Display of handmade books by Herron students has been extended at the Fine Arts Library


The “Herron Book Arts Rewind” exhibition is on display outside the Fine Arts Library at Indiana University Bloomington. Dorothy Slover created this digitally-printed carousel book.

When you go to a library, you expect to see books.

And when you go to the Fine Arts Library at Indiana University Bloomington, you expect to see books about art. But if you visit soon, some of the books are works of art.

Jennifer Rojas

Jennifer Rojas crafted a composite flexigon, which folds down from its rounded form.

Handmade books by Karen Baldner’s students at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis are on display in the foyer outside the library. The exhibition has been extended through Aug. 14.

Baldner described these artist’s books as sculptures on an intimate scale.

Some pieces are shaped like traditional books. Others defy expectation, in the forms of spheres, triangles, stars, trees and more. Some open like accordions or reveal themselves in other unusual ways. Wing-shaped pages pop out of a box about fairies. Another tiny book spills out of acorn caps.

“The book is never just a beautiful object,” she said. “It’s also an interactive information tool.”

Intimacy of expression

Because books are typically small and intimate, they provide an ideal space for artists to express thoughts and ideas “more precious to them,” Baldner said. “Students often go into areas that are tricky for them to digest.”

Parasite by Ashley R. White

Ashley R. White incorporated spikes and pages from the William S. Burroughs book “Naked Lunch” into her book “Parasite.” Photo by Karen Baldner.

For example, one of the most striking pieces in the exhibition is a long, sweeping collection of pages bound together with spikes.

Ashley R. White created “Parasite” over the course of a semester. In it, she details a personal struggle to define her identity as a young, African-American woman as she tries to break away from her old neighborhood, complete her college education and enter a very different world.

“The object itself is expressive of that difficulty. The book is about her mother cautioning her that the world out there is not friendly,” Baldner said.

“That’s exactly what making books is about. It’s finding the expressive metaphors for the narrative.”

Combat and catharsis

Each book has a story.

A stark, grayish book is one of several by Shana Reis, a soldier who recently returned from the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shana Reis book

In a series of handmade books, Shana Reis recounted her experiences as a soldier. Photo by Karen Baldner.

It uses paper made by shredding her military uniform as part of a Combat Paper Project workshop at Herron last November. “Veterans who live in our area have found it to be a meaningful way to transition back into civilian life from their war experience,” Baldner said.

In her work, Reis confronts harrowing events and losses. “This particular student has really latched onto the veterans’ project and making books. She uses the books to process her experience, ” Baldner said.

Book arts

All of the books on display were created during the last school year by sophomores to graduate students in Baldner’s classes on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Stephanie Beisel made this silkscreened maze book.

Today, as information shifts into digital forms, she sees new possibilities for the familiar structures we know as books. “The book has made itself available for expressive content, and that’s what we recognize as artists.”

The Book Arts minor, within Herron’s printmaking B.F.A. program, stresses interdisciplinary learning and gives students practical skills that can be useful in securing employment in printing, book restoration and other fields.

“The beauty in these courses we teach and in the medium itself is that people come from all directions, really, and meet,” she said. “Here, we are using the language of art.”

More information

The exhibition “Herron Book Arts Rewind” has been extended through Friday, Aug. 14, and can be viewed during open hours for the IU Art Museum or The Fine Arts Library. The library is located inside the museum building and also is accessible from the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts main building.

In Fall 2015, Baldner will teach three courses: Bookbinding, The Printed Book and the survey course Book Arts Basics, all at Herron in Indianapolis.

On Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, Yara Clüver will teach a class, Discovering the Artist’s Book, this fall at Collins Living-Learning Center.

artist books

Other artist’s books on display include “Think” by Katie Smith, top left, “Memory Bracelet” by Nancy Hoogerwerf, bottom, and “Pyramid Book” by Rachel Foreman.

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