This weekend, I was in the market to maybe see an author’s talk or check out a slam poetry gig. Instead, I found myself on the events page of the Phoenix Public Library. There, I discovered Julie Chen’s exhibit about “The Art of the Book.”
I had never heard of Julie Chen before nor had I seen any of her work. I thought maybe she worked with classic literature pieces and transformed those into a work of art. I was pleasantly mistaken!
Nestled in the first floor New Books section was the first portion of her exhibit. Other library visitors casually glanced at the glass-encased pieces as they walked by, briefly scanning the objects before going on their way. I did the complete opposite. I walked straight over to the display, walking past Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” with her makeshift manly arms cradling the wry expression of her face. I walked past the floating woman in the red dress from Myra McEntire’s “Infinityglass”. I paid no attention to the latest Stephen King novel.
Instead, I peered through the glass and saw what looked like a complex, growing, extraterrestrial box. This was Julie Chen’s work called “A Guide to Higher Learning” (aka The Answer Book). It was a complex work that featured mathematical equations and a lot of abstractness. The abstractness, after I thought about it, was pretty confusing since a lot of math is meant to find concrete answers. I told my 12-year-old brother my thoughts as he stood next to me, looking at the box too. The perplexed look on his face said it all. Perplexing and exciting. Confusing in the most comical way.
When we ventured upstairs to the fourth floor rare books area (where they evidently put the rest of the exhibit), I found my favorite Chen work. She had collaborated with Elizabeth McDevitt, the creator of a poem called “Octopus”.
The description that accompanied the work described it as “a poem about life and, to a lesser extent, about language. The viewer’s experience of lines that grow progressively further away is meant to mirror the speaker’s difficulty interpreting the language of the other, as well as to underscore the speaker’s growing sense of isolation and loss at the end of the poem.”
Man, that’s deep.
And the work of art that visualized the poem looked so awesome! There were multiple layers too it, in an accordion shape, with different shades of blue. It was definitely one of my favorites.
If you’d like to see “The Art of the Book”, the exhibit is open at the Burton Barr Phoenix Public Library until September 20, 2013. When you’re downtown on a lazy day this month, sipping on your coffee from Lux, wondering how to spend part of your day, just step into the library and take a look!
Literally, it’s like the pop-up book you grew up with… times a thousand.
To learn more about Julie Chen, you can check out her artist profile here.
You can reach me at email@example.com or on Twitter @marie_eo.