Featured at the Hower House was an exhibit named Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books, a traveling exhibition of handmade books and printmaking. The exhibit was a collection of books, paper and small watercolor paintings rendered in the abstract.
“Materials and techniques is what stand out about the pieces,” said museum specialist Rebecca Wehr.
Pages were cut into shapes, then the pieces of paper were sewn together and painted in watercolors. Words on the pages become the art as well as the shape of the pages they’re on. One was an intrinsic and odd collection of shapes, spools, coils and stars. The 3-D pieces shift as you walk around them.
“I think that each book is different and that the artists’ interpretation of a miniature book shows so much about their artistic style and their personality, and being able to use the miniature book print-making medium to express that is amazing,” Wehr said.
Several offer no clear meaning or explanation, only an abstract or chaotic, sometimes superfluous, image to reflect upon. One, titled “Insects,” unfolds to display various examples of the crawling critters.
Some used the medium of words and images to convey a message while others would use the shape of the book itself as the medium. One was a dragon and a knight battle though a pop-up which cut through the pages of a book. In another, an onion is uncovered beneath pages by cutting away a teardrop outline. Slices and trims of paper were sewn together to form a model of a space station.
One piece invited viewers to add their own message as a social art project. A small book was filled with images, morals, messages, and simple emotions captured in short phrases such as “Can I have five bucks?” written by visitors of the exhibition.
“There’s also quite a few with social commentary that some are, in fact, slightly disturbing in their presentation but that is part of what art is about,” Wehr said.
Social issues were brought up through symbolism and usage of colors and design to convey emotion.
A criticism of consumerism and materialism was illustrated in one piece where two people were dressed are up as pigs being influenced by a wolf on a TV to buy things they didn’t need. It had a message about consumerism itself consuming it’s participates through materialism. However, this is but one interpretation.
Another showed the consequences of pollution through a panoramic view of a brown and grey lifeless wasteland. It showed pollution from distant factories, smoke stacks, trash piles and a nuclear power station.
Teabags folded outward in a box with gaping maws and teeth on the surface; the inside showed statistics of the growth of human population through the century.
The exhibition was a departure from the Hower House’s more tradition setting and a step into contemporary and abstract art. Scattered throughout the mansion were books and paper purposefully damaged and redesigned to fulfill an alternative form of a book. Each book was different and had their own identity which reflected the personality of the artist behind them. The words on the pieces each had a unique technique applied; sometimes the words had their own style.