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Jolie Stahl
New York, NY

My love of books is vast. I love to read, hold, collect, and make paintings of them. Butterflying books is like filleting a fish; you open up the book and voila, thatís the visual I paint. I have been making artworks about books since 1978 when I was at Skowhegan in Maine. Linda Benglis had come to Skowhegan to talk about her work and the "thingess of objects." Since I was not a writer but I loved to read, I was inspired, and made my first object as a painted book out of plywood. It was a flat, hardcover book that lay on a table much like a real book, same size. I made lots of painted flat plywood and zinc cut-outs books, some were closed, some were open with a fan-like arrangement of visible pages, some were stacked, all were made with thick luscious expressionistic paint strokes applied to the surface. They were shown at a Boston gallery a few years later. It was during a trip to Italy in 200 that I began making watercolors of opened guidebooks. I was researching and looking at frescoes from early renaissance Italy. For every visit I made to view a fresco, I made a companion painting of a fictional guidebook entry to that art site. I have made dozens of these watercolors and collages over the last decade--open books, pages about to be turned, a single page depicting the art and narrative of Italian painting and sculpture, illusions to maps and text. The notion of illusion to depth is always of interest and always present. How flat or how much depth does a single page of a book on a sheet of paper hold? Recently my painting of books have focused on a single image on one page in the process of being turned, opening to a single picture that becomes abstracted from its placement. The bottom cut edges of a book becomes one swift dark colored brush stroke, like a ribbon. Butterflying is like filleting a fish. It is the open books seen by youíre the spectator from above the sight line. These paintings of open guidebooks, created outdoors in the summer, inevitably have green grass or Tuscan stonewall-painted backgrounds. Flatness and depth appear simultaneously. The flatness is created by decorative papers that are collaged onto the butterflied pages. Decorative papers, labels, and wrapping papers from Marimekko, and cut-up, old books are part of the images I use to collage.

©2014 Center for Book Arts, Incorporated 1974

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