Is it a book or is it art?That will be the question many might ask who attend the March 2 opening of the Unique Expressions: The Book as Art show at the Allied Arts Gallery in Richland.
Bob Allen of Richland, with the Allied Arts Association, said book art is a new way of telling a story.
"For most of my life, books came in two forms: hardback and paperback," he said.
Now, there is book art. And the craft speaks to the art lover's senses.
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"My first challenge with book art was figuring out what it is," he said. "Book art includes many physical forms, but mostly book art is more like a poem. It may tell a story or it may paint a picture in your mind or evoke an emotion or a memory."
About 16 artists with the Book Arts Group of the Tri-Cities will be represented in the show, 14 from Tri-Cities and two from Prosser. Each artist will offer a different interpretation of book art.
"Who wouldn't want to hold, read and appreciate a handmade book?" said Susan Steinhaus Kimmel, a West Richland artist featured in the show. "The medium draws the viewer in, forcing a close look in order to appreciate the textures, techniques and story."
Creating book art isn't always as easy as it looks, Kimmel added.
"The challenge of book art is to incorporate many different areas of expertise into one work of art," Kimmel said. "The construction requires much planning and highly technical skills such as bookbinding, woodworking and weaving."
Vicki Gerton, another artist represented in the show, said many times book art draws people in by the simple love of books.
"It's an art form many people are passionate about," said Gerton, of Richland. "It combines many artistic expressions. The first time I saw a book art exhibit, I was hooked."
Gerton explained that a piece of book art can be displayed on a table, a wall or under glass, but its more than just home decoration.
"Like a good book, a book art piece is often an interactive art form, meant to be held, opened and closed and explored," she said. "The story a book art piece tells is about the artist who created it and their view of the world. Sometimes, the story has words, and sometimes the story comes in the form of images or texture or color or shape.
"The story is more like reading a poem where the understanding comes from the images and connections that are made with the readers mind."
And the stories are as varied as the artists themselves, Kimmel added.
"In this exhibit, people will see ancient Japanese poetry, children's stories, contemporary poetry, humor, personal journals, and reflections concerning travel, the landscape, family," she said. "This is a new medium, which makes it both exciting and challenging."
To ensure visitors to the exhibition get a good understanding of this art form, the Book Arts group will have one of its members in the gallery throughout the show's run.
"The (member) will be able to touch the books, showing all their intricacies to visitors without putting undue wear and tear on the artwork," Gerton said.
A reception for the artists is from 1 to 3 p.m. March 4 at the gallery. Admission is free.
The show continues through March 23. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The gallery is closed Sundays and Mondays.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org