Corcoran Books That Wax Poetic

Brady Art Gallery’s new display of artists’ books celebrates National Poetry Month.

Corcoran Books
Brady Art Gallery's "Woven Words" showcases artists' books from the Corcoran library. (William Atkins/GW Today)
April 29, 2015
Art and poetry enjoy a happy marriage in “Woven Words,” a new exhibition of Corcoran artists’ books on display in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery’s glass cases. Each item in the exhibition celebrates literature, lyrics and writing in honor of National Poetry Month. 
The glossy setup features nearly 20 examples from the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s rare collection of 300 artists’ books. The medium refers to works of art created in the form of bound, small edition books. Some are even handcrafted as individual one-of-a-kind pieces. 
Working with the Gelman Library’s Special Collections and Art & Design Librarian, Shira Eller, Brady Gallery Assistant Director Olivia Kohler-Maga and Assistant Michelle Mazzuchi found that there were actually plenty of book arts materials with a connection to literature. Poems and art have long inspired each other, Ms. Mazzuchi said, and books often provide a shell for the two mediums to coexist. 
“It’s inside a book where text and image come together, and poetry is often a part of that,” she said. 
Several GW students who work as gallery assistants helped install the books into the eye-catching exhibition in the cases on the second floor of the MPA building. Junior Apeksha Goonewardena, senior Vanessa Morales and sophomore Theodora Frangakis supplemented the works with decorations, like a backdrop made of winding threads. They also set up an activity that encourages gallery visitors to create a found poem inspired by the show. 
The glass cases reveal small delicate pieces like “The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe,” a 1995 book made by Thomas L. Larson. Ironically, the book doesn’t contain the complete works of Mr. Poe at all. It holds critiques about him scrawled in tiny, gnat-sized letters to show how what is said about literature often becomes its identity. Several poems by Emily Dickinson serve as the muse for the piece “Compound Frame: Seven Poems.”
Other books in the exhibition show the more elaborate side of the bookmaking process: “Uluhaimalama, legacies of Lili’uokalani: Music and Mana’O of Hawai’i’s Last Queen” comes in a sizable box filled with liner notes, a record, postcards and even a lei-making kit in honor of the last monarch of Hawaii’s Kamehameha dynasty.
This is the second Brady Art Gallery exhibition that employs pieces from the Corcoran’s artists’ books collection—the first was last month’s “Paper Window”—
and it provides just a taste of what the Corcoran’s artists’ book collection offers. Members of the Brady Art Gallery encouraged the GW community to check out the collection firsthand since artists usually intend these works to be held and interacted with in person. The collection is housed at Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center and items are available for viewing by appointment
“We’re very proud of this show, and we want to continue to involve and use books in this way,” Brady Art Gallery Director Lenore Miller said, adding that the gallery anticipates more collaboration with Gelman and Corcoran resources.
“Woven Words” will be on display until May 31.