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[BKARTS] Sacred Texts / Contemporary Forms



Sacred Texts / Contemporary Forms
Book Art Exhibit at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee,
Wisconsin
Curated by Leslie Fedorchuk

Sacred Texts/Contemporary Forms: Spiritual Traditions in the Digital Age, 
Jan. 16 ? Feb. 24, 2007 
Reception, Winter Gallery Night, Friday, Jan. 19

Includes the work of thirty artists who examine and reveal sacred texts in
both revolutionary and traditional ways amid our rapidly changing digital
culture. The artists? interpretations of timeless and varied spiritual
messages through 70 plus works raise questions that art and faith often
pose ? a search for meaning and connections to both the past and the
future. 

The works in Sacred Texts/Contemporary Forms represent such faith
traditions as Buddhism,Christianity, Baha?ism, Hmong shamanism, Islam,
Judaism, Maya and Wicca. They are as simple as penned books in an
indigenous Spanish dialect by a shaman from Chiapas, Mexico, and feather
?books?by an Ojibwa from St. Ignace, Michigan, that are more sculptural
objects than traditional books. 

But they are also as detailed and crafted as seven digital facsimiles from
the Saint John?s Bible, the firstbible to be written and illustrated in
the Benedictine monastic tradition in more than 500 years. Commissioned by
Saint John?s Abbey and Saint John?s University, the bible has been created
usingancient techniques (eggs, quills, calf-skins, and hand-ground inks
with gold, silver and platinum) combined with modern touches, such as
strands of DNA gracefully entwined up the branches of Jesus?ancestral
tree, to produce a contemporary masterpiece. And they include the idea of
the book as an interactive object in a variety of ways, including four
ancient texts that viewers can manipulate on a kiosk.

 According to Fedorchuk, who traveled the country for a year doing
research, ?The exhibition engages theviewer through varied access points,
both familiar and unfamiliar, in exploring sacred texts as interpreted by
contemporary artists working with digital and traditional media. The
processes of thought and physical action that are the artists? methods of
creation compel viewers to ?bear witness? to the journey of the text. This
journey is one of history, of the solitary works of the artists, and
finally, of a personal response.? 

Other exhibition works, which are on loan from artists, library
collections and fine book dealers, include: 

Root Words: An Alphabetic Exploration, by Lynne Avadenka in collaboration
with MohamedZakariya, of the Hebrew and Arabic languages through seven
calligraphically rendered words whose meanings are the same and whose
pronunciations are close. The words are framed by images made byAvadenka
inspired by the combined beauty of the Hebrew and Arabic letterforms. The
book opens to 77 inches; its 16 leaves are bound concertina style with 28
folios.

Midnight Song: by Caren Heft with text by Alan Govenar: A six-page
narrative on Hmong
shaman Boua Xou Mua; the spiritual leader of his people who was a
mercenary for the French and the CIA in Laos. The book is printed in an
eclectic page size and includes one of the shaman?s poems. Laid in a
fittedcompartment is a CD ?The Music of the Hmong People of Laos:
Documentary Arts? by the shaman. 

Incantations by Mayan Women: Amber Past and the Taller Leñateros paper and
bookmakingcollective: the first book Mayan people have created and bound
in paper of their own making in nearly 500 years. A strikingly beautiful
volume made from 295 pages with silk-screen illustrations. The cover isa
three-dimensional rendering of the face of Kaxall, Mayan goddess of the
wilderness, in recycled cardboard mixed with corn silk and coffee. The
book contains spells and hymns recorded by the womenthat are transcribed
and translated from Tzotzil into Spanish and English. 

Fragments of Light II: conceived and designed by Kelly Driscoll;
translated by Zahra Partove. One ofonly 35 copies, each comprising seven
plates of Depp Glass, each plate with a laser etch of the English
translation of the verse of 13th century Sufi philosopher and poet
Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi. The laseretches of this extraordinarily
beautiful book sculpture, which includes a laser etch of the original
Persian verse, are visible to the viewer through to the bottom from the
top. 

Sacred Geography: Poems of the Himalaya and Tibet, by Mary Heebner in
collaboration with herdaughter, Sienna Craig, whose 12 sonnets are printed
on handmade pulp-painted paper by the artist. The book?s format depicts
the loose-leafed books of Buddhist sutra and classical texts of Nepal?s
Mustangdistrict and Tibet. It was inspired by Heebner?s visits to her
daughter in Nepal and Tibet, by the sacred colors of striped mani 
(Tibetan prayers) etched into a wall of boulders, and by ammonite fossils
knownas saligram in Sanskrit and Nepali. 

Three accompanying panels will be held at MIAD, Wednesdays, February 7,
14, 21; 7 ? 9 p.m.: 

Contemporary Book Arts, 2/7/07 ? An historical perspective of the
exhibit?s contemporary books and how and why they were made (Artist Lynne
Avadenka will participate in this panel as will Elsi Vassdal Ellis; with
curator and scholar, Betty Bright; and UW-Milwaukee Special Collections
Librarian, Max Yela ). 

Sacred Texts, 2/14/07 ? Representatives of the exhibition?s myriad faith
traditions will discussthe rolesof historical texts and their current use.

The Digital Future of Books, 2/21/07 ? A discussion of how digital
technology is changing the dissemination of information using sacred texts
to move toward broader issues.  Max Yela will again participate along with
James Canary, Special Collections - Indiana University, Matt Blessing -
Special Collections at Marquette University and Cynthia Lynch, MIAD
Librarian.

For a list of participating artists, visit miad.edu. An online catalogue
and curator's blog will be available in January at STCF.miad.edu. 

For more info:Leslie Fedorchuk, Curator, Liberal Studies Professor;
414.847.3315 
cell, 414.379.3008; lfedorch@xxxxxxxxx 

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