Take a lap around the Camden Library’s Picker Room Gallery during the month of June

Mermaid alphabet, handmade books, and Whitman’s Sampler candy box on display at CPL

Group Show "Three in Book Arts" by Nan Haid, Barry McCallion, and Joelle Webber on exhibit
Tue, 06/06/2023 - 4:00pm

    CAMDEN—There’s something so suitable about a library gallery that puts on a book arts exhibit. Camden Public Library is hosting three book artists in a joint exhibit in the Picker Room Gallery during the month of June.

    The hush of the library is the perfect backdrop for this group show. The three artists on exhibit are Barry McCallion, Nan Haid, and Joelle Webber. Each sculptural work needs your full attention for at least a minute per piece to fully realize what each artist has infused into it. 

    McCallion, who currently lives and works on the east end of Long Island, New York, has been described in an article from The East Hampton Star as creating “astonishingly beautiful and utterly unique books.” His handmade books and artwork are meticulously crafted and book lovers will truly enjoy viewing his work.

    Haid, a professor emeritus, has exhibited nationally for 50 years, including several times at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, D.C. Her crazy quilts, in particular, are visual diaries to behold and her Whitman Sampler piece is simply just fun to look at.

    Joelle Webber’s merfolk series was particularly captivating.

    What Webber calls her “Mermaid ABeCedarian” is an accordion alphabet book on dusky blue paper. “In calligraphic terms, I've created each letterform based on historical models, which incorporate different flourishes, downstrokes, and techniques,” she said. She used a broad-edged tool to create fin-like flourishes. Upon closer look, within all of the embossed letters are hand-drawn merfolk, or what's known as a ‘bestiery,’ an alphabet made out of creatures.

    Webber, who draws from her own collection of books on mermaids, has gathered a story behind each letter of her anthology. “Every culture in the world has a mermaid folktale,” she said. “Each letter represents a mermaid story from a different culture. For example, ‘A’ is for Argyle, Scotland. ‘B’ is for Brazil and ‘C’ is for the Caribbean.”

    Above this still-unfinished book is a framed portrait of the same merfolk in a piece she titled “Interrupted Play.” It’s as if the merfolk escaped their rigid formation of A-B-C letterforms in the book below and sprung into a random collective in an ocean above. Once again, it takes a minute to fully appreciate the entire piece and its intent. It’s not random at all. The bestiary illustrates a poem, which, as the title card explains, is part of a short story Webber wrote at a young age to describe a community of merfolk at play.

    Go enjoy the exhibit while it lasts in the ephemeral month of June from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. generally. Note: The Picker Room hosts meetings and library events and is not always open for viewing. Best to call ahead before your visit or check their website calendar to see what’s happening daily.

    For more information about the show visit: www.librarycamden.org

    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com