‘Works of art that use the form of the book’: Skillman Library Special Collections showcases three-dimensional works of art

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The Skillman Library exhibition ‘FOLD’ showcases the works of Natalie Brand, Károly Andruoko and Claire Van Vliet. (Photo by Brandon Marin ’22)

Julia Owens

Pamela Murray curated an exhibition in Skillman Library composed of a continuous folder sheet of paper in a zig-zag style, “similar to that of the air bellows of a concertina or accordion,” she said. 

The exhibition got its name “FOLD” due to the “zig-zag” style of the exhibition, according to Murray, the Rare Books Cataloger and a Project Archivist in Skillman Library’s Special Collections.

She has many roles at the library’s special collections there, one of which includes curating many of Skillman’s art exhibits over the years.

“Exhibits are always a pleasure to plan and execute,” she said.

“Doing exhibits takes a lot of planning and preparation,” she said, which is why she often co-curates with Director for Special Collections and College Archives Diane Shaw, Collection Technician Elizabeth Sica and College Archivist Elaine Stomber. Sica, in particular, helped her plan her latest exhibit, “FOLD.”

The exhibit demonstrates all of the different ways in which the books can be manipulated to act like an accordion.

Murray and Sica said they took inspiration for the exhibit from a book they purchased in the summer of 2018 called “Alchemy of the Planets.” The book features 12 sections or portfolios in this accordion-fold format.

After Murray and Shaw featured the book in an exhibit in the Simon Reading Room, they decided to pull from the idea to fill the vitrines along the stairs. They used the accordion-fold format as the unifying element.

Murray said it was tough narrowing down which accordion books to feature in the FOLD exhibit as their collection boasts nearly 200 of these “beautiful” works of art in addition to around 500 artists’ books.

“Artists’ books are works of art that use the form of the book,” Murray said. “They are often published in small editions, though they are sometimes produced as one-of-a-kind objects.”

“We had been talking about doing an exhibit featuring accordion-fold artists books for a while,” Murray said. 

The exhibit features an array of these accordion books such as Natalie Brand’s “Luna Leporello”, which features laser cut panels of the moon, Károly Andruoko’s “Ljubljana,” Claire Van Vliet’s “Sanctae Hildegardís,” which hosts pop-ups, angel wrap, flowers and flames.

Murray said her personal favorite is Howard Munson’s “visually bold work Picasso Matsuri.”

According to Murray, a Matsuri is a Japanese holiday that may consist of a parade with large portable shrines carried by men and women dressed in colorful kimonos and masks.

“Munson was inspired by a Japanese print of a Matsuri with the dancers wearing unusual items such as baskets and books as replacements for their heads,” she said.

She added that in a surprising twist, “[He] created his own Matsuri with the heads of paintings by Pablo Picasso. The figures leap from the pages and create what Munson calls his ‘theatre of experience.’”

“Picasso Matsuri” is not the only piece of Munson’s in Special Collections, however, many of his works are part of their collection. All are accordion-fold format and most have a Japanese theme.

The FOLD exhibit will continue to be on display until the end of June 2019.