Next in our series of posts highlighting VABC member artists, we are pleased to introduce Amy Arnold, recent recipient of a Purchase Prize Award from the University of Washington. As one of three winners of this award, her book, Kalendarium Hortense, was selected by the school’s artist book curator to be purchased and donated to the library’s special collections.
In addition to her work as a book artist, she is also a visual artist (drawing) and landscape architect. Gardening is also among her related interests, including the cultivation of eight types of southern and northeastern heirloom apples at her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Keep reading to get to know more about Amy…
VABC: How long have you been a practicing book artist and how do you describe your overall involvement?
Amy Arnold: While studying metalsmithing and woodworking at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts in Philadelphia) and Virginia Commonwealth University, I had a metals professor, Nancy Thompson, who was married to the first artists working in books I ever encountered, “Davi Det Hompson” (David E. Thompson). At the time, he was making small, black and white, photocopied, and stapled books about words, letters, meaning, and patterning. I was taken by the possibility of compressing ideas into a format that was easily reproduced and affordable, making the ideas available to many. I have been making books and book-like work on and off since that time.
VABC: How does landscape architecture inform your work?
Arnold: Books explore the relationship between words, imagery and expressions of time and movement. This same thread exists in the three-dimensional experiences of site and garden design, the two-dimensional space of my drawings, and the sequenced patterning of the pages of a book. In books, three-dimensional space becomes compressed and abstracted and time is expressed as each book is experienced, page by page and fold by fold. Ideas about human interventions into the land, above and below ground, have been the focus of my most recent work. This emphasis has certainly been fed by my work as a landscape architect and my love of gardens.
VABC: How does your life in Staunton influence your work?
My husband, Anthony Baker, opened Barrister Books nine years ago in Staunton’s downtown. Since 2014, we have been working on hosting a series of small exhibits of book and paper arts titled “At Barrister Books.” We have taken this direction in an effort to provide opportunities for book artists to exhibit their work and to broaden the discussion about the nature of books in general; it is a natural extension of the bookshop’s mission.
VABC: Describe what it’s been like to have your work accepted into a special collection.
Arnold: Kalendarium Hortense is my first book to receive a purchase award from a library collection. I am so pleased and honored to have a book in the collection at the University of Washington in Seattle. I understand they have a large and diverse collection of book arts; it will be worth a trip out west to view the collection.
VABC: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about exploring book arts?
Arnold: I would encourage them simply to make a book, any book; staples and photocopies can be quite remarkable.
VABC: How has being part of the VABC impacted your work?
Arnold: The annual members projects at the VABC have provided opportunities to learn from and work along side other book artists, writers and crafts people, each with an different take on the medium. As a chance to collaborate, exchange ideas, and discuss technical challenges, I can’t think of an equivalent opportunity. The VABC has helped me reconnect solidly with book arts, providing a spur to keep working on and refining how concepts and experiences might express themselves in physical form.
VABC: What’s next?
Arnold: I have a small press and have been collecting other materials and tools to support working in paper, board, metal, and wood. I am excited about the possibilities of incorporating a broader cross section of my skills and earlier experiences into future projects. The conceptual underpinnings of the work will likely continue to be about human interventions into the land, both above and below ground.
To learn more about Amy’s work, visit her website at amyransomarnold.squarespace.com/.
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