Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Book Arts Tuesday-Gail Smuda
I spent a wonderful afternoon today at UMass Lowell viewing A Retrospective of Handmade Artist’s Books by Gail Smuda and hearing her talk about her work. It was an inspiration. During her talk, Gail spoke quietly and eloquently about her work and we had a chance to view images of many books not in the show and got a sense of the breadth of her thematic interests and media and materials. Gail is a feminist and a historian with a sly sense of humor and a love of craft. Whether a piece is visually simple or complex, there are always multiple layers to explore and discover. It was invigorating to be in the presence of the work of an inquiring mind and capable hands.
This is from the UMass Lowell Gallery press release:
Gail’s handmade books transcend traditional book structure and bookbinding techniques. Over the course of 30 years as an artist, she continues to expand the definition of book arts with her distinctive style and artistry. Using traditional sewing and embroidery techniques with mixed media to construct the content, Gail’s artist’s books speak to women’s issues and offer her own personal commentary on women’s history and gender politics. When combined with aged photographs and found materials, the timeworn objects and textiles inform the work with their own inherent historical connections. For example “Women through the Eyes of History” is a traditional bound book opened to reveal glass ‘pages’ that serve to protect old-timey portrait frames, although ironically, the paper frames contain no images or information. This feminine perspective, at times tongue-in-cheek, other times serious, is reflected in Gail’s body of work, a perspective that connects to traditional female domestic roles now consigned to past eras.
In explaining these connections Gail states: “Working with fabric and needlework, I am reminded of the women who have preceded me and the historical times in which they lived. My grandmother was a seamstressin New York City and the older I get the more I feel a connection … (and) I wonder if my love of fabric, needle and thread have become an integral part of my identity. …I find that when my work is going well I am filled with a sense of connection to the past, to the future and to myself.
I loved the installation. I especially liked the descriptive labels which shared the texts which were sometimes difficult to read in the installation.
Displaying books is always a challenge and it was well met here. There was a reading section with handleable versions of some of Gail's books.
The exhibit opened today to jumpstart National Women's Month and the annual celebration of Lowell Women's Week. It continues through March 22.
UMass Lowell Galleries