From the first time I experienced Karen Guancione's work at the Printmaking Council of New Jersey, I was hooked on her work. Karen has a background in fiber art as well as printmaking. Her work calls out unsung people, especially women, who do much of the hard work that goes into everyday objects, such as clothing. She also uses traditionally feminine objects (such as red leather high heel shoes and brassieres) to put a point on her feminist works.
Karen is especially interested in found objects, making hundreds of artist's books from other people's castoffs. Because I'm a big fan of artists' books and the artists who make them, I was excited to learn that Karen would be exhibiting some of her recent and early works at Rutgers' Alexander Library in New Brunswick (until August 31, you have a little time, but don't miss this exhibit).
Not only is Karen a working artist, traveling worldwide to exhibit and make her remarkable art, she also shares her knowledge as a lecturer and teacher of art and design at SUNY Purchase, as well as other schools.
My host for the tour of Karen's exhibit, A Portable Constant Obsession, was none other than its curator (and my friend) Michael Joseph, the Rare Books Librarian at Rutgers. I first met Michael when he gave a presentation on artists' books during an MLIS course called Art Librarianship (taught by the wonderful Paul Glassman). He introduced me to an entirely new art form, and I later asked him to be my advisor for my independent study. It was great fun working with Suellen Glashausser's artists' books, and ensuring their preservation. That experience solidified my affection for artists' books and admiration for Michael's knowledge of book arts.
Note: My apologies for some of the noise in the videos below. The air conditioning in the downstairs gallery is quite loud, and the upstairs gallery is located directly across from the main entry of the Alexander Library. Suffice to say, it can be a noisy spot. I also apologize for the reflected lights in the museum glass of the exhibit cases. I hope to be there when Karen uninstalls the exhibits to take some footage without the reflective glass.
In the short video below, Michael introduces us to Karen's current installation in the upstairs gallery of Alexander Library.
In the next video, Micheal shows us more of Karen's recent artists' books, and talks about the influence of her feminism on her work.
In an exhibition such as this one, it is especially interesting to see an artist's earliest works. We are fortunate to be able to experience (in the video below) some of Karen's earliest artists' books displayed in rather a unique way. Michael speaks to the nature of Karen's display technique, as well as how these works helped her to make sense of her early life, below.
In the downstairs, Special Collections gallery, Michael shows us some of Karen's more recent artists' books, especially some in her Summer series.
In this case, Michael explains, Karen's Aquiloni are now part of books, not only suspended from the ceiling of the exhibit case. He also talks more about her books made in Nice, France.
In this next video, Michael tells us some of the history behind this large accordion-style artists' book.
We are very fortunate to experience one of Karen's best known works, Guide de la Correspondance Amoureuse. It's a fantastic piece bound in a scarlet bra. Below, Michael talks about the meaning behind this unique binding
Below, we see a multimedia installation that includes a video of women dancing and a selection of Karen's Garbage Books. You can see Karen smiling and dancing in the video.
Finally, Michael shows us Karen's Pátzcuaro and Foufoune works.
I encourage you to visit Alexander Library at Rutgers to see this extraordinary exhibit before it closes at the end of August.