An exhibit of book sculptures at Belfast Free Library through November

Broken books as art

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 7:45pm

    BELFAST — Call it upcycling for literary types! For the last two years, New Hampshire artist Victoria Su has combed through bins at thrift stores, library giveaways and yard sales to find discarded, found, and forgotten books, many of them literary classics, and has taken them home to her studio in New Hampshire to create her original artworks, namely wreaths, wall sculptures, tabletop sculptures, and bookmobiles, all made from the pages and covers of the books.

    “I first got the idea seeing other book art sculptures,” she said. “I found them fascinating, and began making Christmas presents for friends who were in a book club with me, so I made wreaths from their favorite books. The more I made them, the more I began concentrating on the various forms. I’ve gotten a little more complex and focused since then.”

    With a master’s degree in English and as a lifelong lover of books, she makes sure that before she builds a book sculpture, she researches the book to rule out whether it is rare or valuable.

    “The books I use in the sculptures are in some small way damaged: ripped, bent, written in, outdated, or broken making the likelihood of them being read again slim,” she said.

    Su has hung her pieces in her own local library in New Hampshire, but thanks to the suggestion of a local Maine friend, she approached the Belfast Free Library about hanging a show up here. For the rest of November, an exhibit of her book sculptures are on display in the Kramer Gallery. The sculptures up close are fascinating, especially for book lovers, encompassing famous and beloved fiction titles such as Wuthering Heights, Little Women and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as well as children’s classics like Where The Wild Things Are.

    “Literary fiction is my favorite genre to work with and that’s where I started,” she said. “For example, I loved finding so many variations of Wuthering Heights. I never saw that particular copy of Wuthering Heights before and I was just so struck by it. It was kind of a cheesy 1970s or 1980s cover in a way, but when I saw that little silhouette of Cathy and Heathcliff, I loved it and knew it would make a great center for the wreath.”

    Some of her book sculptures are crafted with more than one version and more than one author.

    She said: “Sometimes I’ll take two or three copies of the same book and assemble them together. Sometimes I’ll get a crisp white page contrasting with that nice yellow page from a paperback and combine them that way. Sometimes I can line up all the chapter headings and make it a lot more graphic.”

    Visitors to the gallery will also find a Maine Gazetteer in a glorious display. 

    “I’d made one before for a friend, so once I knew I was going to hang a show in Belfast, I knew I had to make one just for this exhibit,” she said. “I’d also made one for my father’s birthday with the town he was born in highlighted in the sculpture.”

    Check out our gallery of her work, with close ups of particular books. To learn more about Su’s process visit her website: openbookstudio.wordpress.com

    The Kramer Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Belfast Free Library, 106 High Street. For more information call the library at 338-3884 ext. 10.


    Kay Stephens can be found at news@penbaypilot.com