itself in the form of a book with information about her techniques, her books and other artwork, and the collections in which her work appears.

Merike’s proposal

Merike’s project at the Jaffe will highlight eco-printing, the process of printing from natural materials (flowers, leaves, bark, bugs, roots etc.) directly applied to textiles to alter color, apply color and create interesting designs.  Heat, steam, and pressure transfer essences of the materials.

Already Marieke is discovering that working with the foliage of South Florida is going to present challenges: because of the climate, the most prevalent flora (shiny, thick-leaved) is not conducive to her familiar methodology.  Stay tuned to find out what she finds and what she uses.


Wednesday is visitors’ day at the Jaffe Center, and I was delighted to be able to hear one of John Cutrone’s, the centers director, splendid introductions to the collection.  He began as he often does with Julie Chen’s dramatic World Without End.

World Without End

What starts as a book in a box ends up like this.  Besides the magic of artists books, this piece combines letterpress printing, clamshell box-making, original text, hand-made paper, and brilliant imagination.  John’s talk introduces the idea that actual books-in-book-form are not the all-important sources for information that they once were in this age of digital access.  So the idea of books as exquisite, interesting, visual objects that also transmit information is a good beginning for considering the collection, and starts us thinking about an answer to the question “What is a book?”

One of the guests was of a practical turn of mind, concerned with the ephemeral nature of the books as they are handled and shown (and heard, and sniffed, and manipulated as Arthur would note).  He also wondered how artists can make a living, a question that concerns artists too. The answers are, I guess, as varied as the books. The old saying “those that can’t do, teach,” doesn’t obtain: many artists are able combine teaching with their work, thank God.

And that brings us back to the residence here of Merike Van Zanten who will not only produce her own work while she is here, but will also teach some workshops. She noted in her proposal a unique aspect of the Jaffe: she can have access to a print shop, a bindery, even a paper-making studio to enrich her project.

Arthur recognized that housing his personal collection in an academic library signaled a change in the way the books are used, and the way the space functions.  Not only do some artists make their livelihoods through teaching, but the Jaffe collection itself has a pedagogical function – scholars and artists and guests and ordinary high school teachers like me come here to learn.


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