‘Narrative Threads’ uses book art to explore stories
Art For Change and Narrative Threads
Friday, 6-8 p.m. In “Art for Change,” artists respond to the need for social, political, cultural and spiritual changes. In “Narrative Threads,” art shows how physical threads meet narrative content. On display through May 25.
The Launchpad, 76 S. Fourth St., Carbondale | Free | 963-1680 | carbondalearts.com
My interest in storytelling is not unique to me, nor is my interest in traditional craft as a starting point from which stories are told. My current curatorial project, “Narrative Threads,” is a traveling exhibition that is designed to further awareness of contemporary work that successfully blends both fiber-based craft and narrative.
I was able to work with several contemporary book artists during the late ’80s, when I spent two summers as an assistant at the Anderson Ranch Art Center’s workshop program. That experience was transformational. Afterward, I shifted my fledgling studio practice to focus on work in the book arts.
Although it’s growing in awareness and number of practitioners worldwide, this intimate, engaging form is still under-represented, especially in the Mountain West.
I opened Abecedarian Gallery in 2008 in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District as a means to broaden awareness of book arts. In 2013, the first version of “Narrative Threads” exhibited, concurrent with an exhibition and workshop series Abecedarian hosted with Susan E. King.
Susan was one of the artists that I had the great good fortune to work with at Anderson Ranch. Susan is a masterful storyteller and has long been highly regarded for her work in the book arts. She grew up in rural Kentucky, but spent her formative years in the arts in Los Angeles, where she was part of the Feminist Art Program at the Woman’s Building. Susan’s work, in which narrative plays a starring role, is steeped in both her Kentucky roots and the feminist point of view.
I am always eager to broaden my audience. In 2015, I did that through several road trips on which I visited libraries, schools, community, and art and recreation centers throughout Colorado. I closed the gallery in 2016 and have since focused on bringing book arts to an audience unlikely to visit a Denver gallery. I do this by combining workshops, public lectures and satellite exhibitions.
This shift in approach has brought far different rewards than working in a traditional storefront setting did. I now get to follow at least a few of my ideas without the additional responsibilities associated with running a brick and mortar space. My business is now called Abecedarian Artists’ Books; I continue representing an amazing group of artists working in this field.
This work has allowed me to grow “Narrative Threads.” Here’s an excerpt from the original exhibition’s catalog:
“The works in Narrative Threads utilize visible threads (as opposed to the structural/functional use of thread for binding) to tell their tales. Of intimate scale, the narrative each presents take a back seat to the tactile invitations extended by color, texture and sheer loveliness.
“These works are appealing in their hand-mindedness, even the wall works not designed for handling tempt the viewer to touch their surfaces, enlivened as they are by the sewn line. All in all, a very satisfying endeavor, and I look forward to continuing to work with several of the artists included in the exhibition.”
That first version was held in a small physical space. For this version, I’ve been able to include larger-scale works, as well as increase the number of artists whose work is featured.
I continue working with several of the artists who were in the original exhibition, although only Beata Wehr and Heather Doyle-Maier have work in both exhibitions. It is so exciting to have the opportunity to work with several artists from the United States, Canada and New Zealand in this second round of Narrative Threads.
The exhibition will travel from Carbondale Arts Center to two venues in Denver through the summer and fall. An expanded version of the exhibit is scheduled for fall 2019 at the Durango Arts Center.
Alicia Bailey is the founder of Abcedearian Artists’ Books. Learn more about her and her work at abecedarianbooks.com.