Picture: Margins: the outside limit and adjoining surface of something, Maddy Rosenberg, 2022
By John McDowall
October 7, 2022
AMBruno is an open alliance of artists with a shared interest in the book as medium in art practice. Sophie Loss oversees the initiative.
Each year a call is issued for proposals for books made to a given theme. Those selected embody AMBruno for that year, collectively showing that year’s project.
The group’s 2022 project will be launched at the Small Publishers Fair in October with eleven new books by twelve artists, made in response to the theme of Margins.
The selector was Regine Ehleiter, a Berlin-based curator and art historian. Her research focus is on exhibition history, artists’ publications, conceptualism and contemporary photography.
Regine writes :
“In the current political situation, with a war raging in Europe, what constitutes the centre and the periphery is, again, being called into question. Events taking place anywhere in the continent effect us all. Analogously, many of the submissions suggested a shift of focus, inviting us to turn our attention from the body of the text to the spaces around it, and consider what specific use and role that frame might have, not only as a space for notetaking, but for alternative storytelling, imbued with a life of its own.”
Some of the Margins books are completed; others are in the final stages of production. Here some of the artists give their thoughts on the process of making. Each insights is a snapshot of a work in progress.
Cally Trench writes of her book Marginal Notes on Simon :
“The most exciting part of making a book is when it gets hands-on: choosing paper, printing, cutting, and sewing. But none of that could happen with this book if I hadn’t already spent hours carefully re-creating on a computer the shape of the text in 25 pages of the book I reference – a novel I studied at the age of fifteen and in which I wrote marginal notes for an essay on the character of Simon. The variety of outline shapes has surprised me. You can tell a lot from the shape about whether the text was originally mostly continuous prose or contained a lot of conversation.
I have chosen paper for the inside pages and will soon experiment with different papers for the cover, which references (in colour and design) the original novel. There have been no real difficulties so far in making this book – just lots of small but important decisions, as always.”
Peter Rapp’s book references T S Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men. It is being printed from hand-cut relief blocks. Peter notes:
“The book will be of marginalia in the style of the images that appear in medieval manuscripts. The centre of each page will be removed, leaving just the margins, making the book “hollow”. The images will use the text of the poem to address themes of fragility and emptiness in the age of hyper-connectedness and hyper-consumerism.”
Of her book MA[RGINS], Julie Johnstone writes:
“The idea for my book was quite clear in my mind at the proposal stage so the making process went fairly to plan. I had always thought that the book would have a sculptural, abstract quality.
The book is an homage to the importance of an inner margin or gutter. The imaginary book’s pages have been torn away. The ‘remaining’ margins must hold their own in space, illustrating the value, beauty and necessity of ma – negative space.
It was a pleasant coincidence that the word ‘margin’ can be ‘shortened’ to the word ‘ma’, as if the rest of the word was also torn away. Thus my main decision has been whether to actually put this ‘title’ on the front of the book. I eventually decided to place the title on the front cover.
I also spent a brief time considering a totally different version of the book. I explored the idea of taking an existing book and tearing the text away from each inner page leaving only its inner margins. A book such as The Power of Words by Simone Weil. Although I may still make this book, I felt that this approach took me too far from my original concept of ma, into ideas such as censorship, themes that I wanted to lightly suggest with my original idea, but not be the central focus of the work.”
Printed letterpress on found and recycled paper remnants, bound as an unfolding concertina, Susan Johanknecht and Katharine Meynell‘s manhole: a marginal duet collects :
“ … texts derived from a Cast Iron Services Ltd brochure and manhole covers [overlooked] in plain sight. The manhole-cover as an indication of the margin between under and over-ground. To be read as a two-sided text, printed in margins, alternating between two voices.”
Maddy Rosenberg‘s Margins: the outside limit and adjoining surface of something will be a complex relief assemblage of buildings and sites, forming a theatrical setting. She says :
“The maquette is a collage of photographs I took of geographic margins, of disparate places along the edges of a neighborhood, of a city, of a landmass. But the edition is hand drawn, with each page then scanned and photoshopped together. The pages are shaped by the imagery and when opened and completely unfolded, reveal a terrain that moves along the margins of habitation. The edition will be digitally printed, two sided, and maintain the monochromatic tonality that unites the disparate elements, with the upper contours hand cut.”
On exhibition all the books’ relationship to each other subtly changes with each new display, as they are placed, and re-placed in different positions. As does the engagement of the readers also evolve, picking up one book, then another, maybe perceiving allusive connections from one to another, and to the collection as a whole.
Maddy Rosenberg in a lively discussion with 4 other artists on the topic of ART AND ARCHITECTURE.
Premiering on Sunday October 9th, 6:30 PM EST
Watch the recorded conversation on the Transborder Art Website
Picture: Tonal Series (2015–17), oil on linen-covered panel.
By Elisa Gallaro
Maddy Rosenberg (B.F.A. ’77) always knew that art would be the driving force in her life.
By age 12, Rosenberg realized that “I couldn’t live without making art.” When it was time to choose a high school, she applied and was accepted to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, where teachers encouraged her to follow in their footsteps and continue her arts education nearby. But Rosenberg had other plans.
“I knew I was going to be an artist wherever I went to college,” she explains. “I had many interests, so I was determined to go to a college known for academic rigor, where I could grab as much knowledge as possible and could study with amazing people in different fields.”
The Brooklyn native also wanted to experience life outside New York City but, to keep most of her scholarships and financial aid, would have to attend college in New York state. Cornell University in Ithaca fit the bill on all counts.
Picture: Maddy Rosenberg and On the Waterfront (2020), detail of digitally printed unique artist’s book housed in a found box.
As a fine arts major, Rosenberg specialized in painting and printmaking and had ample opportunity to branch out. “Back then, half of our classes were electives, and I took as many as I could,” she says. “I was interested in diverse disciplines, within and outside the art world, and Cornell allowed me to pick and choose from this delightful menu that I couldn’t have gotten as an art major elsewhere.”
She recalls notable guest speakers, including novelist John Cheever and artist, activist, and educator Benny Andrews. Among Rosenberg’s most significant influences at Cornell was Gillian Pederson-Krag (M.F.A. ’63), one of the few female art professors at the time.
It was Rosenberg’s first experience painting with oil, and Pederson-Krag “was a fabulous painting teacher. She got me so excited about color and about how to handle the paint, and she was so patient in letting me develop my skills and my vision,” Rosenberg says. She describes Pederson-Krag as “inspiring,” with a rare ability to help artists find and express their own voice instead of imposing her view or perspective.
The young artist took Pederson-Krag’s lessons to heart. After Cornell, Rosenberg devoted several years to exploring and honing her voice before earning a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Bard College. That experience, in combination with her Cornell education, provided a fertile foundation for the career to come. Rosenberg’s paintings, artist’s books, and exhibitions are critically acclaimed in the U.S. and internationally. Her works have been exhibited in venues around the globe and are part of prestigious public collections.
Picture: Book of Days (2008), detail of lower panels, oil on linen-covered panels.
Baylor University acquired 15 of Rosenberg’s works in 2007 to establish its Artist’s Books Special Collection. The university has since added books by Rosenberg and others to a collection that now includes more than 1,500 works from artists and presses worldwide. MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum in New York City; the Fogg Museum at Harvard University; Yale University; the Tate Britain and Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and Herzog August Bibliothek in Germany, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art all have Rosenberg pieces in their collections. The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell is home to two of Rosenberg’s three-dimensional books: Dystopiaand Shadow of Descent.
Rosenberg’s paintings are distinctive for their composition, extraordinary attention to detail, and ability to transport the viewer to imagined worlds. Most reflect her fascination with architecture and cultural history fueled by the experience of growing up in Brooklyn, where old and new buildings stand side by side. “I have always been interested in architecture and its ornamentation, especially in its less-than-perfect state,” Rosenberg says. In buildings, she sees “memory embedded in places and spaces of the past.” Rosenberg spends several months each year in Europe, where she sketches and photographs architectural details, such as grotesques and gargoyles, and gathers reference materials. In the studio, Rosenberg says, she “removes the images from their original context and reassembles them to create a world of my own.”
Rosenberg prefers working small. Even her larger paintings, which are composed of multiple panels, are considered on the small side. The four-panel Tonal (2016–18), for example, depicts highly detailed bits of architectural spaces and facades from Glasgow, Bath, and Berlin, against a neutral plane of color. Each oil on linen-covered panel is 1-1/2″ by 4-1/2″; together they form a quadriptych that measures 6-3/4″ by 4-1/2″. Rosenberg describes Tonal as “indicative of my paintings as a whole: I often combine elements from different times and places in a multipanel sequence.”
Her artist’s books present a sequence or series of images, objects, or a combination of both. Similar to her paintings, the books are small and exquisitely detailed. “But with a book, I could also explore the world that hovers between the flat surface and three-dimensional objects,” Rosenberg says. “I have often played with this quality of the book as an object, moving it into the sculptural and then returning it to a piece for viewing in the palm of the hand.”
Rosenberg also has made her mark as an independent curator. Her international, multivenue curatorial project, New York/Paris DIALOGUE Paris/New York (2005), received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, Rosenberg is the founder and director of CENTRAL BOOKING in New York City, a gallery that focuses on artists’ books and exhibitions on art and science.
Underlying all her artistic endeavors is the same yearning that sent Rosenberg to Cornell decades ago: the quest for intellectual pursuits that could fuel her work as an artist. Over the years, that work has evolved as Rosenberg has been exposed to and collaborated with artists and intellectuals around the world. At her core, though, Rosenberg hasn’t changed.
“I’ve always been up for ideas and collaborations that sounded interesting and would push me in different directions,” she says. “I’m still an artist with broad interests beyond the confines of the art world.”
Picture: courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden
January 24, 2022
After ending abruptly in 2020, Plant Cure/Brooklyn Botanic Garden has reopened with the work of five visual artists in residence—Desirée Alvarez, Agnes Murray, Maddy Rosenberg, Amanda Thackray, and James Walsh. In February 2019, the artists began researching the collections of the library and had full rein of the gardens for six months to help them come up with their individual takes on the subject of medicinal plants. Brooklyn Botanic Garden has its own history as a place of healing. You can see their works now through March 27.
Pictured is the Plant/Cure exhibition at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
By Ben Brachfeld
January 25, 2022
Nearly two years after its initially-scheduled showing was cut short, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is again hosting an artistic exhibition dedicated to the medicinal properties of plants.
Plant Cure, a wide-ranging showcase of mother nature’s healing powers, as interpreted through five artists-in-residence, arrived at the Botanic Garden’s Conservatory Gallery in March 2020. But the onset of the pandemic that month forced it to go dark, and despite the reopening of the city’s cultural institutions over the ensuing months, including the Botanic Garden, the Conservatory Gallery was only reopened last October.
The exhibit, which includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, and written word among other things, stood in place in the interim, unable to please the eyes of Garden visitors. But all that time off gave the artists time to reflect, contemplate, and do research in the garden and in its library.
Rosenberg, who grew up exploring the Botanic Garden, originally wanted to bring the project on the road, with each exhibition containing a mix of work from local artists and work from artists at previous stops. The pandemic put a damper on those plans, but now, she hopes to eventually bring it to Los Angeles.
Pictured is Shannon Sullivan’s “Folded Topography 3.” from CENTRAL BOOKINGS Net Gain project.
February 19, 2021
The College of the Redwoods Art Gallery will present the online “Art Department 2021 Faculty Exhibition” starting Tuesday. The show features the work of Natalia Margulis, Shannon Sullivan, Tova Lund, Benjamin Funke, Lindsay Lacewell Kessner, Gary Christensen and David Wilson.
This exhibit allows viewers the chance to virtually explore images of paintings, sculptures, ceramic, jewelry and photography, reflecting the diverse ideas and media that CR art faculty use within their individual studio practices. The artists present a range of visuals — from luminous photography, intricately subtle sculptures to boldly abstracted forms.
Margulis and Kessner are presenting a pair of abstracted works on canvas, which are immediately distinctive in appearance, medium and process. Margulis’ oil painting, “Beginning,” focuses on the interplay of texture and color, straddling the line between abstraction and representation while also attempting to express a range of emotion, from light to dark. Kessner’s work is an excerpt from a six-part series on elements. It emerged after her exploration into a wide variety of traditional and scientific systems for reducing the natural world to its most fundamental components.
Kessner said, “I decided to develop an elemental system based on my own conceptions of reality.”
Lindsay Lacewell Kessner’s “Lambda” is an oil, acrylic and pastel on canvas.
Her mixed-media painting, “Lambda,” refers to the quantity of the energy present in the vacuum of space, which is responsible for the expansion of the universe.
Sullivan’s ceramic sculpture, “Folded Topography 3,” is part of the ongoing project, Net Gain: An experiment in Geometric Folding by Central Booking, a non-traditional gallery in New York City. Artists were asked to use specific complex mathematical patterns, cut and folded from a single sheet of paper, as the starting point for their work. Sullivan’s series emerged from her immediate affinity for the potential the Net Gain project presented.
“This project spoke to me from the very beginning. I enjoy being part of a community of artists from around the globe folding paper during the COVID isolation. I had dabbled in paper clay casting before, but this opened the door for a deep study,” Sullivan said.
Viewers are invited to view the “Art Department 2021 Faculty Exhibition” starting Tuesdasy through March 25 at www.redwoods.edu/artgallery. Selected images will also be viewable on the gallery’s Instagram @redwoodsgallery and Facebook throughout the duration of the exhibition.
The CR Art Gallery physical space is currently closed to the public. For more information, or to be added to the exhibition announcement email list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail at 707-476-4100, ext. 4869.
From the catalogue for Plant Cure/ Brooklyn
By Katherine Tyrrell
August 10, 2019
Margot Glass – one of the artists whose work is being exhibited in the 16th International at the Hunt – wrote to tell me about another exhibition, in New York, which also includes her work.
EXHIBITION: Plant Cure/Brooklyn CENTRAL BOOKING in collaboration with Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Venue: Humanities Gallery, Long Island University Brooklyn, 1 University Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Dates: September 3 – December 13. 2019
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am – 6pm
Plant Cure project continuing with group exhibit of medicinal plant-themed work. Five artists, who were artists in residence at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the spring of 2019 are joined by additional artists working with the theme of medicinal plants. Exhibit includes four watercolors and two ceramic sculptures, which were inspired by research during the Brooklyn Botanic Garden residency. Additional exhibit/project-related events upcoming.
Margot Glass Dandelion Field Samples, 2019, 12 drawings on panel, dimensions variable
One of Margot’s small dandelion drawings is being exhibited. One of her drawings also appears on the cover of Plant Cure Brooklyn exhibition catalogue published by the New York Academy of Medicine and Central Booking. It is the cover image for the Plant Cure Brooklyn catalogue as well.
Another is currently being exhibited in the 16th International Exhibition of Botanical Art at the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh. I guess I’m probably going to be meeting Margot next week at the Artists’ Reception!
by Susan Rostow
I spent many wonderful hours of my childhood reading the encyclopedia.
A set of books from A to Z neatly organized on a shelf with the entire world’s information gave me great joy.
I may be a romantic, waxing poetic and nostalgic about the past but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the present times of clicking and swiping through Google images and other internet sites. My ongoing fascination with information, books and images continued to grow through decades and is presently expressed in my printed sculptural books created during my artist in residency at the New York Academy of Medicine Library. Libraries across the country may be facing tougher times as people turn increasingly to the Web. But dedicated librarians continue to maintain collections and provide important services. The rare book room at the New York Academy of Medicine is home to one of the most significant historical libraries. The room itself is a printmaker’s dream. Dim and cool, the walls are lined with built-in bookshelves housed with book spines full of character. Softly lit lamps feature engravings and lithographs evoking not just the history of medicine, but the history of printing as well. As one of five, NYAM’s artists in residence, I had the opportunity to explore the collection over a period of six months doing research in the Drs. Barri and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room.
The first time I entered the NYAM library and was surrounded by rare books dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries I felt as though I went back in time and entered the Middle Ages. I was taken with the smell of the leather covers, amazed by the weight and size of some of the books, marveled at the odd titles on the bindings, and was captured by highly detailed and precise illustrations, engravings and lithographs. Prodigiorum Ostentorum Chronicon by Lykosthenes Konrad, Osteographia, or, The Anatomy of the Bones by William Cheselden were a couple of my favourites. Feeling incredibly inspired, I took my excitement to the printmaking studio along with photos of the pictures from the various books I had observed. Once I returned to my studio, armed with a plethora of images and plenty of ideas I began to work on my vision. Images of medicinal mushrooms and text pertaining to plant cures
…housed with book spines full of character.
were put to use by first making carborundum printmaking plates. This simple, but elegant technique allowed me to connect with some of the similar hand techniques used by the original artists. I printed them with an etching press, a simple press whose basic principle has not changed for centuries. Choosing to use this technique with an old style press made me feel connected to some of the prints from NYAM’s rare books collection.
After printing hundreds of images of mushrooms and text on paper, the prints were bound together with dried mushrooms, mud, natural glues, and pigments. Paper, tree fungus, roots, soil, and casts from bones merged together creating sculptural books that look, smell and feel like unearthed relics secreted beneath the earth. Hopefully this synthesis captured some of the magic that I felt when I first viewed these incredibly printed and illustrated books.
Plant Cure, a collaborative project with The New York Academy of Medicine, and CENTRAL BOOKING, 21 Ludlow Street, New York, NY was curated by Maddy Rosenberg, curator and founder of CENTRAL BOOKING, NYC. The five selected Artists in Residence at The New York Academy of Medicine – C Bangs, Nancy Campbell, James Martin, Susan Rostow and Mary Ting, spreading over three of its spaces in the Lower East Side gallery, the exhibition will be on view September 6 through October 29. While uptown, display cases at the New York Academy of Medicine document the research, source material, and working methods employed by the Artists in Residence during their six month process of creating their work for Plant Cure.
Accompanying programming at CENTRAL BOOKING includes an Art & Science Discussion Panel on October 13 at 6:00pm and a Brown Bag Artist’s Talk at The New York Academy of Medicine on September 18th at noon.
Susan Rostow is a NYC based artist and the creator of Akua inks. She has conducted numerous demos at SGCI since 1998. Prints featured in this article were originally demonstrated during her Carborundum demo at Georgia State University, SGCI 2017 Terminus: Arrivals & Departures | Atlanta, GA.
More on Susan Rostow and her work can be found at www.susanrostow.com
‘FPSEEDSFETUS’ by C Bangs, Brooklyn, New York
October 7, 2017
Brooklyn artist, activist, feminist and cosmology lover C Bangs delivered ‘fpseedsfetus’ in my FB feed, sharing news of her group show ‘Plant Cure’ at CENTRAL BOOKING Art Space, 21 Ludlow Street ~ New York, NY 10002 ~ 347-731-6559 ~ B/D to Grand Street in collaboration with The New York Academy of Medicine.You can visit ‘Plant Cure’ until Oct. 29, 2017 and please note the Art & Science Panel, ‘The Roots of Plant Cures’: Friday, October 13, 6pm. Moderator: Anne Garner, Curator, The New York Academy of Medicine. The catalogue is of great interest as an artists review.My senses were drenched with sensual beauty upon seeing C’s ‘fpseedsfetus’, before reading the story behind the art. C is married to one of my oldest friends in New York, prompting me to share her work here on AOC. C tells the story behind the ‘Plant Cure Show’.
C Bangs, ‘Plant Cure’ at CENTRAL BOOKING Art Space
“My artist’s residency at The New York Academy of Medicine in collaboration with CENTRAL BOOKING Art Space began February 21, 2017 with five other artists who exhibit their work at CB Art Space”. The directive from CB Art Space were “Just to be clear, though your references will come from the books in the collections, your artwork need not be in book form. And feel free to produce more than one work as well, even installations are welcome as we will have more space than usual for this exhibition.”
After the orientation I went to the Library on February 28 and began my research initially photographing images from a botanical book. Returning to my studio and uploading the images from my phone I found that the image of the Flowering Pavonis aka Caesalpinia pulcherrima was a striking flower that I began to research. After the painful election of the current administration and the threats to cut the budget to Planned Parenthood as well as the attacks on the environment I became more interested in focusing my work around this plant.
The following are quotes from The History of Abortifacients by Stassa Edwards 11/18/14:
The story of the peacock flower is a microcosm of a larger history of abortifacients: knowledge passed from woman to woman, often outside the boundaries of traditional medical discourses and, therefore, forever confined to a moral realm of danger and superstition. But despite hundreds of years of legal and religious repression, the abortifacient endured, proving that the desire for reproductive freedom is not nearly as modern as some argue.
The history of abortifacients is a narrative that parallels and informs our own contemporary debates over them, particularly in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision. It’s a history that has always been mired in the murky waters of what exactly an abortifacient is; what constitutes life, and when does it begin? But it’s also a story of the incredible flexibility of legal systems that found ever-new and astonishing ways to suppress reproductive freedom.
Abortifacients are nearly as old as the written word itself, as early as 1085, when Constantine the African included iris, rue, willow and stinking ferula as effective herbs for inducing menses. Even before that, Muhuammed ibn Zakariya Al-Razi described a cinnamon, rue, and wallflower broth for similar purposes in a text dating between 865-925.
Abortifacients were mixed and were, it seems, readily available through midwives or “wise women” throughout the Roman era. There were few laws governing their use, in large part because of the broader sense at the time of when a pregnancy actually began. The determination of pregnancy was left to the woman, who would not have been considered pregnant until she actually declared herself so. Such determination almost always came after the quickening (when a woman actually feels fetal movement), which can occur anywhere between 14 and 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
My investigation included the work of Maria Sibylla Merian, a botanical illustrator who, in her 1705 book Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam wrote that slave women used the seeds of the plant to abort pregnancies after being raped by their owners.
The month before I accompanied my husband, Dr. Gregory Matloff to a solar sail conference in Kyoto, Japan where on a sight seeing trip I encountered a candy shop where artists’ sculpted candy in wildly varied images and colors. Watching the entire process of sculpting the brightly colored sugar into the form of an orange haired man with a characteristic trumpian hair style. At the end I and the other women who viewed the process were given pieces of the candy with the image that ranged in size from 1.5 to .04 inches in diameter. This was a bitter-sweet moment because in them referencing our presence and before the inauguration I was the recipient of several intricately formed pieces of our soon to be president. As I painted my panels I decided to include all of the candy onto the first panel in the form of a protest for what it stood for and in response to the right women have to determine the course of their lives. Appropriately the untreated candy has begun to flake and deteriorate reflecting the current administration.”
C Bangs: Merging Art & Science
Bangs enjoys a long love of cosmology, expressed exquisitely in her gift for merging art & science. C is also an interpreter, taking complex scientific topics and bringing them to life through visualization. I’ve included several examples of this work, devoted to her love of cosmology. Review all of C’s art and her portfolio on her website C Bangs
STAR BRIGHT? Chapter 1 Frontispiece (2015)
Call me inspired. ~ Anne
by Allison Piazza
August 24, 2017
Todays’ guest post is introduced by Maddy Rosenberg, curator and founder of CENTRAL BOOKING. The New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure. For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017.
I approached Lisa O’Sullivan, the Director of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, who I had first met when she participated in one of our panels at the gallery, with an idea for a collaborative project. An important component of CENTRAL BOOKING’s programming has always revolved around art and science as well as artist’s books, therefore a collaboration with the New York Academy of Medicine seemed only natural.
For the project, ultimately named Plant Cure, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017, featuring the work of the artists in dialog with other artists who have also been intrigued by the theme in their own work. At the Academy, display cases document the research, source material, and working methods employed by each of the five artists in the process of creating their work for Plant Cure.
Over the next few weeks, I am pleased to be able to present here those five artists as they discuss their work and time at the Academy Library. This week we begin with James Martin and Nancy Campbell, both whose final project work is in printmaking, but through very different approaches and results.
My questions: how have artists and anatomists from the past chosen to depict what lies beneath the surface of the body? How have botanists and artists portrayed the plants thought to have curative properties? What are the common design elements of these life forms? Have the different printing processes changed the nature of this visual information? And my creative query—how can I re-purpose these incredible pictures from the Academy Library and create something completely new?I narrowed my focus to anatomical texts that explored arterial and venous networks, attracted to the obvious analogies to plant forms. Historical Collections Librarian Arlene Shaner was able to suggest many fascinating volumes, such as:The crisp and stylized engravings of John Lizars (1825) use red and blue colors to graphically present the networks of veins and arteries. Antonio Scarpa’s large engravings on the subject of aneurysms are arranged with clarity and artfulness. Closeups of these lethal defects are beautifully abstract. Lithographs of arteries by Richard Quain and Joseph Maclise (1844) have a more poignant quality. The cadavers are not generic bodies, but individuals, often young. Instruments of dissection are part of the still life. Another completely different, but fascinating approach, is Wilhelm Braune’s Topographical Atlas (1888). The color lithographs are accurate renderings from frozen slices of cadavers. Our modern MRI imaging is the closest analogy. Some of these butcher shop portions produce a shiver of revulsion. But, the images are flat and the resulting shapes allow for alternate design opportunities.
Torso from Frederich Tiedemann’s Explicationes tabularum arteriarum corporis humani (1822).
For my exploration of medical botanicals, I began with the line woodcuts of Fuchs (1542). It could be used as a field guide today such is the clarity and accuracy of its observations. The engravings in William Woodville’s Medical Botany (1793) are even more detailed and nuanced. Structures are clear and complete from root to flower. The addition of color in the Henry Trimen and Robert Bentley’s Medicinal Plants (1880) imparts an even more lifelike quality to the illustrations.
Hellebore from William Woodville’s Medical Botany (1793).
As part of my creative process, I took digital photographs of plates contained in the above described books. Back in my studio, I work with these photos with editing software. Beginning with anatomical images, I establish the “bones” of the composition. These are layered with my photographs of tree bark to provide textures, shapes, and a non-specific context, with the relevant botanicals added to the mix. The finished piece was then printed via an inkjet printer on printmaking paper. I added another element with the application of monotype inks printed from mylar over the digital prints for a slight softening of the sharpness and more richness to the color.
Tree bark photograph used in Torso with Hellebore (Left).
Monotype plate for Torso with Hellebore (Right).My creative mash-ups of these historic images have been inspiring and fun. Thanks to all at the Academy for hosting this project and to Maddy Rosenberg of CENTRAL BOOKING for organizing this residency and the upcoming exhibition Plant Cure.
Torso with Hellebore by James Martin archival digital print with monotype.
I absolutely adored my time spent in the Drs. Barri and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room at the New York Academy of Medicine. Handling objects so old, delicate, and precious was a rare treat, indeed.While I enjoyed studying an array of different volumes in the Academy Library, Okamoto Ippo’s Jëshi kei ryaki wago (1693; 3 vol. book of Moxa-cautery) was a perfect match for me. Medieval Japanese picture scrolls have been a long fascination, and I have studied them in museum exhibitions in Japan and the USA. Of course, I have never held an actual medieval scroll and experienced the sequential unfolding of its story (scrolls being so incredibly fragile). Therefore, handling a 17th century Japanese book during my residence, with its ultra-thin, semi-transparent printed paper, was an amazing first-time experience for me and one that will surely affect my work for years to come.
Artemisia by Nancy Campbell.
In my artwork I strive to evoke an Eastern sense of balance between fragility and strength while using a system of highly structured, intricate abstraction. My methods are slow and measured, but I work for a spontaneous result that inhabits an ambiguous realm between the visible and invisible, the logical and the intuitive, the representational and the abstract. Echoed in all of my work is a continuous play of opposites – often found at the heart of Japanese aesthetics.
Meridian by Nancy Campbell.
My work for the Plant Cure exhibition references text and diagrams that appear to be layered on top of one another. Each page in the Japanese books I viewed has hints of the previous page showing through the thin Japanese paper. I printed and painted on both sides of Japanese papers and used the method of collage (with Japanese glue) to layer multiple sheets together. A large screenprint based on a collage is still in process.
by Allison Piazza
Todays’ guest post is introduced by Maddy Rosenberg, curator and founder of CENTRAL BOOKING. The New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure. For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017. Part 1 can be read here.
The next two artists featured in the Plant Cure collaboration between CENTRAL BOOKING and the New York Academy of Medicine Library are Susan Rostow and C Bangs. Susan’s sculptural work is extremely textural and beckons to be touched, while with C it’s our eye that takes the journey over the surfaces. Both artists’ works engage us and demand closer scrutiny.
I spent many wonderful hours of my childhood reading the encyclopedia. A set of books from A to Z neatly organized on a shelf with the entire world’s information gave me great joy. I may be a romantic, waxing poetic and nostalgic about the past, but that has not stopped me from enjoying the present times of clicking and swiping through Google images and other websites. My ongoing fascination with information, books and images continued to grow through decades and is presently expressed in my sculptural books.
The first time I entered the New York Academy of Medicine Library and was surrounded by rare books dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries, I felt as though I traveled back in time and entered the Middle Ages. I was taken with the smell of the leather covers, amazed by the weight and size of some of the books, marveled at the odd titles on the bindings, and was captured by highly detailed and precise illustrations. Prodigiorum Ostentorum Chronicon (1557) by Konrad Lykosthenes and Osteographia, or, The Anatomy of the Bones (1733) by William Cheselden are a couple of my favorites.
Susan Rostow working in studio.
Feeling incredibly inspired, I took my excitement to the studio along with photos of the pictures from the various books I had observed. Armed with a plethora of images and plenty of ideas, I began to work on my vision. Images of medicinal mushrooms and text pertaining to plant cures were put to use by first making carborundum printmaking plates. This is a low tech method used for making plates by hand. This simple, but elegant technique allowed me to connect with some of the similar hand techniques used by the original artists. I printed them with an etching press, a simple press whose basic principle has not changed for centuries. Choosing to use this technique with an old style press made me feel connected to some of the reproductions from the New York Academy of Medicine Library’s rare book collection.
Susan Rostow, Bone Fungus. 2017, mixed media sculptural book with carborundum prints on paper, dried mushroom, wood, parabolic mirrors, real and plastic bones, sand, glass beads and pigments, 25 x 26 x 26 inches.
After printing hundreds of images of mushrooms and text on paper, the prints were bound together with dried mushrooms, mud, natural glues, and pigments. Paper, tree fungus, roots, soil, and casts from bones merged together creating sculptural books that look, smell and feel like unearthed relics secreted beneath the earth. Hopefully this synthesis captured some of the magic that I felt when I first viewed these incredibly illustrated books.
Susan Rostow’s sculptural book Bone Fungus (left and center), and detail of Cheselden’s anatomical illustration (1733) (right).
Prodigioky Ostentory Chronicon (left) William Cheselden’s anatomical illustration (1733) (center), and detail from Susan Rostow’s sculptural book Bone Fungus (right).
My art investigates frontier science combined with symbolist figuration from an ecological feminist point of view. A decade long collaboration with quantum consciousness physicist Dr. Evan Harris Walker has lead me to incorporate his equations in my paintings in a manner mutually agreed upon, designed to posit questions related to his theories. Functioning as design elements that often speak to the interconnectivity of everything in the cosmos, the equations parallel the sacred writings found in illuminated manuscripts. In recent collaboration with my partner, Dr. Greg Matloff, we investigate consciousness from the point of view of panpsychism philosophically, historically and scientifically.The books I researched at the New York Academy of Medicine Library included Robert Fludd and Konrad Lykosthenes. What does humankind preserve and what do we eliminate? Fludd had a theory of cosmic harmony and Kepler correctly accused Fludd of being a theosophist. Additionally Fludd is remembered as an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Quabalist and Rosicrucian. His writing centered around sympathies found in nature between man, the earth and the divine.
Flowering Pavonis seeds used as an abortifacient with fetus studies. C Bangs (2017).
Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (1705)at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ultimately lead me to contact the New York Botanical Garden. Merian wrote that slave women’s use of the peacock flower was deeply political, using it to abort pregnancies forced upon them by their slave owners. The history of abortifacients is nearly as old as the written word and the determination of pregnancy was left to the woman, who was not considered pregnant until she declared herself to be so. When the Catholic Church realized that they could not regulate abortifacients or convict the women who used them, they began persecuting midwives, declaring them witches. The enforcement of religious law and witch burning was an effective tool for breaking a chain of knowledge about abortifacients that had been in circulation for over a thousand years. Despite Merian’s revelation about the peacock flower in her book, widely used by botanists and men of medicine, this knowledge was ignored. Merchants valued the plant’s looks and shipped large amounts of its seeds to their home countries, where the flower decorated many royal gardens.
Flowering Pavonis and diagrams from Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi majoris scilicet et minoris metaphysica (1617-1621). C Bangs (2017).
Ironically, when I wished to photograph the peacock flower at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the New York Botanical Garden, I found that it had been deaccessioned by Brooklyn and is kept in a section not available to the public at the New York Botanical Garden.
Flowering Pavonis and images from Konrad Lykosthenes’ Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon (1557). C Bangs (2017).
by Allison Piazza
August 31, 2017
The New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure. For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017.
Plant Cure, the collaborative project between CENTRAL BOOKING and The New York Academy of Medicine Library, percolating for over a year, is about to open to the public on September 6. The project includes a two month-long exhibition featuring the work of 19 international artists, vitrines documenting the inspiration and process of the five Artists in Residence, a catalog, and a program of events at both venues.I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to assemble the work of these artists who bring their own unique interpretations of plants and their medicinal qualities. From meticulously rendered drawings and water colors to an installation of sculptural free-standing collage works that seem to multiply from pedestal to pedestal, to a medicine cabinet that is beyond the expected, these works offer the viewer science from an artistic slant. In addition, interspersed within the CENTRAL BOOKING exhibition is a video-projected panorama of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room and a floor to ceiling cabinet of curiosities.
But Plant Cure was more than a curatorial project for me. I enjoyed being the “honorary” sixth artist in the Academy Library. It was an opportunity for me to go beyond researching ideas for shaping the exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING, mindful, as well, of pursuing material for my own studio work. The personal one-on-one acc