Plinitude, 1994 [seeds, bones, insect wings, feathers, wood, leather, paper, acrylic]
” ‘In and around and under Pliny’s writing and scholarship lies the natural world,’ writes M.L. Van Nice. This artist favors an intuitive approach to learning rather than Pliny’s structured encyclopedia format. Fascinated with her own inability to read the original text, Van Nice creates an imaginative but unreadable script, drawing elements from the natural world into the artist’s book.”
From Science and the Artist’s Book, an exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
The Hole of Understanding (detail), 2004, from The Library at Wadi ben Dagh
“Imagine coming upon a library where you could actually peer into your favorite books; where a copy of Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had its own rabbit hole for you to gaze into with openings in the shape of hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds. Would it be a real library or a library without structure and logic? M.L. Van Nice’s whimsical installation, The Library at Wadi ben Dagh, is just such a library…. Created by an anonymous character named Woman Doe, the books in The Library at Wadi ben Dagh are classified by recollection, associations, deductive reasoning, and curiosity.
This site-specific installation imaginatively conveys the conceptual weight of such popular titles as James Joyce’s Ulysses, Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass….The library is an entire world unto itself – a private book collection of Woman Doe, who has since departed Wadi Ben Dagh, an imaginary place the artist roughly translates as the “dry gulch that is washed by the mountain.”… Woman Doe has thoughtfully selected each work, reflecting her experience of the world. Therefore, the library does not have structure beyond the personal. As Van Nice explains, the library ‘certainly does not, could not, and would not care to … satisfy a Mr. Dewey. Woman Doe created categories that structure her reality, and maybe ours.’” From Indepth Art News. See also Sheila Wickouski’s “Van Nice is art by the book”, Fredericksburg.com, 5 May 2005.
The installation appeared at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from April 11 to November 6, 2005.
Feast is in the Belly of the Beholder, 2010
Here is truly found book art. All the work here was done by bugs. As Van Nice relates, “I merely recognized the feast, or rather the scene of the feast. I did wonder, however, if they stopped to pause when they got to the entomology section.” From 23 Sandy Gallery.
“… Font is [a] trope. Much as we ‘consume’ books; so also we drink, sip, swig and quaff from the font, the fount, the cup of knowledge. These familiar and comfortable allusions seem to me to be oddly similar to the huntsman who honors and emulates his dead catch by eating its heart. We devour what we would choose to know and hence be.” From 23 Sandy Gallery.
Swiss Army Book, 1990
For the artist’s statement, see the Clara database held by the National Museum of Women Artists.