BELFAST— There are certain kinds of person who prefers the tactile sense and smell of a real book over a Kindle title. It is for those kinds of people Appleton artist Abigail Read created an enormous mixed media construction of altered books, found objects and intricate sculpture calling it “Library.”
“Library” began in 2010 as a project involving the construction of individual objects that resemble books, as the boxes open and close along a spine. “At some point I began to hang them together and the overall sculpture was conceived,” said Read. The sculpture now consists of numerous panels amounting to 40 feet of continuous shelf. The exhibit has been on display in a number of galleries, museums and colleges all over the state and even was installed in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Doha, Qatar in 2014 as part of the State Department’s Art in Embassies Program. Since it is so large, only a portion of it could be installed at the Belfast Free Library on July 5 where it will hang until August 30.
More than just altered books, spines, pages and covers, “Library” is constructed with a treasure trove of oddities and found objects. “With my background in 2-D and 3-D design, I’ve incorporated elements of design into all of these different components,” said Read. “It’s a little bit of everything from small sculptures made in the form of a book to handmade and hand-altered books.”
“Libraries have personal meaning for me as I grew up in a household lined with shelves and shelves of books,” she said. “My father was an English, creative writing and theater teacher who wrote poetry, as did his mother, which resulted in a lifetime of collecting books. I do not use them to create nostalgia, but rather find in them the patina of age, of having been handled, read and kept safe, as collections of treasured objects.”
Read, who said her last name is not lost on many people who view her work, reuses parts of old, discarded books that would otherwise be headed to the dump. “Books are precious to us as individual objects but they are commercially mass produced. Worn out books often get thrown out by people and libraries, it’s gratifying to me to be able to repurpose them. Their meaning emerges through the layering of materials by creating a history of the process.”
On Wednesday, July 19, Read held a public talk to discuss ideas, inspiration and the process of creating this exhibit in the library’s Kramer Gallery. In September, the entire 40 feet of “Library” will be installed at the Frank Brockman Gallery, 68 Maine Street in Brunswick.
For more information on Read’s current body of altered book artwork visit: http://abbiereadartist.com/
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org