Reflections from the Jaffe Center: Wednesdays with Arthur #5

February 6, 2019

The Spice Series : 4 spices by Islam Aly

It was Friends and Family day today at the JCBA.  A guest who brought her friend had been a participant in the recent tunnel-book workshop..  And along with some of my best-beloved relatives, we heard Eric Bush, the Center’s manager, talk not only about considered origins of artists books, but also about some of the craft of book-making, like paper-making, and binding.  He showed one of my favorites as an example of multiple creative techniques – The Spice Series : 4 spices, by Islam Aly. It has hand-made paper embedded with still-fragrant spices, Coptic binding in signatures with traditional wooden board covers, and machine-stitched outlining. Here it is: a new creation using ancient methodologies, both technical, in that Coptic binding has been used for centuries, and narrative, in that the book is structured as a counting tale.  

As Arthur comments in the short biographical video showed at the beginning of the presentation, he was an eclectic collector.  From the general overview of artists books in all their inventive richness, we moved on to a particular category: books of Jewish interest.

Hanukkah Lights by Robert Sabuda

I was able to show three examples: Hanukkah Lights, an ingenious pop-up book by the paper-engineer Robert Sabuda with concise, beautiful text by Michael Rosen; a perfect facsimile edition of a commissioned Passover Haggadah by David Moss; and Fifty Years of Silence, Tatana Kellner’s tribute to the experiences of her parents during the Shoah.

This last, a book literally built around a papier-mâché arm with her mother’s Auschwitz number tattooed on it, is the first book Arthur showed me, a book that still stuns me with its power as a visual and textual aide memoir. Arthur often said that no matter how many histories of the period one could read, no other book would be as memorable.  I think he was right.

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