As she removes her handmade paper Slinky from a bag, Susan Joy Share recites a list of book-inspired artworks she has made at her Anchorage, Alaska studio: handcrafted feather dusters, zippered rulers, court jester masks studded with beads and felt, and a dome-shaped sculpture she wears like a tortoise shell.
"The book is my taking-off point," Share says in the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, the gallery inside Florida Atlantic University's third-floor library, which is opening the book artist's new exhibition, "Animated Library," on Friday. "I love the materials and the physicality of manipulating books, and how they sound when they're ruffled through, and the visual possibilities," Share says. "These paper sculptures, they have a mind of their own."
The artist and bookbinder juggles the paper Slinky, which resembles a horseshoe, in her palms and lets one side drop. The object bounces on the floor, and Share spins in place, dragging the pleated-paper accordion around her, showing off a cascade of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. She is rehearsing for her first performance-art show in Florida, in which half of the roughly 60 book artworks she has stitched, bound, sewn and painted will be paraded onstage at FAU's University Theatre to a soundtrack of Pink Martini and up-tempo dance music.
Share, staying with relatives this week in Boca Raton, is still unpacking art books on this recent morning. She unclasps a nearby 70-pound blue attache case, called "Spike Attaché," and reveals 20 folios resembling restaurant checkbooks tucked into hand-sewn pockets. She slips her fingers into elastic cuffs fastened to the book, and cracks one open. Pop-up spikes protrude from the spine, which has been hand-painted with blotchy blues and purples, like seaweed against an underwater backdrop.
"I can basically transform from a person carrying luggage and become a totally different creature," Share says. "I love color-sequencing patterns and abstract colors. I've always been fascinated with the book as a wearable object, like a hat or a piece of clothing. The idea that you can use bookmaking techniques and painting and humor gives me endless artistic possibilities."
Graduating from New York's Alfred University in the 1970s, Share became a book conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before branching off to experiment with bookbinding art. Her performances demand a certain athleticism onstage (she skis Alaska's Chugach Mountains and bikes Anchorage's trail system for fitness). Several even make noise, including "Stack," a series of Styrofoam boxes bound together like a caterpillar; and a cardboard piece titled "The Clacker." Despite her medium, Share reads only occasionally. The last book she read was the Patti Smith memoir "Just Kids."
"This is a totally unique art form in the world, and it's hard to find anyone who takes this on as a profession consistently" says John Cutrone, the Jaffe Center's director. "I think of this as the future of the book."
Susan Joy Share: Animated Library
When: Friday, Oct. 18, through Jan. 19 (7 p.m. Friday for University Theatre performance, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for Jaffe Center gallery talk)
Where: Jaffe Center for Book Arts, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton
Cost: Free for gallery, $18 suggested donation for Friday performance
Contact: 561-297-0455 or JaffeCollection.orgCopyright © 2015, South Florida