I want to share a few pictures of the wonderful book exhibit that I went to see last week at Mills College in Oakland. These calligraphic books, currently on exhibit at the Olin Library through December 12, are the fruit of ten years of collaboration by a calligraphy study group who call themselves the Robins. Their work sometimes took the form of a Round Robin, each one contributing a page and then passing it along. The design challenges of working with someone else’s previous work on the page, and leaving space, perhaps, for the next contributor, brought about great artistic growth. These books are the result, and show an impressive range of structures, techniques, lettering choices and more. There is a great article about their process in the current issue of Alphabet (Fall 2008), the journal of the Friends of Calligraphy in San Francisco.
Here are a few of the many photos I took. Apologies for the soft focus caused by shooting through glass. I have tried to include a page spread from each of the nine women who were in the group. The book above is by Meredith Klein, and seemed a fine way to begin.
Sandra Torguson. This book has one of the most unusual shapes I’ve ever seen, opening out into two bell shapes that nest together. The pages themselves are three-dimensional, with woven paper and slats that open like Venetian blinds. Quite innovative!
After enjoying these contemporary books, I listened in on an art history lesson being given in the library. The focus was incunabula, the earliest printed books. It was quite interesting and fun to see these old books. The biggest book on display in the library was a copy of The Nuremburg Chronicles, published in German in 1493. Its history of the world began with the Book of Genesis. I liked seeing this page spread, showing the hand of God forming the world, which is represented with circles.
The woodcut below shows Eve being created from Adam’s rib. It illustrates the way in which the patriarchal religions turned nature on its head, by taking the most important of women’s mysteries, the act of giving birth, and assigning it to men. A bit bizarre when you stop to think about it.
Seeing these two exhibits side by side made me think about the great strides we have made in 500 years. I am so glad to live in a time when women can not only be educated but be the teachers as well. And we can also reclaim our herstory, and have a spiritual life which honors nature’s truths, especially as women know them in their own bodies. Seeing all of these books in a college devoted especially to the education of women made it all the sweeter.