Bookmarking Book Art – M.L. Van Nice

Plinitude, 1994

Plinitude (1994) [seeds, bones, insect wings, feathers, wood, leather, paper, acrylic]
M.L. Van Nice
From Science and the Artist’s Bookan exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

The Hole of Understanding (detail), 2004, from The Library at Wadi ben Dagh

The Hole of Understanding (detail) (2004) from The Library at Wadi ben Dagh Font
M.L. Van Nice

This site-specific installation [at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from April 11 to November 6, 2005] 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”,, 5 May 2005.

Feast is in the Belly of the Beholder

Feast is in the Belly of the Beholder (2010)
M.L. Van Nice

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.”

A similar effect – less found, more planted and farmed – is Finlay Taylor’s East Dulwich Dictionary (2007), which is described by Susan Johanknecht in “A Bookmare” at the Tate website Transforming the Artists’ Book:

… a dictionary that had been left out on the ground for months to be eaten by slugs, worms, snails and woodlice, with leaves, dirt, twigs and animal droppings now embedded into its surface. The dictionary, a material object that names the world, was thus brought into tension with the (named) animals that consumed it as food. Tunnelled with eating trails, a few tiny fragments of its text remained – ‘tempt/to fail to/up a resist/expos’ – like bits of poetry gleaned from an archive, the uneaten depths of the dictionary. This work lightly referenced John Latham’s Still & Chew book-consuming event of 1966.


East Dulwich Dictionary (2007)
Finlay Taylor

Font, 2010

Font (2010)
M.L. Van Nice

… 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

Swiss Army Book (1990)

For the artist’s statement, see the Clara database held by the National Museum of Women Artists.

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