Steamboat artist deconstructs, recycles books in new art show
January 13, 2012
If you go
What: “Book Art,” a solo exhibition from Kim Keith
When: During the month
Where: Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, 68 Ninth St.
Steamboat Springs — Change is inevitable, local photographer Kim Keith acknowledged. And it can be painfully nostalgic.
Works of literary art always have inspired Keith, from watching her mother devour book after book to using literature in her own contemporary photography.
But today, with the advent of e-readers and the frantic pace of life in the digital age, Keith wants to take hold of the physical book as it begins to slip from relevance.
"When photography changed from film to digital, you really didn't want to let go of those nuances that you saw in film," she said. "With books, there's a smell, a feel, and there's a sharing that's really imperative."
"Are books an acceptable sacrifice to the digital world?" she asked. "It's about finding your boundaries, your limitations. What are you willing to sacrifice for growth?"
In her first artistic foray out of photography, Keith sat down with several books and began to deconstruct them page by page, cutting, folding and curling the pages into a wide rage of three-dimensional art.
About 15 pieces make up "Book Art," the resulting art show on display this month at the only place that made sense: Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, where she has been events coordinator for about a year. She said she felt the work belonged in the place where it was born.
And the local independent bookstore also is the center of the conversation about e-readers, digital books and the decline of the physical book.
"We've been having all these heated conversations about books as artifacts," she said. "And those conversations seeped into my subconscious, and this was the way to get it out, to make them art instead of artifacts."
Off the Beaten Path Bookstore owner Ron Krall called the art "imaginative" and "fascinating," and he's having Keith build a sculpture to keep in the store permanently.
"I don't mourn what's happening to the physical book," Krall said. "But I do believe there's a real place for the physical book. I think there's a lot of people who do today and will continue to love the feel of the physical object. What her art does is that it pays homage to that. It's a way of re-imagining what a book is."
The show features mounted wall art, masks, a necklace, table sculptures and ornaments, made during the meditative, intricate process that Keith welcomed as a wild and free-flowing alternative to her portrait photography.
"With photography, I go into it with this pre-visualization," she said. "With this, it's a weird freedom. I was able to let the material just talk."
And it does talk. The words are jumbled, but bits and pieces of the stories shine through, reconciling the odd shapes into which they've morphed.
Without the cover and without a beginning or an end, each piece of art still is a book.
"It turns it back into the primitive form of a book: just wood pulp and letters," Keith said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 907-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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