There’s an extra collection of books at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus right now.
Some are filled with words, others shapes, colors and symbols. They’re made from a variety of materials: paper, fabric, thread, glue, clay, crayon and more.
But just like a traditional book, each has its own story. Scrapbook style pieces tell her parents’ story. Another offers a classic sonnet. And some use words, or just symbols, in an entirely different way.
The collection is titled “Books” and was created by Anchorage resident Susan Share. The art is on display in the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery, next to the college’s library.
The exhibit is unlike anything Share has displayed elsewhere, in that it’s the first exhibit to be called “Books,” and the first arrangement of this exact group of pieces. But it draws on common themes, and incorporates pieces from numerous projects.
“I’m feeling very connected to books and the kind of formal, traditional, bookmaking techniques and things like that,” Share said.
Some of that connection comes from her background. She worked in the special collection libraries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New-York Historical Society and the Brooklyn Museum, where she learned about the structure, text and images of numerous books.
Before working in conservation, Share studied the College of Ceramics at Alfred University, in New York.
“It was (there), in the mid-1970s, I was introduced to the idea of books as an art form in independent studies with my professor, printmaker and photographer, John Wood.
“I was attracted to the movement, layers, hinging, folding and sequential nature of books,” Share wrote in an email.
Her work draws on those different book elements.
Words play a role in several pieces.
“Grace of Wit, of Tongue and Face,” is one word-based work. That piece is a homemade book with a Sir Walter Raleigh sonnet typed out on its pages.
Another, “Do-Doing-Done Crown,” weaves verbs as feathers in a crown made of paper, cloth, wire and beads. The crown has been shown on the Peninsula before, in a solo show Share presented in Homer. It was also part of an Anchorage event, Object Runway, in 2010.
And “Send Sand Sign Snow” is a paper, photocopy, ink piece that experiments with vertical and horizontal poetry, Share said. That work riffs on words by using American Sign Language.
Like the crown, much of Share’s exhibit has appeared elsewhere.
Several are part of the Horizons series that Share is still finishing. That is a collection that uses traditional bookbinding but explores the relationship between vertical and horizontal orientations with exaggerated proportions of pages and binding. The sonnet piece, Grace, is part of that exhibit, as are several accordian-style works that can change shape.
Several of those are arranged on the back wall of the gallery. KPC Associate Professor of Art Celia Anderson, who invited Share to exhibit in the gallery, said she particularly liked those works, and their serpentine nature.
“I just find those to be incredibly beautiful pieces on the back wall,” Anderson said.
When Anderson invited Share to do an exhibit at the college, she didn’t know that theme would be books. But she was familiar with Share’s work from a past show at KPC and exhibits Anderson had visited elsewhere, and was confident that it would fit in at the college.
“I knew that it would be creative and exciting and magical because her work always is,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that much of Share’s work is indescribable. It starts with book bindings techniques, and becomes a new construction, something never seen before, Anderson said.
Anderson usually does the installations in the Freeburg gallery, but said Share and her husband came to the college to put the show together.
Share said the exhibit came together based on how work fit into the gallery.
“It was kind of a fluid process,” Share said. “And Celia was wonderful – she has a great eye and a really good way of looking at things.”
Anderson said she liked how the show was displayed. Not everything fit into the gallery, so Share put one piece — “Zip-Off Fence” — on a wall just outside the gallery where it grabs passersby.
“It’s more at eye level, which allows you to explore all the little intricacies of the piece,” Anderson said.
That piece was displayed previously in a 2006 solo show at the Anchorage Museum.
Share will present a closing of the books lecture about her work before the exhibit comes off the walls.
“She, I think, is one of Alaska’s most creative artists, and I can’t wait to hear her talk on March 2,” Anderson said.
Share said she’ll be bringing a few more books the lecture. She creates notebooks to hold her ideas, building in pockets, places for pencils, and closures. Each has a different binding, and is a little different from the others.
“I might bring a couple of those as part of my process and how I keep track of ideas,” Share said.
She’ll also share elements of the books not visible when they’re mounted on the wall. Some even make sounds when manipulated, she said.
“I’ll show some of the insides or the other side or things like that,” Share said.
Share said she appreciated the opportunity to have a show in Kenai.
“It was really great for me to have that as a destination for my work and to think about the show as a whole,” Share said.
Share will return to the Peninsula for a workshop at the college in April, and one in Seldovia this summer.
Molly Dischner can be reached at email@example.com.